Someone on Quora asked:What should I absolutely not do when visiting your country? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread. Thank you to the team at Quora for making this happen!
- Don’t tip anyone. No one. NO ONE.Tipping is just not part of the culture. Don’t even leave the small change. People will come running after you with it. Seriously. (ref: , also )
- Don’t go into people’s homes with your shoes on. You may run into this at certain temples and shrines, restaurants or traditional inns too. If you see other people taking their shoes off, do the same. (Note: there’s a small area right inside the entrance called a ‘genkan’ which is usually one level below the rest of the house, where you take off your shoes. You don’t take them off outside the house!)
- Don’t forget to take off the special toilet slippers once you leave the toilet room.
- You will encounter ‘washlets’ or toilets with attachments for washing and drying your private parts everywhere. Don’t get too freaked out by them…and if you can’t figure them out, you can always use toilet paper. (ref: )
- Do not enter a bath tub without washing yourself outside the tub first, especially at onsen springs, or at public baths (sento).
(A lot about various hygiene related things here:)
- Don’t try to hug people you just met, Most people don’t like it, especially older folk. (ref: )
- Don’t talk on your cellphone in trains. While it’s not against the law, it’s considered to be rude since it disturbs people around you.
- Likewise, don’t talk in loud voices in the train either. Talk in a low discreet voice (or a regular conversational tone – don’t shout at at each other.)
- If someone invites you to dinner or drinks or something (e.g. after a business meeting) they will be doing the paying, so don’t keep insisting that you’ll pay.
- Stay on the correct side on escalators. In The Tokyo you stand on the left. In Osaka you stand on the right. Follow what other people are doing.
- Don’t drink or eat while walking around unless it’s at a venue where that’s expected, like a festival with food stalls (although even there people usually eat sitting down)
- Don’t eat on commuter trains. Discreet drinking from a PET bottle is ok unless it’s too crowded. (Eating and drinking on long distance trains is fine though, since you have pull-out trays and such. They’ll even come to your seat to sell you food and beverages.)
- Even though you will notice that trash cans are quite scarce on the streets of Tokyo, do not litter. Carry your trash with you until you find a place to throw it out. (ref: )
There are lots of much less critical cultural faux pas I could mention, regarding chopsticks and all that. But most behavior is forgiven (or rather, tolerated…) if you are a foreign visitor. For instance there’s not a whole lot of PDA (public displays of affection) in Japan, but if two non-Japanese people are kissing, most people just think it’s cute.