10 Tips For The First-Timer Visiting Japan

Before visiting Japan for the first time, there are things you need to know in advance. From chopsticks etiquette to robot toilets, let me give you ten tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip to Japan.

Japan is not that expensive

Japan is nowhere near expensive as it once was, especially given the falling yen and the currently strong US dollar.

Ladies only train carriages

When riding the subway, be sure to be aware for signs that might be applicable to you. “Ladies Only” carriages operate on some trains and some routes, but all you have to do is look out for a sign when boarding the train.

Chopstick Etiquette

When anyone thinks of eating in Japan, they think about chopsticks. So, you will want to know how to properly use them.

Here’s what NOT to do: Do not stick your chopsticks upwards in a bowl of rice, do not stab your food with the chopsticks, do not pass food between two sets of chopsticks and do not use two unmatched pairs of chopsticks. These are all considered to be taboo.

Cherry Blossom Season

Before you go on a holiday to Japan for the first time try visiting during the Spring for cherry blossom season. Note, that this is Japan’s busiest season and thus most expensive. If you expect to see the blossoms on your visit to Japan, the season lasts only two weeks – typically around late March – mid April.

Tipping is not required or expected 

When in restaurants, be sure to refrain from tipping as this is not customary and will actually insult or confuse your waiter.

Shoes on, Shoes off

After just a couple of days in Japan you will start getting used to taking off and putting back on your shoes. In houses, many religious sites and historical castles, taking your shoes off is required before you enter. However, make sure you wear shoes that require socks or at least have a pair of socks handy to use, as going barefoot will be found insulting.

Robot Toilets

Yes, there such a thing as a robot toilet-toto toilets to be exact. In hotel rooms and restaurants you can expect all sorts of gadgets on their toilets. There are a range of buttons to try, including water sounds, rinses and even scents.

Restaurant Expectations

When eating in Japanese restaurants, you will notice a few things are different then you might be used to. For example it is not uncommon for food to arrive when it is ready to be served, instead of everyone’s food arriving at the same time.  Also when the bill arrives, do not wait for the waiter to return to take your payment – as this is almost always done at the check-out as you leave the restaurant.

Speaking English in Japan?

In Japan, very few people speak English or are too shy to practice their responses with you. It’s best to learn some simple phrases like “Shio station”. This should help you get where you are going.

Subway Etiquette 

The subway is the inevitable mode of transport that is the unbeatable way of getting around a city. Know that in Japan different cities stand on different sides. The best way is to see what the locals do and go along with that. Note: It is considered rude to talk on your phone on the subway. Similarly, talking loud is considered rude on the subway.


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