Japan is a country deeply embedded in its rich culture. Here are some tips on the dos and don’ts of Japan, especially if you are a first time traveller.
Japanese is Japan’s national language. However, in cities such as Tokyo, it will be easier to find someone who communicates in English. Do check with the person if she/he understands English before continuing the conversation.
Bowing is an extremely polite way of greeting someone, or simply to thank the person. Sometimes, it’s done when you are saying goodbye. A return of head nod is expected if someone bows to you.
Remember that when entering buildings, if there are rows of footwear placed near the door, it simply means that you’ll have to remove your footwear. This is especially common when entering places such as homes, temples, restaurants, hostels. Remember, never ever wear slippers or shoes on a tatami floor. This is considered to be extremely rude. Also, do not wear socks with holes in them, this is also considered to be rude.
Orderly queues can be seen throughout Japan, even at train station platforms. Do remain quiet when taking the public transport such as trains and buses. People tend not to speak on their mobile phones when on public transportation, unlike in Singapore.
When it comes to food, remember not to stick chopsticks in your bowl of rice. This usually signifies rituals associated with funerals. Do not hit the table, or play with dining utensils when at the dinner table. Making a ‘slurp’ sound when eating noodles means that the noodles are delicious. Do not feel alarmed if you hear it. When it comes to drinking, especially Japanese rice wine, do not start drinking until everyone at the table is served.
There is no need for tipping in Japan. They are not accustomed to tips.
Things to note when visiting Temples and Shrines in Japan – do not speak loudly in these sacred places. Also, avoid wearing flamboyant or show too much flesh when visiting. There are water sources near the shrines. Before entering, one must use the ladles to pour water over your hands and rinse your mouth. Instructions are usually found near the area.
In Japan, the voltage is 100V. Japanese electrical plugs have two non-polarized pins (Type A/B) as compared to the ones used in Singapore, which are Type G 3-pins. In Singapore, the voltage is 230V.
As you will not be able to use your electrical appliances using a simple plug adapter, it is recommended to get a universal transformer (to reduce voltage). Remember to check its labels before plugging. Generally, it is not recommended for a 200-240V equipment to be plugged into a 100V outlet.
With the ever evolving technology driven planet, WiFi comes across more important than ever. In Japan, WiFi is easily available to everyone. Here are some of the places in which you can get WiFi.
WiFi Hotspots are available in both paid and free formats in places such as airports, train stations, cafes hostels, restaurants and bars. They are also available in most hotels. Alternatively in hotels, internet may come in the form of the Ethernet. In Ryokans however, it may only be available in their public lobby. National parks and resorts also tend not to have WiFi.
There are three types of free WiFi products available in Japan. Japan Connected-free WiFi, Free WiFi Passport as well as Travel Japan WiFi. Not all areas have access to such services though.
There are more Paid WiFi Hotspots than free. A one day registration to such services usually costs around 500-800 yen for 24 hours. Registration however, takes some effort as most services are in Japanese. You may request the service provider to activate the WiFi access for you.
You may also rent mobile SIM cards for unlimited internet access at public areas such as the airports, retailers as well as delivery to your hotel. Some of these service providers are Softbank, docomo and Au.
For a country full of culture, you may also get to shop for a variety of items ranging from fashion and branded products, to homemade electronics, anime toys and video games, as well as handcrafted accessories.
Tokyo is the perfect destination for one’s shopping needs.
Shibuya – Besides the world famous Shibuya crossing, it is also home to many trend-setting clothing stores as well as smaller fashion retail outlets. It is also one of the larger shopping districts in Japan.
Head to Shibuya if:
Ginza – if upscale, high end shopping is for you, you may want to visit Ginza. Ginza houses many international designer brands as well as electronic brands Apple. The stretch is full of departmental stores and art galleries.
Head to Ginza if:
Harujuku – a haven for Japanese youth, Harujuku’s Takeshita Dori is the centre for all things youth fashion related, as well as cosplay (Costume Play) culture. There are also plenty of themed cafes for the younger generation.
Head to Harujuku if:
Akihabara – this is the place to visit for all the tech geeks as well as anime loving guys. Home to many major electronics retailers such Sofmap and Yodobashi Camera, it is also home to many devoted manga/toys/video game loving males and females alike.
Head to Akihabara if:
Shinjuku – Shinjuku is a major hub as well as one of the busiest train station in the world. There are plenty to do and shop here. Many of Japan’s largest electronic retailers have outlets here, and you may also find yourself shopping in one of the many boutiques.
Head to Shinjuku if:
Need more ideas? Here’s Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Places to shop in Tokyo