Japan is becoming an increasingly popular location with tourists. It’s easy to see why – with such a rich and diverse culture as well as some of the most desirable destinations in the world, it’s no wonder people are flocking to visit. Here are six things to bear in mind when on your Japanese adventure.
Know how to greet people traditionally
In Japan, you’ll see people commonly greeting others with a bow. This is a traditional practice born out of the Asuka and Nara periods with the introduction of Chinese Buddhism. Usually done as a reflection of status, those with a lower status will effectively bow lower. With Tofugu’s advice, you can find out everything you’ve ever wanted about how to bow, and how not to bow, in Japan.
Although it isn’t usually expected that tourists should follow this ancient practice, it’s always helpful in interactions – especially if you’re greeting someone who is of authority. It will make people a lot more friendly and happy to talk.
Don’t leave tips
It’s absolutely reasonable to think leaving tips is the right thing to do wherever you are in the world – after all, it’s a way of saying thank you to your server, right? Wrong. In Japan, leaving tips in bars and restaurants is actually considered to be rude.
It’s a rule of thumb throughout Japan – your tip will likely be refused as you’ve already paid for good service. It doesn’t make sense for many locals if you’re paying extra, so it’s absolutely fine to not leave a tip when you’re done. If you insist, check first if it’ll be accepted or refused.
Make sure you have cash
Wherever you go, you’re going to want to carry about 10,000-20,000 yen with you. It may sound like a lot of money upon first glance, but this only equates to around £100 – and many ATMs in Japan do not accept foreign cards.
Before you head out to the country make sure to have a look at exchange rates, more specifically who is offering the best. Change up some money into yen so you’re never left stuck and out of pocket once you’re out there, as it’s a gamble knowing which ATMs will take your card and which ones won’t.
Learn some typical Japanese phrases
You’ll be fine with communicating in English when in Japan’s bigger cities, such as Tokyo and Kyoto – being so tourist-heavy means many of the locals are able to speak English, even if it’s just a limited amount. Step out into the smaller towns, though, and you may be left struggling to communicate.
English isn’t commonly used in Japan, so it’ll be helpful to learn some common phrases in Japanese that you can employ whenever they’re needed. “Konichiwa” is the typical way of saying hello, with “kudasai” and “arigatou gozaimasu” being “please” and “thank you” respectively.
One thing you’ll quickly realise about Japan is just how delectable the majority of the food is. Whether you’re dining in a fancy restaurant or grabbing a quick snack from a street stall, dishes are usually rich, fresh and fragrant. Sushi may be the one you default to, but don’t be scared to step out of your comfort zone.
Yakitori is a popular dish with both locals and tourists – the chicken skewers are popular with commuters, sitting down in a bar with a beer and yakitori after a long work day. And consider trying some of the stranger dishes, too. Natto, for example, is the Marmite of Japan – the fermented soya beans will either leave you absolutely disgusted or begging for more.
Don’t limit yourself to one location
It’s expected that you’ll fall in love with wherever you go in Japan. Whether it be the bustle and bright lights of Tokyo or the old-world, spiritual calm of Kyoto, make sure you’re not limiting yourself to one single location. Japan has a wealth of beautiful places in between its bigger cities that you need to see.
Consider visiting Mount Fuji, the infamous peak that lies 100 kilometres west of Tokyo – Audley states how the mountain has now gained an almost mythical status. Hiroshima is a worthy excursion, if not emotionally heavy, to understand how previous events shaped the way the country is today. But rest assured that wherever you go, Japan will floor you with its sheer magnificence.