Japanese Customs: All you need to know about travelling in Japan

When it comes to Japanese customs, there is a lot to take in, but understanding just why it is that they are carried out is quite interesting to explore. If you’re planning on visiting this unique culture, improving your knowledge of Japanese customs can be very worthwhile and make your journey a whole lot simpler. Let’s take a look at the top ten Japanese customs you need to know before jetting off to the beautiful country.

#1 Addressing Others

Bowing is a highly important part of Japanese customs. Japanese customs are influenced by their views on respect, especially when you are addressing someone. How you address another person will depend on their position and the circumstance. A simple inclination of the head or an attempt at a bow at the waist is sufficient in showing signs of respect. A friend may receive a short and swift bow whereas an office superior may receive a slower, more extended bow.

#2 Table Manners

When it comes to Japanese customs, table manners are highly important. Some simple Japanese customs to take in include slurping noodles and making loud noises while dining as this is accepted to show you are enjoying your meal. Raising a bowl to your mouth is a custom that is accepted throughout Japan to make your meal easier to eat with chopsticks, and before eating it is polite to say ‘itadakimasu’, or ‘I will receive’.

Japanese customs also suggest that if you’re with a dinner party and receive drinks, wait before raising the glass to your lips. When dining you will receive a small wet cloth to use to wash your hands before eating. This towel, or ‘Oshibori’, has long been part of hospitality culture in Japan for visitors to use.

#3 No Tipping

Japanese customs suggest that there should be no tipping in any situation in Japan, as it is seen as an insult. A price is a price in Japan, whether it is a taxi journey, restaurant meal or personal care, tipping isn’t something that’s carried out as the services you have asked for are covered by their original price.

#4 Chopsticks

When it comes to Japanese customs, chopsticks play a large role. Depending on where you choose to dine in Japan, you may be required to use chopsticks. If for some reason you can’t already use chopsticks or are yet to experience them during dining, you should have fun trying to learn this traditional Japanese eating technique before passing up the opportunity.

#5 Thresholds

When entering all homes, most business and hotels, it’s typical to remove your shoes. Again, Japanese customs are based on their focus on respect and removing your shoes is a great way to demonstrate your understanding of this important part of Japanese culture. Usually, a rack will be provided to store your shoes, and a pair of guest slippers will be sitting nearby to bring you comfort.

#6 Masks

It’s not uncommon for you to see people of Japan wearing sterilized masks. Commonly used day to day in Japan, these masks are used to protect both the wearer and others from germs. They are nothing to be concerned about, in fact, Japanese customs such as this one are there to protect you from colds and germs that could hinder your travels.

#7 Individuality

Japanese customs focus closely on the people of Japan. The population of Japan don’t tend to draw attention to their individuality. It’s customary to make sure that you don’t blow your nose in public, try to avoid eating while on the go, and don’t speak on your cell phone in crowded public areas to avoid drawing attention to yourself.

#8 Bathing

Japanese customs embrace public bathhouses. Sento, or neighbourhood bathhouses, can be found all across the country from the largest areas in Shinjuku to the small towns on the island of Shikoku. Onsen, or hot springs, are also very popular as a weekend excursion.

If you are to be invited into a Japanese household, as the guest you will be given the honour of using the bath first. Being extra careful to make sure that you don’t dirty the water in any way is very important as it is the sanctity of the ofuro, a traditional Japanese type of bath.

#9 Speaking English

When it comes to Japanese customs, the people you meet Japan will generally assume that you are a native English speaker. The people of Japan are also not afraid to directly ask you where you are from, Japanese customs like this are friendly and bridge the language barrier. Japanese people know their language is difficult to master, therefore, many Japanese people will try to use English to communicate with you.

#10 Safety

Japan has a very low crime rate, which is evident throughout its cities. When it comes to Japanese customs, it’s not uncommon for Japanese people to warn you to be safe in your travels and to take care of your belongings. In fact, Japan is known for its indoor ATMs, parking lot attendants and security guards which are on hand to reduce crime and help visitors and civilians feel safe.

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