Last time I talked about how when coming to the U.S., Japanese people will actually prepare themselves mentally to be more aggressive and speak their opinions more clearly, "just like they do in America." Most Japanese know their own kokumin-sei (the "national personality" that I write about quite often) is vague, subtle and not taken to direct communication, especially with anyone not familiar with their culture. While being vague might sound like a bad thing to you or me, there are times when it's better for communication to be more nuanced and less precise, such as a friend who tries to get you to realize that it's time to go home by looking at his watch and saying "Oh, look how late it is" rather than directly asking you to leave his house already. The guidebooks that Japanese read before visiting the U.S. always bring this subject up, reminding readers that speaking up when you have an opinion or when you need something is important in American society.
There are those Japanese who are quite good at speaking their minds, however, voicing most any opinion without feeling the need to be overly polite or humble no matter who is listening. Like my wife, who after two years of living and studying in the U.S. is quite unique among other Japanese in the way she can openly state opinions or raise questions that 100% dyed-in-the-wool Nihonjin would pretend not to have noticed. (Sometimes this can cause, ahem, problems for me.) Her unique personality has an interesting side benefit when traveling: other Asians have trouble telling that she's Japanese, which means she can get better discounts in places like Hawaii from retailers who know that Japanese usually won't try to negotiate prices. Also, when she sees really silly Japanese tourists doing something embarrassing, she can pretend she comes from another country.