Japan is a juxtaposition of modernity and tradition, of skyscrapers and shrines, of bright neon lights and cozy zen gardens. It has a culture that will captivate you, scenery that will impress you, people that will charm you, and cuisine that will set your tastebuds alight. If this enchanting country is on your list (and it should be!), then here are some things to expect on your vacation to Japan.
You’ll have to remove your shoes often
It is customary to remove your shoes before entering a temple, shrine, or someone’s home. You’ll also find you are expected to take your shoes off at some restaurants, particularly the more traditional ones. At the entrance you’ll usually find a place to store your shoes, and often there are indoor slippers (and other bathroom slippers) provided. Pack slip on shoes for your vacation, so you can pop them on and off easily.
You’re not expected to tip at all
Tipping is not expected in Japan, nor is it accepted. Greeted with the polite Japanese nature you’d be forgiven for wanting to show your thanks to service staff, however, they will refuse your tip and may be offended by your offer. As an expression of gratitude, you can instead offer a gift from your home country, but this needs to be done subtly if at all.
There is a language barrier
While you’ll find English spoken in the cities and tourist hubs, it becomes less common in the regional parts of Japan. That being said, people are so kind and helpful that you will still be able to navigate your way around without too much trouble. Downloading a language app can be helpful and carrying your hotel card (in Japanese) can come in handy to find your way home easily.
You can find almost anything in convenience stores and vending machines
There is an incredible variety of products and produce in the convenience stores and vending machines around Japan. If you need to stock up on just about anything, you can find it here. There is a treasure trove of snacks and a surprising amount of good quality food options in the convenience stores, and everything from hamburgers to umbrellas in the vending machines.
There is a wrong way to use your chopsticks
You may find it an achievement just to be able to get food from your plate to your mouth with chopsticks, however, there are some techniques to avoid in your attempts to do so. Some practices are taboo, like sticking your chopsticks upright in your rice, and disregarding Japanese chopstick etiquette can cause offence. Pro tip: practice (a lot!) before you leave home.
Public rubbish bins are uncommon
The streets of Japan are impressively clean and rubbish free, and you might find yourself asking how that’s possible considering there are very few public rubbish bins around. It is normal keep hold of your litter until you are back at your hotel, so carrying a little reusable bag may come in handy.
You’ll feel safe on the streets
Japan has a very low crime rate and you’ll feel safe strolling the streets, even if you are a woman travelling alone. It is one of the safest countries in the world to visit and a perfect destination to sightsee confidently. You’ll find the locals are genuinely respectful and helpful, so you will feel pleasantly at ease while you explore everything Japan has to offer.
The people are very polite
The people in Japan are kind, polite, and respectful. They will go out of their way to offer assistance if you look lost and confused. It is important to show the same respect to the people whose country you are exploring – adhere to their customs, dress appropriately (particularly when visiting places of worship), and ask permission before snapping photos.