Japan, like every other country in the world, have their own set of cultures and norms. As a traveler, you might actually be looking for these kinds of cultural differences to get some new experience from it.
However, here’s the problem with cultural differences;
If you’re not prepared enough to follow the “unspoken” rules, you might have a hard time dealing with the cultural shock.
Not to worry! Here in this article, I will discuss things you should know before traveling in Japan. Sit tight and hold on!
There are more tourists who got “The Look” from locals in Japan than what you might possibly think.
In order to avoid that, here are some tips about things that you need to prepare for your Japan trip to make you fit in more with the locals!
- Cash, baby
Japan, like most countries in Asia, holds more cash in their wallets than most westerners. Although you can use credit cards in several stores at touristy areas, most shops usually do not accept credit cards. This includes restaurants and other establishments. If you ever ran out of cash, you just need to find the nearest Seven-Eleven convenience stores that have a 7 Bank ATM in them. You can take more cash with the maximum limit of 30,000 yen per transaction.
- Chopsticks Rules
You can find chopsticks in almost every restaurant in Japan. Even some of the international restaurants that are serving western foods usually have some chopsticks available. However, there are some etiquettes regarding the use of chopsticks.
One, you can never stick your chopsticks vertically in your bowl of rice. This symbolizes incense sticks that are usually used to honor the dead. Also, you should not transfer food from chopsticks to chopsticks; you need to put it down on a plate or a bowl first. On the other hand, you can always ask for spoons if you have difficulties using chopsticks!
- Trains Do Sleep
I have met tourists that were stranded in stations since they missed the last train. They thought that trains in Tokyo never stops. Well, they were wrong.
Here’s the thing;
Trains in Japan do not work at night.
Although they stopped pretty late (around 00.30 AM) and starts back pretty early (around 05.00 AM), it is better for you to know what time the last train is to avoid getting stranded. If you did -by any chance- missed the last train, you can try to get some rest at internet cafes or all night karaoke bars to catch the first train in the morning!
- No tip
Imagine you’re in a restaurant in Japan. You are so satisfied with their services, and you wanted to give them something to show it. So, you opted to leave them some cash. Well, you’ll be surprised to know that they’ll catch you when you get out of the restaurant to return your “forgotten things”, which is your tip!
Japan does not have the culture to give out tips. Even in hotels or other establishments, there is no way you’ll find tip boxes laying on the counter. However, if you are so keen on throwing out some extra coins, you can put them inside small charity boxes that are available in some shops.
- Be quiet in trains!
During train rides, you must not take any phone calls or speak too loudly. This is especially true when the train is crowded during rush hours. In fact, the more crowded the train is, the quieter it will be. People will be literally glued to each other, and even then they will opt to look at the floor or the train roofs. Everyone would keep to themselves. This is the one unspoken custom you might want to know before your Japan trip, to avoid the stares from the locals
- Regarding photographs
Of course, you would love to take pictures of some geisha or maiko when you’re traveling in Japan.
Here’s the problem with that:
They might not want their pictures to be taken!
Japan has a strict rule regarding taking photographs. Even Japanese phones have a loud camera shutter noise that cannot be silenced (there is literally no option for it). Although you just want to respect the Japanese’ cultures, you should still respect geishas and maikos by asking their permission before taking their pictures.
Surprisingly, most Japanese does not speak (or choose not to speak) English. They do have the basic understanding of it, but they are mostly too shy to communicate in it. If you’re ever lost, your best bet is finding the nearest police station or tourist information center.
English proves to be difficult to when you’re in a restaurant. Although more restaurants in big cities offer English menu, there are lots of restaurants that still have Japanese only menus. You can try your best to point at pictures that are usually available in the menus or take pictures of the fake foods that are usually available in front of the shops to point at the menu that you want.
- Shoes off!
Japan took this one Asian custom to the next level; there are more places where you need to take your shoes off then you would imagine.
Of course, most restaurants do not require you to take off your shoes. However, some of the traditional restaurants or places with a tatami mat usually needs you to change your shoes to slippers before you enter. You might also be surprised to know that you also need to take off your shoes when you enter dressing rooms in clothes shops!
To make your trip easier
Japan has so many more unwritten rules and customs that tourists need to know before their visit. This could prove to be difficult for visitors and the language barrier problem might even deter some tourists from ever visiting Japan.
I have another tip for you to ensure you have the best trip as possible during your Japan holiday; hire a private guide!
Look, hiring a private guide is not as difficult as you might think. You would easily overcome the language barrier if you have a guide to translate what you really want to say. Plus, your guide will tell you all the things you might need to prepare for your arrival in Japan.
If you are thinking of hiring a private guide, then I recommend you to find one in Triplelights. They have a list of professional guides that would ensure you have the best holiday in Japan as possible.
In this article, I have explained about a few tips and things you need to know before you arrive in Japan. I hope that it has been helpful enough and I wish you the best of luck for your holiday!
Need help planning your trip to Japan ?
If you are interested to know more and save your time during your trip to Japan, You can send a message to our local guides to get a customized itinerary and quotation for an unforgettable experience.
In the TripleLights website you can find the best professional guides all over Japan to help you plan your trip. Check our local guides for Japan