The Japanese are famously-renowned for their politeness. So it should come as no surprise that there are numerous customs around proper etiquette in Japanese culture. Whilst you aren’t expected to know them all, putting in a little effort can go a long way when travelling in Japan.
1. Remove your Shoes
Traditionally it’s custom in Japan to remove your shoes before entering into a home, or any location that uses traditional tatami woven straw matting. Don’t forget to pack a pair of shoes that you can slip on and off easily!
Rather than with handshakes, Japanese traditionally greet each other by bowing. Knowing exactly when and how to bow in a certain situation can seem daunting. Your host may opt for a handshake to avoid any awkward encounters but if someone does greet you with a bow, do your best to offer one in return.
3. Chopstick Etiquette
As if eating with chopsticks wasn’t difficult enough, there are a number of ‘rules’ you should follow to adhere to proper chopstick etiquette. These include: not sticking your chopsticks in a bowl of rice in the vertical position (unless you’re at a funeral!), never rubbing your chopsticks together, and using a chopstick holder when putting your chopsticks next to your bowl or plate.
Currency used in Japan is known as the Yen. Roughly translated, ‘yen’ means ‘circle’. The currency comes in both banknotes and coins, with notes coming in denominations of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000.
It may come as a surprise that in a technologically-savvy destination like Japan, cash is the most commonly accepted form of payment. Whilst cards are accepted in larger stores or hotels, in some smaller places you may find no card payment facilities at all. Before travelling to Japan, make sure you arrive prepared with enough cash to last your trip.
Getting around Japan
As many Japanese rely heavily on public transport as their sole form of getting around, the country has plenty of local transport options including buses, trains, subways and trams. In addition to this, taxis are everywhere in major Japanese cities.
1. Trains and Subways
Trains and subways are the most common, fast, and convenient way to get around Japan and operate in most major cities. If you plan on visiting a number of different areas within a city in a day, it’s best to get an unlimited travel day ticket – known as ichi-nichi-jōsha-ken in Japanese.
Buses are a less-commonly used form of public transport for tourists in Japan, despite all cities having public bus systems in place. The exception to this is if visiting Kyoto. Tip – you’ll need to enter the bus from the back!
Japan taxi’s run on a meter and fares are fairly standard across cities; with most taxis accepting credit cards. If the taxi light is red it means it is not available, well a green light indicates it is free.
Is Japan Safe?
With a relatively low crime rate, Japan is often hailed as one of the safest countries in the world. The prevalence of 24 hour convenience stores and night time security guards means you’ll rarely find yourself alone, even at night.
ATMs are generally located inside buildings rather than on the street, and the country has a low tolerance for drugs - with celebrities like Paris Hilton famously being denied entry into the country for previous drug convictions.
Nevertheless, it’s smart to take precautions and use common sense during your holiday. This is particularly so in larger cities where crime rates may be higher, when out at night, and if you plan on partying in areas like Tokyo’s famous Roppongi Hills club district.
When is the Best Time to Visit Japan?
Japan has four distinct seasons, each with unique cultural traditions and charm. From ski trips in the north to island getaways in the south - the time you choose to travel to Japan depends on the type of holiday you’re after.
Spring in Japan lasts from about mid- March through till May. This period is most famous for cherry blossom season, where you can experience hanami (cherry blossom viewing). This also means it’s the most popular time for travel in Japan, which may mean more expensive accommodation, and crowds.
Summer in Japan is hot and humid, with the season starting in June and ending around September. It’s also known as the season of festivals, with many traditional celebrations taking place during this period.
If you’re looking to escape the heat, head to the Japanese Alps, Tohoku (northern Japan), and Hokkaido, where activities like hiking are popular and temperatures are cooler.
Lasting from mid-September through to November, autumn boasts some of the most comfortable weather conditions. It’s also koyo season, when foliage turns from green to spectacular hues of red and orange.
Similar to cherry blossom season, koyo attracts large numbers of tourists to Japan. This means an increase in accommodation costs, and a need to plan your trip further in advance.
Winters in Japan are cold, with temperatures getting to below zero. For snow bunnies, this is the perfect season to hit the slopes. High snowfall in mountain regions like Hokkaido makes Japan a popular winter sports destination.
Other popular winter activities include experiencing an outdoor onsen, and getting the chance to see the Sumo grand tournament in January. Winter in Japan lasts from December through to February.
Before travelling to Japan, make sure you buy Japanese yen so you can arrive prepared with enough cash to last your tripBuy Japanese Yen