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Things to know before going to Japan


by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Fidelia A.

Last updated : Apr 28, 20227 min read

Travel Tips

Japan, like every other country in the world, have their own set of cultures and norms. As a traveler, you might actually be looking for these kinds of cultural differences to get some new experience from it.


However, here’s the problem with cultural differences;

If you’re not prepared enough to follow the “unspoken” rules, you might have a hard time dealing with the cultural shock.


Not to worry! Here in this article, I will discuss things you should know before traveling in Japan. Sit tight and hold on!

About Japan


There are more tourists who got “The Look” from locals in Japan than what you might possibly think.

In order to avoid that, here are some tips about things that you need to prepare for your Japan trip to make you fit in more with the locals!

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  1. Cash, baby

Japan, like most countries in Asia, holds more cash in their wallets than most westerners. Although you can use credit cards in several stores at touristy areas, most shops usually do not accept credit cards. This includes restaurants and other establishments. If you ever ran out of cash, you just need to find the nearest Seven-Eleven convenience stores that have a 7 Bank ATM in them. You can take more cash with the maximum limit of 30,000 yen per transaction.


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  1. Chopsticks Rules

You can find chopsticks in almost every restaurant in Japan. Even some of the international restaurants that are serving western foods usually have some chopsticks available. However, there are some etiquettes regarding the use of chopsticks.

One, you can never stick your chopsticks vertically in your bowl of rice. This symbolizes incense sticks that are usually used to honor the dead. Also, you should not transfer food from chopsticks to chopsticks; you need to put it down on a plate or a bowl first. On the other hand, you can always ask for spoons if you have difficulties using chopsticks! 


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  1. Trains Do Sleep

I have met tourists that were stranded in stations since they missed the last train. They thought that trains in Tokyo never stops. Well, they were wrong.


Here’s the thing;

Trains in Japan do not work at night.


Although they stopped pretty late (around 00.30 AM) and starts back pretty early (around 05.00 AM), it is better for you to know what time the last train is to avoid getting stranded. If you did -by any chance- missed the last train, you can try to get some rest at internet cafes or all night karaoke bars to catch the first train in the morning!


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  1. No tip

Imagine you’re in a restaurant in Japan. You are so satisfied with their services, and you wanted to give them something to show it. So, you opted to leave them some cash. Well, you’ll be surprised to know that they’ll catch you when you get out of the restaurant to return your “forgotten things”, which is your tip!


Japan does not have the culture to give out tips. Even in hotels or other establishments, there is no way you’ll find tip boxes laying on the counter. However, if you are so keen on throwing out some extra coins, you can put them inside small charity boxes that are available in some shops.


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  1. Be quiet in trains!

During train rides, you must not take any phone calls or speak too loudly. This is especially true when the train is crowded during rush hours. In fact, the more crowded the train is, the quieter it will be. People will be literally glued to each other, and even then they will opt to look at the floor or the train roofs. Everyone would keep to themselves. This is the one unspoken custom you might want to know before your Japan trip, to avoid the stares from the locals 


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  1. Regarding photographs

Of course, you would love to take pictures of some geisha or maiko when you’re traveling in Japan.


Here’s the problem with that:

They might not want their pictures to be taken!


Japan has a strict rule regarding taking photographs. Even Japanese phones have a loud camera shutter noise that cannot be silenced (there is literally no option for it). Although you just want to respect the Japanese’ cultures, you should still respect geishas and maikos by asking their permission before taking their pictures.


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  1. English?

Surprisingly, most Japanese does not speak (or choose not to speak) English. They do have the basic understanding of it, but they are mostly too shy to communicate in it. If you’re ever lost, your best bet is finding the nearest police station or tourist information center.


English proves to be difficult to when you’re in a restaurant. Although more restaurants in big cities offer English menu, there are lots of restaurants that still have Japanese only menus. You can try your best to point at pictures that are usually available in the menus or take pictures of the fake foods that are usually available in front of the shops to point at the menu that you want.


  1. Shoes off!

Japan took this one Asian custom to the next level; there are more places where you need to take your shoes off then you would imagine.


Of course, most restaurants do not require you to take off your shoes. However, some of the traditional restaurants or places with a tatami mat usually needs you to change your shoes to slippers before you enter. You might also be surprised to know that you also need to take off your shoes when you enter dressing rooms in clothes shops!


To make your trip easier

blog imageJapan has so many more unwritten rules and customs that tourists need to know before their visit. This could prove to be difficult for visitors and the language barrier problem might even deter some tourists from ever visiting Japan.


Worry not!


I have another tip for you to ensure you have the best trip as possible during your Japan holiday; hire a private guide!


Look, hiring a private guide is not as difficult as you might think. You would easily overcome the language barrier if you have a guide to translate what you really want to say. Plus, your guide will tell you all the things you might need to prepare for your arrival in Japan.

If you are thinking of hiring a private guide, then I recommend you to find one in GoWithGuide. They have a list of professional guides that would ensure you have the best holiday in Japan as possible.

In this article, I have explained about a few tips and things you need to know before you arrive in Japan. I hope that it has been helpful enough and I wish you the best of luck for your holiday!

Gifu Tour Guide - Akiko W.

Akiko W.

5.00 / 5
(8 reviews)

Hello! My name is Akiko from Gifu prefecture. I am a National Government Licensed Guide Interpreter. I like going out with my family, talking with my friends over coffee at a cozy cafe, reading books, baking bread and cake when I have time. I passed the national tour guide test in 2017 and have worked as a guide since then. I have guided in Gifu city, Seki city, Takayama city, Shirakawago , Mino city and Nagoya city. I have lived in Gifu for more than forty years. Gifu prefecture is rich in nature so you can enjoy the rural atmosphere. Gifu city has a beautiful river 'Nagara river' and Mt.Kinka which has Gifu castle on the top. You can go up the mountain on foot or use a ropeway. The view from Gifu castle is so fantastic. At the foot of the mountain , there are many places to visit such as parks, a temple having a big image of Buddha, and a street preserving the historic atmosphere. At Nagara River, you can enjoy seeing a traditional way of fishing ‘cormorant fishing’ which is thought to have started 1300 years ago. Many cafes have unique service called 'morning service' in Gifu along with Aichi In the morning (until about ten thirty or eleven) when you order a cup of tea or coffee, they serve toast and salad ! Near Gifu park , you can find a nice Japanese style cafe where you enjoy good coffee and seeing a Japanese style garden. Seki city is a small city but so famous for its cutlery. At Japanese sword museum in Seki, you can see authentic Japanese swords! Mino city next to Seki city is well known for its hand made Japanese paper 'Hon minoshi' designated as intangible cultural asset by UNESCO . Until recently it was not easy to guide guests because of COVID-19 pandemic; however the situation is getting better. Some strict rules about COVID-19 have been lifted. Please visit Gifu. I am looking forward to seeing you. Please feel free to ask me when you need information about Gifu. Thank you for reading my introduction.                                                                                                                                 

Shimizu Tour Guide - Sayori H.

Sayori H.

5.00 / 5
(2 reviews)

Hello, I can show you the real Japan. You can taste, see and feel the country. I'd like to show the beautiful culture for you to experience. I can organize the day tour from Shimizu port for Cruise customers. Tea ceremony, strawberry picking experience, anything you are interested, I would love to help you plan your tour. I can communicate in both English and Japanese. I look forward to welcoming people from different parts of the world. Thank you                                                                                                                                 

Shiga Tour Guide - Koichi W.

Koichi W.

4.94 / 5
(51 reviews)

Hi! I'm Koichi. I was born in Osaka, I studied in Kyoto when I was a university student. Now I live in Shiga next to Kyoto. I am a national government licensed tour guide. I have been guiding about 160 groups over the past twelve months. I usually guide my customers mainly in Kansai region including Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kobe and Shiga by public transportation systems. Well, I am curious about Japanese history, especially the history of Japan's ancient times since I was raised next to the world biggest mausoleum of the ancient Emperor called "Nintoku" in Sakai city Osaka which has just become one of the world cultural heritage sites. I dug out some ancient earthen ware vessels around there when I was a primary school student like the adventure archaeologist “Indiana Jones" (It’s our secret!!). That was my hobby. Now, one of my hobbies is outdoor activities such as mountaineering, kayaking, skiing and others. So I would like to take you to some good places where you can enjoy Japanese unique nature. I love to guide foreign visitors from all over the world. I think it is my calling or heavenly given job. Let's go and enjoy together! I hope to see you soon.                                                                                                                                 

Okinawa Main Island Tour Guide - Tateo U.

Tateo U.

4.99 / 5
(68 reviews)

My name is Tateo. I am officially registerd English tour guide and introducing about Okinawa's history,culture, and nature.I am elderly person but have gone through lots of expericences that happened during US occupation after WW2. For the example, change of monetary system(US dollar to Yen),Change of traffic regulation(driving vehicle from right to left).The reversion of Okinawa to main land Japan was biggest historical event.The US administered Okinawa for 27 years. As a result, thing were Americanized in many aspects. Historically, Okinawa was once independent nation until 1872.During Kingdum era, Okinawa actively traded with China, South Asia Countries, Korea, and Japan. In the end, our culture is quite differ much from main land Japan. For instance, architectural technique, daily customs, and culture are also unique. Okinawa is the only prefecture belong to subtropical climate zone. Even winter time, it's neither hot nor cold. People can enjoy marine sport all through the year.Canoeing, Kayaking, Diving, and Snorkeling are popular. Besides, beatiful white sand beaches and attractive coastline are abundant. Green sea water and blue sky have been lured people from all over the world. Traditional music and dance are worth seeing. Please visit Okinawa and enjoy extraordinary trip. I will be looking forward to seeing you soon.                                                                                                                                  

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