After you have gotten your visa and passport ready, this is where the fun begins. Planning for your trip. Many people overestimate their needs at times and pack unnecessarily. Japan isn’t a secluded jungle, I am sure they have toilet papers there. However, if you are visiting Japan during the cold seasons, it is wise to pack warm sweaters, scarves and gloves.
Before you go to Japan there are tips that you may find helpful especially when you’re from another culture, you may sometimes find certain things weird.
1. Learn a little bit about the culture in Japan
Bowing is the first thing you should know about Japan. It is a very important cultural practice. People bow at each other all the time. It’s a sign of respect. If you would like to show your respect to a Japanese, instead of shaking their hands or tap their back, just do a bow. There are many ways of bowing that shows different meanings. For example, if its someone who is older or have a higher status, you bow deeper than the usual. But for casual bow, just a nod-like (about 15 degrees) will do just fine. It may seem weird to bow all the time, but if you do it, you’ll just come across as a very polite person in Japan.
2. Staying at a traditional Japanese Inn
If you’re visiting Japan, it is highly recommended that you live in a traditional Japanese Inn to fully appreciate Japan’s culture. But a traditional Japanese Inn isn’t exactly the same as the westerner’s version. There are some guidelines to follow that is culture based and here’s a list of things that you should know so you know what to expect:-
- Take off your shoes at the entrance and change into the slippers provided. (I’ll explain later)
- After you check in, follow the hostess to your room.
- Take off your slippers before you step on the tatami (Japanese straw mat) floor in your room.
- A za-buton cushion will be on the tatami mat for you to sit on.
- Usually, the maid will bring tea right away, so enjoy the tea and relax.
- Before dinner, it’s a good time to take a bath in the inn’s large public bath. (You can use the bath in your room, too.)
- After the bath, change to yukata robe (summer kimono) provided by the inn if you want.
- The maid will serve your dinner in your room. (You eat in the dining room in some inns.)
- When you finish eating, the maid will come to clean up and prepare the futon bedding for you.
- You will sleep on the futon spread on the tatami mats.
- In the morning, your maid will come to pick up your futon and get the room ready for serving breakfast.
- After breakfast and rest, check out or go out sightseeing.
3. No shoes in any residence area
There is one thing you need to know. Japan is divided into two areas; areas where shoes are suppose to be taken off and areas where shoes are suppose stay on. It is considered rude to wear shoes inside a Japanese household so always remember to take off your shoes before you enter unless you want to have some real nasty stares from your host!
I suppose this man had some first hand experience with wearing shoes into someone’s house in Japan.
4. Never stick your chopsticks into a bowl of rice or into any food.
It’s bad luck and only the dead eat like that. I had a friend in school who is half Japanese and half Malaysian smack the arm of another friend because he stuck a pair of chopsticks into his bowl of rice thinking it’d hold for him while he went to get some water. Well… that taught him a lesson.
5. Living cost in Japan
Living cost in Japan is higher than other places. That is because most of their food are imported from overseas. But it does make a lot of sense to keep a budget and have other financial means in case you finish up your Yen faster than you’d like – a credit or a traveler’s cheque would do you a lot of good to have around. Do a little research on the cost of food, accommodation and transportation as these are the ones that will burn most of your budget if you’re on a holiday. This website by About.com provides a very good place to start your holiday budget so you know what to expect when you get there.
Related articles: Japan Guide: Types of Visas
Picture of little girl taken from here