10 Basic Japanese Customs You Must Know Before a Trip to Japan

Geisha (Image courtesy of visit Japan)

Traveljunkieindonesia.com – Japan and the Japanese are famed for their intricate social codes of conduct. First time visitors can come unstuck before they’ve even left the airport. It can seem intimidating but fear not, the Japanese, as well as being incredibly ceremonial, are also the politest people in the world and you will never be barked at for “not understanding”. That said, a few basic rules of etiquette will come in handy and a small gesture of understanding local custom goes a very long way.

These are 10 basic Japanese customs to get you started. One thing to always bear in mind if you’re baffled – if you take a step back, watch what everyone else is doing and gently follow suit, you’ll never go too wrong.

01. Heads down
Bow when greeting and saying goodbye and don’t be alarmed if you have to bow repeatedly.

02. Card work
Give and receive business cards with both hands, study them closely and compliment the design.

03. Top chop
Don’t pass food from your own chopsticks to someone else and don’t leave your chopsticks in your food.

04. Magic doors
Don’t try to open or close taxi doors – that happens automatically.

05. Take sides
On escalators stand on the left and leave a clear part on the right (except in Osaka where it’s the other way round).

06. A tiny bit more
More food than you can ever eat will be offered to you. Don’t say no, even when stuffed to the brim. Try a bit and say thank you.

07. Wait your turn
Queue for trains in a line – even on packed subways. Barging to the front is highly offensive.

08. Toe the line
Take your shoes off when entering a home, restaurant or anywhere with tatami mats (and always wear clean socks).

09. No butts
If you’re a smoker don’t light up just anywhere – there are designated spots for smokers.

10. Pay nicely
Put your money on the trays provided in taxis, shops and restaurants – don’t try and hand it to someone.

If you know these key Japanese customs, you’ll get closer to the locals and see beneath the surface of Japan.

Happy Green Travels!

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