Some dude from Kotaku wrote an epic rant about the parts of Japan that irk him most. It gets whiny and stupid at times, but a few of his points are beautiful:
Japan is the land of the abundant "Famous For Being Famous" class of entertainers. If Paris Hilton were Japanese, they'd literally have her anchoring the fucking national news. The most common TV show is a genreless, formless, gelatinous entertainment blog in which the Famous For Being Famous sit around a table and view video clips. The video clips expand to fill our entire TV screens; a picture-in-picture shows the faces of these Famous For Being Famous people as they react. They say things like "SUGOOOOI" when something impressive happens. They say "OMOSHIROOOOOI" when something is interesting. They say "OISHISOU!" when something looks delicious. Men say "UMAI!" immediately after taking a minuscule bite of food, sometimes before they even swallow, in this nasal voice, in a tone like they just ran up a flight of stairs.
It took me a while to really catch on to what this is. A coworker prepared a new variety of cup ramen for lunch; another co-worker looked at it and said "UMASOOOOOU" like he was on TV. Dude took a bite of the ramen, slurping it loudly, like people do on TV, like you're supposed to do it. "UMAI!" he yelled, before the heat of the boiling water could even vent out of his mouth. Japanese television is a way of programming the mannerisms of tomorrow's society and/or/by propagating the mannerisms of yesterday. It scared the shit out of me. Once I got back from the toilet, I thought about it some more, and realized that Japanese television is mostly something people put on in the background; it's wallpaper for conversations. I know some people have some great conversations in Japan, usually with the TV off, though hanging out with those people didn't earn me financial stability, much less the right to continue to live in this country, so I had to stick with the people who need the TV to know how to react to a delicious meal.
That should ring very true to anyone who has ever watched prime-time TV in Japan. Props to my buddy-abroad Nick for the pointer; his thoughts on the article here.