Before You Go to Japan: Nine Tips

Torii Gate in Town

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, you’re in for a unique and memorable experience. The Land of the Rising Sun is known for its rich history, fascinating culture, and breathtaking landscapes. However, there are a few things that might surprise you or catch you off guard if you’re not prepared. Here are some important things to remember before you go to Japan:

No Napkins

One of the first things you’ll notice in Japan is the scarcity of napkins. Unlike many other countries where napkins are readily available, it’s common for restaurants in Japan to provide only small, damp towels called oshibori. These towels are primarily meant for wiping your hands before a meal, so it’s a good idea to carry a small pack of tissues or handkerchiefs with you for other purposes.

having tea

Everything Seems Uphill

You might feel like you’re constantly going uphill in Japan, especially if you’re exploring cities like Tokyo or Kyoto. Many streets and sidewalks are designed to handle heavy rainfall efficiently, which means they often have a slight incline. This can be quite surprising if you’re used to flat terrain, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes and take breaks as needed.

Clean Bathrooms

Japanese Toto Toilet

Japan takes cleanliness seriously, and this extends to public restrooms. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness and hygiene standards maintained in most bathrooms across the country. However, it’s important to note that some older or more remote areas might have squat toilets, so it’s good to be prepared and know how to use them if necessary.

No Garbage Cans

Finding a public garbage can in Japan can be a bit of a challenge. It’s not uncommon to see people carrying their trash with them until they find a suitable place to dispose of it, such as their home or a convenience store. This practice helps maintain cleanliness in public spaces, so it’s advisable to carry a small bag to store your trash until you find a suitable disposal spot.

Only Chopsticks

Chopsticks are the primary eating utensils in Japan. While many restaurants do offer forks and spoons for tourists, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with using chopsticks before your trip. It’s a fun skill to learn, and you’ll have a more authentic dining experience while enjoying delicious Japanese cuisine.

sculpture at open air museum

Don’t Expect Sushi at Every Turn

Although sushi is undoubtedly a popular and beloved dish in Japan, it’s not the only type of cuisine you’ll find. Japanese cuisine is incredibly diverse, and each region has its specialties. So, while you’ll certainly have ample opportunities to enjoy sushi, be open to exploring other local delicacies like ramen, tempura, and teppanyaki.

No Tipping

Unlike many Western countries, tipping is not a common practice in Japan. In fact, leaving a tip can sometimes be seen as rude or confusing. Excellent service is expected, and it’s already factored into the prices. So, when dining out or receiving other services, simply pay the amount stated without leaving any additional gratuity.

Heated Seats with a Bidet

Prepare yourself for a unique bathroom experience in Japan. Many toilets are equipped with heated seats and a bidet function. This might seem strange at first, but once you experience the comfort and cleanliness, you might wish you had one at home!

Vending Machines All Over

vending machine in Japan

Japan is famous for its vending machines. They are found everywhere, from bustling city streets to remote hiking trails. These vending machines offer a wide variety of beverages, including hot and cold options, as well as snacks and even fresh produce. They are convenient and worth trying, especially during the hot summer months when you’ll appreciate a refreshing drink.

Japan was an amazing trip and it’s a place I could see myself going back to. I would highly recommend it but if you go, make sure you are prepared. Have fun!