10 Things You Didn't Know about Japan by SurfTrip.com
1) Shoes: You are expected to remove your shoes before stepping up from the entry area into a Japanese home. This custom is also observed in many traditional Japanese restaurants, all store dressing rooms and some other businesses. No footwear, not even slippers, should be worn on tatami (rice mat) floors.
2) Smoking: While many Japanese smoke, smoking is not permitted on local trains. Long distance trains have designated smoking cars available.
3) Bathing: When using a Japanese bath, you do not soap your body in the tub, or enter the tub with any soap on your body. You should wash and rinse your body outside of the tub and then submerge your entire body, up to your neck, in the hot water to soak and relax.
4) Public Courtesy: While American's are said to have a "bubble" of space around us, which we consider to be our personal space, the crowded conditions in Japan do not allow the Japanese this luxury. Japanese have an internal "bubble" into which they escape when commuting or in other crowded situation. For this reason, when in public, they refrain from raucous conversation, use earphones to listen to personal sound systems and otherwise are very conscious and courteous of others, to keep from bursting their internal privacy bubbles.
5) Currency: Japan is a highly developed country where only Japanese currency, the yen, is used for commercial transactions. There are few places that accept credit cards. Dollars must be exchanged, with yen exchange rates fluctuating daily, prior to making any purchases.
6) Shopping: Japan is not a bargaining economy, as are many nations of the world. Prices shown in stores are the prices you are expected to pay. There is a 5% national sales tax added to most items.
7) Tipping: For the most part tipping is not expected in Japan. Service received from taxies, restaurants and traditional Japanese inns and hotels do not require a tip. However, tipping is still a fact of life at some westernized Japanese hotels you may visit.
8) Getting Assistance: While Japanese High School graduates have studied English for six years, with College graduates having studied English for an additional four years, it is still not spoken by a vast majority of the population. When you are lost or need assistance, approach the Japanese, speak distinctly, and request assistance. If the person you have approached is unable to understand or help you they will most often attempt to find someone else who can help. If they cross their arms it is a symbol for no. Most likely they are telling you they don’t understand not cursing you like you’re a demon.
9) Language: Japanese honestly appreciate any attempts foreigners make in speaking in Japanese. They fully recognize how difficult it is and respect any effort in trying to communicate better.
10) Foods: There are a wide variety of internationally inspired food and restaurants available in Japan, from American fast food to eery form of international cuisine. Traditional Japanese dishes are not all rice and raw fish, and are really quite delicious. Their food is not at all spicy but is often flavored with various soy based sauces. They use a lot of vegetables, beef, pork, chicken and seafood.
Bonus) Driving: While the Japanese drive on the left hand side of the road, with their car's steering wheels on the right side of the vehicle, this is a difference much more easily overcome than most of us expect. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have quickly adapted.