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15 big mistakes to avoid on your trip to Japan

Updated: Jan 10

Japanese culture has very strong morals, which makes the whole country what it is today. Without these rules Japan would be nowhere near where it is now. I wish some of the Japanese rules would apply worldwide, because the world would instantly become a better place.

Here are 15 big mistakes to avoid on your trip to Japan:

  • Ignoring Japanese Etiquette:

Be mindful of traditional customs such as bowing, removing your shoes indoors, and using both hands when giving or receiving something. 

kyoto pagoda

  • Disregarding Quiet Zones on Public Transportation:

Trains in Japan have designated quiet cars where passengers are expected to refrain from talking loudly or using mobile phones. 

  • Not Having Enough Cash:

Many places in Japan still accept only cash, for example markets. Get your money out of an ATM in 7/11 to get the best rates. Make sure you bring with you little purse just for your coins, you will need it.

  • Tipping:

Tipping is not a common practice in Japan and can even be considered rude. Some places in Japan have an added cover charge to the bill. Instead of tipping learn how to say thank you in Japanese: Arigato Gozaimasu 

  • Disrespecting Shrines and Temples:

When visiting shrines and temples, be respectful of the sacred spaces. Avoid loud conversations, follow dress codes, and don't take photos where it is not allowed.

  • Talking on the Phone in Public Places:

It's considered impolite to talk on the phone in public spaces such as trains, buses, and restaurants, this is something that should be the rule everywhere. Use your phone discreetly and in designated areas.

daruma doll

  • Not bringing bag for your trash 

There are barely any trash cans on the streets in Japan, so bringing a bag for your rubbish to take home is mandatory. I believe this is also one of the reasons why Japan is so clean. 

  • Ignoring Onsen Etiquette:

If you plan to visit an onsen (hot spring bath), be aware of the proper etiquette, such as washing thoroughly before entering the bath. Some public onsen don't allow people in with visible tattoos as it was in the past associated with Yakuza, if you are not sure, call in advance and ask or book a private onsen like I did, to avoid any issues.

  • Overpacking:

Space is often limited in Japanese accommodations as rooms are tiny, so avoid overpacking. Bring only what you need, plus shopping in Japan is amazing and you will want to bring many things back. 

  • Eating/drinking while walking:

It is considered disrespectful to the person, who prepares the dish or drink, if you are walking while eating or drinking, even at food markets, there designated places to eat. Do not try it, you will be told off.

torii gate

  • Not bring with you small presents from your country

You will encounter many kind and helpful people while travelling in Japan, perhaps even making friends. There is a custom of giving small presents. I got some in Japan from my friends, but also from complete strangers, so I was upset that I haven't bring any with me from my country. This is called Temiyage. 

  • Not booking activities or places in advance:

Japan is buzzing with tourists and many places are quite small, so make sure to book activities or restaurants you wanna visit in advance. I booked 1 month in advance and for some places it was not long enough in advance.

  • Getting SIM card at the airport:

You get much better deals with eSim cards and it is hassle free as the queues at the airport are often very long. I use Airalo as it is super easy and you can use it worldwide, check it out here.

  • Not wearing comfortable shoes:

Regardless of where you are going in Japan, you will be doing a lot of walking, so make sure you pack the most comfortable shoes you’ve got. You can thank me later.

  • Handing cash directly instead of using money tray:

In Japan you will find money trays for cash almost everywhere, so make sure to use them, it is part of the etiquette. 

Thanks for reading and if you haven’t seen it yet  here is another post with tips for first time visitors of Japan.


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