The religiosity. While some Japanese still hold to Buddhist, Daoist, Shinto or various animist religions/spiritualities, and some have even embraced Western religions, they are far less important here. Perhaps the long duration of Japanese culture through a multitude of enforced religions and influences has led to the inevitable maturation of the group mentality and minimization of such superstition and dogma. Some people believe, whatever it is they wish to, while other's don't and it simply isn't that important. Everyone can be friends, more or less (other societal factors, like douchebaggery, aside). I've read a statistic that something like 76% of Japanese consider themselves atheists (and/or agnostic). Generally it would seem that they believe there are more important things to concern themselves with, such as space technologies, efficiency, customer service, facilitating a cohesive communal society and national healthcare. I agree with this whole heartedly. The sheer number of the religious right in the US is something I find deeply unnerving.
Politics. They certainly exist in Japan, and they are important: there was recently talk of changing the country's constitution to reclaim their ability to legally declare war, something that had been expressly removed from their power after WWII. However, due to a confluence of factors, including but not limited to my being: non-native (and therefore unable to vote) and non-fluent, there is little reason for me to overly concern myself with them outside of the need for simply being informed of current events. Despite their disagreements, at the end of the day the majority of people of Japan seem to at least agree that they are all Japanese, and therefore superior (nationalism and ethnocentrism, naturally)...and as a group, they can hate everyone else, or at least look down on them. This is not to make light of the situation of the Ainu people, as they are arguably in a similar position to the Native American Indians; having inhabited much of the archipelago prior to the invasion of what are now considered "modern" Japanese the tribal people were forced further upwards and out, now primarily located in Hokkaido prefecture... for more information; The Despised Ainu People- Japan
This is in stark contrast to my situation and feelings in the political mire of the US of A, where I'm more acutely opinionated. Without getting too deeply enmeshed, I don't particularly care for either of the predominant parties as I believe that their unending battle is merely an act, a puppet show of sorts, meant to polarize and distract the general populous, as well as to prevent any sort of general unitary sentiment among the people. It works quite well, given the viciously hateful back and forth I see play out throughout the society ad nauseum. It's quite common that when faced with opinions they don't agree with, some fool will bark "If you don't like it, then leave!"... Perhaps many Japanese resort to a similar sentiment amongst themselves, or simply resort to suicide as the ultimate "fuck you, I'm out"... I can not definitively say.
Also, with the lobbyists and electoral college, I tend to feel that the average American is duped into desperately, ideologically, clinging to the vague dream of influencing politics through voting. It still, in an idealist world, may play some role in the outcome of elections, but even then the President is endowed with less and less of the checks and balances originally crafted into the system of government to constrain his power of authority. Not to mention there is little duty to genuinely uphold his campaign promises... Behind closed doors they will always make their own decisions under influences far beyond the control or interest of the general American citizen. This has been imminently clear to me with both the Bush and Obama presidencies...I was too young to pay much interest to Clinton.
Color me disenchanted.
GMO foods. As far as I've learned this far, they are banned outright in Japan. Monsanto does not have a Monsanto Protection Act. People still own farms, which is readily visible on any Shinkansen, car or train trip outside of Tokyo. Bees are still doing pretty well. Farmers markets are common. People grow tomatoes, gourds and various edible crops in the tiny spaces they can find around homes and apartments.
Now if only it weren't for all the radiation being churned into the oceans...