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Japanese Culture

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.