When traveling to any country it is important that you are aware and respectful of the way the people of the country operate. You can click here to find out more about my connection with Japan and why I think it’s really important to have a little knowledge before you arrive. It can help ensure that you don’t cause offense and avoid any potential embarrassment to the people who are making you welcome in their country. These facts about Japanese culture should get you started thinking about a few of the faux pas you might want to avoid and how you can go about fitting in if visiting Japan.
Recycle, Recycle Recycle: The Japanese pride themselves on being good to the environment and recycle pretty much everything. It might not be easy to find the trash cans as they aren’t spotted around, they tend to be grouped together in large open spaces so make sure you hold on to your trash and look carefully at the signs on the cans to ensure you dispose of your trash in the right can.
Keep your germs to yourself: It’s a matter of politeness in Japan that if you have a virus or are feeling unwell pick up a surgical mask as to avoid spreading bacteria. You’ll notice that there is nothing unusual about this in Japan and that you can pick up a mask pretty much any convenience store.
Don’t Tip: A difficult one for most Westerners as we are so accustomed to tipping, but, in Japan tipping it’s seen as a being rude. The Japanese don’t believe in being given money for a job well done, they see it as being given more money in a bid to get them to do a better job. So avoid causing minor offense to your hosts and don’t add a little extra onto your bill for a job well done.
Money, Money, Money: This is less about fitting in with the culture and more about survival. The Japanese work on being pretty much cash only almost everywhere so most places you frequent won’t have the facilities to take your credit card. Save yourself some trouble and make sure you get your Yen in the airport or before you start your travels otherwise you’ll be stuck looking for international ATMs that will cost you in charges.
Pointing: Don’t do it. If you want to gesture for something then avoid pointing at it with one finger, the Japanese consider the gesture exceptionally rude. Instead use face your palm upwards, close your fingers together and gesture to it with your whole hand.
The Manji Symbol: Our connotations of the symbol are of Nazi Swastikas, and they are pretty much everywhere so it can be daunting if you don’t know the Japanese use for the symbol. The Manji is actually used as a symbol to ward off evil spirits in Japan and it is considered a good luck charm so don’t be shocked to find this symbol in abundance during your travels.
Keep it Clean: There are lots of things you should do in Japan to remain courteous of their culture of cleanliness and this will take further research if you want to get into all the ways you can keep the country clean. But one way to respect this is to ensure you always remove your shoes and replace them with slippers in the house, often there will also be toilet slippers for you to switch with the house slippers when frequenting the bathroom too.