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Japan- Know the Rules

Knowing the rules in Japan can be back-breaking work so straighten your posture and listen up- we’re here to help!

Japan has a myriad of etiquette rules. As a foreigner you are expected to embarrass yourself at some point but if you really want to get down with the locals then here are some tips.

Buy new socks

At some point you are going to have to take your shoes off.  It could be entering a World Heritage Tourist Site or a regular house but your feet will be given an airing. Be nice to your host country.

Relax in Sudsy Water

Don’t even think about it.  It might be that a bottle of Radox and a hot bath are top of your list when treating yourself but under no circumstances soap yourself when in the bath. Make sure you are clean going in!

And while there are some circumstances when prancing around naked is entirely acceptable we will simply fire a broad shot when we say that perhaps it is best to let the locals take the lead here. If nobody else is naked, perhaps you should do the same.

Invest in Deodorant

It can get warm in the summer. Tokyo’s trains can get crowded. You can evaporate but the Japanese, along with their East Asian neighbours, do not excrete body odour. So that is our warning call to you also.

The Toilet Slipper Trap

Having taken off your shoes at some point you may want to visit the toilet. No need to lace up your boots again- simply slip into the cute, well-marked toilet slippers designed to stand out in a crowd and do what most foreigners do. Wear them when you come back from the toilet and walk around like you are an anarchist come to cause social chaos. Try not to!

Walking while Eating is not so cool here

I can’t remember when it changed but I know a coffee in hand while speeding through my day has become the “norm”.  Not so in Japan with the exception of ice-cream. Eating in trains or in public can be frowned upon so always find a nice, dark corner and face away from the masses. Send us your pictures to share as we wish to support your efforts.


Even in Japan there are etiquette-busters. There are signs everywhere advising not to “aruki-sumaho” (walking smartphone) to ensure people stop falling onto train lines and into each other’s arms. It’s ignored and there are even apps to prevent you crashing into a fellow other but you won’t be able to use it unless you’re connected to the internet. Did we mention how difficult that can be in Japan (read previous post!)

Be quiet please! We’re foreigners.

Smartphones sold in Japan also have to keep to the rules. Japanese smartphones can’t be silenced completely. What? At least not for taking pictures. Certain deviant behaviour (is that allowed you might ask? No.) involving unwanted photo taking has resulted in phones that make a “shutter sound” when taking photos.

Have fun saying “sshh” everytime you hear it.

Of course to have real fun you will need to be connected in the first place. Mobal offer the perfect solution- click here and try to be quiet.

In Everything Mobal Lead by Example!


Author: Declan Somers

Thanks to the people of Japan and the efforts of a UK-based telecoms company Mobell/Mobal am happy to assist in providing a hot school meal daily for kids in Malawi, Africa through a Japanese registered NGO- Seibo.

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