So as you may know, I have been traveling within Asia. I am currently headed to Thailand and Singapore (I know! Is this real life?!), however the majority of my time will have been spent in Tokyo, Japan.
Being a newcomer was a bit daunting as I was aware of Japans strict set of standards and “rules” when it comes to etiquette. The girls I am traveling with had all been to Asia before, are all part Asian, and were more accustomed to these standards of behavior. Since I didn’t want to stick out like a sore thumb or be in any way offensive (I def don’t want to be that obnoxious tourist), I did some research and spoke to my friends beforehand. Doing this definitely helped! While I’m sure I didn’t get everything down perfectly, I did my best and that seemed to be appreciated overall.
Here are some helpful things to know before going to Japan…
Use chopsticks correctly
If chopsticks are all thats provided, you’re using chopsticks. Not only should you know how to use them, but also get familiar with the protocol. Don’t leave your chopsticks sticking out of your bowl. Place chopsticks leaning on the chopstick rest. For shared dishes, use the other end of your chopsticks to transfer food. Also, try not to cross your chopsticks, its considered a sign of bad luck.
Don’t walk and eat
Doing so is frowned upon. It is generally impolite to eat on the street.
This one came as a surprise to me but tipping is not common practice in Japan. It can even be seen as an insult and will likely result in you being chased down to return the money left behind.
Take off your shoes
It is customary to take off your shoes when entering someones home. The host may provide slippers for you to wear.
Don’t waste food
You are expected to finish what is on your plate. This had me a bit worried since I try to practice mindfulness when eating and try to eat until I am satiated rather than until I am done. This wasn’t a problem most of the time though, because the portions were a lot smaller.
Know when/how to use soy sauce
Do not put soy sauce on your rice, you will get looks of disapproval. When eating nigiri, dip the fish, not the rice in the soy sauce. If soy sauce isn’t provided, I’d suggest not asking for it.
Get used to bowing and nodding
It is not customary in Japanese culture to shake hands. Instead bow or nod to show respect and gratitutde or to greet others. I surprisingly caught onto this easily.
Bring a shawl or cover up of some sort if you plan to visit temples on your trip. Showing too much skin is a sign of disrespect. Not all temples are super strict. I found that Japan is actually much more lenient than places like Thailand, where you must cover your knees and shoulders to enter these sacred spaces.
Do your research
This one is more so referring to Asia in general, but something to note is that CBD isn’t welcomed in Asia the way it is in the US. I probably should have thought of this but it totally slipped my mind since it is just so common in LA. Though its much more lenient in Japan, apparently possession of CBD in Singapore may warrant jail time or even the death penalty. The legality is a little unclear since CBD derived from hemp does not contain THC, however its better to be safe than sorry. Basically do your research on the laws of your destination beforehand so you don’t have to get rid of your beloved Lab to Beauty and Bogavia CBD products!
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Know how to speak Japanese
Just kidding! I mean, knowing the language will be very helpful but you can get by knowing just a few simple words and phrases.
Helpful words and phrases to know…
- Hello: Konichiwa
- Goodbye: Sayonara
- Thank you: Arigato gozaimasu
- Excuse me/sorry: Sumimasen
- Yes: Hai
- No: Īe (pronounced eeeee-ehh)
The Japanese locals expect you to mess up so don’t worry or be too hard on yourself. I just think it is a good idea and courteous to make an effort or at the very least be aware of the cultural differences and do what you can to respect them. It is very much appreciated.
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