Japan has a unique culture with a very strict code of etiquette.
There are specific ways to eat noodles, good practices for accepting gifts, and certain rules to follow to avoid insulting a host.
This complex web of social rules and traditions can be overwhelming for those traveling to Japan, so we compiled a list of some of the things foreigners find most shocking when visiting the country.
Here are 11 customs you should know before traveling to Japan.1. No. 4 is avoided at all cost.
In Japan, the number "four" is avoided because it sounds very similar to the word for death. In the same vein as No. 13 in Western culture, No. 4 is extremely unlucky and is used as little as possible. You must always avoid giving anyone something in fours because it can be seen as a very ominous gift.
Elevator labels will often be missing a fourth floor — and in extreme cases, they will not have floors 40 to 49. No. 49 is especially unlucky, as it sounds similar to the phrase that means "pain until death."
The practice of avoiding No. 4 is called "Tetraphobia," and it is common in many East Asian and Southeast Asian regions.2. Blowing your nose in public is considered rude.
Blowing your nose in public is seen as not only rude, but simply disgusting. Instead people will generally sniffle until they find somewhere private. If you simply must blow your nose, it is recommended that you do so as discreetly as possible.
The Japanese are also repelled by the idea of a handkerchief.3. Tipping can be seen as insulting.
Tipping is considered rude — and can even be seen as degrading. Tipping will often cause confusion, and many people will chase after you to give you back your money.
If someone has been particularly helpful and you feel absolutely compelled to leave a tip, Rough Guides suggests leaving a small present instead.4. Walking and eating is seen as sloppy.
Although walking and eating is often convenient and widely accepted in many Western cultures, the practice is looked down upon in Japan. Many also consider it rude to eat in public or on the trains.
There are just a few exceptions to this rule, including the fact that it is OK to eat an ice-cream cone on the street.5. There are designated people who will push you into a crowded subway car.
Oshiya, or "pushers," wear uniforms, white gloves, and hats and literally push people into crowded subway cars during rush hour.
They are paid to make sure everybody gets in and doesn't get caught in the doors.6. People will sleep on the trains with their head on your shoulder.
If someone in Japan falls asleep with his or her head on you shoulder, it is common practice to just tolerate it. People have very long commutes and work dreadfully long hours, so many will often fall asleep on the train.
"There is a tolerance that if the person next to you falls asleep and their head kind of lands on your shoulder, people just put up with it," Sandra Barron told CNN. "That happens a lot."7. There are toilet slippers for the bathrooms.
It is customary to change into slippers when entering a Japanese home, a traditional restaurant, temples, and sometimes museums and art galleries, according to Rough Guides. Basically any time you come across of row of slippers in Japan, you should just put them on.
There are even special toilet slippers kept inside the bathroom, so you'll take off your house slippers and put on the toilet slippers.8. You must always bring a host a gift.
It is an honor in Japan to be invited to someone's home, and if this happens, you must always bring a gift. The gift should also be wrapped in the most elaborate way possible, and lots of fancy ribbons are suggested.
You should also never refuse a gift once offered — but it is good practice to strongly protest the gift at first.9. Pouring you own glass is considered rude.
It is customary in the US (and many other countries in the world) to serve others before you serve yourself, but in Japan you are never supposed to pour yourself a drink. If you have poured for others, another guest will hopefully see that your drink is empty and pour for you.
You must also always wait for someone to say "Kanpai" (cheers) before drinking.10. Slurping noodles is not only seen as polite — but it also means you have enjoyed your meal.
Slurping is considered polite in Japan because it shows that you are enjoying your delicious noodles — in fact, if you don't eat loudly enough, it can be mistaken as you not enjoying your food.
Slurping noodles is not entirely for the sake of politeness, but also to avoid having a burnt tongue. Japanese soup and noodles are generally served steaming hot — hot enough to burn — and slurping helps to cool down the food.
But unlike in some other Asian nations, it is still considered rude to belch at the table.11. Sleeping in capsule hotels in rooms barely bigger than a coffin is very common.
Capsule hotels are used as cheap accommodations for guests who purely want a place to sleep. They are used most often by businessmen working or by those who have partied too late and have missed the last train home.
The sleeping quarters are small capsules that are not much bigger than a coffin, and the beds are stacked side by side and on top of one another. The concept has been around in Japan since the 1970s, but it has begun to spread to a few other countries around the world.
The setup is a cheap alternative to a hotel, as a bed costs only $65 a night, but it should be avoided for anyone who suffers from even slight claustrophobia.
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