TL;DR – You’d be surprised.
Are you planning a trip to Japan soon? Japan is one of the most culturally interesting places for visitors and is a society bound by unique behaviour and etiquette. Be it your first or tenth trip to this country, here are some things you might want to note whilst travelling there.
1. No license to litter
Japanese are rather particular about cleanliness and recycling. As compared to Singapore, dustbins are not as common a sight on the streets in Japan. They will usually keep their litter in their handbags, and bring it home to sort into recycling bins.
TIP: Looking to get rid of some trash? Pop into any convenience store and throw your necessary away into their litter bins.
2. A culture of giving
Staying in an AirBnb? Why not prepare a small gift representative of Singapore, or your home country, especially if you’re renting a ryokan or room from a local? It is one of the many Japanese customs to exchange gifts when returning from a trip, during change of seasons, or when moving into a new home. The Japanese certainly appreciate gifts very much! However, gifts that are expensive or flashy are not necessary.
3. Quiet, please
Please don’t talk on your mobile phone in trains and on other modes of public transport. The Japanese are very respectful of each other’s personal space and will not disturb others as much as possible.
4. Slurp It Like You Mean It
Just like Singaporeans, the Japanese love their food. DO slurp your noodles to show appreciation for your ramen and the chefs. This is not the time to be quiet or shy. The louder the slurp, the tastier the ramen is to the Japanese. Exclamations of oishii (delicious) are a bonus!
5. To tip or not to tip?
Don’t tip. As much as you enjoy your food and experience at a robatayaki, izakaya or sushi restaurant, it’s not necessary (and even sometimes considered an insult) to the Japanese when you leave tips. The restaurant managers or owners will probably run out chasing after you to return you the money!
6. Baby, it’s cold outside
Don’t blow your nose in public – it’s pretty rude. If you have a cold, get a mask to put on (no excuse, there are hundreds of cute designs for masks in Japan!). If you really, really have to blow your nose, try running straight to the privacy of a bathroom.
7. Watch where you are going
Don’t drink or eat while walking. This is considered rude and bad mannered in Japan.
8. Rinse Your Hands
Planning a visit to the shrines during your trip? You might notice a group of people standing in front of a water source at the entrance of each shrine rinsing their hands. This is actually a customary ritual for good luck. So, remember to rinse your hands before you enter. Just don’t splash the water all around.
9. Conversational phrases
Do learn a few Japanese phrases before heading to Japan.
Here are some simple ones:
I-ta-da-ki-ma-su: Literally meaning “I will receive”, but it is akin to bon appetite!
A-ri-ga-tou: “Thank you”
Su-mi-ma-sen: “Excuse me”, and can also be used as “sorry”
E-i-go-wa-wa-ka-ri-ma-su-ka: “Do you understand English?”
A few simple phrases will help you when you’re lost, in emergencies, as well as when you’re hungry!
10. Goodnight Japan
It may be hard to do so in this time and age, but do try to put aside social media for a few minutes every night! Reflecting and journaling some of your highlights of the day will help you to fully immerse in your trip and appreciate the experience. With these happy memories fresh in your head and your heart, tuck yourself early into bed to prepare for another day of awesome adventures.
Have fun exploring Japan or like the Japanese say, 幸せな旅行!