20 Things to know before visiting Japan

Japan is one of the most interesting countries to visit in the world. This country has a lot of different traditions, rules, and norms that are the reasons why millions of tourists book a flight to Japan, to experience all it has in person.

Japanese people could find a balance between traditional values and modernity, but this also causes a lot of confusion for foreigners who travel to Japan. In this post, we’ll talk about 20 things to know before visiting Japan.

1- Book a Ryokan for a night or two

If you like to experience a traditional Japanese lifestyle, do yourself a favor and check in a traditional Ryokan for a night or two. You’ll sleep on a mat, rolled on the floor, eat traditional Japanese breakfast, and take a shower in communal bathing facilities where everyone’s naked. You would sit on a stool in front of a vanity and bathe with a shower nozzle.

Not everything has to make sense to you all the time. That’s why you travel, right?

2- Don’t point at people or things

You shouldn’t point at people and things, eat or drink in public, and snap photos of strangers. They’re all considered rude and would turn people’s “What do you think you’re doing” kind of look towards you! Plus, you shouldn’t raise your voice or lose temper in public too. Just take a deep breath and try to handle the situation differently.

3- Be conscious of your voice’s volume 

People in Japan are always aware of their voice’s volume when talking in public. You are expected to respect others’ privacy and space at all times.

4- Discover underground malls

It’s easy to get distracted by all those tall buildings on the ground, but similar to their neighbor, South Korea, a lot is going on underground. There are huge malls with countless shops and restaurants to explore in Japan.

5- Department store food is awesome

You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on expensive restaurants in Japan. Head to the department stores and go to the basement level which is like foodies paradise! Imagine the jewelry stands, but with varieties of food selection. By varieties, I mean a huge selection, from mouthwatering sushi boxes to herbal tea and macarons.

6- Press the buzzer on your table, don’t call the waiter/ess

Most Japanese restaurants have a black buzzer on the corner of your table that you can press and get help from someone. Don’t call the waiter/ess who’s assisted you at first. It doesn’t work that way!

7- You can still speak English

Most Japanese people speak better English than they admit. Just talk slowly and clearly. You’ll get surprised by their understanding of English.

8- You don’t have to tip in Japan

It’s not common at all to tip in Japan. Some people even find it offensive! The wages are good for a decent lifestyle. They don’t rely on tips. But small gifts are appreciated if you’re extremely happy with the service.

9- Wear Socks, you need it!

There are a lot of places in Japan that require visitors to take off their shoes, from restaurants to temples. Some of them store your shoes for you and sometimes you should take them with you and put them beside your seat (In some restaurants).

10- Tattoos aren’t still widely accepted

Japanese people categorized tattooed dudes as criminals like members of the Yakuza gang. The whole tattoo idea is becoming more acceptable but it’s still a good idea to have a few stickers with you to cover them if needed.

11- Learn a few Japanese words and their characters

Generally speaking, It’s always a good idea to learn a few words like “thank you,” “please,” and “excuse me,” in the local language, and a few others depending on where you’re traveling to. For example, in Japan’s case, the words for bathroom, ramen, karaoke, exit (trust us), and certain toiletries would come in handy!

12- Drunk businessmen on trains in Japan

It’s almost like a cultural thing for Japanese businessmen to work hard, then head to a bar and drink heavily until becoming drunk. Then don’t get surprised to see drunk men in suits, on trains at 7 pm.

13- Metro doesn’t work 24/7

Even though living in Japan almost equals absolute convenience, but don’t expect the Metro system to work 24/7, even in Tokyo. Depending on your destination, the last metro train could leave from 11:30 pm to 1 am. Either plan accordingly or make yourself some funny memories of trying to go back to your hotel in the middle of the night! Make sure to have your address written in Japanese with you at all times.

The alternative way is to find an all-night karaoke joint and sing until early morning. It’s fun and cheaper than taking a taxi!

14- Get Lost on purpose

It’s always the moments of getting lost that change the whole game, both in life and while traveling. Not every local attraction could be found on the main streets, especially in Japan that tons of awesome eateries are located in the alleys because of high rent prices.

15- Have a plastic bag with you

You can’t find trash cans everywhere in Japan. Sometimes you’d find yourself carrying trash with you for a long time before you see a trash can to dump it. It’s a good plan to have a plastic bag in your backpack to fill and dump when full.

16- Carry cash but don’t worry as much

Most people say everything in Japan is cash-based but that’s only partially true. There are a lot of restaurants, stores, and hotels that would accept credit cards as well as cash. Plus if you ever need to take some cash, find the nearest 7-Eleven to use their ATMs.

17- Learn the Subway rules

People in Japan have strict unwritten subway rules. For example, they don’t eat or drink, don’t talk on the phone, and don’t sit on the seats reserved for pregnant women, elderly people, or people with disabilities. You should respect all those rules, as well as waiting for those passengers who are coming out of the train before going in and stand on the left side of the door while waiting.

18- Gotta love those high tech toilets and the traditional squatty potty

Japanese western-style toilets are far fancier than the ones in Western countries! They have heated seats, bidet, deodorizer, noisemaker, and even more options in some cases. On rare occasions, you have to use their traditional squatty potty toilet which could be a little hard if you never tried one, but again, that’s the main reason for traveling, isn’t it?

19- Japan is very safe

You should still take all of the precautions while traveling in Japan, but the good news is that this country is constantly ranked among the top 10 safest countries in the world which is a kind of a relief knowing there’s not a thief waiting for joyful tourists on each corner!

20- Sometimes “Yes” means “No”

Japanese people are very polite and most of them have a hard time saying, “No!”. It’s just not in their blood. You should pay good attention to their reactions and if you see they say yes but are hesitant, don’t insist, and if someone tells you “No!”, then don’t insist at all since they already pushed themselves enough to reject your request, you’d just make it all seem more awkward!

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5 thoughts on “20 Things to know before visiting Japan

  1. No is not always a no either. I remember when I went to visit the imperial palace, I walked to the gate where to register. The soldier on guard came to ask, I spoke in English, he answered in Japanese telling me it’s not possible. I stayed at the gate. After 10 minutes the officer came to ask, I spoke in English, he answered in Japanese telling me it’s not possible. I stayed at the gate. After 15 or 20 minutes, a young woman arrived with a smile, spoke to me in English and took me through security to register for the next visit.

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