52 Things You Should Know Before going to Japan

Japan is a fascinating country with an exciting culture and history. Before traveling there, there are many things to know to make the most of your visit.

Here are 52 of the most important things to know.

1) The Japanese have a lot of respect for others.

The Japanese culture is filled with tradition and rules, but most focus on protecting those who reside in the country. For this reason, they may seem a bit harsh at first glance, but you will learn their true nature as time goes on.

2) Not many people speak English.

There are native English-speaking Japanese citizens, but they tend to be older or younger children who know only a few words.

For the most part, you will have to rely on non-native speakers of English or your smartphone. You can also download an app that includes a translation dictionary in most languages, which is helpful.

3) Being on time is a must.

The Japanese tend to follow the rules very strictly and always on time. Be sure not to be late when meeting up with friends or family because it will make you the bad guy.

4) The subway lines are complicated.

The subway lines can get tricky, especially if you are trying to transfer from one line to another.

However, most subway system maps include a diagram showing you how to do it. Just follow the map, and you will find your destination without too much trouble.

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5) You need a converter and adapter; Japan uses 100 volts.

Japan uses the same voltage as America, so you won’t have to buy anything special besides an adapter. (Link Amazon)

Make sure you bring one, though, because only a few places will have converters.

For the most part, travelers just have to carry around both adapters or risk being without charge for their electronics at times.

6) Trash Cans are hard to find.

Trash cans are challenging to find in Japan, so keep your garbage until you have a chance to throw it away.

This can also lead to potentially life-threatening situations when you walk around with an empty cup and no place to put it. Be careful!

7) A tattoo is considered a sign of a gangster.

If you are in Japan, do not get any tattoos.

This is because tattoos are associated with gangs and usually symbolize which band you belong to. Thus it is highly offensive to any Japanese citizen who sees it.

8) Public bathhouses.

Japanese culture is immaculate, and they have public bathhouses you can go to at any time of the day or night.

It’s part of their culture, so check one out if you have the chance! They are usually relatively cheap, about 200 yen ($1.74).

9) The toilets are different.

Japanese toilets are different from American toilets.

They tend to have a bidet function and sometimes even dryers, but you usually put the toilet paper in the trash bin next to it instead of flushing it.

There are many ways to use these newfangled devices, so read the instructions if you don’t know how!

10) It is illegal to use your phone while driving.

The country has made it illegal to use any device while driving. This means your phone, iPod, camera, etc., could get you in trouble if caught using them behind the wheel.

11) Honorifics are a thing.

Japanese culture has a lot of honorifics, which are words used to show respect toward their superiors.

For example, using “san” at the end of someone’s name indicates respect for them.

This is why it is essential to learn their name and how they would like to be addressed because the wrong honorific can be highly offensive.

12) Learning to read and speak Japanese is a must.

Japan’s written language is different from many languages, so it may take a few months to get used to learning how to read and write in Japan if it hasn’t been taught before.

However, you should try learning some essential words just to be safe.

13) Be prepared to drink lots of tea!

Tea is an essential part of Japanese culture, so you’ll constantly find people drinking it at any time of the day.

It’s best not to turn down their offer because it will give off the wrong impression about yourself as an outsider. Plus, it might be good for you.

14) It’s safe to walk anywhere

There are crimes in Japan, but they are mostly limited to theft or pickpocketing.

Japanese criminals usually can’t use guns, so violent crimes are infrequent; Japan is one of the safest countries to walk in at night or during the day.

15) Always carry cash on you.

Cash is still the easiest way to pay for things in Japan, tiny businesses run by one or two people.

Make sure you have some money before going into stores because they might not take cards.

16) Public transportation is highly convenient and easy to use.

Japan’s public transportation system is one of the most reliable and efficient globally.

You can get almost anywhere you want by taking a bus or train, and they usually run late at night too! Just make sure you get a plan for when and where to get off.

17) In some places, you need to take your shoes off.

Japan has strong traditions of cleanliness, so you might have to take your shoes off if you enter a place.

Sometimes they will require you to take your shoes off before wearing the slippers provided for guests, which is why it would be best to keep socks or sandals on when traveling.

18) There are lots of vending machines.

Vending machines are everywhere in Japan, so you’ll never have to go thirsty if one is near you!

Beer and soda are the most popular things sold from these machines, but there’s usually a selection of other drinks. If you see a device, make sure to try something once.

19) It’s customary to give gifts on certain holidays.

Japan has many holidays, so it’s essential to learn when to give gifts to other people who celebrate them.

It’s also good to talk to your coworkers about their holiday traditions because you don’t want to miss out on celebrating!

20) You’ll always hold a door open for a stranger.

Even if you don’t know them, people will still expect you to open a door so that they can go through it.

It’s considered rude if you don’t let people go through the door first, so this will be expected no matter who is behind you.

21) Vending machines sell hot and cold drinks.

Even if you’re on the go, it can be comforting to have something hot or cold to drink, even if you don’t have time to sit down and relax. It’s beneficial when it’s raining outside!

22) Eating out can be very cheap.

Spending lots of money on food doesn’t mean you’ll eat well in Japan.

It’s best to avoid touristy restaurants because they usually don’t have many options.

Instead, look for small places where locals eat to find lower prices!

23) Tipping is not expected.

Tipping is an American custom that can be confusing in Japan, so it’s best to avoid it if you don’t know what to do.

Instead, just pay the exact amount of money on the menu, and you’ll be fine!

24) Japanese people are immaculate and organized.

Japan has some of the cleanest streets and most significant recycling bins globally!

Even if you don’t want to recycle, separating your trash is good so people can tell what is recyclable. It’s also common sense not to litter, but this doesn’t always stop people.

25) Japanese people are tranquil on trains.

It can be pretty uncomfortable if you’re used to people talking loudly on the train, but this is part of not bothering other passengers.

It might also take some getting used to if you want to sleep on a long ride!

26) Bowing is a familiar gesture.

Bowing as a greeting is an integral part of Japanese culture, so it’s best to know how this works if you visit the country!

It’s customary for people to greet each other by bowing because it shows respect and politeness.

27) You can find an ATM in any 7Eleven.

Staying out late doesn’t have to be a problem because 7Eleven is open 24 hours a day! You can use their ATMs to take cash out or get snacks from the convenience store.

Soba noodles are usually served chilled in summer and hot in winter. Depending on your tastes, they can be done alongside tempura or on their own!

29) The crime rate is shallow.

Japan is considered one of the safest countries in the world, so it can be pretty easy to roam around at night. There are also lots of police officers that patrol the streets, making it even safer for you!

30) Tokyo is one of the safest cities in the world.

Tokyo is home to more than 13 million people, but its crime rate is low! Tokyo might seem small and tranquil if you’re from a big city like New York City, but it’s still a very densely populated area.

31) Japan has thousands of temples.

Japan has around 80,000 temples and 100,000 shrines! You can find these in random places all over the country, and they’re usually free to visit.

32) The bullet train is one of the best ways to travel.

The Shinkansen bullet train stops at Tokyo Station and Kyoto Station, so it’s convenient for traveling long distances fast; just be sure you’re on time!

33) Japan Rail Pass is a good investment.

If you’re traveling around Japan, buying the JR Pass is cheaper than buying one ticket at a time!

This is because it pays off in the long run. Who doesn’t want to save money while still enjoying their trip?

34) Travel Insurance is a good idea.

Even if you don’t get sick, accidents can happen at any time, and travel insurance covers you in an emergency!

If anything does happen, it’s best to deal with it early on so that a tiny problem doesn’t ruin your trip.

35) Onsen is a great experience.

Onsen (hot springs) can be found in natural pools or in-home spas. The water is usually boiling, so it’s best to test the waters by dipping your feet before completely submerging yourself!

36) Japanese people love technology.

Japan is known as one of the most technologically advanced countries globally, so it’s no surprise that Japanese people love smartphones and video games.

Ramen might be considered a cheap meal, but it’s still comforting to eat in Japan!

You can get different types of ramen from places like Ichiran, which allows you to customize your add-ons.

38) People like to dress up for festivals!

You don’t necessarily have to dress up, but wearing yukata or happi coats (traditional coats with the company logo) is fun.

Plus, dressing up is part of the festival experience!

39) You can get lost in the smallest alleyways.

Japan has many twisty, turny alleys that lead to unexpected places, so it’s best to explore with friends you trust!

Don’t be afraid to ask locals (especially shop owners) for directions or recommendations because they know their neighborhood well.

40) People sleep on Trains and buses.

This isn’t to say that Japanese people are lazy, but it’s a way of life!

If you’re riding the train and someone is sleeping on the other side, don’t wake them up – they might not even realize they fell asleep!

41) People line up for everything.

Japan is known for respecting those who wait patiently in line, so be sure to do this while in Japan. Even if it’s just moving up a few feet, you’ll get karma points!

42) Don’t rush locals on the street.

Japanese people usually don’t like to be rushed, and they can get pretty shy talking with strangers (unless they approach you first), so be sure to move out of the way for people on the street.

43) The Japanese are very polite.

If you live in a country where you say “excuse me” 100 times a day, you’ll notice that Japanese people will also do this!

They love to use formal words like “sumimasen” (excuse me) and “gomenasai” (I’m sorry).

44) Japanese people love their manga!

You can find manga just about anywhere in Japan, especially at airports. It’s a great way to relax and unwind after a day of travel or sightseeing!

45) Cats cafes are actual.

Cat cafes are exactly what you think they are, a cafe with cats!

Many even allow you to play with the cats, which is one way to make friends in Japan. Plus, who doesn’t want to pet kitties all day long?

46) You can smoke in restaurants but not outside.

Another strange thing is that you can smoke in restaurants but not outside. It’s a little different from other countries, so just be aware of this before going out for a meal!

47) Convenience Stores are fantastic.

Convenience stores sell everything you need, which is why they’re so popular in Japan!

You can buy food, toiletries, drinks, and even manga or magazines at these places. It’s a one-stop shop if you find yourself lost somewhere.

48) Ryokans are a cultural experience.

Being a guest at a traditional Japanese ryokan is an immersive cultural experience!

You can expect to be served delicious food and receive great hospitality while staying at one of these places, so you’ll want to try it out if you have the chance.

49) You can see Geishas in Kyoto.

Geishas are traditional entertainers that can sing, dance, play musical instruments, and serve tea! They’re often hired to be performers at parties or events.

50) Love Hotels are weird.

If you’re not in a relationship and staying with your parents, there’s a good chance you can stay at a “love hotel.”

Although they’re probably not as exciting as the name may sound, they have themed, pretty unique rooms!

51) Do not get on the wrong side of the Yakuza.

The Yakuza are almost like another gang, except they are highly organized and extremely dangerous.

They do not like any kind of trouble or disrespect, so avoid contact with them if you can. Your best bet is just to stay away from them and let the police handle it.

52) There are no guns allowed in Japan.

Japan has strict gun laws and does not allow anyone to carry a weapon except the police or military members.

You’ll find it hard to get a gun in Japan even if you want one, so it’s best not to worry about guns when visiting.

Originally posted on February 6, 2022 @ 2:48 am

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As a lifelong traveler and founder of lovefortraveling.com, I, Alex Deidda, have always been driven by my passion for exploring new places and cultures.

Throughout the years, I have had the opportunity to live in various countries, each offering unique perspectives and experiences.

My love for traveling led me to create lovefortraveling.com, a website and blog dedicated to helping people plan their trips.

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