Welcome to Japan!
Travel to Japan can be a rewarding adventure with its rich culture, profound history, natural beauty, epic shopping, unforgettable cuisine and gracious hospitality. Japanese culture is eclectic in nature, largely influenced by American and European culture after the world wars. In spite of the fact that Japan is becoming more westernised, especially with younger people, they are still maintaining many important Japanese customs and traditions. A strict code of behavior and politeness is recognised and followed by almost everyone. It is therefore, important to be polite and respect Japanese traditions and customs whenever possible, keep in mind the following Japan travel tips, taboo, dos and donts to make the most of your trip to Japan as well as making a great impression!
Japan Travel Taboo
Putting thumb in between your middle and index finger while making a fist is an obscene gesture.
Japan Travel Donts
- Do not enter a Japanese home with shoes on. It is customary in Japan to remove your shoes at the door while entering a home.
- Do not wear socks with holes in them. You will need to take off your shoes often in Japan.
- Do not dress casual attire in the workplace. Dress appropriately for business occasions, a suit and tie for men and a dress or pantyhose for women.
- Do not sit until told where to sit when gathering or in business, as usually there is a seating arrangement based on professional status. Do not stand once the meeting is finished until the person with the highest professional status stands.
- Do not eat and drink while walking in public. No food and drink taken in at a store. Avoid sneezing, spitting, and burping as well.
- Do not put feet on the furniture which is considered extremely rude.
- Do not tip unless given for a special service. Tipping is not customary in Japan.
- Do not take food from the serving plate with the chopsticks that you’ve eaten from. Instead, turn your chopsticks upside down and then pick the food up.
- Do not start drinking until everyone at the table is served and the glasses are raised to toast. The Japanese drinking salute is usually “Kampai!”
- Do not stick chopsticks into your food or spear your food with the chopsticks. Not to bite your chopsticks as well.
- Do not say something like “I hope to see you again” when parting.
- Do not take photos of geisha without asking permission.
Japan Travel Dos
- Do learn a few common Japanese phrases before you travel. Few people are able to converse in English there.
- Do bow when greeting someone. Bowing is the customary greeting in Japan, but handshaking is becoming more common for business meetings with Westerners.
- Do use the honorific suffix ‘san’ when addressing all men and women.
- Do be aware that a vague ‘yes’ does not always mean ‘yes’ in Japanese culture. A straightforward refusal traditionally does not form part of Japanese etiquette.
- Do enjoy sharing several dishes at the table instead of having your own individual dish. Drink alcohol if you can, and slurp noodles and soup. In Japan, it’s not only socially acceptable to slurp when eating noodles or soup, it’s polite and a sign that you are enjoying your meal.
- Do bow when you thank somebody. You can say “thank you” or “domo arigato” in Japanese, and tilt your head a little bit forward to show a gesture of appreciation.
- Do enjoy food samples but do not be piggish. Take a single piece and just bow slightly and leave the store if you do not want to purchase something.
- Do prepare to pay at a restaurant if you initiated the dinning invitation, and do make an attempt to pay at a restaurant if someone else invited you. Splitting the bill is not traditionally done in Japan.
- Do bring a gift such as a little souvenir from your native city. It’s rude to visit a Japanese home without one. Avoid giving gifts related to the number four, which symbolises the bad luck. Give and receive gifts with both hands, and do not open a wrapped gift until later.
- Do avoid visiting Japan in summer and winter, as the humidity and cold in Japan are terrible. Spring and autumn are great seasons to enjoy the beauty of flowers and the nature, especially the Cherry Blossom week, somewhere around the first week of April, or the end of November when the maple trees turn red.
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