Stranger in a Strange Land

Top tips for thriving on your trip to Japan!

Japan may seem scary and overwhelming for first timers because they feel they don’t know the language or understand the culture, especially when it is so different from where they are coming from. Fear not! Here we share with you some top tips and useful words/phrases to help you along and make your trip to Japan fun and exciting!

Top Tips

·      Shoes off indoors – It is a Japanese (and broadly Asian) practice to take your shoes off when entering a home or traditional ryokan/inn. Shoes are usually taken off at the genkan (entrance area) and then indoor slippers are slipped on to roam around the house/ryokan. You will find that in most of the ski lodges that you stay at in Japan will practice this. Entering with your shoes is a big boo boo!

·      Tips (gratuity) – You will be pleased to know that Japan has a no tipping culture. There is no stress of trying to work out how much you feel you should be obliged to leave at the restaurant table or the hotel at check out because it won’t be accepted. Show your appreciation instead by kind words of praise to your hosts.

·      Talking on the phone in public – Japanese have a strong sense of respect for each other’s space. So talking on the phone on public transport is usually not allowed or socially frowned upon. But if you’re on the Shinkansen and need to make a call, you can go to train corridors at the ends of each car to do so.

·      Cash is king! – Where in most countries plastic is fantastic or people have evolved to web/online pay systems, most of Japan is still very much driven by cash. In Tokyo, most places now accept credit cards but once out of Tokyo it is best to make sure that you have cash on hand. For foreigners, most ATMs do not accept international cash cards. If you need to draw money out of an ATM, look out for a 7-Eleven store or Japan Post.

·      Taxi – please note that when sitting in the back seats of a taxi, only enter/alight from the left-side door, which is opened by the taxi driver.

·      Garbage – Japan takes their recycling very seriously. Everything has to go into the right bin category. Hence the reason why you won’t find generic bins on the streets. If you have any trash on hand while walking the streets, the best way to dispose of it is to drop by one of the convenience stores and separate your trash accordingly into the dedicated bins.

·      Eating

o   Dishes are usually shared in the group family style. This gives you an opportunity to order more options and have a wider selection to taste.

o   When eating ramen – it’s good to slurp! It tells the chef you’re enjoying your ramen.

o   Do not stab your chopsticks into your rice bowl standing up. It has a bad connotation and is a big no-no.

o   Soup is usually drunk from the bowl. Other than when eating ramen, spoons are usually not used and you are meant to drink from the bowl.

o   Curry rice however is eaten with a spoon and not chopsticks.


“Dishes are usually shared in the group family style. This gives you an opportunity to order more options and have a wider selection to taste.”

 Useful words/phrases

·      Good morning – ohayougozaimasu

·      Hello – konnichiwa

·      Good evening – konbanwa

·      Goodbye/See you later – mata ne or ja mata

·      Goodnight – oyasuminasai

·      Please – onegaishimasu or kudasai

·      Excuse me – sumimasen

·      Thank you – arigatou gozaimasu or domo (for short)

·      Yes – hai

·      No thanks (if someone asks if you want something and you want to say no) – keko desu

·      Sorry – gomen nasai

·      Okay/it’s alright – daijoubu desu

·      May I have a beer please – biru onegaishimasu or biru kudasai

·      May I have the check please – okaike onegaishimasu

·      Where is the toilet please? – to-i-re wa doko desu ka?

·      How much is this? – ikura desu ka?

·      Where is ~ (place)? - ~ (name of place) wa doko desu ka?

·      Delicious! – oishii!

·      That’s awesome! – sugoine!

·      I don’t understand – wakarimasen

·      I don’t understand Japanese – nihongo ga wakarimasen

·      Please make a recommendation – osusume kudasai

·      Chef’s choice of dishes – omakase

·      Bon appetit (equivalent) – itadakimasu

·      Thank you for the meal (to show appreciation for a good meal) – gochisou sama deshita

·      Ski slope – sukii gerende

·      Ski area – sukii jou

·      Lift pass – lifuto chiketo

Now that you have some basics at hand, you’re well equipped to start your Japan adventure! If there’s additional information you would like, feel free to leave us a comment or send us an email.

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