Strange Rules We All Must Follow When Visiting Japan

By Aaron Love 10 months ago

No Eating On Public Transport

Image Source: Reddit
I'm sure we've all been through that awkward instance where someone has decided to crack open a drink on the bus, or the worst case scenario, they open up something that stinks out the cab. You won't have any sort of issues like that in Japan as all citizens and tourists in the country are actually banned from eating or drinking on public transport.

Look Out For Pink Tags

Image Source: Medium
Just as you would whilst out on public transport like the subway or the bus systems, you'll probably look out for people who need to use the seats more than you do. This is also extremely important in Japan, but as many Japanese woman that are pregnant still look slim, they will carry some pink tags to let you know that they're carrying a child at the time!

Eat Standing Still

Image Source: Reddit
Sometimes, often when we're on the way to work, you might need to eat something whilst you're on the move; however, in Japan its widely unaccepted to do so! You're more likely to see people standing at the side of the road or next to the place they bought their food to eat it. Just wait until you get back to where your staying first eh, it's not too hard!

Learn How To Use Chopsticks

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Okay, so this isn't a legal law, but you might want to brush up on your skills with chopsticks before you head off to Japan. Just as you would with your knife and fork here in the US, you should place them in a specific way to show you're done! The respectful way to do this in Japan is to either lay them across the top of the bowl OR on a chopstick rest.

Eat All Your Food

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No chef likes to see any of the food they prepare left on the plate, I'm sure that's probably quite a sad thing to have to witness. In Japan its seen as disrespectful to be picky with your food, most food establishments and the workers within them would expect you to have tried pretty much everything in your bowl. Just order something you know you'll like if you're worried!

Tips In Envelopes

Image Source: KCP International
Tips here in the US are obviously very important to restaurant workers, they all need them to ensure they make enough money to get by. However, in Japan tips aren't a common thing as an additional fee is usually added to the bill already. If you then still feel as though someone deserves a tip however, place all of the cash in to an envelope first.

The Shoes Come Off

Image Source: Just Japan Stuff
You will always be required to take your shoes off in Japan if you're entering someone else's home, its common tradition within Japan. In some situations however you might even be requested to take them off before you enter certain restaurants or temples too! Don't worry though, they'll usually offer you some slippers to keep your feet safe or dry.

Blow Your Nose In Private

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You're not going to be charged with anything if you let out a big nose blow in public, but you might end up getting a couple of odd stares from the locals if you do. People in Japan actually tend to go to the bathrooms, their own or public restrooms, in order to do so. And if you have a cold you might want to wear a face mask instead. Don't want to remind yourself of the covid days though, right?

Cover Your Tattoos

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This is more in order to protect yourself and the people around you instead of actually being a law that someone has to follow. Tattoos in Japan are actually quite uncommon and most nationals tend to associate that tattoos with members of the Yakuza (a crime group). Maybe consider wearing a slightly longer sleeved top if you're out and about on the streets of Japan!

Don't Litter

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Littering has become something that people are being stopped from doing more and more in recent years, but you might be amazed to hear that there are next to no public trash cans on the street. Instead, people are expected to carry any trash they might have accumulated with them until they managed to get to their homes or hotels. Don't be a litterbug guys and gals.

Other People Fill Drinks

Image Source: Reddit
One traditional rule that citizens of Japan follow is that you don't pour your own drinks. It might seem a little odd to us Americans, but it's actually deemed to be rude for people to pour their own drinks. Instead, you should fill other people's drinks whilst they'll also fill yours. Don't question it, just accept this is the right way to go about things, its somewhat pleasing too!

Don't Walk And Smoke

Image Source: Reddit
As Americans you're probably all accustomed to seeing people walking around and smoking at all hours of each and every day of the week. In Japan however, it's actually frowned upon for people to do so and instead they will either stand in one spot or use one of the many spots solely designated for people to smoke in! You might even have to queue if you're that desperate on a busy day!

Don't Touch The Bamboo

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Many tourists have taken it among themselves to mess around with and ultimately damage some of the bamboo within the forests. In fact, some people have even chose to etch their names in to the shoots (they must think they're really cool). The problem is that this can cause not just the shoot they've etched to die but also hundreds around it. Don't be that person!

Bow To The Locals

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Its extremely important when visiting other countries to embrace their culture and traditions and this is even more important in Japan. One thing that they will probably expect you to do is bowing to them during certain situations like a greeting or a thank you. Don't worry too much about your form, it's the thought that counts more than anything. and they'll definitely appreciate it.

Stay Quiet On The Train

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I'm sure we've probably all found ourselves getting annoyed by people who are making too much noise on the train whilst we're trying to chill out, well in Japan they actually enforce the idea of people remaining quiet. You'll be expected to remain quiet and avoid answering any phone calls or playing any videos out loud at any times. Again, just don't be that one annoying person!

Business Card Etiquette

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This might seem like quite a weird thing for people to follow but over in Japan there is a correct and incorrect way to handle your business cards. It's something that they take very seriously over there and they'll expect you to accept and give business cards using both hands. And don't stuff it in your pocket either, give it a good once over first and wait til you've left to put it away.

Everything On The Left

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In most countries you can walk on either side of the pavement and not come across any issues; however, In Japan, every mode of transport you can take along the road happens on the left. This probably makes everyone's lives easier so don't cause a hassle and get in everyone else's way, you don't want a load of people giving you the eyes or maybe getting too annoyed at you!

No Jaywalking

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Rules regarding the road and the people around it should always be followed strictly and the Japanese are extremely strict when it comes to jaywalking. You're obviously advised not to do this here in the US but in busy cities in Japan you'll be extremely lucky if you see even one person step out of line when it comes to having to cross the road. On a busy day you might be fine though!

No Cleavage Allowed

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Its widely known that people in Japan aren't extremely happy when females in the country walk around with their cleavage out, pretty much everyone that you see will be covered up on the top half. You don't want to antagonize the locals and although this might seem like quite an old fashioned tradition to have to follow it might be for the best. It is their country after all!

Phones Off Near Temples

Image Source: Reddit
This one seems like quite an obvious one but if you're entering areas like temples or shrines then you'll be expected to turn your phone on silent. It would be deemed extremely rude if you were to open your phone and answer a call or watch some TikTok's. The people around you might be trying to worship whomever it is they believe in and who are you to interrupt them!

How To Use The Onsen

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If you're spending time in Japan you'll probably want to try out the hot springs they have to offer (also known as Onsen's). It isn't too difficult to work out but they are very important. First of all you have to be fully washed in the available showers first and the other rule is that you have to be fully naked. Not too hard to do then right, if you feel uncomfortable then don't do it!

Be On Time

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I'm sure I'm not the only person who's said they'll be somewhere at a specific time only to then turn up later (sometimes MUCH later) than planned. In Japan you'll deeply offend someone if you turn up later than you said and that offense will be emphasised much more if you're late for food. Its not too hard is it, just leave a little earlier next time or set the time you want to get there earlier instead.

Say Hello!

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Japanese citizens won't expect you, as a tourist, to be completely versed in the Japanese language, its quite a difficult one to get the hang of after all. However, they will definitely appreciate it if you can manage to nail down a few phrases or at least your hellos and goodbyes. You are in their country after all, why should they speak English to you? Konichiwa!

Don't Make Your Own Beer

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Over here in the US, if you have the means, you might enjoy creating your own alcoholic beverage like a wine or a beer; in Japan however, you could be fined or even sentenced to jail for doing so. If that you're found to have made your own alcoholic beverage with more than 1% of alcohol then you might find yourself in a lot of trouble. Just stick to the many great options on the shelves!

You Can't Take Your Inhaler

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This one seems a little stupid, but if you're an asthma sufferer here in the US then you won't be allowed to take your inhaler to Japan with you! This is because they contain something known as pseudoephedrine which is illegal in the country. It might be a life-saver for you, but you'll need to find yourself an alternative (there are plenty) if you're travelling.

Don't Jump The Queue

Image Source: The Japan Times
No one likes it when someone jumps in front of them in the queue and it turns out that the Japanese hate it even more than most. No one will be happy if someone forces their way through a queue but in some situations like pushing through a queue some Japanese citizens have even been prosecuted for violence. Just be patient for a little while and stick with it.

Follow Religious Rituals

Image Source: Japan Rail Pass
Like I said before, if you're spending time in Japan then you'd be wrong to not follow all of the traditions that the native citizens do themselves. If you're going to visit some temples then you'll probably have go through some ceremonial washing. You'll wash your hands as well as washing out your mouth and then spitting out to the floor, NEVER BACK IN TO THE FOUNTAIN!

Use The Cashier Tray

Image Source: The Japan Times
If you're still paying with cash in 2023 and not your card you might be used to handling the cash from hand to hand. In Japan though, you should actually place any change or cash your paying with in to the little trays by the till. They will then return any change you might have in to the exact same tray. Most shops try to avoid card payments still over there!

Bring A Gift

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If you're planning on visiting a person's house whilst spending time in Japan then its expected that you'll bring them a small gift in return for them allowing you in to their home. It doesn't have to be anything that pushes the boat out too much, just something for them to eat or drink maybe. Put a little bit of thought in to the gift before you do so though!

Always Carry Your Passport

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Police in Japan will often pull tourists, as well as some locals, to ask for some identification. Unless you're hiding something you shouldn't worry and you'll be able to get away quickly. If you don't have your passport on you though you might be subjected to a little trip down to the police station for questioning. Just in your bag or pocket at all times would be fine.