Harun Yahya once said, “I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question”. If you’ve decided to spread those wings and go on an adventure to the beautiful, mysterious and magical country of Japan, we’re pretty certain you’re going to have the time of your life.
Japan is a land where cutting-edge technology blends seamlessly into ancient traditions, where geishas dance and sushi is plentiful. But as wonderful as Japan is, it definitely has its surprises – prepare to be confused, delighted, shocked and amazed all at the same time.
It’s true – Japanese culture is completely one-of-a-kind. But this makes for the ultimate adventure! We’ve piled together 10 things you should know before travelling to Japan to give you some insider knowledge. Oh, and while you’re there, don’t forget that your personal travel assistant is in your pocket whenever you need a hand.
1. YOU’RE GONNA NEED SOME CASH
We know, it seems mad that one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world lacks card machines. Cash is a crafted product, so it has a high social value in Japan – try and have a good stock of cash with you wherever you go. Apart from convenience stores, chain restaurants and other modern facilities in the likes of Tokyo, it’s likely to be cash payments only.
2. THEY MIGHT SHOUT AT YOU, BUT THEY’RE NOT MAD
When you enter a restaurant in Japan, you might hear a sudden, loud wail or screech from the staff or owner. It might come as a surprise – but don’t worry, they’re just saying ‘irasshaimase’, which literally means ‘come in’ or ‘welcome’!
3. THERE’S NO NEED TO TIP
You might be used to leaving a few extra dollars or pounds for the servers at your favourite restaurants back home. But if you do that in Japan, you could end up with a waiter running after you just to give it back!
As a rule, tipping isn’t a thing in Japan. Plus, in some cases, it’s even considered rude – they may feel as though you’re bribing them to do a better job. Just say ‘Kanpai’ (‘cheers’ in Japanese) before you leave and they’ll know you’re thankful.
4. BEING LATE IS UNACCEPTABLE
10 minutes late in Canada, England, India, or Spain? No problem! In Japan, however, it’s a pretty different story. If you’re invited to a party or an outing with locals at 6pm, you’d better not arrive any later – nope, not even a minute past! Everything here happens dead on time – get your travel chatbot to send you a reminder when it’s time to leave.
The Japanese take punctuality so seriously that if a commuter train is late, the conductor will write a formal note for passengers, explaining why they were late for work. Madness!
5. LACE-UP SHOES ARE A NO-GO
You won’t want to wear high-top converse or intricately laced Dr Martens in Japan – you’ll be taking your shoes on and off all day, every day! Whether it’s a family home, a local restaurant, a business or a temple, you’ll often notice shoes lined-up outside. That means you should take yours off, too – and pronto.
Wearing shoes inside is seen as dirty and rude unless they’re specifically ‘inside’ shoes like slippers which you’ve never stepped foot outside in. Oh, and FYI, you should always wear socks indoors.
6. EATING AND SMOKING IN THE STREET ISN’T COOL
The Japanese are the most polite people in the world! Eating while walking along the street is considered sloppy and rude, so pop into a snack bar or cafe to fill up instead. Smoking is officially banned in crowded areas and you could even earn yourself a ticket if you’re caught – find a designated area before lighting up.
7. COUGHING WILL PROBABLY SCARE THE LOCALS
You’ll notice that locals wear masks everywhere – this is because they’re terrified of contracting a cold or disease. They won’t react kindly to you sneezing or coughing next them in the street. Wear a mask if you’re sick and head to a private, quiet area to blow your nose to avoid giving someone a heart attack!
8. YOU’LL FIND BOTH HIGH-TECH AND SQUAT TOILETS
Yep, you’ll find polar opposites when it comes to toilets in Japan! In Tokyo and bigger cities, except to come across a fair few super high-tech toilets with heated seats, noisemakers, music, and deodorising features. But head outside of the city or to temples and local restaurants, and you’re just as likely to come across a squat toilet.
9. THERE ARE UNSPOKEN RULES OF WALKING
Okay, so they’re not official rules – but it’s worth sticking to them! In Japan, there’s a very obvious section of the street for each direction of walking – which don’t intertwine under any circumstances. Escalators are pretty strict, too – stand on the right if you’re walking up, and stand on the left if you’re staying along for the ride. Easy peasy!
10. EARTHQUAKES ARE COMMON
Japan just so happens to be the most seismically active country in the world, with around 20% of worldwide earthquakes happening there. The country is well prepared for earthquakes though, so it totally shouldn’t let it put you off visiting. Check out this basic guide of what to do in Japan when there’s an earthquake.
So, those were 10 things you should know before travelling to incredible Japan! Why not download Hanna, the intelligent pocket travel chatbot, so you can feel even more prepared for your trip?