Megan Bryant is a passionate writer and traveler who has combined her two loves to help others fulfill their traveling dreams. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually curled up with her 3 Dachshunds and a good book or planning her next adventure—wherever that may be.
Japan is a truly remarkable country with beautiful landscapes, friendly locals, and some of the freshest food you’ll ever experience.
When you visit countries far different from your own, you also need to be respectful by following the customs, traditions, and cultures of the local people. Doing a bit of research before setting off to a new destination is always recommended, and if you’re heading to Japan, here are some mistakes to avoid at all costs.
Not Following Rules Regarding Footwear
Like many other Asian countries, in Japan, it is customary to remove your shoes before entering temples, traditional inns, and even some restaurants.
As removing your shoes before entering a building isn’t common practice in Western countries, it is easy to forget to do so while vacationing in Japan. However, not removing your shoes is seen as disrespectful amongst the locals. So follow the locals’ lead and remove your shoes whenever you’re asked to.
Disregarding Japanese Etiquette
Visitors to Japan should familiarize themselves with basic Japanese etiquette before arriving in Japan. In Japan, proper etiquette is of the utmost importance, and locals will bow when greeting or expressing their gratitude toward others.
When you touch down in Japan, be mindful of your behavior, as speaking too loudly on public transport and not showing respect for local customs is seen as incredibly impolite.
There is one thing the Japanese hate, and that is being late. Tourists in Japan often overlook the importance of punctuality, turning up late to appointments or tours. Know that when you’re vacationing in Japan, everything and everyone around you will be on time, so be sure to plan your day accordingly to avoid inconveniencing others.
Not Learning Chopstick Etiquette
Chopsticks are the utensil of choice in Japan, and learning how to use them correctly can save you from disrespecting those around you.
Now, we aren’t saying you have to be a professional chopstick user—because we get it, it takes some practice. But some things that are easy to learn and remember are not sticking your chopsticks vertically in a bowl or rice and not passing food from chopstick to chopstick. Both of these gestures are those that the Japanese would perform in a funeral practice—not in a restaurant.
Overlooking Japanese Greetings
As well as bowing, greetings such as “ohayō gozaimasu” (good morning), “kon’nichiwa” (hello), and “arigatō” (thank you) are extremely important when entering restaurants, shops or when interacting with locals.
It may seem difficult to learn a new language, but by practicing in the weeks leading up to your trip, you can avoid offending the locals—even by knowing just two or three phrases.
Only Carrying a Credit Card
Unlike the United States, Japan is still a cash-based society which is why carrying cash is a must. Small shops and restaurants may only accept cash as credit cards aren’t widely accepted over the country. To save yourself from missing out on potentially the best purchase of your trip, carry some yen in your wallet.
Top tip: If there is a small tray at the cash register, place your money directly on the tray instead of the cashier’s hand.
Ignoring the Importance of Queuing
I wish everywhere was like Japan in regards to queueing. In Japan, you’ll see orderly queues all over the country as locals wait patiently in line for restaurants, shops, and even theme park rides.
Cutting the line, whether it be for buses, food establishments, or popular attractions, is a big no-no in Japan. And if you don’t decide to wait your turn, then expect frustration from the locals around you.
Underestimating the Size of Tokyo
Japan’s capital, Tokyo, is the country’s most well-known city, but did you know that Tokyo is probably far bigger than you think?
The size of Tokyo often catches travelers out as they underestimate how long it will take to get from one attraction in the city to another. While visiting Tokyo, it is important to take into consideration rush hour crowds, transportation systems, and Tokyo’s layout to avoid missing out on the city’s must-do attractions.
Trying To Do Too Much in a Short Amount of Time
Sadly, the truth is, you won’t be able to get everything done in one trip. And that is okay; there is always next time. A common mistake visitors to Japan make is trying to fit too many attractions in during their limited time in the country.
When you’re rushed, you inevitably get tired, and you don’t fully get to experience what it is you’re actually looking at. So give yourself time to explore, prioritizing the attractions you really want to do and fitting other non-essential things in around them.
Blowing Your Nose in Public
Blowing your nose while out in public in Japan is considered culturally insensitive. So if you can, wait until you’re in a secluded spot before getting out your tissues.
Most Japanese people—when they’re ill—will wear masks to avoid spreading germs to those around them.
Boarding the Wrong Train Carriage
In Japan, there are women-only train carriages, which, you guessed it, are for women only. Additionally, you’ll find that there are also quiet train carriages where talking loudly is extremely frowned upon. Be sure to check the outside of the train carriage before getting on to avoid sitting in the wrong area.
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