7 Important Japanese Customs Tourists Must Know

Japan is a very beautiful country that has an amazing and unique culture. Usually tourists are interested in visiting this country because of its special and different perspectives on life. Although it might not seem important it’s the little things that make the difference in this country.

What should you know as a tourist when you visit Japan?

No.1 – Your Phone

In Japan people don’t speak loudly in public on their phones. This means you won’t hear people speaking on their phones in shops or trains. Instead they keep their phones on vibrations. This is an interesting way of showing respect to others. More of us should try this more often.

Photo source: japan-talk.com
Photo source: japan-talk.com

No.2 – Respect

You might have gotten in contact with the bowing custom from movies or books. Well, you should know that this habit is very important in Japan, kids learning this from the moment they go to school for the first time. But just a simple inclination will not suffice. The inclination and duration of the bow shows the amount of respect you have for someone. If you are saluting a friend for example, a 30-degree bow is enough. However, when saluting a more respectable person, a 70-degree, extended bow is required.

No.3 – Using chopsticks

I know it looks funny to play with chopsticks but try to restrain this desire when you are invited to eat in a Japanese home. As I said, although for tourists it might seem a game, mastering chopsticks is in fact part of an ancient tradition and there are certain etiquette rules that must be respected when using them. For example, avoid using your chopsticks as toys, stabbing the food with them or putting the chopsticks in the rice. And what is more important, if someone is struggling to pick something up with their chopsticks don’t help them. This is part of a funeral ritual in Japan, so avoid doing it.

No.4 – No tipping

Photo source: answers.com
Photo source: answers.com

This is a very interesting custom that might leave someone insulted. Just remember: when in Rome, you do what the Romans do. So avoid tipping regardless of where you are: restaurants, cabs, clubs, etc. The service you are offered is covered by the price so there is no reason to pay extra. Seems legit to me! This is a habit that most people should learn from!

No. 5 – Shoes off

When entering someone’s home or a public place that has Japanese traditional flooring (hotels, restaurants, hot spring resorts, etc.) make sure you take off your shoes. Don’t worry, you will be given inside slippers to protect your feet (sometimes you might even receive different slippers for the bathroom area. Try to respect their significance and don’t wear the bathroom slippers outside the bathroom). The reason for this custom? It all goes down to respect towards the person inviting you in and to good hygiene. Taking into account that there are plenty of rainy days in Japan, keeping the floors clean require a bit of effort even from guests.

No. 6 – Gift giving

Gift giving is an important part of Japanese tradition, especially in the business world. The gift has to be properly wrapped and make sure you offer it towards your visit. Make sure you are discreet and present your gift with both hands. When giving a gift make sure you include the phrase ‘tsumaranai mon’ (an uninteresting or dull thing). This is meant to say that no matter the size of the gift it’s the relationship that matters. And last but not least, before receiving a gift it is polite to refuse it at least once or twice before accepting it.

7. No. 7 – Onsen

Photo source: japan-talk.com
Photo source: japan-talk.com

Onsen is the Japanese word for hotspring and it includes a series of simple rules: you must enter completely nude (no bathing suit is allowed, but you can bring a towel). Before entering the onsen make sure you clean yourself properly. Rinse well because you are not allowed to enter soapy in the onsen water. People with tattoos might also be prohibited from entering the water. Normally women enter the onsen through the red side while men enter through the blue one. Make sure you choose the right side for you.

So if you ever go to Japan, make sure you know what you need to know. Good luck!

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