Japan is one of the most popular destinations for travelers, no matter which travel style are you, there is always something that will attract you in Japan, gourmet, activities, luxury, adventure, business, relaxing, family trip… etc.
This is a traveler-friendly country as most of their important notices and signs are in at least three different languages ( Japanese, English, and Mandarin ), some will have more others. So, it is not difficult to get on track.
There are also tons of different local experiences that you can find and enjoy here, that also gather people from everywhere around the world. But before going anywhere we are not familiar with, it is better to understand a little of their culture, people, traditions, etiquette, and taboo.
That is what we are going to cover today, 9 things to know before going to Japan.
Keep your mobile phone silence in public
Nowadays mobile phone is considered essential for most people especially in a high-tech country like Japan, talking on the phone seems to be a common thing in many places but not in Japan.
A mobile phone is not allowed in a lot of public area such as on the train. You wouldn’t find the locals taking loud in public so it is unlikely to see people chat on the phone.
People stay quiet while on public transport to avoid bringing unpleasant to others, even though sometimes you see people answer the phone they would still keep it very short and lower their voice the most. This is happening in many places for example like fine dining restaurants, theaters, hospitals..etc.
Thus, don’t forget to turn your mobile phone on silence and keep yourself quiet in public if you are in Japan.
Follow the waste sorting system
Japan is the one country that whole nation strictly abide by the waste sorting system, no doubt so as in public.
If you stay in a residential house in Japan, you will see how organized that is. Each accommodation facility will have different date and time prescribed for garbage disposal, there are designated garbage bags by different colors and people must use the correct one or it will cause dispute.
All the garbage bins in public area will have signs and clearly marked, basically divided into flammable and non-flammable these two categories.
Some places such as train stations, convenience stores will you see the classification is more detailed. Cans, paper, glass, plastic, etc they all go into different bins, even newspaper and magazines are two different things.
The national ethic of this country is to keep their environment as neat, clean, comfortable and organized, so if you ever visit please protect their hard work and follow the system.
Please queue up for public transportation
Japan is probably the country in the world has the most etiquette, even it is considered a common sense to queue up for public transport, there are still some tips for you while you are in Japan.
- Always making sure that you wait until all the passengers who need to get off finished, then you can get onto it, never try to rush in.
- Do not stand at the door in any car carriage. This is to keep it flow for everyone.
- To prevent sexual harassment there are “women only compartment” set up, be aware not to get on if you are not ladies.
Stand on the left or right on an escalator? It depends on the region
Japan is a left-hand drive country ( right-hand traffic ), but since you can only stand one side on an escalator and the other side for people to quickly pass through, which side do you stand?
It all depends on the region.
In Kanto region ( 関東地方 ) such as Tokyo ( 東京 ), you will need to stand on your left side, on the other hand, if you are in Kansai region ( 関西地方 ) like Osaka ( 大阪 ) then you would find people standing on the right. That says when you arrive at different places just making sure you are following what the crowd does and you are most likely doing it right.
Also, keep a good distance from the person in front of you is a very good way to show you are polite and respectful.
Smoking on the go is not cool
It is very common that people smoke a lot here, but an interesting thing is you will only see people smoke in a certain area.
There are many public places are designated non-smoking areas such as hospitals, subways, airport terminals, and streets. A smoker can only smoke in an area with “SMOKING AREA” sign. A penalty will apply to you if you don’t follow, on some busy streets smoking is also strictly prohibited, now you understand smoke while walking is not acceptable in Japan, not to mention throwing a cigarette butt on the street is not cool either.
Do respect others privacy when you take photos
I am sure there are many beautiful moments that you wish to capture with your camera but do keep in mind that Japanese attach great importance to the sense of distance to people, the portrait right is the one you need to pay attention to as to respect people’s privacy.
It is not rare to see people dress up traditional Kimono ( 着物, 和服 ) in some places or when there is a festival on, you probably have chance to see Geisha ( 芸妓 ) on the street, just because if you wish to take a photo of them, ask for permission is always the idea. Don’t forget those cute little kids too, never think they are too young to understand what privacy is, talk to their parents if you wish to have photos with them.
Another tip is if you do see some shops that look special and you wish to take a photo, then ask!
Rules for hot spring ( Onsen 温泉 )
Go to a hot spring is a national activity in Japan and there are rules when you are at a hot spring, people will be pleased if you would do so. Below are general ideas to show you what you should remember when you go to a hot spring.
- Do not drink alcohol before entering the hot spring bath as it might cause physical discomfort.
- Be sure to have a shower in a shower area before entering a hot spring bath.
- Leave your shoes outside the bath area.
- You should not use the towel and any soapy products in a hot spring bath.
- Keep your voice low and do not shout in all the hot spring area.
Taking your shoes off and leaving them neat at the front door area is a way to show you highly respect their culture, many traditional-style restaurants, attractions not allow shoes indoor, if you do have a chance to visit local families, make sure you remove your shoes and pointing toward outside before you enter the house.
Most of the places will provide a new pair of indoor slippers for guests so the floor will remain clean, and don’t be surprised they ask you to change indoor one even when you do a school visiting trip.
Japan is a small country, they make the lands the best use of it especially in most shops and restaurants, don’t be surprised if you see a tiny unisex toilet in a shop, that is considered quite common.
Besides, all the toilet paper prepared is soluble in water so that most likely you wouldn’t see a bin in a toilet as you only need to flush the used into the toilet bowl.
How much should you tip?
Here is a piece of good news for you, unlike many countries such as the USA, most of Europe countries that you will need to give tips for services but not in Japan.
Hotels in Japan general charge a 10% of a service charge of the room rate, there is a percentage of service tax charged according to the government regulations when spends and exceeds a certain amount in a restaurant, but customers do not need to tip in Japan.
It is not a problem if you wish to do so but don’t worry about tipping as it is not necessary.
You’ve got all the tips, now enjoy!
I would say the best way to learn different aspect is through experiences, book yourself a ticket and go, at least now you have most of the tips to give you a good start, all other stuff you just need to watch what local people do and try to do the same, different culture different world, just relax and enjoy!
If you have any questions or wish to have more ideas about where to go in Japan, feel free to leave your message below and if you would like to know anything about traveling to Japan you are welcome to let us know too!
We are here to share and help!