I think it would be helpful to write a bit more about the University system here, as I see it of course. The following comments do not apply to my intensive 9 hour Japanese class... which kicks my butt (but I am learning a lot).
Talking with the other students (international and Japanese), the story goes: Japanese students study like mad during middle school and high school. They work hard to get into a good college, and then poof, all the work is over. University acceptance is like a ticket to party for 4-7 years (or however long it takes to finish your degree). Especially at my school- I hear we are known for our parties.
Most Japanese/Tokyoite college students still live with their parents, and commute up to 2 hrs each way. I might guess that this is why they have money to spend on nomikai (drinking party).
From the couple Japanese professors I have, there are some distinct differences from American professors, and the "system" as a whole. Attendance is (basically) everything: it accounts for up to 30-50% of your total grade! Missing more than 1/3 of class sessions (supposedly) fails you from the class, and teachers are REQUIRED to take attendance every class (which is a pain I will tell you).
Japanese students are really talented at sleeping while sitting, without moving or anything. I think it is due to the required attendance policy! Also, many people perfect the art of sleeping in public on the trains. One teacher even told us "Sleeping is okay, but talking is not" (during her class).
Surprisingly, every single class this week started late. My professors are consistently tardy. The really dumb prof didn't get started until 25 minutes into the 90 minute period! He didn't even have slides... really sad to pay so much for an unprepared and tardy teacher.
Most of my classes have no textbooks, and required readings are rare/sparse. Apparently reading 20 pages per class is surprising to Japanese students- the Japanese profs do not seem to give reading assignments (which is surprising).
So far I am not impressed. Previously, I had thought Japanese schools were difficult, challenging, and prestigious. Now my opinion of degrees from Japanese universities is tarnished. I suppose it is okay to not learn much from my ordinary classes... I am learning a lot from talking with my host family and Japanese friends, the Japanese class, and from surviving in Tokyo!