Welcome back to another round of things you should know about Japan if you ever plan to pay it a visit. As promised in my last article, here are some 4 more things to be mindful of!
Don’t tread on the tatami
Westerners have a thing for wearing shoes inside their homes, for whatever reason. Being from Easter Europe, where we take our shoes off when entering one’s home, I can’t say I really understand why they do this to their poor floors, but I’ve just come to accept it as another fact of life.
The Japanese don’t really understand this peculiar habit either, but, unlike me, they are less forgiving. While not taking your shoes off here generally means a lack of courtesy, in Japan it’s downright disrespectful. It’s not just houses either, but also shrines, temples, ryokans, dressing rooms and some restaurants where taking your shoes off before entering is a must. Always check for a different floor height and a space to deposit your shoes when entering one of the places mentioned above.
Watch where you smoke
If you’re a smoker, then you may be used to having to go to a designated area each time you want to have a smoke. Things are pretty much the same in Japan, only… there’s far less designated areas there. Inside, there’s not much difference: you can smoke as much as you want in the comfort of your own home (or hotel room) or in select restaurants, cafes and bars. But outside? Smoking on the street, especially in busy areas where many people are bound to pass by, is absolutely prohibited. If you want to have a smoke outside, you’ll have to look for one of the designated spots, which are few and far between.
Eating while walking is a no-go
Another thing that is frowned upon in Japan is the mere act of eating while walking. Whether you’re just having a snack or sipping some coffee, it’s perceived as rude to do so while going from point A to point B. Were you in a hurry to get somewhere? Tough luck. You’ll have to consume your food right after buying it before you can move on with your day.
Remember the places I’ve mentioned to have trash cans and recycling bins nearby in the previous article? You might have noticed that all those have something in common: they’re all places where you can buy food or where you’d go to eat your food. It’s only logical, then, that you’d find those there, and not randomly on the streets.
Pray you don’t have any allergic reactions
The Japanese don’t take kindly to anyone being louder than necessary in public. That means you shouldn’t listen to loud music where someone can hear you, you shouldn’t talk on the phone while on the bus and… you shouldn’t blow your nose in public. Believe it or not, the Japanese believe that blowing your nose where other people can hear you is extremely impolite, and should be avoided. All you can do is wipe your nose until you get to some abandoned place where you can let loose.
There you have it, now you should be (kind of) ready for your hypothetical trip to the land of the cherry blossom tree. Obviously, there’s more to it than what I’ve said in the past two articles, so I encourage you to go out there, meet some Japanese people, and ask them about what life was like back home (or how it still is, if you’re talking through them on the net). You get to learn more about Japan and make new friends, way to kill two birds with one stone! And, while you’re at it, it won’t hurt to try and learn some basic Japanese words and phrases; they’ll be sure to come in handy at some point.