Are you excited to cheer loud for your team in the upcoming 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, but are worried that you might offend or do something that goes against the local norms and practices? Do not lose so much sleep over it, as there is a very good chance that there are many others like you from around the world who may be visiting this beautiful country for the first time and may also not be very familiar with the acceptable manners and behavior.
To give you an idea of what to expect to do as soon as you land in Japan, read the examples below that talk about the dos and the don’ts in various situations:
Interacting With The Locals
Even if you do not speak any word of Japanese, it is still possible to make friends and socialize in Japan. You might have to rely on hand gestures, sign language, and Google Translate most of the time, but meeting people should not be so hard. The Japanese are very warm and polite, and it is not strange at all to run into someone who is willing to go the extra mile to help you.
To start with, you can learn a number of commonly used Japanese phrases, such as the following.
- “Konnichi wa” – Hello
- “Ohayou gozaimasu” – Good morning
- “Konbanwa” – Good evening
- “Arigatou gozaimasu” – Thank you
- “Sayonara” – Goodbye
- “Watashi wa _____.” – My name is _____.
- “_____ desu.” – I am ______.
- “Onamae wa nandesuka?” – What is your name?
- “Hajimemashite.” – Nice to meet you.
How To Bow
When you meet someone new in your home country, you probably usually just shake their hands and smile at them. But, in Japan, things are different, and, instead of shaking hands, people bow.
When bowing, you should keep your arms at the sides, make sure that your back is straight, and bend at the waist. The longer and deeper your bow is, the more gratitude and respect you convey. The Japanese people commonly do this to show respect to elders, bosses, and the likes.
But, because you are a foreigner, it is okay to make a quick, small bow every time you are introduced to or meet other people, such as your ryokan host, sightseeing tour guide, or a local who helped you with directions.
Japan is different from the Western world in many ways, including tipping. Unlike in your home country, where tipping is probably expected from customers at bars, restaurants, and other business establishments, Japan does not practice it at all.
If you hand over more than the amount printed on your bill, you will get the difference back. The Japanese will assume that you made a miscalculation. If you insist on giving them something extra, it will just lead to confusion and awkwardness.
When waiting for your bus or train, purchasing tickets from a vending machine, or paying for your stuff at convenience stores, you should always check if there is a queue somewhere. It is rude to cut in front of a line and not wait for your turn.
This is especially important during rush hours, when it tends to get really crowded and busy. You should not just rush into a subway car the moment the doors open. You have to go to the back of the line, wait for all the passengers to get off, and then patiently wait for your line to move. Even if you are in a hurry, you should act appropriately, and not disrupt the order.
Keeping Your Phone On Silent On The Bus Or Train
Personal space and privacy are quite important for the Japanese. In public areas, like trains and buses, everyone is expected to keep to themselves, and not make loud noises. So, make sure that you put your phone on silent mode when taking the public transportation to not bother the other commuters.
You are also discouraged to receive and make calls. If you are riding the Shinkansen, and you really have to talk on your phone, you can walk to the area by the toilets outside the car doors to take your call and not disturb your fellow passengers.
Also, avoid talking with your companions in loud voices while on a train or a bus. Okay, it is your first time in Japan and you are so excited about going to all of these attractions, but the people around you do not really care. They do not want to hear you gushing and raving. Save your chats for once you get off the public transportation.
While in Japan, you will probably find yourself using chopsticks a lot more times than you have before. There is no way you can resist not eating those tasty, thick ramen, or delicious, freshly-made sushi multiple times a day. Therefore, you should learn how to use chopsticks properly and practice prior to your trip, and do some research on Japanese chopsticks etiquette.
One common mistake that foreigners commit is sticking their chopsticks upright into a bowl of rice, which signifies bad luck because it is a practice done at funerals. Another is using their chopsticks to pass food around, which is very similar to the funeral practice of passing the bones of the departed.
In Western countries, tattoos are considered forms of art and self-expression. However, in Japan, they are viewed as negative, something that is linked to organized crime or yakuza. Therefore, you might be denied service at some establishments if they see that you are inked.
At many hot spring or onsen resorts around the country, tattooed people are not allowed to enter. At theme parks and other tourist attractions, you may be asked to cover up. It is best that you research in advance if the places that you are visiting are open to accepting tattooed individuals to ensure that your itinerary plans go smoothly.
Taking Your Shoes Off When Entering Houses, Temples, Etc.
If you have been invited to someone’s home, you should know that you have to leave your shoes at a small area by the door, before stepping into the rooms. Usually, there are slippers right there for you to wear so that you can walk around the house freely.
At some temple and shrine buildings, and castles too, tourists may be required to take their shoes off at the entrance and explore the rest of the area in their socks or wearing the provided slippers. Sometimes, these tourist sites also give out plastic bags where you can store your footwear, or have lockers or shoe racks where you can safely leave your shoes while you explore the place.