There are things that you need to know before travelling to Japan. Not just rules that you need to follow, but also to prepare yourself so you won’t get a culture shock the moment you step into the land of the rising sun. Also, things you mustn’t and must do!
So here you go, a compilation of DO’s and DON’Ts which is entirely based on our experiences.
1. Please keep a TRASH BAG with you all the time. Japanese usually keep their rubbish until they get home. The only place you can find a trash bin is in a department store or at the convenient store. Other time, you will only see it beside a vending machine which is only for recyclable bottles.
2. Please keep your phone in SILENT MODE in trains and buses. It’s called the ‘Manner Mode’ (マナーモード). Some commuters may be travelling hours to get home and need to grab a quick nap in the train. When travelling in group, do keep your voices low. It’s not that talking is forbidden in public transports, but can you imagine the pain of other commuters who are listening to your conversations.
3. Please make sure you don’t SPEND TOO MUCH TIME in the toilet. I know that Japanese toilets can be really amazing as they are equipped with a variety of buttons shouting at you to explore them, but please be considerate as the queue for the ladies can sometimes be very long.
4. Please QUEUE UP. Depending where you are coming from, queuing might not be a culture in your country but when you’re in Japan, please be patient and queue. Because no matter how long the queue is, your turn will reach and you will not feel like you’re forever in the same spot. The queue is always moving, always.
5. If you are a woman, please TRY KAITEN SUSHI (回転寿司) when you’re in Japan. Although conveyer belt sushi is favoured mostly by men, occasionally I do see women in the restaurant. It is said that it won’t be very nice for women to order from the chef who serves from centre of the moving belt sushi. But hey, women need to eat too.
6. Please rent a MOBILE POCKET WIFI during your trip. This is really helpful for navigation. With internet connection, you can make immediate reservations for museums and local activities, use your translation apps, and keeping yourself updated on social media. Check out how you can rent one here: http://candidcuisine.net/guide-to-best-japan-pocket-wifi-rental/.
7. Please VISIT THE DRUG STORE. No, this is not like any other drug store. For the same item, you might find 5 brands, 4 skin types and 3 different sizes to choose from! Warning: Only enter if you have plenty of time to spend.
For foreigners, you can now shop for tax free at any major drug store in Japan. Check out the conditions here: http://tax-freeshop-wifi.jnto.go.jp/eng/shopping-guide.php.
8. Lastly, please ENJOY every moment in Japan. You will find this country has more to offer than you initially thought.
1. Please DON’T RESIST the kindness of the waiter/waitress. Allow them to do their job and do not tip them for their service. Some restaurants will help you keep your shopping bags and have your coat hang at the reception before entering the dining area.
2. Please DON’T WORRY about the cleanliness. Each time we travel to Japan, we bring only minimal amount of wipes and tissues (unlike other Asian countries =P) to last the entire trip. Not only when having meals in restaurants, if you buy a sandwich at the convenient store, you will be provided wipes for free.
3. Please DON’T LEAVE STAIN behind. Yes, I’m talking about the toilet bowl. Use the toilet like how you would use it at home. Also, in public parks, please keep it clean, it’s part of living the culture in Japan.
4. Please DON’T BRING AN UMBRELLA. If you’re going during rainy season, you don’t need to bring an umbrella from home. Yes, you read it right. Buy an umbrella in Japan! The price can range from few hundred yens to thousands depending on what you really need. If you are not planning to bring home, buy an affordable transparent umbrella. Walking under the rain and you can still look up the sky through the umbrella =)
5. Please DON’T BE SHY to ask. Japanese are not unfriendly, they are just shy. Also, they practice Mind-Your-Own-Business unless something serious happens.
6. Please DON’T SMOKE at public areas. In Japan, there are designated public areas for smokers, even in a department store.
7. Please DON’T HESITATE to leave your luggage outside cafes or restaurants. Probability of getting it stolen is low and usually the person-in-charge will take care of it for you. Spaces are limited especially in few-seater restaurants so please be considerate.
8. Lastly, please DON’T THINK TOO MUCH when travelling in Japan. Japan is one of the countries that make it possible to travel hassle-free. Everything will be taken care of as long as you are in Japan.