Japanese - Etiquette, Customs and Travel info?

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This is sort of for anyone that can help us out as we are about to all journey to Takayama, Japan.

I have been reading up on traditional Japanese customs and how we should present ourselves while we are there. This is what I researched so far -- Does anyone have anything that they can contribute?

* Direct, efficient, and succinct are considered bad form in Japan...

* Most Japanese do not use first names casually...

* There is no "fashionably late" in Japan...

* never leave your chopsticks sticking straight up in your food...

* never refuse a drink...

* Whatever you do, do not pour your own glass. Companions traditionally pour drinks for each other and pouring your own is pointing out that your companions are not attentive. In the same vein, if you see an empty glass, fill it.

* Make sure you don't express anger or aggression. These traits are equated with losing face in Japan, something you do not want to happen. Also stick to neutral subjects in conversations; private lives are kept private.

* Bowing -- the degree of the bow and the speed determines the importance of who you meet -- also adding "San" or "Sama" to a last name to be courteous and respectful. Also never look in the eyes while bowing as it is a sign of untrust. Men keep their hands at sides, women keep them in front of them.

* Take off your shoes at the entrance to all homes, and most businesses and hotels. Usually a rack will be provided to store your shoes, and pair of guest slippers will be sitting nearby...???

* Never wear slippers when you need to step onto a tatami mat (used in most Japanese homes and hotels; the standard unit of measurement for area even today), and be careful to remove the toilet slippers waiting for you in the bathroom... Is this true? It is extremely bad form, for example, to reenter the main room of a house wearing slippers that have been running across dirty linoleum.

* Drawing attention to yourself as an individual is a huge no-no: don’t blow your nose in public, try to avoid eating while on the go, and don’t speak on your cell phone in crowded public areas like trains or buses. Luckily our cell phones won't work...

* Wait before raising your glass to your lips if with a group or crowd drinking -- the host of someone will take the lead to raise and cheer.

* Slurping is Ok and considered your enjoyment of the food your eating... raising bowls to mouth is OK... It is polite to say "itadakimasu” (I will receive - ee-ta-da-key-mass) before starting to eat.

* Price is price -- there is no tipping in Japan.

* We are preparing gifts -- We understand that the wrapping should be nice with bows or ties and well thought out. If using ribbon, my understanding is that all colors are generally acceptable except white and black which are used specifically for funerals...? Gold and Silver are for weddings... Also gifts are given and received with both hands.

* When giving a gift devalue what you are giving and be humble / when receiving a gift overpraise it with many, many thanks.

* If receiving a gift -- do not open it in front of the giver unless asked to... Also after opening, we will need to try and re-wrap it as close to how we receive it when putting it away.

* We are bringing business cards with English on one side and translated into Japanese on the other side. -- Passing business cards should be handed with two hands. Business cards received should never be put in your back pocket, folded or written on and should be kept present and out while your in the presence of the card giver. Cards should be kept out in order of hierarchy of position.

* We will have a guide with us during most of our trip...

* When eating with a group -- We wait for our comrades or hosts to show us where to sit.

* Never off to split a bill at a restaurant with our host -- simply say thank you.

* Be prepared to give details of our personal life in a way that would be inappropriate elsewhere -- this one scares me - lol...

* Primarily Japan is a cash based society with few places accepting credit cards...

* Prices on display mostly include 5% sales tax -- if two prices are shown, than the most expensive price is what you pay?

* Mondays and Wednesdays are usually the days that businesses are closed...

* We will be going to hot springs while in Takayama -- is this like visiting baths??? We will need to wash before going into the springs or baths?

* Any public displays of affection are considered bad form... I am sure this applies to hugging (like an american gestue).

What else am I forgetting? Any suggestions or advice for those living in Japan or have visited before?


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brandtpeters wrote:

* Drawing attention to yourself as an individual is a huge no-no:

I think you guys can't avoid this...

brandtpeters wrote:

* never refuse a drink...


I like this one...


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Yeah, I don't know how you can keep drinking and not make a total spectacle of yourself at some point-- I imagine we're going to have a hard time not offending everyone


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Looks like you have done your research. I have never been to Japan but this reminds me of a great Curb Your Enthusiasm episode about proper bowing etiquette.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUubgv3_ps0


DrilOne wrote:
brandtpeters wrote:

* never refuse a drink...


I like this one...



I'm fucked then.

That weapon will replace your tongue. You will learn to speak through it. And your poetry will now be written with blood.

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so how does that not refuse a drink thing work with my straight edge? I mean legitimately i ask this wondering how that situation would play out...

Living Behind the Counter at STRANGER FACTORY!!!

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halfapparition wrote:
DrilOne wrote:
brandtpeters wrote:

* never refuse a drink...


I like this one...



I'm fucked then.

hahaha great minds right

Living Behind the Counter at STRANGER FACTORY!!!

I've never been, but my local Shiatsu place is run by Japanese people, and their customs still shine through. Cash seems to be handled the same way that business cards are - ie presented with both hands.


I've never been, but my local Shiatsu place is run by Japanese people, and their customs still shine through. Cash seems to be handled the same way that business cards are - ie presented with both hands.


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brandtpeters wrote:
* Direct, efficient, and succinct are considered bad form in Japan...

* Most Japanese do not use first names casually...

* There is no "fashionably late" in Japan...

* never leave your chopsticks sticking straight up in your food...

* never refuse a drink...

* Yes don't be blunt, be pleasant & friendly, take the time to do things properly.
* Remember the names are reversed, so they say their second name first. Only using the first name if you've become friendly with that individual. Use the appropriate honorifics.
* Yeh be punctual & respectful.
* Indeed, resembles incense at funerals.
* That ones fun! also try to eat all of your food to the very last grain of rice - it may reflect badly on your host otherwise.
Quote:
* Bowing -- the degree of the bow and the speed determines the importance of who you meet -- also adding "San" or "Sama" to a last name to be courteous and respectful. Also never look in the eyes while bowing as it is a sign of untrust. Men keep their hands at sides, women keep them in front of them.

* Take off your shoes at the entrance to all homes, and most businesses and hotels. Usually a rack will be provided to store your shoes, and pair of guest slippers will be sitting nearby...???

* Never wear slippers when you need to step onto a tatami mat (used in most Japanese homes and hotels; the standard unit of measurement for area even today), and be careful to remove the toilet slippers waiting for you in the bathroom... Is this true? It is extremely bad form, for example, to reenter the main room of a house wearing slippers that have been running across dirty linoleum.

* Drawing attention to yourself as an individual is a huge no-no: don’t blow your nose in public, try to avoid eating while on the go, and don’t speak on your cell phone in crowded public areas like trains or buses. Luckily our cell phones won't work...

* Plenty of bowing; do you know courtesies in Japanese such as saying "thank you for taking care of me/I'm in your care"? How to introduce yourselves? There's various ways of saying "thank you" & "sorry". Generally stick with "San", "Sama" is very respectful - their language is based on showing a hierarchy, respecting those above you.
* You may find 'Western' style buildings, should be fairly obvious and never ignorerd. Slippers are always provided and to hand. In hotels yukata my be available, which you can walk round in.
* Japanese are all about feet (believing them to be special) & cleanliness, seriously!
* Unfortunately you will stick out as an "outsider" or "gaijin" so be prepared and try not to be the 'nail' that's 'driven', they like people to be uniformed. Do wear a mask if you've got a cold.
Quote:
* Price is price -- there is no tipping in Japan.

* Prices on display mostly include 5% sales tax -- if two prices are shown, than the most expensive price is what you pay?

* Mondays and Wednesdays are usually the days that businesses are closed...

* We will be going to hot springs while in Takayama -- is this like visiting baths??? We will need to wash before going into the springs or baths?

* Any public displays of affection are considered bad form... I am sure this applies to hugging (like an american gestue).

* Mindfull of anything which could be seen negatively of another individual.
* Yep.
* Some close Sunday and also open late and staying open later.
* Yes, there will be an area in which you sit on a stool and have a good scrub before going into a bath or hot spring to relax - you don't wear a towel or anything while your in water and thus male & female baths are separate.
* Be reserved.

You're pretty much covered, can't think of anything else at the mo. Try to speak to people in Japanese making sure your punctuation is correct - be careful of phonetic romanization - don't be surprised if they laugh at your attempts and possible defiance by talking to you in English.

If you really screw-up you can always kneel and bow while saying sorry. Don't worry too much, it wont seem as scary and strict when your there.


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Coma21 wrote:
so how does that not refuse a drink thing work with my straight edge? I mean legitimately i ask this wondering how that situation would play out...


Basically - don't make a big deal out of it. Accept the drink, take a small sip(or fake it) during toasts, and then just leave it, or hand it to someone else that will be happy to drink it. :) Subtly pour tea in the brandy glass, if you have to.

The fact that you guys are doing this much research is awesome! I've traveled a lot/lived in Asia, although not to Japan, and the general consensus is that no one's going to look at you weird if you *!#%* something up, if you're otherwise humble and apologetic about it. It's the "arrogant" foreigner that's annoying - some normal missteps are expected, really.

(the staring might get really annoying. my tall white dude fiance gets stared at everywhere he's gone in asia.)


I went to japan just over a year ago. Thay are the nicest and most respectul people i have met. They are extremely considerate of others.

I learnt a lot while over there. if you have big luggage with you, avoid the trains at peak hour. your luggage won't fit. They have "train pushers". their job is to literally push people into carraiges to ensure maximum through put of people during peak commute periods. They wear white gloves, and force people in.

As for hot springs/baths, there are a few etiquettes which should be followed. Firstly, you bath naked. You wash yourself before you enter and most people have a privacy towel. Also, no tattoos allowed. Some people ignore this and think "im not japanese so i'm exempt" but it is frowned upon. I researched before i went and found stories of people being scolded (in japanese) for even a small tattoo being exposed. Its based on past links to the Yakuza - you have a tattoo, you are associated with them.

Carry lots of cash on you. Most places take cash only.

They are rally nice to foreigners. If you walk into McDonalds, they will turn the menu over to the english side before you even reach the counter.

If you don't know how to use chopsticks, try and learn. It will make your life a lot easier.

Oh, if you like your coffee, be prepared to drink it out of a can. They come out of a vending machine. If the button is red - its hot. If the button is blue - its cold. Its actually pretty good stuff.

Just be polite and respectful and you'll be OK.


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The importance of respect is what I learned from a Japenese roommate I had. Just showing that you're trying to be respectful, which just by all the research you clearly are, you guys will be fine. The US could definitely use less arrogance and more respect. I'm pretty sure my insert-foot-in-big-mouth would get me in trouble a lot though.

Sounds like you'll need tattoo makeup for the springs Lol

Aren't these contradicting?
"* Be prepared to give details of our personal life in a way that would be inappropriate elsewhere -- this one scares me - lol...
*Also stick to neutral subjects in conversations; private lives are kept private."

I really like this thread and hope when you return there will be story time Lol


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It's a good thing I don't look Japanese in ANY way. It's going to be expected that I don't know WTF is going on :lol:

As long as I don't make any major cultural missteps, I'm not too worried, as all my friends who have gone (and survived) have said it is a wonderful place to travel and the people are very kind and accepting, as long as you are respectful and not obnoxious.

I'm also the closest to average Japanese body size of the 4 of us going, so I won't be the first one to draw stares :lol:


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I found when I was staying/traveling in Japan there was a social preference for my friends/Japanese companions to speak for me, and interoperate for me. It was put to me that Japanese residents would largely prefer to speak through a guide, or try speaking some English to me (as a novelty, or sign of their interest and development?) than have me speak any Japanese to them. It was just better manners to follow their lead,

As well, if you have friends or a guide attending to you, if they want to take you places or show you things it would be polite to let them, and to take a friendly respectful interest in temples, architecture, large businesses you notice, etc.

If you're really not comfortable accepting something being offered or suggested, it can take 3 or so polite refusals to actually turn something down. 1 humble refusal can be seen as a sign of encouragement and acknowledgement of your Japanese host's generosity/offering/etc - acknowledging that it's something of value you wouldn't want them to be put out by.

As well, the word "Sumimasen" (soo-me-mah-sehn) is effective for "excuse me/I'm sorry, excuse me" if you're navigating large crowds, have bumped into someone, or are squishing into/out of a crowded train, or want to politely defer to your guide with a quick bow to let them take over a situation/question.

I hope maybe that helps a bit!



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