Culture

Here is a short list of points that you should note when visiting Japan.

Paying for goods

When shopping in Japan, you will notice a small tray beside the cashier’s till.  This is where you put your money when paying, instead of handing money directly to the cashier.  The cashier will check this amount and get your change before accepting your money and putting it in the till.  This is simply to make everything clear as to how much you have paid.

Tipping

It is not necessary to tip in Japan, as there is a service charge worked into your bill at the restaurant.

Table Manners

  • On the most part Japanese table manners are similar to British manners.  Some of the following may appear obvious but they are worth noting:
  • Before starting a meal, it is best to say “itadakimasu (いただきます)” which roughly means “I receive”.  Once you and everyone else has finished the meal, say “gochisou sama deshita (ごちそうさまでした)” which means “thank you for the great meal”
  • Do not stick your chopsticks vertically into your rice, as it is how rice is presented to the dead.  When you are not using your chopsticks put them on the rest provided
  • It is considered good manners to eat everything presented to you, down to the last grain of rice
  • Do not blow your nose or burp in public, it is considered bad manners
  • It is customary to pour drinks for other people rather than pour your own.  As you will be the guest in most situations the host will probably pour your drink first, after which you should try to reciprocate by pouring their drink for them.  If their cup is empty, take the initiative and pour them another drink, they will probably do the same for you
  • For more details on specific Japanese dishes, http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2005.html

Tatami Floors & Removing your shoes

If you visit someone’s home, or go to a place where there is tatami (たたみ・畳) flooring (woven bamboo mats), you must always remove your shoes at the entrance.  It is clear where to do this as there are always many shoes on the lower floor.  In some situations slippers will be provided for you, whereas in others it is okay to walk around in your socks (try to make sure you wear socks without holes).

Similarly when you use toilets in people’s homes, hotels or youth hostels there are slippers provided at the entrance to the toilet.  This is to stop any dirt from the toilet area being trodden into the house.

Note that if you are wearing slippers around the house, you should remove them when entering rooms with tatami flooring, so as not to damage the flooring.

Some of this may seem complicated, but just keep an eye out for collections of shoes and slippers, and do what other people are doing.

Bathing

Ether using a public bathhouse or a bath in a Japanese person’s home, similar manners will apply.

First rinse and clean yourself outside of the bathtub.  Sit on the little stool and use the shower to get yourself clean and then get rid of any soap left on yourself.

Once clean, get into the bath and relax for a while. Note that Japanese baths tend to be hotter than those in the UK so try not to move around too much, it’ll feel hotter if you do. Do not put your towel into the bath tab.

After using the bath, do not drain the water as the next person will use it after you.  If you are a guest at a family’s house then you will have the privilege of using the bath first.