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Travel with Consideration (Japan)

Tourism can impact the natural, economic and social environment. At Wendy Wu Tours, we are committed to addressing this impact wherever possible without compromising our customers’ experience.

Taking Photos

Always check that it is ok before taking a photograph or video of a local person. Simply indicate to your camera to ask and never take the photograph or footage if someone gestures to say that they do not want you to. Cameras are not allowed in some sightseeing spots, particularly temples, and government buildings.

Due to rising safety concerns, some venues have now banned selfie sticks. For example, in addition to many shrines and temples, the sticks are now completely banned on all train platforms across the country.

Observe Local Rules and Customs

Being aware of Japan’s social rules and customs is not only a way to respect the local people, but is a way to make your own experience more culturally immersive. Social etiquette is very important in Japanese culture, and whilst you, as a visitor, will be let off by this warm and welcoming people, it is always best to try and fit in with the social norms as much as possible.

  • Throughout Asia, the notion of ‘saving face’ is exceptionally important in social interactions. Do what you can to avoid all potential embarrassment for other people, e.g. not raising your voice in public or pointing out someone’s mistakes.
  • Remove your shoes when entering homes, temples, ryokans and even some restaurants. Usually slippers will be provided, but if they are not, you may enter with your socks on.
  • If you are in an establishment that has given you slippers to wear, do not wear them into the bathroom. Swap them for the pair of bathroom slippers, and do not forget to swap
    them back.
  • When paying for an item in a shop and you see a tray on the counter, place your money here rather than handing it straight to the cashier.
  • Bow when greeting someone. Bowing is the customary greeting in Japan, and can express many meanings, including respect, gratitude and apology.
  • The gesture for ‘no’ is fanning your hand sideways a few times in front of your face.
  • When sitting on the floor, men usually cross their legs whilst women sit with their feet to one side.
  • Chopsticks should be placed beside your bowl (or on the stand if there is one), not stuck upright in the rice. Food should also never be passed from one set of chopsticks to another. These are traditional funeral customs and it is thought to be bad luck.
  • It is considered uncouth to blow your nose in public. Sniffing rather than blowing your nose is considered more appropriate in front of other people.
  • It is polite to let a fellow drinker pour your drink for you. Make sure to return the favour.
  • It is strictly stand left pass right on Tokyo escalators.
  • Smoking while walking is considered rude and is even illegal in some places.

Dress Appropriately

The way you dress in Japan is up to you – you may have seen how unconservative some people are, especially in Tokyo! However, the Japanese do take great pride in their appearance and how you are treated may be influenced by how you present yourself. A couple of tips:

  1. dress appropriately when visiting temples and shrines, e.g. no beachwear, and
  2. wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off.

The Environment

The tap water in Japan is safe to drink. Consider bringing your own reusable bottle to save buying lots of bottled water, and to lower the number of plastic bottles being thrown away. Wooden chopsticks also have a negative environmental impact – these are likely to be supplied in restaurants. Perhaps consider taking your own pair of reusable chopsticks (or even a knife and fork if you are chopstick-challenged!) that you can carry with you and use at lunch and dinner.


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