How To Avoid Breaking Taboo In Japan

Japan is one of my favourite countries that I intend to return to many times. Not only that, it holds significant importance to me as it was my first destination I travelled solo and the first Asian country I visited.

Now, to us, westerners exploring Asia for the first time is something incredibly different from what we’re used to. So often it’s easy to get a little overwhelmed. Because I certainly did when I arrived in Tokyo. In Tokyo, there are English signs but not enough English speakers in comparison to other Asian countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Nepal and India. Therefore, unless you research prior it’s hard to find out about common Japanese etiquette. Here are a few basics to avoid: 

Tipping

At the end of your meal, in Japan tipping is considered extremely rude and weird as it’s just not ingrained into the Japanese culture. Likewise, this goes for tipping taxi drivers and whoever you feel normally deserves a tip. This is often due to the fact that the Japanese feel that you’re pitying them either feeling the worker does not earn a sufficient wage or business. 

Eating and walking in public places

Japanese don’t like to eat and walk as they like to concentrate on one thing at a time. Similarly, eating in public places like temples or parks is seen as incredibly rude. They consider those who do lack manners. 

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Leaving your shoes on in someones home 

To be honest, this is one that applies to a lot of countries. However, in homes, restaurants and guesthouse, you must take your shoes off when entering. Often there are slippers to wear inside and most of t he time there’s a platform to leave your shoes on known as a “Genkan” which prevents mud and dirt entering. Similarly, when using the bathroom you leave your house slippers outside and put the bathroom ones on (only for the bathroom purpose).

Speaking on your phone on the train 

If you speak loudly on your mobile or in fact at all on a train in Japan it’s seen as highly disrespectful due to the noise. In fact, there are often many announcements telling those using transport services to not make calls, text or be on their phone. It’s also perceived that you have a lack of manners.

Blowing your nose in public

Japanese take pride in personal hygiene and don’t like to contaminate others or in that matter be contaminated from someone else. Hence, why you’ll notice a lot of face masks being worn. 

Smoking anywhere

In Japan, it’s deemed taboo just to casually light up a cigarette. If you’re outside you’ll find designated smoking spots to have a cigarette. Whilst most restaurants, pubs and clubs you can smoke in. Outdoors you have to go to allocated areas. 

There you have it, a few tips on how to avoid taboo in Japan. There are many resources out there alongside this post which will have you covered. Just remember to read up prior to your visit. 

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