Today, some advices about Japanese culture that will help you a lot during your stay.. Enjoy it!
Taking off your shoes
One of the most shocking customs in Japan is taking off the shoes. Even when it is not a big deal, when you are not used to it, it can be a bit weird.But where it came from?
I know 2 versions of it. The first one says that because in the past the floor of the houses were made with tatami, if you walked inside with your shoes, the tatami will be easily broken, so they changed so softer shoes to take care of the tatami. The second one says that because in the past houses weren´t that big, so they used the same room for different purposes: eating, sleeping (in futons), gathering... So for example it wasn´t hygienic to sleep in the same floor where they were walking around all day with t he shoes that came from the street.
What do you think about it? Do you have another version?
Escalator: Right or Left?
I have been in Japan for a while and once when I was going to Osaka, a friend of mine told me to be sure that when I arrive there, I have to keep my right. Of course when I arrived, I forgot and being at Osaka station during rush hour going against the flow it was an awkward and difficult moment. But why is Osaka like that?
I made some research and there are also many versions about it.
One says that because Tokyo used to be a samurai city, for samurais it was easier to take their swords if they kept their left while walking, in the other hand Osaka was a rich merchants city, so they preferred to keet their right to protect their money, and this custom nowadays.
Another version is that because Tokyo and Osaka were rivals cities, Osaka wanted to differentiate from Tokyo and adopted this way. The truth is that there is not certain about it, but the only fact that you have to remember if you go to Osaka: Keep your left!
For foreigners this custom is the best one. In our countries we always have to give a tip when we go to a restaurant not only because it is our custom, but because nowadays our tip became part of the waiter/waitress salary.
In Japan you don´t tip. I asked once about this and the answer I got was that serving is their job and they are already being paid for that. If you tip in Japan, people could feel offended thinking that they didn´t do a good job so you are encouraging them to make it better.
I don´t know if this is truth, what I know is that when I get my meal, I will just pay for that being sure that the sever will have the salary for his job.
Paying when you leave the restaurant
Again, another difference that I found as a good point at the time you go to a restaurant. As far as I know, our way of paying when we go to a restaurant is calling the waiter who was serving us the whole meal, he brings the ticket, we pay to him and we leave a tip when we leave. Don´t dare to ask to split your bill even when you ask half and half because they won´t take it good.
In Japan, on the contrary, when you finish your meal, you take your tickets that were brought by the waiter everytime you ordered something, and you go to the cashier. At the cashier you are going to be asked if you want to pay all together or split it and if you want to split it, you can even chose dish by dish what you want to pay without any complain! Isn´t it great????
Slippers in the bathroom
In Japanese houses, the ones without tatami, when you get inside and take off your shoes, you will be provided with some slippers to walk around the house. But at the moment we want to go to the bathroom we MUST NOT use those slippers.
For the bathroom you will find another slippers waiting for you. So, you take off your current slippers, set them facing to the house, put on the bathroom slippers and when you finish change them again, also setting the slippers you leave facing the bathroom. Why is that? To keep everything where it belongs. Bathrooms are “specials” places, so we better keep the “special” where it belongs, right?
Shoes and shopping clothes
The shoes culture in Japan applies to many situations. Houses, some restaurants, schools, temples and also when you go shopping and you want to try some clothes in the fitting room. All the times I went to buy some clothes, at the time I wanted to enter into the fitting room there was always an employee reminding me not to enter with my shoes on. Sometimes they provide some shoes if you want to try you clothes with some just to know how it looks. Japanese take care a lot about keeping clean the places where you can be in touch with avoiding to bring the dirt from the outside.
The science of the chopsticks
The first weeks in Japan were very difficult at the moment of eatting. Japanse people use chopsticks for everything, even for pasta! In Japan every meal is prepared in a way you can grab it with chopsticks, because the pieces are already cut or because they are soft enough that you can easily cut it with the chopsticks. But what you MUST NOT do when you use chopsticks:
- Don´t stick your chopstick in the food.
- Don´t cross your chopsticks when you finish your meal
- Don´t use the separate, use them together
- Be sure you use both chopstick from the same pair
- Don´t grab your chopsticks with you mouth when you have to use you hands for something else
- Don´t point to people with the chopsticks
See you next time!