Japan is a country full of unique cultures hence the very strict code of etiquette. There are specific ways to do even the basic things and certain rules to stick by to avoid offending the people there. These surprising customs are unfamiliar to foreign travelers and it can be overwhelming for them.
So here is a list of the things you need to know before you go to Japan:
1) Number 4 is avoided at all costs
‘Tetraphobia’, is the practice of avoiding instances of the digit 4. It is common in many East Asian and Southeast Asian regions. In Japan, it is practiced because the number ‘four’ sounds very similar to the word for death.
The number 4 is considered extremely unlucky and is avoided at all times. Giving gifts in fours can also be seen as a very ominous gift. Another result of this phobia is the missing fourth floor in elevator labels. In extreme cases, floor 40 until 49 are not included especially the number 49 as it sounds similar to the ‘pain until death’ phrase.
2) Blowing your nose in public is considered rude
Blowing your nose in public is seen as disgusting and simply rude too. Instead, people will sniffle until they find somewhere private to blow their noses. If it’s unavoidable, it is recommended to do so as subtly as you can.
The Japanese are also not really keen on the idea of a handkerchief.
3) Tipping can be seen as insulting
Tipping can be seen as degrading. It often causes confusion and many people will give you back your money to the point where they will chase you if needed. If you feel absolutely obligated to leave a tip for someone who has been helpful, you can leave a small present instead.
4) People will sleep on the trains with their head on your shoulder
It is common to tolerate a person sleeping next to you on a train with their head on your shoulder. It happens a lot because people have a very long journey and work for long hours so many will get tired and often fall asleep on the way home.
If it happens to you, it is best to just let it be.
5) Slurping your noodles is considered polite and you have enjoyed your meal
It is considered rude in other countries but in Japan, it is perfectly fine. Even recommended doing so!
Slurping is considered polite in Japan as it shows that you like your delicious noodles or soup. In fact, if you eat quietly, it can be mistaken as you are not enjoying your food.
Not only for the sake of common practice but slurping can also avoid a burnt tongue. Japanese noodles and soups are usually served while it’s still steaming hot. It can burn your tongue and slurping helps to cool down the foods before you indulge it.