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7 Things You Should Avoid When Traveling to Japan

(Image by ALESSA ABRAMOFF from Pixabay)

1. Being inconsiderate

One thing Japanese hate the most is seeing rude people in public.

Japanese are educated to be respectful to others by putting themselves into other people's shoes.

Seeing a person who is inconsiderate to them, regardless of where he/she is from, would touch their nerves.

Because Japan is a society where over 90% of the people are the same race, everyone is expected to know the standard customs and behave in the same manner.

In other words, the majority of Japanese, "unconsciously" expect non-Japanese, - both living and traveling - to know their customs and behave as much as possible.

That being said, knowing all their customs is challenging (even I don't know all of them).

What I suggest for you as a traveler is this: if and when you encounter a situation where you feel is awkward - judging by the face of the Japanese person in front of you or the atmosphere - then, simply say "Sui ma sen" or "Gomen nasai" (I'm sorry). (tip: the more you say it, the faster the issue will resolve.)

In western culture, especially in the US, apologizing can be seen as a sign of weakness, but in Japan, it's treated as politeness.

2. Engage in loud conversation when riding a public transportation

There is one exception to this - while in Osaka, people are more acceptable in talking loud on trains and buses.

3. Enter someone's home without taking shoes off

Japanese culture separates the home from the "outer world." As such, taking the shoes off when entering someone's home signifies this notion. While most Japanese understand that many westerners have no such custom, everyone is expected to take their shoes off when entering a home. Also, there are some public places such as temples, shrines, and restaurants where one must take the shoes off and some of those places have no signs to tell people to take their shoes off, so non-Japanese visitors need to pay careful attention.

4. Engage and show deep affectionate behavior in public places

Traditionally, kissing in public has been taboo in Japanese society.

In recent years, however, especially among younger generations, this tradition is changing.

If a Japanese sees a non-Japanese couple engaging in kissing and hugging in public places, they understand and accept that the couple may come from a different culture.

The problem may arise if and when the couple continues kissing and hugging for say, five minutes in the public eyes. There is a level of tolerance, and when a non-Japanese person crosses the line, some Japanese may get uncomfortable, or even get offended by such behavior, though in reality, no one would say or tell you to stop.

In case you decide to go to Mixed Sex/Coed Onsen as a couple, while you're bathing, it's best to avoid kissing and hugging at all, simply because, well, let's just say Onsen is different from Jacuzzi.

5. Show anger, engage in an argument in public places

They are something most Japanese would not do in public places. The main reason is that Japan's culture is shame-based. Japanese despise being embarrassed and publicly humiliated and avoid both at all costs. As such, showing one's anger can be considered as a sign of low intelligence as an embarrassment.

6. Ask for substitutions on a menu at a restaurant

While this custom is pretty common in the US and some other countries, to do so in Japan can cause a commotion and many Japanese would consider it as quite "inconsiderate" or even "offensive."

Everyone is expected to follow the rules in Japan. They are educated in that way. Even if the rule may be against their beliefs, the first reaction for them is to follow.

Making something that is not on the menu goes against what they were taught. It is a violation of the Japanese social norm.

7. Making a mess or not cleaning up your mess

Though there are some exceptions - summer beaches, concert event venues, and sports arenas - you will find out that Japan is an exceptionally clean country.

Any public buildings, train and bus stations, city streets, restaurants and public bathrooms are kept clean like Disneyland. Everyone is expected to keep public places clean and most Japanese follow this rule.

Littering trash in public places is almost a crime and you as a traveler, should never do in Japan.

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