What to Know Before Traveling to Japan

What to Know Before Traveling to Japan

Posted November 29, 2016

As an international traveler, you have probably experienced culture shock at one time or another. However, when traveling to some areas of the world, knowing what to expect before you arrive can be invaluable – whether it is tips, tricks, or etiquette. To help prepare you for your trip to Japan, we have put together a list of what you need to know before you go.

Expect to Take Your Shoes Off

In Japan, it is expected that you take your shoes off when entering a carpeted room, certain areas of restaurants, and in someone's home. We recommend wearing clean socks wherever you go.

Occasionally, restaurants will even provide bathroom slippers for you to wear. Remember to only wear these in the bathroom; take them off before returning to your seat.

Talk Quietly

Japanese culture focuses on being polite to others. As you explore you will also notice that even a bustling city is very quiet.  It is not common for people to talk on the phone or to speak loudly while walking around.  If you want to talk to your travel partner, we recommend speaking quietly. This will help you fit in and get fewer stares from locals. 

Don’t Eat On the Streets

While in America it is common for people to eat while walking around a city, it is rare in Japan.  Along with this, you likely won’t find many trash cans on the streets of Japan. Therefore, if you do need to snack, we recommend packing a small bag to put wrappers in until you reach a trash can.

Pack Pocket Tissue

Many public restrooms do not provide toilet paper, although in some cases there will be an option to buy toilet paper. We recommend packing pocket tissue when out exploring for the day.

Carry Cash

Credit cards are not used widely in Japan. While department stores, top-end hotels, and some restaurants do accept cards, most businesses in Japan do not.  We recommend packing plenty of yen for shopping and meals on your own.

Don’t Tip

Americans often have a hard time with this, but there is no tipping at all in Japan. It is considered rude, as workers typically make decent wages and do not rely on tips, unlike in other parts of the world.

Follow Chopstick Etiquette

Although using chopsticks seems like a straightforward (if not easy) practice, there are plenty of rules you should know and follow:

  • Never use your chopsticks to take food from a serving plate or to pass food from your chopstick to someone else’s chopsticks

  • Place your chopsticks parallel in their holder on the table when you are not using them

  • If you have already eaten with your chopsticks, use the opposite end to take food from a shared plate. 

  • Do not spear food with chopsticks

  • Do not use your chopsticks to point at someone

  • Do not place your chopsticks upright in a bowl

We hope the tips above helped you prepare for your trip to Japan.

If you are interested in visiting Japan, check out our popular small group tour, Insider’s Japan:  http://odysseys-unlimited.com/tours/asia-and-far-east/insiders-japan

Photo courtesy of Flickr.