Japanese Customs That One Should Know Before Travelling To Japan

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Two Japanese women in traditional kimono bowing

As Thomas Wolfe has said, “Culture is the arts elevated to a set of beliefs”. Every place is unique because of its unique beliefs, customs, traditions and its own set of superstitions. This article will throw some light on the Japanese customs that one should know before travelling to Japan.

A courteous greeting is important

Firstly, when you meet someone you have to bow and greet them. This is a very important etiquette in Japan and if you notice any local not bowing to another it will be considered very rude. However, for tourists, inclining your head or just an attempt at bowing will be highly appreciated by the Japanese. Also, addressing someone properly is also an important part of Japanese customs and you are expected to attach the suffix “san” to their last name, which shows respect for the person (like a title).

Japanese table manners

Secondly, table manners are given special importance in Japanese customs as well. At a dinner party, wait for everyone to get their drinks and do not start drinking till someone makes a speech and says “Cheers!” (or Kanpai in Japanese). If a small wet cloth is given to you at a Japanese restaurant, you wipe your hands on it before you start eating and then fold it and keep it on the table. It is not a napkin so do not use it like one! An unusual part of their table manners is making noises while eating (slurping noodles)! They take it as a compliment if you do so and this is taken as a sign of you enjoying the food.

How not to insult a Japanese

Thirdly, you do not tip anyone ever! This is considered as an insult in Japan so do not tip them. A few other Japanese customs you must adhere to are:

  • Taking off your shoes at the entrance of homes (they give you a different pair of slippers to wear).
  • Do not eating while you are walking around.
  • Use both your hands if you are giving/receiving a gift.
  • If you are using chopsticks to eat do not use leave them upright in your bowl, play with them or pass food to another person using them.
  • Be punctual and do not raise your voice as it will be considered uncouth.

    Japanese style modern clogs in a garden
    Leave your shoes outside
Watch out for superstitions

Apart from these customs of Japan, here are a few superstitions they have which are very interesting:

  • If someone whistles in the night a ghost or snake will pay them a visit!
  • If someone lays down right after they have eaten they will turn into a cow!
  • Good luck for those who see a spider in the morning but if they see it in the night it is bad luck!
  • Finish your rice every time or you will go blind!
  • Keeping a piece of shed snakeskin in your wallet makes you rich!

Now that we know what to do and what not to do in Japan, hop on a flight and enjoy your visit. Sayounara!

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