In Japan, it's incredibly important to be polite. There is often a double standard sort of thing; one thing is said but another is thought. But overall the outward appearance of properness and politeness is most important. Emphasis is placed on not inconveniencing others as much as possible, and showing the correct deference to those in a higher position than you. It can be small things, like not eating/drinking when walking or on a train (which is considered rude and substandard), or something bigger like the very way you speak. The Japanese language changes vastly upon whom you're talking to and what their relative position to you is. For example, my teachers speak in a casual manner to me, but I must be as polite as possible and not use the casual forms and verbs and such. It's a similar situation with my dorm manager. She speaks in a very casual manner with the short/contracted forms of verbs to me because she is both my dorm manager and an elderly lady, while I am a young student she is in charge of. I have to be really careful to reply in a polite manner, although she overlooks my slips because I'm still learning and not fluent. You speak politely to people you don't know well, even if they're on the same "level" as you, such as fellow students. People you know pretty well and your family you can address in a more casual manner. It's sometimes tough to figure out the proper politeness levels needed, but it seems to really impress the locals when you can judge the needs of the situation well or at all for that matter.
So, the place I went to yesterday called "Don Quijote" to get my cell phone is a damn crazy place. Think the loudness and musical insanity of an arcade, the variety of walmart, and then stuff that into the cramped maze-like space they have. I don't know what I was really expecting--some sort of Best Buy like thing, I guess--but I wasn't prepared quite for what I found. Once I adjusted it was actually really cool and very "Japan-like." This store was fairly close to the school, so I'd expected it to be an easy enough trip. Turns out I actually turned a block too early and wandered into the red-light district called Kabuki-cho. Getting lost isn't that difficult to do. Most of the streets in Japan aren't named except for the huge highway/high traffic streets; the addresses are based upon block numbers rather than street names. So, I can't really be too surprised that I accidentally meandered into Kabuki-cho. It's a fairly small area in Shinjuku, but the atmosphere is instantly different. You can feel how different it is just by walking by the edge. There are some... interesting-looking things around that are borderline legal at best. There are some hostclubs and stuff on the immediate edge. There's some yakuza activity in the area, and some seedy/unsavory things that go on there. I turned my ass around and walked back to the large street that I had come from. Kabuki-cho is not a place an alone foreign woman really wants to be, and it's not really that much better if you're in a group. If you don't know what you're doing and where you're going then you'll likely end up somewhere it would be better not to be. Tanaka-san said they've had issues with students getting into trouble in Kabuki-cho in the past, and I can understand that :P As curious as I may be, I'll have to settle for that skirting of the area; I'm not particularly inclined to tempt fate.