Do’s and Dont’s in Japan | Japanese Etiquettes for Tourists

Every country has their own set of customs and manners. Also, there are certain gestures which might offend people in foreign countries.

 

Similarly, Japan has its own set of said rules and gestures that you should be keeping in mind when you’re traveling there. Japan is one of the most culturally interesting places for all visitors.

 

Moreover, it has a rich and intriguing history and is a society bound by etiquette, or rules of behaviour. One of the reasons for this is that Japan has a very large population.

 

Do’s and Don’ts in Japan

Do’s:

Punctuality

Everything and everyone is on time in Japan. Trains, people … everything. Except once, when an avalanche buried the train line and the Japanese people were so distressed by things not running to perfection, that they fled the trains.

 

However, good story to highlight that if everything does not run according to the rules, then this is major hurdle for the Japanese.

Do Eat KFC at Christmas Time

Although Japan doesn’t traditionally celebrate Christmas, KFC outlets became popular among foreigners when they couldn’t find a turkey elsewhere during the festive season.

 

Moreover, KFC very quickly filled the void and mounted a hugely successful marketing campaign in the 1970s. Also, the Japanese now place their orders up to two months in advance to meet demand. Crazy!

Explore the City of Tokyo

You will mostly land in Tokyo, so take some time and visit some different districts of Shibuya, Akihabara, Shinjuku, Harajuku,Ginza.

Therefore, check out the electronics, and cos play outfits. You can see manga and anime characters as well as many of popular video game characters. Musicians and punk rockers abound. Anything to do with fantasy and magic like Harry Potter is also seen everywhere.

Do Play with the Vending Machines

The main reason that there are so many vending machines is that they are convenient for a very large and very busy population. Also, they are constantly stocked and re-stocked particularly the food vending machines. Nothing is even close to a use by date, so meticulous are the Japanese. Anybody who owns property can put a vending machine outside their premises.

Do Bring Gifts

It is a cultural tradition in Japan to bring gifts. This can be a slightly confusing Japanese custom, as giving a gift inappropriately or giving no gift at all can cause embarrassment.

 

Moreover, as a visitor to Japan a small gesture presenting an aspect of your home culture will be warmly welcomed by your hosts – it can also work as a great conversation starter.

Do Use Your Chopsticks

Many Japanese restaurants should supply you with a chopstick holder. When you are not using your chopsticks it is important to place them back on the holder. Chopsticks should never be placed upright in a bowl of rice as this resembles a custom performed at Japanese funerals!

Do Say “Thank You” After Eating

Do put your palms together and say “Gochisosamadeshita” after finishing a meal – it is a polite way of expressing “Thank you for creating this feast.”

Get a Suica Card

This is one of those e-cards that can be used on trains and to pay for goods, and at convenience stores, etc. It makes your life easier.

Do Try Pachinko

Or, at least, walk into a pachinko parlour for the noise and the colour, and the amazement. Pachinko is one of the few ways to legally gamble in Japan. It is theoretically illegal to gamble in Japan so you just trade your winnings for a voucher to get food or drinks.

Try and Speak Their Language

It is just a nice thing to be able to say thank you in the language of the country that you are visiting.

Thank you – arigato or Arigatoogozaimasu.

Please – onegaishimasu

Excuse Me – Sumimasen.

Sorry – Gomen’nasai.

Don’ts:

Don’t Forget to Bow

Bowing is the traditional form to greet someone in Japan. Bows can range from a simple nod to a deep bow, although if you’re a visitor, a simple nod should be adequate. The longer a person bows the stronger the emotion and respect being expressed. If the other person maintains his bow for longer than the normal two or three seconds, it is polite to bow again, upon which you may accept another bow in return.

Don’t Tip

Leaving gratitude or tipping in Japan is often seen as being rude. Leaving a tip is not part of Japanese culture and some will even see it as an insult.

Don’t Litter

The Japanese are fanatical, in a very good way, on recycling. Have you ever noticed that Japan is one of the countries that is really into overpackaging as every little thing must be displayed beautifully and then wrapped beautifully? They are fanatical when it comes to recycling. You won’t see rubbish bins around the cities; because the people take the rubbish to recycling bins, and there are many of them.

Don’t Finish Your Drink or Meal

Don’t finish your drink or meal if you are out with Japanese people. They will assume they have not fed you enough, or have not got you drunk enough. This is insulting to the Japanese people who pride themselves on their hospitality. Always leave a little in your glass, and a little on your plate. Also, let your host pour your drink.

Don’t Be Afraid to Slurp!

It’s near impossible to enjoy a bowl of noodles in Japan without making any noise. Slurping shows the chef you’re appreciating the food – so slurp away!

Don’t Blow Your Nose in Public

This is considered poor form, but sniffling isn’t. Try and go to one of the musical toilets before ejecting the contents of you nostrils.

Don’t Drink or Eat While Walking

It is considered as bad manners.

Don’t Talk on Your Phone on a Train

It is seen as rude to speak on your mobile while on a train in Japan. The compromise is that you are sharing the time and space with everyone there, so you are expected to be considerate by not making noise. Many Japanese place their phone in `manner mode’ –which sounds a lot nicer than ‘silent mode’!

Don’t Wear Shoes in the House

Most people are aware that you take your shoes off before entering a home in Japan. It’s a reasonable and hygienic request when you think about it. They simply don’t want the dust and dirt from the outside streets being trekked all over their clean floors and tatami mats. Most homes have a small recessed vestibule called a genkan where shoes should be removed and slippers put on (guest slippers are often provided). Note: these slippers should be removed when you enter a tatami mat room, where socks are the preferred footwear.

Don’t Touch in Public

Unlike Europe or Latin America where hugs and cheek pecks are greetings among casual acquaintances, Japan is more reserved with their public displays of affection. You almost never see people holding hands, walking arm-in-arm or kissing on the streets. Even those who are madly in love will keep things demure in public. Don’t expect any physical contact when saying hello or goodbye to even close friends in Japan. You’ll just make them uncomfortable going in for a big bear hug or parting smooch at the train station. For colleagues or esteemed people up the social hierarchy, it’s always best to stick with a formal hands-off bow as a greeting.

 

You have checked out my Dos and DON’Ts. Do you have some more in mind? If so, do mention them in the comments.

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MINISTRY OF TOURISM, GOVERNMENT OF INDIA