As you would guess, respect is a crucial factor for the Japanese society. That being said, there are some cultural don’ts that every tourist and expat should know. Of course first time travellers are not expected to be aware of what not to do in Japan, as some are ‘invisible rules’. When I first travelled to Japan, I certainly did some of the things below. That is why I thought of putting together this useful travel tips about WHAT NOT TO DO for first time travellers in Japan:
1. Do Not Talk Loud in Public Transportation
This is an important tip, especially if you travel in a group. Japanese people do not usually talk loudly to each other or on the phone while on public transportation. As a traveller, you should keep your phone on silent and talk in a moderate voice to others.
2. Avoid PDA
When I first came to Japan, I thought not showing affection was weird. However, now I understand that hugs and kisses belong to the private space. Unless you want to annoy some passbyers try to avoid PDA in public spaces. However, if you are travelling with your loved one, holding hands and super quick pecks are totally allowed in Japan!
3. Do Not Wear Clothes at the Onsen
For foreign travellers, onsen is a totally new experience which can be stressful if you don’t know the hot spring etiquette. Before enjoying the onsen, make sure to remove your clothes (cover up and to rinse off your body. Attention: for travellers with tattoos, I advise you to make sure of the onsen’s policy regarding tattoos.
4. Do Not Wear Shoes Indoors
This is a golden rule in Japan and a crucial tip while travelling here. Always remove your shoes indoors, especially if you are entering someone’s house, Japanese tea houses and some temples. If you are not sure if you should remove your shoes, I recommend you to ask: Kutsu o hakukoto ga daijyobu desuka? (Can I wear my shoes?).
5. Do Not Open your Taxi Doors
As weird as this tip sounds, never open taxi doors. In Japan, all taxis have automatic doors and it is the drivers job to open the door (and the trunk) for the customers. Riding a taxi in Japan can be relaxing, as you don’t have to worry about tipping or arriving safely to your destination. However, riding a taxi in Japan is known for being expensive. Moreover, it might be difficult to communicate your location to your driver, if you don’t speak Japanese.
6. Do Not Expect Everyone To Speak English
It might be hard to believe, but Japanese people don’t speak English too frequently. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask someone for help on the streets, however, it would be good to know some Japanese words before coming to Japan. Based on my experience, you can always get the information you need from information centers or hotels.
7. Do Not Be Late
If you book a tour in Japan or have to meet with someone while you’re there, make sure to always be on time. Japanese people and foreigners who live in Japan are punctual.
8. Respect the chopstick etiquette
When you are eating with chopsticks in Japan, make sure not to break the most important chopstick rule. As a tourist travelling in Japan, you should never stick your chopsticks vertically in your food, as this gesture signals death. Even though it might sound like something minor to visitors, it is a big thing in Japan!
9. Do Not Shake Hands, Hug or Kiss new people
Meeting someone new from another culture can sometimes be stressful. When you meet someone new in Japan just bow to each other!
10. Do not jaywalk
When travelling, you will see that not many people in Japan jaywalk (even though there are no cars passing by). Since jaywalking is not common in Japan, try to avoid it while you are here. If you get caught, you will have to pay a fine at the koban (local police station).
For more on travel tips and Japanese etiquette, click here.