Are there travel dos and don'ts and myths you should know before travelling to Japan?
Japan is famous for its distinct culture and diverse lifestyle. Many tourists rave about their unique experience when travelling to Japan. Most people who have been to Japan would share that Japan's traditions and customs can take some years getting used to. Unless you plan to live in Japan, you need to follow only a few travel etiquettes while in Japan.
Once you reach Japan, you would immediately note how meals are very sacred and important for them – it doesn't matter if the meals are informal or formal, there are some dos and don'ts that you have to observe.
You have to understand that the seating arrangements around a meal are symbolic for Japanese people. If you are invited into a traditional Japanese dining event, it would be best to wait for instructions on where you can sit. Ideally, the area in the middle of the table is considered the most honorable one. Those seated next to that person is the second most important. Often, honored guests would receive the seat at the opposite of the host.
When seated, note that you would have to sit assuming a seiza position, with your legs under your buttocks. This position can get pretty uncomfortable, mainly if you are not used to such a sitting position. You can adjust when the host instructs you to get comfortable. For men, you can assume a cross-legged position. Females would need to tuck their legs onto one side.
You must always keep in mind that your food should never go beyond your mouth. It is considered rude. Once the food leaves your plate, it should immediately go straight into your mouth.
You might be tempted to rest your chopsticks on your bowl. Don't do that. Often, there is a designated chopstick rest that would be provided. If there are none, you can use the chopstick wrapper to serve your chopstick rest.
If it is hard for you to use chopsticks, it is okay to ask for a spoon. Never stab your food with chopsticks. It shows poor dining etiquette in Japan.
For some cultures, cupping the hand to prevent any falling food may seem polite. In Japan, however, it is considered rude. At best, just let the food fall down the floor.
Slurping your noodles and soup shows the host and the chef how much you've appreciated their food.
Did you know that slurping also allows the noodles to cool down and lets you enjoy a flavourful meal? Yes, it does. So, slurp away!
Your soup comes with solid ingredients that you should eat using your chopsticks. When you've scooped up everything, you can simply ring the bowl to your mouth and drink the broth, like how you would drink tea.
It is a common courtesy in Japan to place back the dishes to their proper places after eating your meal. This includes putting the lids back on the dishes and placing your chopsticks on the chopstick rest or wrapper that they came in.
Drinking is also a big part of Japan's culture. Some Japanese drink to unwind and enjoy themselves after spending many hours at work. When travelling to Japan and drinking with Japanese, here some travel dos and don'ts in Japan to remember:
Drinking with a Japanese involves some form of ritual. Note that you should always let other people pour the drink. Often, subordinates would do this for their higher-ups. So, should someone offer to pour your drink, hold your glass with two hands, and make sure to pay attention to the person pouring your drink.
Remember that drinking is a form of bonding in Japan. As such, you should drink as one. Never go ahead. You should let everyone finish pouring their drinks.
When you drink from the bottle, you are disrespecting the culture of pouring drinks for other people. Since drinking is a shared activity, someone may not appreciate that you've directly drunk from the bottle that is supposed to be shared by everyone in the group.
In Japan, it is impolite to decline a drink. If you feel that you've had enough drinks for the night, you can leave your glass full, and no one will force you to drink more.
One of the reasons why pouring drinks is sacred in Japan is because they want everyone to join in the toast. Everyone would toast and say, “kanpai,” which means “cheers” in Japanese.
Once you've stayed in Japan for quite a while, you would realize that Japanese people would love to eat ramen noodles after drinking. Join them and get to know them better.
Your trip to Japan will not be complete without you trying out sake. If you are going to drink with a Japanese, make sure you know how to drink sake. Note that sake comes in small cups because they are supposed to be enjoyed in sips. It would also be best to take the cup to your nose and let the smell engulf your nose before sipping it.
It is pretty common to make friends with Japanese locals when you visit their country. When you are invited to their house, here some travel dos and don'ts in Japan to remember:
Japanese people are quite strict when it comes to time. It is pretty understandable because most of them are lead busy lives. So, when you need to visit a house, please don't be late. It is considered rude.
When you are invited to their home, don't take the liberty of bringing other friends without informing the host. If you are planning to bring a friend or a partner, ask ahead so they can prepare accordingly.
Japanese are very warm people, and it can be tempting to get comfortable. Make sure, however, that when you are in their home, you should know your boundaries. Don't lounge on their couch and use your phone nonchalantly. Converse with them and let them know how you've enjoyed their company. It would help to know a few Japanese phrases to show appreciation of culture. If you're offered a drink, make sure not to overdrink.
In Japan, it is customary to bring an omiyage or a small gift of fruits or snacks. Make sure to bring one to let your host know that their invitation is well-appreciated.
Taking off your shoes before entering the house is a custom that is pretty common in Asia. In Japan, however, it is almost mandatory for everyone never to let outside shoes to reach the interior of the home. In fact, homes in Japan have a genkan or a lowered floor. This is the area where shoes must be removed. Remember that shoes must never touch the raised floor. Once the shoes are removed, they must be placed at the genkan facing outwards, so it is easier to wear them as you head out.
Most homes would have their indoor slippers. If there's one available, use a slipper. Note that they would also have a different slipper for the bathroom. Use them accordingly.
Now that you an idea of what travel dos and don'ts you should know while in Japan, you can rest easy knowing that you won't encounter any faux pas during your trip.
Continue reading below as we uncover the common myths about travelling to Japan
Whenever you are toying with an idea of visiting a foreign country that has a different language that you do, there is always the question of whether you would encounter any hassle, especially when it comes to language barriers and other cultural differences. And Japan is one of those countries wherein several myths deserve some counterchecking. Here are some of the most common travel myths about Japan
The Truth: There is no absolute reason for you to hire an interpreter when you visit Japan. More so, if you are only planning to visit the major cities where there is a considerable percentage of Japanese who can converse in English. Once you get to Japan, you would realize that you can communicate with them with hand signals. Also, they would not expect you to speak their language, especially if you don’t look Japanese at all. They would, in fact, adjust their method of communication for you. However, it would be nice if you could learn a few Japanese phrases to help you get by.
The Truth: While it is true that most signages in Japan come in their local language, knowing Japanese is not necessary when you are going to Japan for a short visit. However, learning basic Japanese would be necessary if you plan to extend your stay and meet locals in Japan. If your travel to Japan is work-related, it would also help you become productive and bond with your workmates if you can understand a bit of Japanese. As a tourist travelling to Japan, you don’t have to learn Japanese.
Learning Japanese can be pretty challenging, but navigating Japan is easy even if you don’t speak its language. Why?
The Truth: If you believe this, then you haven’t truly explored the innards of Japan. There IS more to Japan than just its big cities. It is sad when average tourists would fail to explore the tranquil side of Tokyo and only be exposed to the busy and chaotic city that is now. Unknown to many, Tokyo boasts of other areas that are uncrowded. The same can be said for Kyoto and Osaka. They have tons of non-touristy sites that deserve recognition.
While it is nice to experience Shibuya and all its busyness, it would be best to leave the cacophony of the area and head to Tomigaya district and enjoy a coffee or two or explore Yoyogi Park for some quiet time. Travelling to Japan is just more than its big cities, believe us.
The Truth: Indeed, cherry blossom season can be a magical time to witness when you plan of travelling to Japan.however, you must be ready to face throngs of crowds that you may no longer appreciate the cherry blossoms.
Other than the cherry blossom festival, the best times to visit Japan include:
The Truth: You don’t need to hire a tour guide when travelling to Japan. You can do well by having a solid itinerary that you can follow.
However, if you are going with a group of more than three people, then hiring a tour guide may be justifiable. If you calculate it, hiring a tour guide for a big group can be more cost-effective because you don’t have to deal with many intricacies of navigating Japan since someone can negotiate for you in Japanese. Plus, they know the best places to visit. The catch is that you should know where to look for a reliable tour guide. Make sure to check if the Japan Tourism Agency accredits them. You can find a list of licensed tour guide services, here.
If you are alone and prefer to interact with the locals yourself, then hiring a tour guide may not be necessary.
Now that we’ve busted the most common travel myths about Japan get ready and book your flight now. Let us know how you enjoyed your trip. Have fun and stay safe!