Something about living in another country can make a person think introspectively about themselves. When I started J-List back in 1996, I kept on teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) for a couple of years, slowly quitting my classes as J-List grew to consume all my waking hours. When it came time for me to quit my last teaching job, the school I'd been working for threw me a party, complete with karaoke and all the trimmings. Afterwards, I got a ride home with one of my students, an interesting lady in her 40s who was studying English because she wanted to live abroad for a few years. "Well," I said as we neared my house, "I'll see you later." "No, you won't," she replied. "A person has the same number of sayonaras in their lives as first meetings, and we won't see each other again. But please be genki in your future life." For some reason, being told "goodbye" in such absolute terms was more honesty than I was used to, and I was somewhat unsettled by her words. It seemed to me that the kokumin-sei or "national character" of Americans (or at least this American) was not geared to acknowledging partings so completely, causing us to use lighthearted parting words like "see you later" instead. There was another example of this in a recent episode of Kokoro Connect, when Aoki travels to Sendai to tell his old girlfriend Nana that he's found a girl he cares for, and she tells him "Sayonara" with finality as he walks away.
The Japanese seem good at saying sayonara.