My wife and I just got back from Japan and we had an amazing time. Part of that was because of the reception we got every time I spoke Japanese. I'm not talking about konichiwa or arigato gozaimasu because most visitors know those phrases...but pretty much anything beyond that seemed to blow everyone away. We've traveled to many different countries and have always tried to use the local language but the reactions elsewhere in the world were not nearly as satisfying as in Japan. The smiles and looks of surprise on the locals faces were priceless and made all the effort worth it. I was asked many times if I lived in Japan or if I spoke Japanese! The only downside to this was the rapid Japanese spoken after my initial phrases or questions! But being able to converse, albeit somewhat shallowly, really enhanced our experience and I definitely recommend learning as much as you can before you go.
FYI most podcasts I listened to were either the absolute beginner and newbie podcasts from 2006 and 2007. The phrases that seemed to get the best reactions were:
ohayo gozaimasu (surprisingly!)
gochiso sama deshita
sumisen, kore wa nihongo (or eigo) de nanto imasuka?