Don’t Make These Common Mistakes When Visiting Japan
What are some of the common mistakes when visiting Japan that tourists make? Japan is a country where good etiquette is regarded highly. If you don’t want to stand out from the crowd too much as a tourist, respect the country and culture by reading this list of common Japan mistakes and taking note for when you’re next there!
DON’T Wear a Backpack on the Train
Trains in Japan can get crowded, especially in big cities during rush hour. If you’re wearing a backpack, it’s correct etiquette to remove your backpack and hold it down in front of you at your feet or legs. Holding it on your back takes up space that another person could be using!
DON’T Break The Rules at the Onsen
When going to a Japanese onsen, or hot spring, it’s very important to follow the rules. The main two rules are;
- Remove ALL clothing. Yup. All. You’ll be 100% naked in front of everyone in the room (same-sex only) and you CANNOT enter if you wear a bathing suit. It’s not permitted under any circumstance and if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, then don’t go.
- Don’t forget to shower BEFORE entering the bathing area. The ideas of the communal baths are that they are clean because you shower beforehand. If you jump in straight away, you basically contaminate the whole thing. Don’t do that. It might be tempting for you to want to get into the water straight away, especially if you’re not used to being naked in front of others or body-conscious. Get over that. And if you can’t, don’t enter.
This is the same when entering bathhouses in other countries such as Korea and China.
DON’T Refuse Slippers
It’s not polite in Japan to enter certain establishments and houses with shoes on. Instead, you’ll be offered slippers. It would be considered odd or rude to refuse this, so best to just accept the offer.
DON’T Be Late
Better still, arrive 5 minutes early. It’s very impolite in Japan to be late, and most people will try to arrive a bit early to avoid such a social faux-pas.
DON’T Ignore Smoking Rules
Smoking rules in Japan are a bit odd, so it’s important to pay attention.
Don’t smoke whilst walking, and don’t smoke randomly anywhere in public. There are designated smoking zones to go to, and each convenience store will also have one outside.
Only enough, there are smoking areas in most restaurants inside, and also in some bars and cafes.
One of the most common of the Japan mistakes… Don’t do it to try to be nice. Tipping is not a culture in Japan and tipping the waiter would be considered odd and rude. It also puts the Japanese person in a bit of a position since they don’t accept tips. They won’t know what to do, and giving it you back would be impolite, taking it would also be impolite… It wouldn’t make them feel great.
Tipping is not common in other countries such as China and Korea.
DON’T Try to Customize Food Orders
You may have a specific dietary requirement that means you can’t eat something, and you might want to ask for a dish in a specific way. This is considered rude in Japan, since it’s viewed as an insult to the chef. Sometimes, the chef may also not wish to honor your request since their dish is their creation. If you change it, it might not taste so good, so they would feel bad to make it like that.
DON’T Eat on Public Transport
And don’t eat when walking to get the bus, either. In the UK, I was often busy and would eat a sandwich while walking from one place to the other. I’ve even eaten full on meals on the train!
This is an absolute no-go in Japan and considered very rude. You’ll also be looked at pretty strangely if you eat while walking.
DON’T Count on Finding a Trash Can
Most Japanese people take their trash home. This is due to the complicated recycling system, and also the fact that there are no bins around. So out on the go, don’t make this Japan mistake of trying desperately to find a bin. Presume you won’t.
DON’T Mix Trash
As per the above, the Japan recycling system is pretty complicated. Don’t ignore it. Japanese people take it very seriously and they’d be upset if you were to mess up their system. You can actually get a pretty hefty fine from it!
DON’T Rely on Cards
Japan is a largely cash-based society, with many businesses not accepting cards at all. Always carry cash with you. If you need to use an ATM, most convenience stores have one.
DON’T Flash Your Tattoos
While the culture is changing with the new generation, tattoos, like in Korea, are pretty taboo. The younger generation may be enjoying getting inked, but nevertheless, wearing something that reveals a big tattoo is something you should avoid. It will make the people around you feel uncomfortable and might be intimidating.
DON’T Use the Ladies Carriage (BOYS!)
In Japan, some train lines have a train carriage for women only. This is clearly marked on the train platform, as well as in the carriage itself. Do not go in here if you are male. These carriages are here for a reason. If you’re a foreigner, Japanese people won’t get offended but rather tell you politely you’re in the wrong spot. Thank them and leave, and don’t worry too much – but try to be aware for next time! Often, the train interior is pink – so it’s really hard to not know.
Common Mistakes When Visiting Japan – Final Thoughts
Of course, if you accidentally make any of these Japan mistakes, it’s fine. You won’t be punished. Of course, it is not your culture, so you’re bound to make mistakes. But if you try then the Japanese people will certainly appreciate it!