Life in Japan

Guide to Japan, manners, customs & etiquette

About Daily Life

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In Japan, the reason for taking off your shoes at the front door is because of the unique climate conditions in Japan. Japan has a lot of rain and high humidity, so if you enter the house with your feet, the house will be dirty. Cleaning is tough and hygiene issues will arise. This is even more so if the floor is tatami. It is said that the habit of taking off shoes has been established in the house. You don't often need to take off your shoes at hotels and restaurants, but you will need to take off your shoes at ryokans, classic Japanese restaurants and izakayas.

Japanese people have cultivated the greeting "bowing" over 1600 years of history. It is common for Japanese people to say "greeting is a bow". In today's Japan, bowing is a greeting that is not hostile, and handshaking has become a tool for expressing intimacy. Bowing is also used when seeing off superiors and customers.

Punctuality is incredibly important in Japan. Trains and buses come almost on time, with little delay. The habit of not being late has become commonplace for most Japanese. Same thing in job hunting. It is indispensable to keep time, and being late for an interview is an NG out of NGs.

In particular, countries such as Germany, France, Switzerland and Sweden have less earthquakes. In Japan, if it is a little shaking, "Oh, shaking. Is it about seismic intensity 2?", But it seems to be an unusual experience for those European countries.

Tissue pack marketing, when part-time workers on the sidewalk hand out packets of pocket tissues with a small advertisement on the bottom of the plastic wrapping, is a type of guerrilla marketing popular in Japan. No worries, just receive it.

Conveni (convenience stores), McDo (McDonald's), Starbu (Starbucks), etc. According to one theory, it is a style of Japanese people who devise ways to easily put on Haiku and Tanka with a limited number of characters. It is not abbreviated because long English words are hard to say.

When it comes to English education, Japanese schools mostly focus on reading and writing. These skills are honed mainly with the purpose of passing exams, and very little time is spent on drilling practical skills like speaking and listening.

Many people who go to Japan are very surprised by what they see. Kids have much more authority that in other countries, but why? Many kids are allowed to take the train, bus, and even walk to school all because of how low the crime rates are in Japan.

Regardless of the store you visit, once they are about to hand you a bag, or pack your purchase you can say "Iranai desu (I don't need it)," referring to both bagging and wrapping (or either one of them).

Peace-sign, or the V-for-Victory sign has the meaning of victory, anti-war and peace, mainly in European and American countries, but in Japan it is a sign that expresses the joy and happiness often seen in photography. No malice.

It is because in the old days people's teeth were not very good, so they hid their teeth with their hand. Now the custom continues even though people's teeth are good because it seems like a sign of modesty. They have no intention to hide anything.

Even though there's only a few Christians, people celebrate Christmas. However, it's thought of as a holiday for lovers, rather than a time to gather with family. On ther other hand, the New Year’s holiday is the time families traditionally gather.

About Food

Slurping noodles is a custom extending back to the Edo period and an integral part of Japan’s food culture. Please try noodle slurping, by all means.

Otoshi is a small dish you’ll get served right after you’ve ordered your food or drinks. The cost is usually $2 to $6 per person, and they give you this compulsory appetizer – which is really a table charge.

Basic Japanese dining etiquette states that a dish should be held in the hand. In principle, small bowls and plates should be held in the hand while eating. The exception is while eating from larger plates, with items such as sashimi, grilled fish, or tempura, these dishes should be kept on the table.

Morijio is a triangle pile of salt which often seen at entrances of Japanese restaurants. It's believed the origin is to bring more customers to their businesses. At that time, our transportation was animals. Therefore attracting those animals like horses and sheep by piles of salt led their owners to end up eating at those restaurants.

About Public Places

About 70% of the countries in the world are on the right, but those affected by the United Kingdom, such as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, India and Hong Kong, are on the left.

Japan has no laws forbidding public drinking, which is a common custom in cities and parks, particularly during local festivals (matsuri) and cherry blossom viewing (hanami) in spring.

The Tokyo subway sarin attack in 1995 and the September 11 attacks in the U.S. raised the perception that there was a "risk of being used for terrorist activities", and reduced the number of trash bins in public places. As inconvenient as this may seem to many Westerners, the Japanese relationship to trash actually helps the country stay one of the cleanest in the world.

Japan is relatively safe. People are not worried about getting robbed or attacked while sleeping in public spaces. Or they don’t sleep enough in their own beds.

Use of mobile phones near priority seats is a violation of manners, but is common in other places. However, there is a tendency that talking on the phone on the train is rude. I can't give you a logical explanation, but on trains you are not supposed to talk on mobile phones even though passengers speaking loudly or being generally noisy.