15 Things to Be Aware of Before Travelling to Japan

  • HOW TO
  • Before making your way through the Land of the Rising Sun, get familiar with these 15 aspects of everyday life that will ensure you adhere to the respectful everyday etiquettes of the Japanese people.

    1. No Tipping

    There is no tipping in japan. It is considered rude to tip and I have had many a restaurant employee chase me down the street just to return my tip.

    2. No walking and eating

    This also applies to metro trains (though it is encouraged on bullet trains). It is also considered rude.

    3. Escalators

    Stand on the left/walk on the right – on escalators this is a common rule of thumb, except for Osaka and a few other cities, in which it is the reverse. This is to facilitate people who are in a rush, especially during business hours

    4. Number 4

    The word for four in Japanese sounds very close to the word for death (there are two words for #4 just to avoid this). In fact some buildings do not have the #4 on their elevators(and use it as a storage) or avoid the whole 4th or even the 40th floor completely(though very rare).

    5. Slurp away

    If eating any form of noodles, slurping is not only OK, but is regarded as a compliment to the chef.

    6. Cash is king

    While using credit cards is slowly gaining the ground, cash is king in Japan. There are a lot of ATM’s around for this purpose. Many specialty stores do not accept credit cards, so beware.

    7. No blowing your nose in public

    This is considered unhygienic and rude. Worse if you use the hand towels given in restaurants for hand cleaning.

    8. Sleeping on and getting pushed into strangers

    Your seatmate might sleep on your shoulder even if he/she is a stranger. There are also designated subway pushers whose sole purpose is to push you into a crowded train during rush hour.

    9. Women only trains

    These are pink and usually appear during rush hour on select lines. This is to prevent groping from the men that occasionally happens during rush hour

    10. Bathroom slippers

    There are slippers for the toilet. They are meant for your feet not to touch the dirty floor. Please, do not wear them outside the toilet.

    11. Tattoos are a no-no

    No tattoos are allowed in most onsens (Japanese bathhouses) – unless small enough to be covered up. However really small places may sometimes ignore them, this is definitely not the case with famous Onsens. This rule was originally made to prevent the Japanese yakuza (gang/mafia) from entering the premises

    12. Onsen towels

    The small ones (that barely cover up anything) can NOT touch the water at any time. It is considered dirty and doing so would be inconsiderate. They are usually put to the side or on your head (thus a myriad of princess lea styles can be found).

    13. Vending machines

    There are vending machines for literally everything. There have been ones just for bananas. More commonly they are found on every street corner for drinks and cigarettes. There are even ones that sell underwear!

    14. Love hotels/Capsule hotels

    The hotels are often used by weary salary men(office workers) or party goers who have missed the last train home. Sometimes a married couple can use them just to get some alone time from their small abode. The capsule hotel is not for the claustrophobes, however.

    15. Gift giving

    It is considered an honor to be invited to someone’s home and an omiyage or gift is expected. I have seen people bringing elaborately wrapped presents or even very expensive fruits. Literally, I once saw a 5000 yen watermelon given (roughly $40)!

    Hope these tips help you enjoy your next trip to Japan. Happy exploring!

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