One benefit of my excursion abroad is that I got to enjoy a great range of phenomenal Japanese food, including both forms I was already familiar with (sushi, tempura, udon, etc.) and ones which were new to me (nabemono, yudofu, yakiniku, tonkatsu, and more). Another benefit, beyond just tasting the wonderful food, was learning more about it: how the culture approaches its food, the best way to eat certain types of food, what common pairings are, the structure of the meal, and so on.
While I won't claim to be an expert, I now understand a lot more about Japanese food than I did before. However, you don't need to travel all the way to Asia to increase your own knowledge. Justin pointed me to this extremely helpful and informative video on the proper Japanese form for eating sushi, which should help even the worst of us get a head start on better approaching this occasionally intimidating (though generally delicious!) meal.