When visiting a foreign country it is important that the individual to do their best to adhere to the country’s customs and etiquette. Visiting Japan is no exception for the traveler. Although you may not know all of the customs and etiquette one hundred percent, the Japanese will still appreciate your efforts for trying. In this article we will discuss ways to help you fit into Japanese culture and lifestyles.
Bowing is one of the most important aspects of Japanese culture. When the Japanese greet one another they bow. Regardless if they are meeting a family member, a friend or business colleague, you will see them bow to one another during their greetings. Bowing may feel weird or awkward at first; however, with a little practice you will soon feel comfortable doing it while greeting others. When you are first introduced to someone you should greet them by saying “Hajimemashite. Yoroshiku onegai shimasu” or “Korekara osewa ni narimasu”, meaning, pleased to meet you. When you are leaving them you should say, “Domo, osewa ni narimashita” and then bow.
Bowing is not only intended for greeting and leaving your companion, it is also used for expressing feelings. If you want to apologize or accept a compliment, you should bow. You should also bow when you want to say thank you or when you enter or exit a room.
Punctuality is a very important trait to the Japanese. It is important that whenever you have a scheduled appointment you make it there on time. Japan is a time-sensitive country and most of its inhabitants are very busy with the hustle and bustle of everyday life. That is why it is not “cool” to take on the lackadaisical American approach, meaning lazy way of the American. You want to impress them and let them know that you are trying to adhere to their customs, so showing up five or ten minutes early to your appointment is important. The transportation systems in Japan make it easy to be on-time and you can even plan your trip down to the minute based on their fabulous train system.
Taking off your shoes when entering indoors from the outdoors is a must; this is one that you will definitely have to remember while visiting Japan. In Japan people always remove their shoes when entering a home or building so you will have to do the same. There is usually a genkan (front entrance) where you can remove and leave your shoes or cubbies to place them in located in a convenient spot. When going to the bathroom, most homes or places will provide slippers to wear. However, you only use these in the bathroom and you do not walk around the rest of the house with these shoes. Because of the excessive shoe removal process, you will want to invest in some easy slip on shoes to make your life a little easier while visiting.
Name calling is also important to understand when visiting Japan. Japanese people call one another by their last name and then the suffix “san”. So for instance a man with the last name Wong would be called Wong San. You do not use san while talking about yourself or people very close to you. You should call them by their name this way unless they insist you call them something else. Children and pets do not have to be named this way. They can either be called by their first or last names.
Bathing in Japan is not like it is here in America. Bathing in your own dirt may be considered the norm here; however, in Japan things are different. If you are visiting someone’s home or staying in a hotel, never ever get into the bath tub without washing your body first. There is usually a specified place for you to wash yourself before taking a bath. In this place there will be a small stool, a bucket, and cleansing products. After using this area, make sure to clean it up, and then you will be ready to enter the bath.
Eating in Japan is a very polite and cleanly process. Before eating their food, the Japanese say “Itadakimasu” (I will eat) and once done eating they say, “Gochiso sama deshita” (That was a feast). Although some places have forks and knives, you will definitely come across a restaurant or place that only uses chopsticks. If you don’t know how to use them, now is a good time to learn. However, there is some good news, if you are eating out of bowls you can put the bowl up to your mouth and drink the soup and eat the noodles. This is one of their customary practices. When using chopsticks, you should make sure not to stick chopsticks upright in your rice bowl and that you do not pass food from your chopsticks to another person’s chopsticks. When eating from a communal plate of food, you will want to pick up the food with the other side of your chopsticks in order to avoid spreading your germs to others.
I hope that this article was of some help and guidance to you God willing.