Japanese people have a lot of respect for each other and people who visit their country. It is this exact reason why it should be reciprocated. I firmly believe that you should respect cultures and try to research and learn about as much as you can before you go. However, some things you can’t find online, and there will always be things that you learn whilst on the go. Here are a few things which I wish I knew before I went to Japan.
Tipping isn’t a thing
It seems such an odd thing as a westerner, but it is considered rude to tip people. I couldn’t fathom it for the first few weeks, You’ll get a lot of help from local people, but they will never expect anything in return, helping others is just the way of the Japanese.
Hand gestures and body language
You may have already noticed little things that are completely different in Japan. When it comes to communication you may find that you feel in a bit of a muddle or stand off. Simple things like good eye contact which are good commodities in England, can lead to uncomfortable tensions and your waiter looking away. Eye contact in Japan is sometimes considered to be aggressive. A good tip is to engage initially with eye contact, but then keep a steady eye level somewhere not too high or too low, like the neck. Simple gestures will not only impress your cashier or waiter but will make your encounters pleasant and you will leave feeling better for it. I have a few things I will list that I picked up from my time in Japan. Holding your hand out like it’s cupping a miniature glass, and pretend to sip! LET’S DRINK. Japanese people do love a little bit to drink, I’m not calling them out as alcoholics, but it is very common to have a few with dinner and friends, so if you make some Japanese acquaintances, why not offer them a round?
Bowing. This is a tricky one, and took me a little while to get my head around, there is no hugging or handshakes. The fancier the restaurant you attend, you will notice the lower the bow. The lower the bow the more it is a display of respect to the other person, almost like the firmness of a handshake. After a couple of weeks, you do it without even realising. I had the misfortune of getting so used to it, I bowed to the Turkish luggage attendant on my way home, safe to say his perplexed expression was more than enough embarrassment for one day.
Oh and one more thing, never point! Not to an object and especially not to a person, it’s a huge sign of disrespect! And with an open palm, you’ll even feel more graceful.
Clean living, clean eating
I know this might be weird to you, but I personally think this is a fact people should know. The streets are spotless, you will not find any rubbish dumped secretly stashed between walls or over flowing bins. In fact, that’s something else that is missing; bins. The population density is so high in Japan, that for security reasons bins are not common, and you will find yourself hoarding rubbish around with you.
Public eating is virtually non-existent, in the whole month we toured around Japan, we saw one middle-aged man eating on the tube, and I can assure you even then, it was the most secretive meal I’ve ever witnessed being eaten.
You will leave feeling like a star
If having 15 teenagers approaching you asking if you are a model, where you buy your clothes from, and saying how your skin is so beautiful isn’t enough to put a little spring in your step, I’m not entirely sure what will! Westerners are few and far between in Japan, there are a lot of tourists, however you will find that it is more one sided that you would initially imagine.
Shinkansen, the infamous bullet train.
A Jr pass typically comes in between £170-350 for up to 3 weeks duration. Single train journeys on the 20,000km spanning line can cost up to £200/300 for a single journey so it is highly recommend you make this purchase. They are the cleanest trains you will ever go on, with some neat little tricks on them, besides, you can’t visit Japan without witnessing one of the world’s fastest trains? I’d also recommend buying the UK equivalent of an oyster card. It is named the Pasmo card, and is a lot easier than trying to navigate the ticket machines of Tokyo.
You fancy it, they will have a machine for it.
Whether you are after charms, eggs, meals, umbrellas, or clean under garments, I can assure you that there will be a vending machine for that. Throughout the journey we found that our main vending machine purchase, was beer and sake. Not only was it readily available on nearly every street corner, but it was very well priced and available until all hours of the night. Much to our shame, we also found a blacked out vending machine in an adult bookstore that one you inserted a 500Y coin, it would give you a ticket number of which equated to a prize you received over the counter. I won’t go into too much detail about what I claimed that day, but the Japanese are into some weird things!