Travel Blog

Five Things A Tourist Should Know About Japanese Culture

Nov 29, 2022

If you’re planning to visit Japan, you might be surprised at how different the culture is from what you’re used to. It’s not just the food and customs, but also the people and ways of thinking that are very different from those in Western countries. Here are five things a tourist should know about Japanese culture before traveling to this beautiful country.

Japanese people bow to show respect and politeness. The bow is performed by holding the right hand in front of the stomach, palm facing down, and then bending at the waist. The upper body should be kept straight while bowing, but not stiff. When bowing lower than someone else, do not go past their eye level; when bowing higher than someone else, do not go below their knees.  It is also important to understand that it is very disrespectful if you don’t return a bow. 

Taking Off Your Shoes
It is customary to remove your shoes when entering the home of an acquaintance or friend. If you are visiting someone's home, you will be expected to take off your shoes before entering the house. This is a matter of hygiene as much as etiquette. You can also take off your shoes in other public places such as hotel lobbies, restaurants and bars. Some restaurants may have small slippers for customers to wear while dining, which are sometimes provided by the host.

Slurping Your Soup
One of the most common etiquette faux pas foreigners make when dining in Japan is not slurping their soup. Though it may seem rude to some, the act of slurping one's soup is actually seen as a compliment to the chef and an acknowledgment that the dish is indeed delicious. Instead of slurping, some people may choose to say, "itadakimasu," which means, "I humbly receive". Whichever your choice, you will not be disappointed in the flavors of the soups!

Using Chopsticks
In Japan, it is customary to eat with chopsticks. They are not used to spear food, but instead they are used to pick up the pieces of food. Be aware of where you put your fingers while trying to use chopsticks. Also try and avoid sticking your tongue out while trying to get food into your mouth. Want to keep it simple? Then try to eat foods that can be easily picked up with chopsticks.  Foods such as noodles and rice work best! One more imperative thing to remember, if you're struggling with chopsticks is to not use your hands. You should only use them for things like eating or drinking. If chopsticks are too difficult for you then you can always use a fork or spoon.

Being Punctual

It is considered rude to arrive late to an event or to make someone wait on you. Punctuality is important in the workplace and being late can cause a lot of problems. Some companies will even send a driver to come pick up their employee who is running late. If you are going to be late, always let the person know ahead of time. They will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Learning about other cultures and sharing our own with others is how we make the world a better place. We hope you enjoy your travels to Japan!