In today’s blog post, we feature a fellow travel blogger – Tiffy, a.k.a. asiatravelbug – who is going to share with us some interest insights on how you will be treated during your visit in Japan. This girl is a real travel planning freak, an ex-finance manager and currently a digital marketing ninja. Traveling has kept her sane from all the hustles and bustles of corporate life. Despite being a nervous flyer, Tiffy’s wanderlust has led her to visit Japan for 6 times (and counting). Her favorite cities are Kyoto and Tokyo and would choose to visit Japan over Paris in a heartbeat! Follow her journey on Asia Travel Bug for some more Asia travel tips. For now, sit back and enjoy your read!
It is always nerve-wracking when traveling to a new place, especially one with such a rich and beautiful culture. You want to get the most out of your Japan experience and make sure to follow the customs and traditions so you can make connections and learn the ways of the great people who live there. Here is some real advice from people who have traveled to Japan before. It will be important for you to know what to expect while on your trip.
Etiquette for Eating Out in Restaurants
Chances are, one of the many reasons you are traveling to Japan is to enjoy the delicious native food. There are some things you should know about eating, both about etiquette as well as what to expect.
Greeting and Tipping
For one, you may be greeted with a loud and boisterous yell upon entering the place you are planning to eat. This is a good thing, although it may startle you the first time it happens. This is actually their way of letting hostesses and staff know of your arrival.
It means they are ready and happy to serve you. While it is not wrong to nod in approval, it is also not necessary. You will get great service once you sit down, but you will not need to tip. In fact, you do not tip in restaurants, taxis, or salons as it is not necessary since the wages are livable. They might even try to give you your change back!
Eating and Payment
Slurp your ramen noodles and don’t be embarrassed. Unlike in other countries, slurping your noodles in Japan is actually a compliment to the chef. Also, ensure to eat everything on your plate as it is considered very rude to waste food in Japan. When the check is dropped on your table, don’t wait for the waiter or waitress to come back for it, but pay on your way out.
If you are traveling to Japan, you will be expected to use chopsticks. There are some important guidelines when using these unique utensils to eat your food. For one, you should always use chopsticks that match. You should never leave them sticking upright in a bowl of rice, and don’t stab your food. You also should never pass food to someone between chopsticks, which seems like a very interesting rule.
The reason behind this is when loved ones die, there is a tradition in Japan that the body is cremated. After the cremation, the family of the deceased picks out the bone pieces large enough and passes them to one another. If you pass food from chopsticks to chopsticks, this will remind others of the times they did this after their loved one’s death. You don’t want to remind them of that, as it is always difficult to lose someone you love.
Communicating with Locals
While English is spoken in many areas of Japan and the language is taught in schools, some locals will be eager to practice their skills on you, but others will not. The people of Japan are very eager and willing to help you, giving them a kind reputation with tourists, but some are nervous to speak in front of you. Just as you may be hesitant to try out some of the Japanese you’ve learned because you may not be fluent, they also feel the same way.
If you need to get around by asking questions, you can use a translating app or look for someone who may be familiar with the area and comfortable speaking English. It wouldn’t hurt for you to learn some of the languages prior to your trip as well, as the effort is always appreciated. If you are looking for areas where people will most likely speak English, consider going to a place where most tourists head, such as train stations, to ask your questions.
Going to the Bathroom
You will find the seats are warmed, there is usually an automatic flush feature, and there are even rinses and scents. Public toilets in Japan typically have tissues. However, you should try to remember to bring pocket tissues because some public toilets may not have tissue rolls available especially those located in high-traffic tourist areas. You do not want to get stuck without toilet paper. At least if you do, there are rinses and scents, which will be better than nothing.
Wear or Carry Around Nice Socks
Many places in Japan will have you take off your shoes. Just like in other places where wearing shoes in the house is considered rude, it is considered extremely rude and disrespectful in Japan. Houses, temples and other establishments may have you take off your shoes upon arrival. This means that you should always be wearing socks or have some with you as going barefoot is seen as equally rude and insulting as wearing your shoes inside.
The happy medium—wearing socks. Make sure your socks match, are nice and don’t have any holes. That would be so embarrassing!
When Traveling by Foot or by Train
If you are traveling by foot or train and enjoying your Tokyo itinerary, always watch the locals and pay attention to what the norm is.
When using escalators in Japan, it is very important to remember that there’s different escalator etiquette across different regions. Remember to stand on your left in Tokyo and stand on your right in Osaka.
When traveling by train, pay attention to signs. While there may not be too many “Ladies Only” cars, you might encounter a train or two on your visit that has this rule. The signs are usually in English and in Japanese, so you should be okay. Again, pay attention to what people around you are doing. Also, when on the train, do not talk loudly to those with you. In addition, do not talk on your phone unless it is a super quick conversation. Texting is better. Anywhere you travel to in the area, be aware of your volume as it is considered rude to speak loudly out in public.
Gestures to be Aware of
Another piece of advice is not to point, as this is considered very rude. If you notice someone walking with their hand pointing away from their chest like a shark fin, that means they want you to move over so they can walk by.
Another signal is if you are finished at a restaurant and you want the server to take away your plate or drink, wave your hand in front of your nose as if you are signaling something is stinky. While this might be rude in other places, this is a natural signal in Japan.
This seems like a lot to remember, but it will help you during your trip to get around successfully. A few other things to consider are making sure to bring cash or have an ATM card that can take money out of foreign machines. Credit cards are usually not accepted in most stores and restaurants. Keep in mind that there are hardly any trash cans out in public, so you will have to bring a bag with you or keep trash in your purse or pocket until you return to your hotel. Accommodations in your hotel may be small, but modern, and it is the most money you will spend while there. Japan is not as expensive as you might think.
Traveling to Japan is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. It is so worth it to see the beautiful culture and history. If you are considering your trip to Japan, go for it, as you will enjoy every moment.