Well that's the general idea, of course there are the rare occurrences of crime or less desirable behaviour. So it's almost always safe, at almost any time of the day (and night), and almost everywhere.
If someone says he will do something, it will be done. If the train schedule states that it will arrive at such a time, it will definitely arrive. People know that certain things will happen because the manual states so. Again, generalisation, but I'd dare say this occurs 90% of the time. Hence, it's a great country to live in because of this.
Dependable, reliable, orderly, neat, safe.
However, (I think you know I'm coming to this!) there are also some Japanese employees who are almost like robots. They will do what the boss says, and will hardly take any initiative. Again, good and bad. Let me share a little example from a conversation I had with a colleague this evening.
Let's call her E. She's had about 10 years of working experience (therefore, not a freshie), worked in various companies before (quite rare for a typical Japanese), and doesn't mind doing some admin work as part of other duties.
Me : Hey, can you help arrange lunch for the meeting?
E : Lunch? You mean at the cafeteria?
Me : Ya, Boss asked to arrange this for the attendees.
E : Mmm... (seemed to be thinking)
Me : Okay with you? (wondering if she's reluctant)
E : Mmm, what kind of lunch is Boss referring to?
Me : Well, can you find out what options we have?
E : What does Boss want? Just tell me.
Me : (a little stunned, but trying to help her think) Let's see, we can either do the bento set, or...
E : Bento? Hmm... (looks like thinking...)
Me : Ah, I know. You think not everyone will want to eat bento right?
E : Yes, it is set lunch. So it's fixed menu.
Me : Okay, I get it. some people may not like fish, some may not like bento right?
E : Mmm...
Me : (trying not to be impatient) Okay, so if we can't get bento, what other options do we have? Does the cafeteria allow the attendees to take whatever they like, and we charge it to the budget?
E : Is that what Boss wants?
Me : Well, can you try to find out if this option is available?
E : Mmm... but then I have to ask the cafeteria lady about this...
Me : Yes, can you do that?
E : Mmm... if that's what Boss wants, I'll do that.
Me : (sensing a headache coming on...) Look, let me explain where this idea probably came from. When we were at the Europe office, this is what they did for us. When we had the meeting, they gave us these slips of paper that we could use at their cafeteria. We just took whatever we liked, and showed the slip, so that we didn't have to pay for food. Basically they took care of our lunches so we don't have to worry about bringing cash around. Can we do the same here?
E : I know what you mean. Is that what Boss is thinking? I don't want to trouble the cafeteria lady if we're not going with this option.
Me : (trying not to roll eyes) If we want the Boss to make a decision, he needs to know what are the available options right? Not just our Boss, but the Boss' boss, etc. How can they make decisions if they don't know what are the options available to them (can't believe I had to rephrase my sentence).
E : So because of Bosses, we have to trouble the cafeteria lady?
Me : No, that's not what I'm saying. We can ask Boss if he wants to do the bento option, but then he might ask us back if everyone wants to eat the same thing, given there is no option like the cafeteria. Then he might ask us back if there are other options to provide lunch for the attendees. So, instead of going straight with one option, why don't we explore ALL options to save time? So we don't have to go back and forth...
E : Hmm... (still hesitating)
Me : Okay, don't worry about the lunch (headache getting more painful). I'll ask Boss what he wants.
E : No, no, I'm not angry. I'll email him and ask him what he wants.
Me : (I didn't think YOU were angry!) Mmm.. sure...
* The above was not a word-for-word transcript of our conversation; you might start laughing at my dumbed down English.*
Anyways, from my personal experience, this is what I've had to do if given a task that sounds like "arrange lunch" - to take initiative and provide options to enable decision-making. Sometimes the boss would give directions, sometimes not. I guess it's a little different here!
BTW just to clarify a little, Boss is currently overseas, and have left a series of comments on the workshop agenda we're organising. Lunch was the least of my worry, and thought this could be easily done by the designated admin team member. I had to think about presentation content, providing guidance to the Executives for the workshop, and overall objective of the global sessions; hence was flabbergasted I had to have this conversation >.<