While Japan has always been known to be welcoming and warm to travellers, first-time visitors might find the country’s unique culture unfathomable and intriguing.
To save yourself from making any faux pas during your journey, here are the top 20 dos and don’ts for first-time travellers to Japan:
1 – Do obey random searches by the police. They never mess around with illegal immigration so always have your residency card or passport with you.
2 – Do accept gifts when someone gives them to you with both your hands while bowing and saying thank you. Avoid opening it in front of the giver.
3 – Do ask someone how old they are. It is one of the common topics and is a good icebreaker question when talking to a Japanese national.
4 – Do keep an open mind when it comes to sexual openness. Some westerners are often culture-shocked but adult media is common in the country.
5 – Do call the waiter at a restaurant. They will only come to you if you actually call them, based on the premise that you shouldn’t be interrupted while enjoying your meal.
6 – Do check and confirm the legality of your medications and don’t forget to bring your doctor’s prescription and the letter that states the drug’s purpose.
7 – Do dress to impress. The country is known for its impressive view as far as acceptable dress is concerned.
8 – Do drink alcohol in public. Alcohol is deeply ingrained into the country’s culture and is considered a part of life in Japan.
9 – Do slurp your food without being messy. It is one of the best ways to let the cook know how much you love the meal and more sound also means you want more.
10 – Do remove your shoes before you enter a tatami room or the entryway of a private home. It is a matter of cleanliness is ensures that shoes won’t damage the tatami mats on the floor.
11 – Don’t address a person by his or her given name unless you are permitted to do so as a way of showing respect.
12 – Don’t be loud while using public transport to avoid being a nuisance to other passengers. Don’t make phone calls, play videos with sound, and use your headphones.
13 – Don’t blow your nose. Even before the pandemic, the Japanese were already wearing masks in public to avoid getting sick or passing their sickness to others.
14 – Don’t forget to take a shower before getting into the tub in hot spring baths or Japanese onsens.
15 – Don’t maintain eye contact. It is a sign of the aggression of Japanese society and is considered rude unless you are doing business.
16 – Don’t pour your drink. Since Japan’s culture is driven by status, be the first one to offer and allow the other person to pour you a drink.
17 – Don’t stick your chopsticks in rice. Doing this is reserved only for funerals and it is considered very disrespectful if you do it outside this situation.
18 – Don’t tip because it is a big no-no in most places. Tipping the waiter, taxi, hotel attendant, and others are deemed insulting.
19 – Don’t touch someone to get their attention. Nudging and handshakes are also considered rude in the country.
20 – Don’t walk on the wrong side of the road because it will impede the flow of pedestrians and spoil the orderliness that the Japanese love a lot.
You might also be interested in:
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Dinner with a Geisha: A One-of-a-Kind Japanese Experience
The Best and Most Exclusive Train Trips in Japan
How to organise your first trip to Japan
The Ultimate Guide to Sakura – Cherry Blossom Season
10 Unwritten Japanese Onsen Rules All Travellers Should Know