Visiting Japan for the First Time? Here are 4 Things You Shouldn’t Do

  • HOW TO
  • Visiting Japan holds a unique set of social norms to adhere to during your visit. These tips offer travelers the best practices to avoid accidentally offending Japanese people and ensure an embarrassment-free vacation at your desired destination.

    1. Avoid Looking People in the Eye

    Who isn’t happy when they are on vacation in an exotic foreign land? You’ll likely walk around with a look of happiness on your face, and seek to engage the people who live there.

    Walking down an often crowded street in Japan, you may feel the need to look at or greet other people as you pass them. This is a no-no in Japan. They keep their eyes cast anywhere other than your face as they pass you. Making small talk is just not a part of their nature. The exclusion to this is in shopping settings and bars, where they are most likely to freely engage in pleasant exchanges.

    2. Don’t Yawn

    This makes me yawn just thinking about yawning. As a language instructor, my job was speaking for many hours of the day. It became tiring on my throat and in order to sneak one in, I’d drop my pencil under the table and quickly yawn to stretch my vocal cords. Bizarrely, yawning is an extremely rude thing to do in Japan akin to passing gas in public. The single time I forgot and did it in a class, visible disgust was evidenced by students, and I was promptly given a throat lozenge.

    3. No Smoking Outdoors

    “But I’m not a smoker”, you might say. This rule will affect you nevertheless, and visitors from western countries may experience a higher degree of disorientation than other countries with more relaxed smoking policies.

    In Japan, smoking outdoors is prohibited except for designated areas. However, this can be inconvenient, so many people smoke in indoor designated areas to enjoy their desired habit, including cigarettes, vapor pens, and cigars. Here is why that makes a difference to you even in you don’t smoke.

    A lot of people smoke in Japan and since they do it indoors, you will find thick smoke permeating every square inch of many eateries, bars, karaoke facilities, and other popular indoor destinations. For people allergic to smoke, or folks who don’t smoke, the cloying atmosphere can be a real downer. Look for super mainstream locations to avoid this, such as brand hotels like Marriott (マリオット) or Hilton (ヒルトン) properties. Expect every other restaurant, coffee shop and bar, though, to be hosting a smokers’ lounge.

    4. Don’t Litter

    litter bin

    The Japanese take tremendous pride in their country and its environment. Littering, including throwing a cigarette butt on the ground, will elicit angry looks, and may even incite someone to chatter angrily at you while they pick up your litter and dispose of it. It is also possible to get fined if you are spotted littering. Use the recycling bins provided.

    You can easily enjoy your vacation without feeling like an awkward tourist by following these simple travel tips. The Japanese people welcome visitors, yet it’s uncomfortable for everyone when a faux pas is committed. With some thoughtful self-awareness, you will avoid this altogether. Have a great trip!

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