10 Things Foreigners Visiting Japan Must Know According to Locals

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When visiting Japan, it’s essential to immerse yourself in its unique culture and social norms. Navigating the nuances of local customs can greatly enhance your experience and show respect for the community. Here, we’ve gathered invaluable insights from locals on what foreigners should know to make their stay in Japan seamless and culturally respectful.

1. Drinking in Public

While it’s not uncommon to see people enjoying a drink outdoors in Japan, it’s important to do so respectfully. Loud conversations or creating a disturbance while drinking in public spaces can be frowned upon. Enjoy your beverage, but remember to keep noise levels down and be mindful of those around you.

2. Speaking Japanese

Even if your Japanese is not fluent, attempting to speak the language can go a long way. Japanese people appreciate the effort, and it can help in creating a more comfortable interaction. Start conversations in Japanese, even if it’s just a simple greeting or thank you.

3. Wearing Masks in Public Transport

Wearing masks, especially on public transport, is a common practice in Japan. It’s seen as a courtesy to others, helping to maintain public health and hygiene. Even if it’s not a norm in your home country, it’s respectful to follow this practice while in Japan.

4. Respecting Queues and Order

Japanese society places a high value on order and politeness, especially in public spaces. Always wait your turn, respect queues, and follow any organized systems in places like train stations, elevators, or restaurants. Cutting in line or ignoring queues is considered rude.

5. Personal Space and Physical Contact

Japan has a more reserved approach to personal space and physical contact. Avoid initiating physical contact like hugs or high-fives with strangers. Understand and respect the personal space of others, especially in crowded areas.

6. Respecting Restaurant Etiquette

In Japanese restaurants, it’s customary to wait to be seated rather than choosing your own table. Upon entering, wait for a staff member to guide you to your table. This practice ensures order and efficiency in often busy dining spaces.

7. Noise Levels in Public

Keep your voice down and avoid loud conversations, especially in public transport and quiet spaces. Playing loud music or speaking loudly on your phone can be disruptive and is considered impolite.

8. Littering and Public Cleanliness

Japan is known for its cleanliness. Avoid littering and always dispose of your trash properly. This includes not leaving newspapers or other items on trains or in public spaces.

9. Respect in Bathhouses and Hot Springs

When visiting public bathhouses or hot springs (onsen), shower and cleanse yourself before entering the communal bath. This practice is crucial for maintaining hygiene and shows respect for the shared facilities and other bathers.

10. Observing Escalator Etiquette

In many places, particularly in shopping malls, it’s customary to stand on one side of the escalator (often the left) to allow others to pass by. This simple act of consideration helps maintain a smooth flow of people.

Remember, respecting local customs and practices is key to a fulfilling and respectful visit to Japan. By following these tips, you’ll not only enjoy a smoother experience but also show your appreciation for Japanese culture and etiquette. Happy travels!

2 thoughts on “10 Things Foreigners Visiting Japan Must Know According to Locals”

  1. I don’t think #3 is much of a thing. #10 should be expanded to include trains. Always stand to the side of the doors and let passengers off first before trying to board.

  2. Agree with the other comment, #3 ended like a year ago. Its fine not to wear a mask everywhere but a medical facility and has been for about a year, unless your employer expressly requires it. The majority of people on trains now are not weating masks.

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