Japan is physically a group of islands, but culturally it’s beyond an island. It’s a country so true to itself, its culture, and its customs, that you’re not likely to have experienced anything like it before. You can travel to neighboring countries all you want, but nothing will quite prepare you for a trip to the busy streets of Tokyo or the quiet villages in the south.
Japan has its quirks. You’ll delight in the unusual daily oddities you find throughout your travels. Don’t be surprised to find yourself scribbling down all the quirks in your travel journal at the end of every day. If you don’t journal on your travels – be sure to start on this trip.
Here’s a look at 5 funny, but good to know tips for traveling to Japan. Remember: strange is good!
1. Slurps up!
You’ve never eaten ramen like this before. You’ll love everything about eating in Japan. The food is first class, and the ramen, in particular, is out of this world. That being said, there’s one thing you should know about eating ramen in Japan:
Slurping extra loud is the norm.
It’s a signal to the chef that you’re enjoying your delicious lunch. So don’t be surprised to hear some very loud SLURP noises when you sit down to eat.
2. Pay at the counter
If you’re waiting for your server to come back and pick up the check from you…you’re going to have a bad time. And it’s going to be a long time.
In Japan, it’s customary to pay your bill at the counter when your meal is over. No need to wait on anyone here. Use all the extra time you have to practice your slurping (see tip #1).
3. Get your elbows up
We’re talking about on trains here, specifically. Getting on or off a train in Tokyo is a stampede. The young, the old, everybody is going to be very aggressive – it’s the most shoving you’ll see in Japan bar none. Prepare yourself, and if you have luggage with you…well maybe just take a taxi.
4. You’ll get chased down for leaving a tip
Seriously. I left a coin at a restaurant in Tokyo and got chased down by the staff.
Tipping at restaurants here is not part of the culture – the staff are extremely grateful to serve you and they want to show their appreciation, not the other way around. Enjoy your meal and express gratitude with your words, not your wallet.
5. Slippers are key
Okay, not slippers, but shoes that are really easy to get on and off. We’d recommend a pair of TOMS or Vans. Why?
In Japan, it’s very disrespectful to wear your shoes inside at many places – so you’re going to be taking your shoes on and off multiple times a day at the least. Those hiking boots that take 10 minutes to lace up? Yeah, you’re going to want to leave those at home.