Japan welcomes foreigners and travellers with open arms, but its layered and unique culture may be impossible to understand for a first-time visitor, which makes it important to learn the cultural do’s and don’ts of Japan. Familiarise yourself with a few of these tips on etiquette before your trip to the Land of the Rising Sun – from what to do when you visit an onsen, to how to snack on-the-go.
Do’s in Japan:
- Practice or learn some basic phrases
The first rule of traveling to foreign is about learning phrases for better communication. If you want to get through the town, you must know their language, it makes easy to understand.
- Hello – Konnichiwa
- Thank you – Arigatō gozaimasu
- Yes and no – Hai/Iie
- Do you speak English? – Eigo o hanasemasu ka.
- My name is (your name). – Watashi no namae was (your name) desu.
- I don’t understand. – Wakarimasen.
- Please give me – Kohi Kudsai (this phrase can be helpful in placing orders at cafes or restaurants)
- Learn Basic Etiquette
Bowing is a well-known custom of Japan that you might be aware of, but it is not for every occasion. In fact, some Japanese prefer a simple handshake. Keenly observe their body language and gestures, and you will know what they are expecting. Moving on, while you enter into someone’s home or various restaurants, you will have to remove your shoes and wear the slippers provided. In addition, don’t hand over money directly to the cashier, instead, place it on the tray provided at the cashier counter.
- The custom of visiting an Onsen
An onsen (温泉) is a Japanese hot spring, many spend time here as part of tradition and culture, as well as for relaxing and quiet contemplation. First of all, cleanse yourself before entering the bath. Second, forget the swimsuit and strip down. Third, you will be provided with two towels: use one and save another for after-bath cleansing. Do not swim.
- Dining Manners
In Asia, table manners are an important to convey your respect for the food served, as well as to those you are dining with. In Japan, it is no different. In this country, you can find many restaurants with the more westernized tables and chairs but at the same time, some provide zashiki-style dining. This is a traditional Japanese-style room complete with tatami flooring, and padded mats or cushions for sitting. Remember that if you enter one of these restaurants, you you will have to remove your shoes before entering the dining area.
Don’ts in Japan:
- Do not litter
The Japanese are really concerned about manners and care for the environment – rubbish is taken to the recycle bins. Plus, people don’t throw trash on the floors or on the grounds. So, be mindful not to litter and carry your trash with you until you find a bin.
- Don’t finish your meal
There is a hospitality rule of the Japanese, they make you eat until you are satiated. Therefore, finishing your whole meal may make them think that the food served was not enough for your appetite. So, always leave some food on your plate and avoid over-eating due to this unspoken custom. (I know, it’s hard! I LOVE Japanese food!)
- Don’t tip
Regardless of the quality of service, you don’t tip the servers in Japan. You can say that they love to earn the hard way rather than relying on this culture.
- Avoid drinking or eating while walking
Do not drink or eat while walking. They may not be saying anything considering you are non-Japanese, but manners are like the cultural protocols and you must follow them.
Japan promises a journey like no other. Just be mindful of these do’s and don’ts in Japan and you’re all set. Shiawasena tabi!! (Happy traveling!!)