a) I've never been to Osaka (used to live in Tokyo), but there's lots of cool music going on around that area -- especially psychedelic folk-rock like Ghost. As you've probably read, it's Japan's Second City. I think it's supposed to be a bit more laid-back than Tokyo, and likely a bit less expensive.
b) That said, Japan is expensive no matter what. You will be living in a shoebox and paying through the nose for it. Don't bother buying a car -- the trains are so good in Japan that you won't need one. Plus, the license process is expensive and requires extensive (and expensive) maintenance checks on your car. Filling up a car in Japan is expensive -- I can't say exactly how much, but when my family had a mid-sized Mazda in Hong Kong, it was not unusual to pay more than US$70/AUS$95 to fill up the tank. You would likely see similar prices in Japan.
c) Most people you run into will treat you nicely. There will be some jerks who give you a hard time and/or assume you're an idiot. The more interest you display in Japan (or any host country), the friendlier people are likely to be. Do take the time to learn some Japanese. It will take time -- how much time depends on how much you want to learn. I'd say about 3-6 months will have you "getting by" with very basic conversation, being able to go to the store and ask for simple directions -- that sort of thing. One easy thing you can do now is to learn the phonetic alphabets, hiragana and katakana. That way, even if you don't know what a sign says, you can often sound it out. Katakana is especially fun, since it's mostly used to spell out foreign words like "Makudonarudo" (McDonald's) and "konpyuuta" (computer). I would definitely recommend taking language classes, perhaps even before you leave for Japan. You will probably find that there is VERY little English used there (there's much more in China).
d) Go with the flow! It's going to be a big change -- Japan is a weird, wonderful place, and completely different from anywhere else on the planet. There will be a lot of little things that you take for granted that will be entirely different there -- some in a good way, some not so much to your liking. Just try to take everything with an open mind and not get frustrated at these differences (can be difficult sometimes). Most of all, have fun! It sounds like a great opportunity.
Last edited by gbcb; 10-14-06 at 02:34 AM.