How to behave on your trip to Japan

Japan is one of the most exotic travel destinations, attracting millions of tourists each year with its undeniable charm. From party lovers to cultural enthusiasts, anyone will find a place in their heart for the Land of the Rising Sun. Whether you visit the breathtaking Mount Fuji, the gardens filled with cherry blossoms, awe-inspiring temples and castles or the modern Tokyo, you will find the experience fascinating and life-changing. In order to enjoy your trip to the fullest, you must learn that the Japanese have different customs and traditions than the Western civilization, so etiquette knowledge is needed before you begin to pack your bags. There are some rules that you need to respect in order to feel comfortable among the locals and become an educated tourist. Each culture is different in its own way and Japan has its share of faux pas’s that you should avoid.

First of all, the Japanese are a very disciplined, polite and well-mannered nation, so they value education, especially in public. This also applies for the Western world, but never point your finger toward your conversation partner or blow your nose in public areas. When greeting, either in English or Japanese, make sure you do it energetically and vigorously and you will be treated with respect.
Secondly, table manners are of utmost importance. Before going to a local restaurant, make sure you learn how to use chopsticks and familiarize yourself with the popular dishes (rice, sushi, sashimi, miso soup, noodles). Before starting eating, say “Itadaikimasu”, which means “I gratefully receive” and when you end the meal, “Goghisosama” (Thank you for the meal). Another thing you should try doing after you finish eating is putting the chopsticks and dishes in the same place they were initially. Japan is a very superstitious country, so you have to be aware of some habits. For example, never stick chopsticks upright into rice, because this is only done at funerals. In the Western world people often pass food to another, but in Japan you must avoid passing your chopsticks to your neighbor, since this is a funeral tradition and it brings bad luck.

Because the Japanese are known for their hospitality, you will probably make friends who will invite you in their home. This is a great honor and you have to make sure that you do not make embarrassing mistakes. Etiquette dictates that you take out your shoes before entering the house (in the genkan) and replace them with slippers. Also, if you need to go to the bathroom, a special pair will be waiting for you in front of the door; remember to change them back, because it is bad manners to return with bathroom slippers- this won’t probably be pointed out to you, but the guest will notice. This is not obligatory, but you will make a good impression if you bring a small present, especially something that comes from your country.

Other useful tips advise you to avoid being too straightforward when expressing your opinion and looking people insistently in the eyes. Also, refrain from using your telephone too much in trains or buses, because others might be bothered by this. Also, Japan is not very fond of the fast food phenomenon, so eating while walking down the street is not such a common view.

These are the the basic manners that lie on the foundation of Japanese society and by respecting them you will feel integrated, respected and you will have nothing but pleasant memories from your trip.

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