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Cultural tipps and tricks when in Japan

Small Street in Japan

REMOVE YOUR SHOES

In Japanese culture, it is seen as good and essential manners to remove your shoes upon entering a home, as well as some restaurants, to ensure the floors and tatami mats stay as clean as possible. This kind of cleanliness is sought after as in many households and restaurants people eat on a tatami mat with the table close to the floor, and it is also normal to sleep on a tatami mat as opposed to a bed. In addition, it is customary to wear specific types of slippers in different rooms, instead of moving in all the rooms simply in socks or barefoot.

You obviously won’t need to take your shoes off everywhere, but if there’s a mat next to the front door with some shoes next to it, that’s your cue. Slippers are sometimes provided in restrooms, hotels and private homes. 
You may want to use them!

BOW WHEN GREETING

There are all kinds of customs around bowing, but you shouldn’t worry about knowing all the particulars—the Japanese generally don’t expect foreigners to get it completely right. But as a baseline, tradition is that you should bow when greeting someone out of respect. That can vary from a slight nod of the head to completely bending down at the waist.

The longer and deeper the bow, the more respectful—but don’t feel obligated to overdo it every time! And—pro tip—bowing with your hands together in front of your chest isn’t the custom in Japan.

Japan Temple Bell
Japanese Tea

NO TIPPING IS REQUIRED

Tipping is always something to adjust to when you’re in a new country, because it seems that every one is different with different customs. In the Japanese culture, it’s easy: you don’t have to do any quick math or remember specific percentages because tipping is not customary. Not in the traditional restaurants, hotels or for cabs. You can leave some leftover coins, but tips aren’t expected.

Note: Though tipping is not traditionally customary or expected, there may be exceptions to this rule, especially when staying at large hotel chains or more western attractions or restaurants.

OMIYAGE: BRING THE GIFT OF FOOD

The concept of ‘omiyage’ translates as a souvenir to bring back to your loved ones and work colleagues from any trips, long or short, international or domestic, that you go on. That’s why you’ll notice that at train stations and airports there are entire shops filled with a plethora of food products.

Though we’re all familiar with the idea of souvenirs, you must understand that in Japan it is seen more as an expected gift to give and get, rather than something you shop for if you happen to feel like it. In addition, another one of their particularities is that omiyage gift boxes contain edible souvenirs, though the type of snacks included of course depends on where you have visited; different regions in Japan sell different kinds of snacks, for example. Stay away from tchotchkes like magnets and shot glasses. Instead, food items like matcha flavored snacks or mochi are more the tradition.

Japanese Characters
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