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16 Japan Travel Tips

Panoramic dusk skyline of a Japanese city, showcasing modern skyscrapers along a river

16 Helpful Japan Travel Tips You Should Know Before Visiting Japan

Before visiting the beautiful country there are a few Japan Travel Tips which will help you make your experience more enjoyable and most importantly not offend the locals! Going to a brand new country where you know very little about the culture and traditions can be challenging. Here at The Japanese Shop we want you to have the best trip whilst being prepared just in case something comes up which you weren't expecting. Here's 16 Japan Travel Tips which will help kick start your Japanese journey.
1. Bowing
In Japan it is considered polite to bow when you meet someone, thank them or say goodbye. There are a few different types of the bow however a simple bow of the head will be accepted for visitors. If you would like to take your bowing to the next level, here’s a guide to Japanese bowing.
2. Shoes on/Shoes off
Knowing when to take your shoes off is important because you don’t want to offend the Japanese traditions. A good rule of thumb is to check your surroundings, if there are shelves of shoes by the door then that’s a pretty big sign. You will usually have to remove your shoes when entering a home, traditional accommodation, temples, shrines and some restaurants. Removing footwear is non-negotiable so make sure you’re not wearing holey socks!
3. Slurping Food
Many of us will have been taught not to slurp when eating as it’s rude. In Japan slurping is encouraged so slurp away. Slurping shows that you are enjoying your meal so don’t be surprised when you go into a restaurant and you’re surrounded by noisy eaters.
4. Entering Shrines and Temples
Before entering the shrines and temples it is courtesy to wash your hands and also wash your mouth out. You’ll notice that there is a water source in front of the sites with ladles included. Pour the water over your hands to rinse them and pour water in your hand to use to rinse your mouth out – spit the water on the ground not back into the water source.Wooden pathway to a classic Japanese shrine with red torii gates and lanterns
5. Queuing
During busy times such as waiting for public transport you’ll notice that the Japanese tend to form an orderly queue. There may even be lines drawn to show were queues begin to avoid unnecessary pushing and shoving.
6. Masks
Although surgical style masks are mainly worn due to air pollution, many choose to wear them if they have a cold or flu. This prevents the bug from spreading however if you don’t have a surgical mask, as many of us don’t, if you need to sneeze or blow your nose, try to find a nearby toilet as blowing your nose in public is frowned upon.Man in red hoodie and mask with woman in blue jacket hand-in-hand, on a bustling Japanese street.
7. Language
Native English speakers often become lazy when traveling abroad and expect others to understand English instead of vice versa. However in Japan, English is not known widely in Japan so before traveling buy yourself a phrase book and practice, this will show that your courteous of their country. Even learning a few keywords such as sumimasen (excuse me) and arigato (thank you) will show your trying.
8. Toilets
Many toilets will be modern however on the occasion that you come across a traditional squat toilet it is best to be prepared. These toilets often don’t have toilet paper handy so keep a little pack with you at all times as you don’t want to be caught short.
9. Paying in Restaurants
Do not click your fingers as it’s pretty rude all over the world and you may get bad customer service. Instead cross your forefingers to form an ‘X’ and the waiter will bring your bill over. When it comes to tipping – don’t. Waited may feel offended and you’ll often find that they may run after you to give you your change.
10. Drinking Water
Traveling to different countries can lead us to be a bit cautious when it comes to drinking tap water as you don’t want to spend the entire holiday with a dodgy stomach. The good news is that water in Japan is perfectly fine to drink so feel free to stay hydrated and top your bottles up at local water fountains.
11. Take a Notepad
In foreign countries, carrying a little notepad around with you can be invaluable. Whether you want to describe something you want to order or just remind yourself of a new phrase you’ve learnt. It’s also a good idea to write down your hotel address in English and Japanese just in case you get lost and need directions.
12. Traveling on Public Transport
Japan is a large country and you’ll find yourself often hopping on and off public transport and it may get quite expensive. A handy tip is to purchase a Suica Card also known as an IC Card. These cards can be topped up and used on various modes of transport including bus, trains and subway lines as well as in a range of convenience shops.Wooden pathway to a classic Japanese shrine with red torii gates and lanterns
13. Money
Having a little bit of cash on you is advised as some shops and restaurants don’t accept credit cards. Also you’ll notice that most foreign bank cards are not accepted at many ATM’s, however don’t worry, you don’t need to carry all of your money with you. All 7-11’s and Post Offices do accept foreign bank cards and they are virtually on every corner.
14. Gift Giving
Whether you are returning from a trip, moving to a new home or thanking a local for letting you stay with them then a common form of thanking would be with a gift. Nothing too extravagant but usually something unique to your hometown or country, something in which they can’t buy in Japan such as souvenir key rings or chocolate. Blue, textured gift box adorned with a red-gold Japanese knot and label featuring Japanese script.
15. Carry Your Passport
Carrying your passport on you can often be quite a scary thought, what if you lost it or it got stolen? Unfortunately as a tourist it is a legal requirement to carry your passport with you at all times so make sure you keep it somewhere safe on your persons. On the plus side, you may get some bargains with tax-free shopping around Japan!
16. Counting Change
Some of us are naturally pretty pessimistic and will often find ourselves counting our change when we get it back. The Japanese pride themselves on their honesty so counting change is frowned upon no matter how much we’d like to. With the change being in a different currency, counting takes a lot longer for us so it can get pretty awkward, if you must count your change, leave the shop first.
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