When you’re in a foreign country that you’ve never been to before, it’s obvious that you’e going to make mistakes as you have no idea what the cultural practices are of that country. Making mistakes is fine, but to try and reduce the amount of mistakes made on your trip to Japan we’ve compiled this handy list of things to DO and NOT DO in JAPAN.
As many of you know Japan has a unique culture that can be very different to the culture of other countries. Japan is known for its politeness, respect and unique cultural practices…which can be hard to get used to for first time travelers. The culture is also different throughout Japan meaning that Kyoto, Tokyo and Hokkaido may all have different cultural practices.
There are of course many other blog posts and videos that people have made about this topic on Japan, but in this blog post we’re going to be talking about some things that NO-ONE talks about, most from personal experience of living here for 2 years!
No matter how polite Japanese people are, no one wants to put up with loud, rude and annoying people…especially when that person is somewhere who is traveling to Japan and therefore should be respectful of its cultural practices. So to avoid embarrassment, blend in with the Japanese people and have a smooth trip to Japan…check out this list of things you SHOULD do in Japan and things you SHOULDN’T do in Japan.
DO: Learn Crucial Japanese Phrases
So let’s start off with an easy one…learn some Japanese! Although nowadays many Japanese shop assistance etc can speak basic English, it’s nice to speak the language of the country you’re in to show respect to Japanese people and show that you appreciate Japanese culture. This can also avoid many embarrassing and awkward situations in Japan if they cannot speak English!
Here some basic phrases everyone traveling to Japan should learn and use!
Arigatou Gozaimasu – Thankyou very much.
Kore Onegashimasu – I would like this please.
Hitotsu/ Futatsu / Mitsu… – One/ Two / Three (in regards to amount)
Kore Wa Ikura Desu Ka? – How much is this?
Kore o Shichaku Shitemo ii Desu Ka? – May I try this on please?
Hai / iie – Yes/ No.
Kaikei – Thebill (restaurant etc)
Knowing these phrases will make it much easier to navigate Japan, especially if the people you are dealing with do not speak much english! It will also make you feel closer to Japanese people and let you emerge yourself in Japanese culture more! MORE PHRASES.
DON’T: leave a tip or leave the money on your table to pay
In many restaurants in Japan, there will be a cash register that you go up to pay after your meal, and a lot of times the bill will come with your food! You then take the bill up with you and pay the required amount.
I’ve seen a few people in Japan not know this and leave the money on the table along with the bill and leave. This can cause a very awkward exchange as the waiters may think you are leaving without paying and stop you. If you’re not sure on how to pay, just ask the waiter. Even if they don’t speak much English, they will at least be able to point you in the right direction!
Moving on from this, don’t leave a tip! In a lot of Japanese restaurants a ‘service charge’ will be included into the bill and so you won’t have to pay a separate tip. But even if it’s not included, do not leave a tip on the table. I can guarantee the waiters will assume you have forgot your change and come to find you to give it back!
Sometimes restaurants will have a small tip jar next to the cash register with a label on it, if so you can put a small bit of change in there if you want to but it’s still uncommon.
Japanese people are not being polite to you so they get a tip, they are doing it because it’s their job so they do not expect you to tip. Simply being kind and saying thank you will suffice!
DON’T: Go into a changing room with shoes on!!
I see this so much in Japan, where a tourist simply enters a changing room with their shoes on and thinks nothing of it. This always causes an awkward situation where the shop assistant has to try to say something in English and always results in a big misunderstanding. So, in order to avoid this type of situation in Japan just remember to take your shoes off before going into the changing room.
I’m sure many of you know that Japan are quite funny about shoes in homes/schools etc so I suppose it’s the same concept. You are going to be changing clothes in there so don’t want it to be dirty. Even if you can’t understand why, it’s best to just accept the culture and do it anyway!
DO: Cover your top half and wear appropriate clothing.
I’m sure many going to Japan are going because of the fashion...that’s fine as long as you keep in mind what you’re wearing. Although Japan is slowly becoming more progressive, they don’t have the same attitude that the west does when it comes to “women can wear what they want”.
Although many Japanese girls will wear very short skirts and shorts, they will almost always cover their shoulders and chest. Vests that show a lot of the chest area and shoulders are not common here and although some girls may wear them, they probably get many funny looks.
So just to make sure you’re not drawing attention to yourself, i’d recommend you wear at least a T-shirt, even in summer…just to be on the safe side!
DON’T: Stand on the right of the escalator in Tokyo, Unless you’re going to walk up
I’ve seen SO many foreigners going up the escalator and standing on the right side without walking. People will get EXTREMELY annoyed at this as the right side is for people in a rush who want to walk up instead of simply standing on the escalator. So if you want to wait and not walk up the escalator…make sure you stand on the LEFT!
Although this seems a little silly for people who haven’t grown up in a huge city, it makes sense for Tokyo. Tokyo is extremely busy and people are always in a rush to get the train or get to the next place they need to be, they don’t have time to stand on an escalator and wait for it to go up. So this system works to please every one.
The side may be different to other areas of Japan such as Kyoto or Osaka, but you should easily be able to work it our by looking where everyone stands!
DO: Use a Suica or Passmo on public transport
Instead of working out how much it is to every place you need to go and buying a ticket, using a suica or pasmo to get around Tokyo is much more efficient! These travel cards allow you to top them up with money and then you simply scan them at each toll gate and the station will take the amount off that it cost you to travel.
The cards can be purchased from pretty much every station or at the airport! They cost 500yen (which is a deposit that you can get back if you give them back) and then you can top them up as much as you want to get around!
DO: Ask the police for directions!
They say that the polices biggest job in Japan is given people directions! And whilst i don’t necessarily believe that…it does seem to be a big part of their job! In Japan, no matter where you go there will always be things called ‘Koban’ dotted around everywhere. These are small building where police are stationed to protect that area. These buildings are easy to find and people are actually encouraged to use the police for directions!
This is better as well because the police are guaranteed to know that area and will be happy to help. Asking random people may annoy them and they may be in a rush to go somewhere, so it’s a lot better for everyone to ask the police!
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