Japan is increasingly becoming a must-see destination due to its natural beauty, technological advances and its wonderful cuisine. Japanese customs and traditions reveal an abundance of vibrant culture and tradition, and being aware of said cultures is an important part of preparation when visiting the Land of the Rising Sun. In this post, we will cover some of the fascinating customs that persist in Japan, despite the rise of globalization.
Japan is a special country. This is a fact. It is a country that has managed to make itself and resurface after major catastrophes in the middle of the last century. Today, in the first decades of the 21st century, the whole world looks at Japan with eyes of astonishment. It possesses thousand-year-old culture, a working society and it is a country that advances by leaps and bounds every year. All of this, without denouncing the most ingrained and charming Japanese customs.
When the external visitor arrives in Japan, several aspects usually strike him. In the first instance, the architecture of the city is “packed together” and skyscrapers make use of the elevated space to maximum effect. On the other hand, Japanese customs also surprise the intrepid traveller. Japan is a country built on the basis of hard work, which is developed by its citizens with pinpoint precision, unpaid overtime and overproduction.
In Japan there is a large working class and worker culture: the “office-man” invade the streets in hordes during rush hour. The rest of the time, life takes place in a culture of harmony, Feng sui and the Japanese customs that every visitor should keep in mind when visiting the country of the rising sun.
Japanes traditions: the Culture of Respect
In Japan, unlike some other western cultures, showing the utmost respect upon meeting someone is a serious requirement. Showing respect is nothing less than an art form in Japan. Respect is something that is instilled in children’s heads from the moment they enter school. For tourists, a simple bowing of the head or an attempt to arch at the waist is usually enough.
A curious detail is that the duration and inclination of the bow is proportional to the elevation of the person you are greeting. For example, a friend might receive a quick bow of 30 degrees; an office superior could receive a slow, prolonged bow of 70 degrees. It is about the position and circumstances of each moment, but it is good to know this detail and act accordingly, should you meet a Japanese person of high-ranking.
Curious Japanese customs at the table
You will receive a small wet cloth in most Japanese restaurants. Use it to wash your hands before eating, then fold it carefully and set it aside on the table. It is not usually used as a napkin, or to touch any part of the face.
It is striking that slurping noodles or making loud noises while eating is something socially accepted, contrary to what happens in Europe. In fact, slurping hot food like ramen is a symbol of satisfaction, to show that you’re enjoying the dish. It is allowed to bring the bowls to the mouth to make it easier to eat with chopsticks, especially in the case of rice bowls.
No tip, please
In Japan, you should not tip service workers. In fact, it is considered a lack of respect because it is considered that the service should be good, regardless, and this is already reflected in the price of food in restaurants.
You should remove your shoes at the entrance of all houses and most businesses and hotels. Usually, all places have a shelf specially provided to store shoes, as well as a pair of comfortable indoor shoes, such as slippers for guest to wear.
Don’t stand out from the crowd
In Japan it is generally frowned upon to stand out from the crowd. This is due to the strong group culture existing in the country. On the contrary, in the West, individualism is rewarded and more widely accepted. The result is usually that tourists stand out almost everywhere in Japan. A tip to avoid unwanted stares is to not talk loudly on the phone on the metro and to avoid eating on the street, which is something the Japanese do not appreciate.
A very safe country
The fear of crime in Japan is high, especially among Japanese citizens, despite such low crime rates. Japan’s low crime rate is evident when you see businessmen who have missed the last train home bedding down outside on a park bench or a group of 5-year-old children walking to school alone.
Now you know some of the main Japanese customs and traditions to consider when visiting the fascinating Land of the Rising Sun. Follow these tips and you will no doubt enjoy a wonderful experience and show yourself to be a thoughtful and intrepid traveller.
Planning to enjoy these amazing customs? Here you have 3 tips for travelling to Japan.