A friend of mine in Hanoi who used to teach in Japan told me that, "The Japanese are the most honest people you will ever meet." He said that if you left your wallet at a restaurant you could come back ten hours later and it would still be in the exact spot you left it with everything inside. I thought this was hyperbole but have already had three experiences that lead me to believe this is true.
On my second day I was in Koryama I went to eat with Katie. Katie and I had come from the government offices which meant I had my passport and a bunch of other documents on me. After lunch I left my folder holding these documents on the floor of the restaurant. Yes, a bonehead move. I blame it on the red-eye the day before. Well, sure enough I went back to the restaurant about five hours later and my folder was waiting there for me with everything inside.
My second boneheaded move was dropping my bicycle lock key at the gym. Luckily I had a spare key at home and could open my bike. However, whoever found my key could have gone to the parking lot and tried the key on the dozen or so bikes that were outside. Instead the person returned the key to the gym workers.
My third reason to believe that the Japanese are extremely honest is because of this:
This box was at the beginning of a hiking trail. The purpose of the box is to put lost things in it that you might find in the forrest. If someone happens to drop their keys or even their wallet, they can find it in this box or at the police station (the police collect items from the box). What's amazing to me is that: a) There is such a box b) Thieves don't just come to the box, open it up and see what goodies are inside.
Having come from Vietnam where I was robbed my first week and am constantly ripped-off by vendors, my guard has definitely been up. However, it is a breath of fresh air living in a place that really values honesty.