I’ve always felt an affinity for Japan, its people and the Japanese language. The country is so far away from the rest of the world that to actually make it there you have to have a good reason and great interest.
I used to study Japanese very diligently and spent hours and hours memorising Kanji. I’ve always wanted to visit Japan and finally practice my Japanese with the locals. What I didn’t realise that the Japanese culture was full of rules and norms. You have to be always mindful of your behaviour in public while visiting Japan.
It’s essential to learn more about their unwritten rules to really enjoy your time there and get to know the locals. When visiting Japan respect the unwritten laws that the locals strictly follow:
Always Treat Mount Fuji with Respect
For those who don’t speak Japanese – “Yama” means a mountain. *I’ve long forgotten how to write in hiragana, katakana, and kanji and no longer have a Japanese keyboard.
So any name of a mountain should be followed with “Yama”, although when you speak about the country’s tallest peak Mount Fuji, you have to say: “Fuji-San”. “San” means mister and by using San after someone’s name, you show your respect. So never disrespect their mountain and always refer to it as Mr.Fuji.
Don’t be Loud in Public
Being loud and attracting too much attention to yourself is considered rude. In England, for example, it’s absolutely fine to blow your nose in public, but it’s a big no in Japan.
Speaking loudly on the phone is another thing Japanese people don’t do. It’s very disturbing and irritating when someone is chatting very loudly on a train or bus. People want to travel in peace and not listen to your conversation.
Never Tip Anyone
Although tipping is very common in America and Europe, it’s a big no in Japan. No one expects you to tip them. If you do they will run after your to give the change back.
Please do not even try tipping in Japan because it will be at the least embarrassing and at the worst insulting to those you are trying to tip.
Don’t Wear your Shoes Inside
There are quite a few countries where wearing shoes inside is rude and uncivilised. Japan is one of those countries. Before entering any house, restaurant or a sacred place remember to remove your shoes. If you are ever unsure whether your shoes should be on or off, simply check what others are doing.
Did you know that Russia also has strict etiquette about where to wear shoes. Check out what else you should never do in Russia.
Don’t Point at People or Things
I feel that in most societies pointing is rude and uncouth. In Japan however people have found a way to point at something or someone in a polite manner. They slowly wave their hand towards the object in question. In a similar way, to how members of the royal family wave at the crowds.
Remember to Wear a Mask
You might’ve seen on TV, or in your own city, Japanese people wearing surgical face masks. Some say it’s because they are shy and want to hide their face. However, most of the time they do it to prevent spreading, or catching, germs. If you are not feeling well wear a mask to keep your bacteria to yourself. Personally, I think it’s a good idea.
No Need to be Tactile
If you are introduced to someone in Japan, they won’t appreciate you trying to kiss them, hug or shake hands. This isn’t how they do it in Japan – they bow. Although some of them might know that in Western countries people shake hands and will respond to you reaching out your hand.
If you are doing business in Japan presenting your business card and exchanging cards is a big tradition.
Don’t Litter and Remember to Recycle
There won’t be an abundance of rubbish bins in the streets, so most Japanese people carry their rubbish home to dispose.
Another rule to keep in mind is recycling. The Japanese are very good at recycling and have multiple bins at home for different types of waste. If there’s no recycling system in your country, make sure you familiarise yourself with the Japanese policies and guidelines.
Slurp When Eating
Slurping while eating is not rude at all in Japan. On the contrary this means you are enjoying your meal. I am not Japanese but I slurp sometimes while eating. I mainly do it while eating hot soups as slurping helps to cool down the food.
Never Eat on The Go
Walking and chewing on a sandwich with a can of coke in the other hand is fine in Europe and America. Whereas Japanese people consider eating on the go very uncouth. If you buy food from a vending machine, eat it straight away and put the packaging in a recycling bin. On top of that, you shouldn’t be eating or drinking on public transport as well. The only time you are allowed to snack on the go is when travelling long distances. Otherwise don’t. You won’t find any bins around to dispose of the packaging anyway.