I was pleasantly, but thoroughly, surprised to discover that the coffee in Japan is so good. On reflection, it makes sense. Not only is Japan a food culture, they pay attention to the details that makes the difference between a so-so and an excellent cup of joe.
I have been told that Japan receives the best coffee beans. Again, this must be so, since the Japanese are willing to pay the premium for the quality. I have seen many complaints about Starbucks charging $2 for a cup of coffee, but in the high-end Tokyo shops, they think nothing of paying $5-$10 for a much smaller, but much better serving.
In some shops, they use the characteristic bulbs of the siphon brewing method. Another surprise to me was that the best coffee I had, at Cafe de L'Ambre in Tokyo, poured the water with a steady hand. The care and skill they apply to brewing is fascinating. These guys are my new role models.
Special thanks to Mike Kleindl for turning me on to Cafe de L'Ambre.