If you are thinking about travelling to Japan, there are some things you need to know beforehand. It is a magical and enigmatic place to visit. There are many things that are different about the destination, especially if you are coming from the Western culture. When going to a place, it is imperative to know about the customs and traditions to ensure that you do not offend or disrespect the people. Japan is a beautiful place, and here are 10 of the most exciting things to know about this fascinating and modern culture.
The Best Time to Travel to Japan
While it does depend on where you go, there are some high times to travel to Japan. Cherry Blossom season only lasts for a couple of weeks, and it can be tricky to plan your trip at the perfect time. Sometimes, it is pure luck that you happen to be there during the most beautiful time of the year. In some places, cherry blossoms open as early as March, and some as late as May. Usually, the best time to go is the first couple of weeks in April, but it is always best to do some research before you book.
In Japan, typhoon season takes place between June and October – especially the months of July and August. It’s still a great time to travel as long as you are prepared.
No Need to Tip in Japan
In fact, not only is there no need to tip, but you shouldn’t. It is considered offensive to leave a tip for any service in Japan. This is because the culture is naturally helpful. Leaving a tip many make someone feel as though their efforts are not appreciated. When at a restaurant, if you are used to tipping, it will feel unnatural, but better for you to be uncomfortable in that way than to offend or upset someone that has been kind to you.
Bring Toilet Paper
Wherever you go, you should consider bringing toilet paper or tissues with you in your pocket or purse. While most of the public restrooms in malls and train stations have toilet paper in Japan, restrooms, particularly in parks or castles, might not have tissues all the time due to the high volume of tourists. If you see anyone handing out little packets of tissues, you should certainly take advantage of it and keep them handy.
Use Chopsticks for Your Own Food
While this might seem a little bit of an odd piece of advice, it is necessary. Passing food to someone with chopsticks is not something you should do. The reason being that it reminds onlookers of death. Most bodies are cremated in Japan, as that is the custom. Once the body has gone through the cremation process, family members use chopsticks to pick up large pieces of bone out of the ashes and pass them around from person to person. The bones are then placed into an urn for remembrance.
Rent Your Very Own Pocket Wifi for Japan
Renting a pocket wifi in Japan is the most convenient way to have internet access while you are traveling. There is no need to call your own wireless company and pay outrageous fees for roaming or international charges. It will only cost you about $10 per day, which is far cheaper than you would pay if you went through your own wireless company. Just make sure you rent it a couple of weeks in advance to make sure there is one available for you.
Understand Some of the Important Customs
Be aware that walking down the street or riding the train and talking on your phone in a loud voice is considered rude. You should understand that there is a different mindset in Japan than in some other countries. You must contribute to the good of the community rather than only think about the good of yourself. It is also rude to walk down the street while eating, so if you are carrying food, no matter how hungry you are, you should wait to eat.
If you go into a room with tatami mats, take off your shoes, as this is customary. This includes restaurants or any other establishment with tatami mats on the floor. Make sure to bring or wear nice socks, so you are not embarrassed when you have to take off your shoes in most places.
Signs are in English and Japanese in Trains and Subways
This is great news if you are travelling from an English-speaking country and not planning to become fluent in Japanese. Most signs in trains or subways in major cities in Japan have English translation. So you don’t need to worry about language barrier when commuting whether in Tokyo or Osaka. Of course, it is always nice to try and learn some of the Japanese language, but it is also nice that you won’t have to go too far out of your comfort zone when it comes to communicating.
Learn Important Japanese Gestures
Most of the public signs in major cities in Japan are in both English and Japanese, however, learning some hand gestures will be helpful too. The only place it is not considered rude to point is at your nose when talking about yourself. When you point at other people or objects, this can be highly offensive.
Another essential hand gesture to know is if you are walking down a busy street and someone puts their hand on their chest similar to what a shark fin would look like. This is their way of politely telling you they are in a hurry and would appreciate it if you let them pass.
Make Sure to Bring Cash When Travelling in Japan
In most places, you are fine if you carry around a credit or debit card, but not in Japan. In fact, many places do not allow you to use credit cards because they don’t have the option. Instead, you should carry cash around with you.
Guest author Tiffy, a.k.a. asiatravelbug, is a travel planning freak, an ex-finance manager and currently a digital marketing ninja. Traveling has kept her sane from all the hustles and bustles of corporate life. Despite being a nervous flyer, Tiffy’s wanderlust has led her to visit Japan for 6 times (and counting). Her favourite cities are Kyoto and Tokyo and would choose to visit Japan over Paris in a heartbeat!
Looking for more articles about Japan? Check out:
– Urban Adventures and Cultural Curiosities in Tokyo Japan
– Nine Unique Experiences Found In Japan
– Mountain Views and Shinto Shrines in Miyajima, Japan