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Japanese customs and etiquette – things you should know before traveling to Japan.

  • Jun 17, 2015
  • by Naoto

Culture ALL

There are a few things you should know before visiting Japan. so I thought a small guide to Japanese manners and etiquette would might come in handy. Here it is:
Essential basics.
  • Take off your shoes before entering a house. Slippers are usually provided in the entrance hall so you can use them. This also applies for some other establishments such as schools, spas and restaurants.
  • If it rains and you are using an umbrella,  leave it outside in the special provided space or use one of the plastic covers that are usually located at the entrance of shops, restaurants, etc.
  • I advise  you not to be eating or drinking while walking on the street as Japanese people are not used to that. You may however enjoy an ice cream while walking.
  • Use email or SMS if you need to communicate with someone while on a train or bus.
  • Try not to point your finger or chopstick at someone. Nobody likes being pointed at.
Table manners.
  • It is polite to say “itadakimasu” (I humbly receive) before eating or drinking, and “gochisoosama”(that was delicious) to your host or to the restaurant’s staff after eating or when leaving the place.
  • Placing chopsticks vertically in a bowl of rice is to be avoided, as it is used in a funerary ceremony, and so is passing food from chopstick to chopstick.
  • Take the food from the dishes and place it on your own plate before eating it. Usually a pair of chopsticks are placed in the center of the table and used whenever someone needs to transfer food from shared dishes to their plate. So try to avoid using your own chopsticks for doing that.
    It is always okay to ask for a fork if you’re not comfortable with the use of chopsticks.
Business etiquette.
Try not to be late on your appointments.
When exchanging business cards, you should extend the card with both hands, right side up (so that the person you are meeting can read your name) and receive the card with both hands as well. If you are sitting, place the card on the table in front of you, or put it in your card holder if you are standing. When meeting a group of people, you should put their cards in front of you on the table for reference during the conversation.
Try not to put the card into your pocket or fold it in any way, and don’t write on it on the presence of the other person. This attention to business card etiquette is intended to show respect.You shouldn’t be worried if you use your chopsticks in a matter that a Japanese person wouldn’t,  or hand out a business card with only one hand. Japanese people are kind and understanding, very friendly and polite, and always willing to lend a hand and help you out. They do not expect foreigners to speak Japanese or to fully understand their culture, but are extremely happy when someone is making an effort to do so!
After all, Japanese hospitality is renowned all over the world!
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