There are so many things to do around Japan. You can release the anime-lover in you, binge on Japanese food, see the historical sites, and do so much more. On the other hand though, there are things that you should consider thinking twice before doing and here are some of the things you should NOT do while in Japan. These aren’t laws but just a few things that should save you from looking rude in front of locals.
You wonder, “Why would someone resist getting tips?” When in Japan, don’t be surprised when a waiter chases you down the street or politely hands back the extra change you left on the bill. Giving tips doesn’t show a “job well done” message for the Japanese but rather a “do better next time”, so better just keep the change back in your purse.
Enter homes with your shoes on
When you enter someone else’s home, you’ll step on a small area after the entrance, a level below the rest of the house. This area is called a “genkan” where you enter, remove your shoes, and place them properly on the floor or on a shoe rack before you can step on further to the house’s common area. You may also have to take your shoes off in certain areas like temples, shrines, and even restaurants.
Eat and drink while walking around
You’re not in New York honey so better skip the thought of taking out a cup of coffee and a sandwich to eat while on the way to the subway. What’s more important to remember is you should never take food with you to eat while inside the train. Eating outdoors only applies to cultural and music festivals with food stalls.
It’s easily understandable that throwing your trash on some random place is a big no-no wherever you are around the world. In Japan however, you’ll notice that trash cans aren’t always available that you actually need to hold your trash until you can find a proper bin for it.
You’re trying to be friendly, yes we know that. But take note that the Japanese are uncomfortable in hugging acquaintances and of course, strangers. So better stick to polite bows or handshakes.
Talk on the phone while on the train
If someone calls you while you’re on the train, decline the phone call. Answering so is rude enough to disturb the other passengers especially if you talk loudly (and you have no idea that you are actually noisy).
Insist that you pay when you’re invited to a dinner
When you are invited by someone for dinner or some drinks, most of the time you’d know that you need to have some money to pay when the bill is split. However, splitting the bill doesn’t happen and insisting that you want to pay is rude for the person who invited you.
Get in the onsen right away
If you’re interested trying out a Japanese public bath or an onsen (Japanese hot spring), don’t just get naked and dip your toes in the water right away. Get in the shower and wash yourself first before dipping in.
You may not notice it right away but your voice could be already level 10 loud when you step in Japan. Keep conversations in a low discreet voice and don’t just burst out shouting in public. Hold it and just throw it away (still try to keep that voice down) when you’re at home.
Freak out at people wearing surgical masks
Nope, they’re not going to attack you nor going to infect you with some incurable disease. In Japan, people wear surgical masks to prevent themselves from getting colds or allergies. If someone has a cold, they wear a mask right away to protect people from catching one too. Besides that, they also wear masks as a fashion accessory or as a quick fix to go incognito.
Forget your manners
You may not have anything to give in return but a simple “Arigato gozaimasu” is enough to show your appreciation. And when you’re with Japanese friends or family, don’t forget to say “Itadakimasu!” before eating. Better make sure you finish your plate and when you’re done, you can say “Gochisousamadeshita!” to show gratitude.
Think everything can be bought with a swipe
When you think about Japan, you think about a futuristic city where everything can go wireless in a breeze. But Japan isn’t just Tokyo. Even if you plan to stay only in Tokyo, it doesn’t mean you can travel right away with just a credit card. Keep it for later and better have some cash with you all the time.
Play with chopsticks
You’ve probably played with chopsticks back home where no one really cares if you insert them in your nostrils; use them as swords; or tap them like drumsticks. However, doing so while in Japan simply shows disrespect. There are more things to remember regarding chopstick etiquette such as not using one chopstick to spear food, not sucking on them, and not using unmatched ones.
When On Earth Magazine is for people who love travel. We provide informative travel guides, tips, ideas and advice regarding places to see, things to do, what to taste, and much more for world travelers seeking their next dream vacation destination.