A trip to Japan brings excitement, adventure, and the promise of a brand new way of life. But if you’re new to travel, or new to travelling long-distance, it can sometimes be daunting to think about all the new things to learn! We’ve run hundreds of trips to Japan, and with a well-travelled group of staff and many local Adventure Leaders guiding our tours, we’ve collected our top tips for Japan travel.
Culture & Politeness
- Make sure you dress appropriately at temples and religious sites. These are important places in Japanese culture, and while there isn’t a specific dress code, it’s a good idea to err towards dressing more conservatively.
- Slip-on shoes can be useful in Japan, as it is customary to take your shoes off when you enter a living area. However, never use shoes or slippers on a tatami floor – you should walk on these barefoot or with socks.
- Blowing your nose in public can be seen as uncouth – it’s common to find a bathroom or another private place in order to blow your nose.
- Don’t litter! Trash bins can sometimes be difficult to find, and littering is prohibited in many places. In order to make sure you recycle what can be, you’re usually expected to carry your rubbish with you until you can dispose of it at the hostel.
- Pointing is usually avoided in Japan, as it’s considered rude – instead, people tend to indicate direction with an open hand or a wave.
Food & Drink
- Don’t tip! It may feel strange if you’re accustomed to doing so, but tipping isn’t a part of Japanese culture. It can be seen as rude, and in most cases a service charge will be added to your bill already.
- It’s common to split checks amongst friends, and is known as betsu-betsu (‘separately’). However, it’s not the norm to get separate checks, so people usually just roughly figure it out yourself.
- Make time to sit down and enjoy your food! Walking and eating is seen as sloppy, and it’s common to see people standing or crouching when eating street food or food from a vending machine.
- Slurp your soup! It’s okay to pick up a bowl of soup or noodles to drink from, as opposed to using a spoon.
- If you need a waiter in Japan, you can call out ‘Sumimasen!’ This translates as ‘excuse me’, and is a perfectly acceptable way to get their attention.
- Keep your voice low when travelling on trains – it’s common courtesy for all carriages to remain quiet, and it’s not the norm to take calls either. Overall, it’s best to watch your volume in all public spaces and on all transport.
- If the train you’re travelling on is busy, it’s customary to take off your backpack and hold it.
- Taxi doors are automatic in Japan! There’s no need to try and open them, as the driver will open and close it from the inside.
- Don’t walk and smoke, and it’s viewed as dangerous and inconsiderate. It’s illegal in some areas! As you travel, you’ll see that designated outdoor smoking areas are quite common in Japan.
Find out more on our Japan tours here.