People travel for a
variety of reasons but the desire to experience a different way of
life is common to most travellers. The Japanese culture is certainly
vastly different to that of western countries and foreign visitors to
Japan sometimes worry that, in their ignorance of the country's social
etiquette, they may appear rude or cause offence during their stay.
The following hints are designed to help you acquaint yourself with
some of the dos and don'ts of daily life in Japan. Of course, you
won't be expected to know everything. Japanese people are aware that
their ways are unfamiliar to foreigners and most will happily overlook
any unintended social gaffes, or politely point out your mistakes.
Above all, the most important thing to remember is that part of the
charm of visiting Japan is experiencing its unique and interesting
restaurants will present you with an 'Oshibori', a wet towel that
will be hot or cold depending on the season. These should be used to
clean your hands before eating.
Slurp your noodles! This
is quite acceptable in Japan. For noodle soup, use your chopsticks
for the noodles, meat and vegetables and bring the bowl to your
mouth to drink the liquid. Spoons usually aren't provided.
Before starting a meal
say, "I-ta-da-ki-ma-su". After finishing say, "Go-chi-so-sa-ma".
There are a number of
rules associated with the use of chopsticks. Try to avoid:
spearing the food with
using your chopsticks
to rummage around in a dish trying to find what you want. If
chopsticks for serving aren't provided, it is polite to use the
other end of your chopsticks (the end that hasn't been in your
mouth) to take food from communal plates.
passing food to
somebody else with your chopsticks.
waving your chopsticks
above a dish while trying to decide what to take next.
chopsticks vertically in your rice. This is how rice is served to
If out drinking with a
group of Japanese, don't fill your glass yourself. Allow the person
next to you to do it for you, then return the favour. It is polite
to lift your glass off the table a little when being served. Wait
until everyone's glass if full before saying 'kampai' or 'cheers'.
It is considered rude to
blow your nose in public places. It is best to wait until you can
find a restroom.
Eating while walking
along the street is often frowned upon by older Japanese people but
the younger generation can often be seen doing this.
Unless you are on a long
journey where food is served, avoid eating on public transportation.
Carrying a travel pack
of tissues is a good idea, as public toilets don't always provide
toilet paper. Packets of tissues are often handed out as promotional
giveaways as you walk around major cities.
Shoes & Clothing
Shoes are considered
unclean and should be removed before entering most private indoor
areas such as Japanese-style restaurants and accommodation, private
homes, shrines and temples. If you are unsure whether your shoes
need to be removed, watch to see what the locals are doing. Whenever
there is a step up, particularly onto polished wooden floors or 'tatami'
(straw mats) you should take off your shoes.
In places where you are
required to remove your shoes there will usually be special slippers
for you to put on when using the toilet facilities. Be sure to
remove these slippers before returning to the common area.
Unless you are
travelling to Japan on business, casual dress is appropriate for
most social situations. A night out to an elegant restaurant or
special show will require more formal attire.
Women should avoid
wearing overly revealing clothing, particularly when visiting
shrines & temples.
most important rule to remember when bathing in Japan is to wash and
rinse yourself before entering the bath or hot spring. The baths
themselves are for soaking and relaxing in. Soap and shampoo should
only be used in the separate shower facilities.
are many communal baths and hot springs in Japan with separate
facilities for men and women. Swimsuits are generally not permitted.