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Japan is an active and important member country of the international community, but there is still a certain mystique attached to this Far East Asian island nation. For centuries very little was known about Japan as it chose to remain closed and isolated.
In the past few years Japan has been a trending travel destination. However even though tourism has been on the rise and the country is welcoming more and more foreign visitors each year, there is a lot we still do not know or understand about Japan’s deeply traditional society and unique customs.
Let us unravel some of the cultural mysteries of Japanese society so that you know exactly what to expect when you visit. If you are thinking of visiting Japan in the near future knowing these facts will help you to conduct yourself in a polite and socially acceptable manner when in Japan.
Before you enter the residence of your Japanese host or even an office or a commercial establishment such as a restaurant or hotel in Japan, look out for signs to leave your shoes outside or change your footwear at the entrance. If you see a mat and there are slippers provided, that is your cue to take off your outside shoes and slip into the ones provided before you step inside. This practice is followed quite strictly in many places across Japan and in particular before stepping on to a tatami mat or the traditional Japanese straw mat flooring.
Japan is a deeply respectful society and many food related customs have deep meaning. If you are eating with chopsticks make sure you do not stick them in an upright position in between mouthfuls. Standing chopsticks in a bowl is taboo because it is seen as a bad omen, signifying a ritual performed during funerals in Japan.
Also avoid playing with your chopsticks while eating. It is considered rude. Rest chopsticks by placing them straight down in front of when you have finished your meal.
Japan is famous for its natural hot springs called onsens and taking a relaxing dip in an onsen is a customary must-try activity if you are visiting Japan. But like with everything else in Japan, there is a proper way to go about it. One needs to change, scrub down and take a shower in the changing rooms and shower cubicles provided and only after you do so can you enter the onsen. And by the way, swimsuits are not allowed.
If you have a tattoo on you, be prepared that you may be denied entry. Many public hot spring bath houses are wary of people with tattoos as they fear a possible gang affiliation.
For a uniquely Japanese cultural experience, opt to stay at a ryokan which is a Japanese-style inn, usually found at hot spring resorts. Ryokans recreate an authentic Japanese way of living and serve authentic Japanese cuisine.
Being well informed about your destination is the most vital preparation that you should do as a traveller. Research and read up extensively on Japan and Japanese culture and customs before you travel there. Check out our Japan travel guide to find out more about the country, best season to visit, major festivals and more such travel tips so that you can plan your trip accordingly.
Japan is one of the safest countries that you will ever visit, which makes it a perfect destination choice for solo travellers, and in particular women. However one must always remain alert and aware of one’s surroundings and keep a watch on one’s belongings when travelling abroad. Enjoy your visit to this fascinating Oriental nation but before you embark on your travels, remember to get travel insurance for Japan. Your travel insurance policy will act as an important safeguard to cover you in case of a mishap or an unforeseen medical emergency. Buying travel insurance is absolutely essential to secure your international trip so make sure you don’t leave home without it.
While exploring Japan don’t forget to try some authentic Japanese cuisine. We recommend you make it a point to savour some of the delicious street food served at Japanese yatai stalls. Yatai stalls are where you can sample the best of traditional Japanese dishes at affordable prices.
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