Japan is a culturally rich country with different customs and traditions, which are widely accepted and followed by the disciplined citizens of this Far East country. However, often these unique customs lead to awkward scenarios and massive sources of embarrassment for foreign tourists. For example, sticking your chopsticks vertically into your rice bowl is actually a funeral ritual in Japan! Therefore, it’s very important to be aware of the local customs while travelling and holidaying in Japan. So, the next time when you visit a restaurant in Japan, use your chopsticks respectfully and avoid scorns from your Japanese hosts.
Check out 10 such things that you must definitely NOT do in Japan and in the process, save yourself from major embarrassment while holidaying in the ‘Land of Rising Sun’.
Don’t wear shoes in the house – Always remove your shoes and put them in a designated place before entering the house of your Japanese host. Japanese homes do have an extra pair of slippers for guests. However, if the room you’re entering has tatami mats, even the home slippers need to be removed.
Don’t forget to remove the toilet slippers – Japanese homes have separate slippers specially designated for toilets. Use the slippers and don’t forget to remove them before stepping out of the washroom. Moving inside the house with toilet slippers on will lead to some serious amusement for your Japanese hosts.
Modesty is a virtue in Japan – Whatever you do and wherever you visit in Japan, just remember to be modest and polite while interacting with locals. Don’t be boastful of your abilities and skills and instead, be modest and polite. If someone compliments you for something, just be polite and deflect it in a modest way. For example, if someone compliments you on your Japanese language skills, be polite and say, “it’s nothing much” and thank them with a smile. Japanese people feel closer and receptive to moderate and polite folks.
Avoid few things while drinking – Don’t start drinking until all the people around you are served. Don’t finish your glass unless you want another drink. Japanese hosts always fill up empty glasses.
Be mindful while eating food – Don’t burp at the table – it is considered as being rude in Japan. Don’t lift the plate off the table to eat. Don’t over slurp your broth and noodles. Don’t put soya sauce directly over sushi or sashimi. Phew!
Chopsticks etiquettes – Don’t be afraid to ask for a fork in case you are not confident of using chopsticks. Don’t stab your food with chopsticks. Don’t pass food from chopstick to chopstick. Don’t use chopsticks to nudge bowls and plates. Don’t wave and point with your chopsticks while eating. Lastly, don’t leave your chopsticks sticking up in the rice bowl or other food, as this is a part of the Japanese funeral ritual.
Don’t tip in Japan – Tipping is not encouraged in Japan. Japanese service professionals are well paid and don’t expect any additional gratuities from guests. In fact, tipping is often considered as rude and an unacceptable behaviour from guests. So, don’t tip in Japan even if you are impressed by the level of service and dedication.
Avoid talking loudly in confined public spaces – Japanese people put plenty of emphasis on privacy. Therefore, avoid talking in a loud voice or speaking loudly over the phone while travelling in public buses, metros or while sitting in confined public places like restaurants, conference rooms, movie theatres, hospitals, etc.
Don’t bathe dirty in Japan – Do remember to take a shower and scrub your skin thoroughly before stepping into a tub of hot water or a sauna bath. Please be polite and wait for your turn to take a dip in a hot water tub. Once inside, avoid swimming or reclining, and don’t remove the drain plug.
Don’t drink or eat while walking around in Japan – Avoid eating or drinking while walking around or while travelling in metros. Drinking and eating are accepted only at venues that are hosting food festivals.