20 Things Most Tourists Do (But Shouldn’t) When Visiting Japan

During someone’s first visit to Japan, they’ll quickly realize that it’s a country like no other. It’s where East meets West, and where tourists will see densely populated cities with imperial palaces, mountainous national parks and thousands of shrines and temples. And of course, let’s not forget some of the best food most people will ever taste, the most memorable moments, along with all the great places to visit and people to meet. From Tokyo, to Osaka and Kyoto, the country has so much to offer to every traveler, no matter what age.

At the same time, though, Japan is a rich culture with a lot of differences that may seem baffling to Western travelers at first. Luckily, people in Japan are very welcoming. They want people to visit, even if they don’t understand or follow every rule. Even if tourists make certain mistakes, they should not expect that anyone will point it out to them. But what they can expect are puzzled stares. With that being said, here are 20 things that tourists should never do while visiting Japan.
20 Chopstick Etiquette

If there is one thing you don’t want to do, it’s take your chopsticks and pretend that you are a walrus in the middle of dinner. Don’t forget that you are in Japan, and not in Benihana. In this country, proper chopstick etiquette is very important, so use them correctly. Oyster writes, “Never stick your chopsticks vertically in your bowl of rice – this resembles a funeral ritual. If you need to put them down, always use the chopstick holder next to your plate. Avoid using your chopsticks to pass food to someone else’s chopsticks, as this is another taboo.”
19 Shoes Indoors

A lot of different countries follow this same rule. When you visit a friend inside a Japanese home or a restaurant establishment where the food is normally served on mats, it would be best if you could take your shoes off once you immediately enter the building. This is a huge rule and tradition followed in Japan. Oyster writes, “Shoes are also a no-no in the areas of restaurants where diners sit on the floor on traditional tatami mats. In this case, slippers are not worn at all – they could damage the straw matting –so make sure your socks match and are free of holes.”
18 Don’t Ignore The Queue

If there is one thing that the people in Japan love, it’s keeping things in orderly fashion at all times. It’s not New York City or Washington, D.C., where everyone elbows each other in order to make their way inside a subway. In other words, don’t ignore the queue at the metro stop and wait your turn in line. Oyster writes, “On platforms at train stations, there are lines on the floor indicating where to stand and wait for your train. When the train arrives, the doors will open exactly in-between the two parallel lines that have been formed by waiting commuters.”
17 Don’t Eat In Public

If there is something that we can all agree on, it’s that Westerners are always on the go. There are a lot of people that basically live on fast food and have either a sandwich of Starbucks drink in their hand while they are making their way through a busy city. In Japan, this is frowned up. The general rule is to not eat in public. Oyster writes, “Fast food sold at street stands and stalls is eaten standing up, while drinks bought from the many vending machines available in public places are also consumed immediately and the can or bottle tossed in the recycling bin next to the machine.”
16 Don’t Eat On The Trains, Either

If you were hoping to open up a bag of chips or any of the different Kit Kat flavored bars while on a train in Tokyo, don’t do it. That’s because you’re not supposed to eat on the trains, either. There’s a reason why Tokyo’s restaurants are always so densely crowded: it’s because they are the only acceptable places that you can eat in public. Thought Catalog writes, “Drinking discreetly from a PET bottle is okay unless it’s too crowded. Eating and drinking on long distance trains is fine though, since you have pull-out trays and such. They’ll even come to your seat to sell you food and beverages.
15 Tipping Is Not Part Of The Culture

If you are American, there’s a very good chance that you are used to tipping whenever you are at a restaurant, hotel, or any establishment that requires some sort of service. But in Europe, Japan and elsewhere in the world (basically everywhere), tipping isn’t necessary, nor is it required. And in Japan, if you try to tip, you can expect to get your money back, no matter how great you thought the service was. Thought Catalog writes, “Tipping is just not part of the culture. Don’t even leave the small change. People will come running after you with it. Seriously.”
14 Turn Off Your Cell Phone

These days, the thought of leaving your home without your cell phone in your back pocket or purse is almost unheard of. Many people will agree that their cell phones have almost become their life lines. If you are out and about in Tokyo, though, make sure to either turn your cellphone on vibrate or make sure it’s completely off when you are in public. Thought Catalog writes, “While it’s not against the law, it’s considered to be rude since it disturbs people around you. Likewise, don’t talk in loud voices in the train either. Talk in a low discreet voice.”
13 Don’t Keep Other Guests Waiting

If you are dining in Tokyo, don’t expect that you can dine for several hours at your table in your restaurant. While many establishments are thankful for your business, they don’t want you there for the entire night. Once you are done with your meal, that’s your signal to head out. The Culture Trip writes, “In Tokyo, not all restaurants are built to accommodate a three-hour dinner date or lengthy catch up session with friends. Many small, family owned shokudo (ordinary Japanese restaurants) can only fit a few customers at a time and expect patrons to come in, eat and leave quickly so someone else can fill the chair.”
12 Ask Before Taking A Photo

These days taking photos of your vacations and posting them on social media is just as important as say calling your mother or your loved one to tell them that you’ve made it there safely and soundly. But if you are in Japan, you might want to stop and ask permission before taking photo of a person or a sacred place. The Culture Trip says, “Many places in Tokyo, including some stores, malls and religious sites, don’t allow photography. If it’s been a problem in the past, there is usually a sign indicating the ban. And when it comes to taking photos of people, always ask for permission first.”
11 Keep To The Left

As Beyonce once sang, “To the left, to the left,” is exactly where you want to be in Tokyo, too. After all, in Japan you drive in the left lane and you do most things from the left, too. But keep in mind that this rule doesn’t apply in every city, which can be a little confusing. If you have any doubt, simply observe what other people are doing and follow suit. Thought Catalog writes, “Stay on the correct side on escalators. In Tokyo, you stand on the left. In Osaka, you stand on the right. Follow what other people are doing.”
10 Shower First

One thing that Western visitors absolutely love doing in Japan is visiting one of their onsens, or public bath houses. But before you hop in the water, make sure you take a good shower to rinse off first. And no, you shouldn’t wear your bathing suit, either. As Thought Catalog writes, “If visiting a public bath or onsen, the same ‘shower first’ rule is de rigueur before entering the communal bath. Other rules apply to the onsen: Bathing suits are not allowed, hair should be tied up to keep it out of the bath water, never let your towel touch the water, and don’t swim in the onsen.”
9 Cover Your Tattoos

For those who love their ink, we’ve got bad news for you: tattoos in general are frowned upon in Japan, and especially in onsens or anywhere else that they may be publicly visible. That’s because a lot of people associate tattoos with people who break the law or are thinking about breaking the law, if you know what we mean. Try to cover up your tattoos with tape or simply wear long-sleeved clothing or attire to hide them. Oyster says, “Tattoos are frowned upon in Japan […] If you have a tattoo, you may not be allowed to use a public bath.”
8 Don’t Block The Escalator

Don’t you just hate it when someone stands in the middle of an escalator and blocks both the left and the right passageways, making it hard for you to walk around them? Yeah, people in Japan feel the same way and that’s why they want you to exercise good manners on escalators in public places, too. The Culture Trip writes, “In Tokyo, the left side of the escalator is for standing and the other is for walking. Don’t stop on the side meant for walking; you’ll just inconvenience those behind you and they’ll be too polite to say anything.”
7 Don’t Make The “OK” Sign

Hand gestures are very important but more often than not have different meanings in different countries. For example, in Japan, you shouldn’t make the ‘OK’ sign with your fingers in public. You might think that you are giving someone positive reinforcement or acceptance or just telling someone that you feel okay, but that’s not the case in this country. Tsunagu Japan says, “In Japan, this is a gesture for money. You might think you’re telling someone you’re alright, but you’re actually making a secret deal with them that involves your wallet. To stop making secret deals, resort to using vocal affirmations.”
6 Don’t Bring Outside Drinks To A Restaurant

While there’s nothing wrong with casual drinking and alcohol consumption in Japan (as long as it is done in moderation), you shouldn’t bring an outside drink to a restaurant: in Japan it’s just bad taste to do so. Instead, order a drink from inside the establishment where you plan to dine. Tsunagu Japan says, “So don’t bring in outside drinks or food to a restaurant, because this suggests that you don’t think much of it even before you’ve had their food. It’s also just rude, and while some places will kindly tell you to put away what you’ve brought, others may not be as polite.”
5 Skip The PDA

Visiting a place like Ueno Park in the heart of Tokyo might seem like the most romantic place in the world, but try to keep any sort of public display of affection with your partner to a minimum. In other words, save the kisses (and anything else) for behind closed doors or your hotel room. Simply put, the Japanese aren’t into PDA. The Culture Trip writes, “Public displays of affection can make people uncomfortable. The same goes for hugging and kissing your new Japanese friends or acquaintances in greeting. This kind of familiarity from near-strangers is not part of the culture.”
4 Don’t Fold Your Kimono Right Over Left

One of the most exciting things a lot of visitors get to do in Japan is try on a kimono (or a yukata) for the very first time but more often than not, people do it the wrong way. Tsunagu Japan writes, “Always be sure to fold your kimono or yukata so that the left side is over the right side; otherwise, you are dressing a [person who has passed]. If you are following a YouTube tutorial or reading up on how to put on a kimono online, chances are the author is very adamant that you have to have the left side on top.”
3 Don’t Blow Your Nose

There’s a reason why so many people walk around Tokyo with surgical masks on: they don’t want to spread their germs in public places, especially if they are sick. And if you feel under the weather too, your best bet is to wear one as well, or simply keep from blowing your nose in public. Oyster writes, “Find a bathroom or another private place if you have to attend to a running nose. It’s common to see people wearing face masks in public, especially in the winter. This means they have a cold and want to avoid spreading germs and infecting others.”
2 Respect Their Rules

Japan is on everyone’s bucket lists for a reason: it’s one of the most fascinating countries in the world. Therefore, when you visit, do your best to use good judgment and by all means, do not break any laws. Don’t do anything that you normally wouldn’t do at home. Be a good global citizen at all times and respect their rules and regulations. Thought Catalog writes that if you break the rules, “You’ll most likely get deported, although you may be ‘detained’ for a long time, or put in jail.”
1 Don’t Hog The Priority Seat

If you are riding on the metro in Tokyo and just happen to get lucky with a priority seat, don’t think that you can sit there for the remainder of your trip. If you see someone that needs to sit down, offer your seat to them, especially if you don’t need it yourself. Trusnagu Japan writes, “But once the train gets crowded, and people who actually need the priority seat get on, get up. There is no excuse. You can tell if a person is very old. And in Japan, you can also tell if a woman is pregnant by the keychain on her bag.”
Source: Therichest

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