What comes to mind when you think of Japan? For some people, especially in Western culture, the first thing that comes to mind is Sushi and Japanese food on the whole. Unquestionably it has permeated just about every city and town in North America and across the globe. For other people, the first thing to come to mind may be cars, after all, it is near impossible to even see a road without seeing a Japanese brand. Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, and Mitsubishi are just a few of the manufacturers that make up a sizeable portion of every car on this planet, or at the very least, some of the most recognizable ones.
Maybe it is Sumo wrestling that comes to mind when you think of the Land of the Rising Sun; after all, the traditional wrestling style is unlike anything else in the world, dating about some 2000 years in origin. For many older Americans and specifically men who served in the military, it is the infamous and controversial “Geisha girls” that come when the word Japan is mentioned. Along those same lines (military, not prostitution) many people may think of Pearl Harbor when they think of Japan, and in relation, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the locations where the United States dropped nuclear bombs in what was unquestionably one of the darkest hours mankind has ever experienced.
For many others, Japan is viewed as a technological powerhouse, and as one of the most advanced, high tech countries in the world. They have one of the most impressive subway lines in existence; they have record shattering bullet trains and are home to some of the most prestigious and boundary pushing electronics companies around such as Sony, Toshiba, Canon, and Nintendo. And albeit that Japan is certainly technologically advanced, they have some of the pristine natural beauty around, from bonsai trees to Mt. Fuji, and the iconic cherry blossoms that are recognized the world over.
From samurais to Hello Kitty, Japanese culture is certainly unique, and many of its practices and influences have touched nearly every corner of the globe, however, it isn’t only their culture that has influenced us. Western culture has found its way to Japan, from movies, music, fashion and food (KFC is a really big deal in Japan). But despite a certain degree of western influence, Japan is still a very proud nation and one that holds its traditions and practices in high regard.
Japan, like many countries, has its own way of doing things and holding to tradition the way they do, it is expected that visitors will adhere to these practices. No, it is unlikely you will be sent to jail for breaking tradition, however, you might get some funny looks and you might find your service lacking if you don’t respect their culture. Which begs the question, what shouldn’t you do in Japan?
While this topic can be heavily debated, we have compiled a list of concrete “dont’s” that visitors to Japan should adhere to, if not out of respect, then to simply ensure you get the most out of your trip. But between us, let’s do it out of respect. So without further ado, allows us to present to you 19 things you should NEVER do in Japan.
While it is not uncommon in North America depending on who’s household you enter to keep your shoes on, in Japan, this is a big faux pas. A person's home is a very respected place (as it should be) and the reason behind it is quite reasonable and hygienic - they simply don’t want the dust and dirt from the outside being trekked all over their clean floors and tatami mats(a traditional Japanese floor covering).
This practice is so widespread that most homes are designed and built with a small, recessed vestibule called a genkan, where a person should be removed and a pair of slippers (usually provided) should be put on. It is also important to note that these slippers should be removed before entering a room with tatami mats, as socks are the preferred footwear.