Coming from the United States, there were many small things that surprised me on my work trip to Japan! To help prepare you, here are some random things I wish I knew before heading to Japan:
• Most of the toilets here are bidets aka if you push the wrong button water will start shooting up your butt. Don’t get distracted by the buttons though, I always found a lever to actually flush it.
• Another feature that seems very common in Japan is heated toilet seats. While it sounds like a great idea (who likes a cold toilet seat?), it was a very strange sensation to get used to.
• There are no paper towels or hand dryers in the bathrooms to dry your hands after washing them.
• Occasionally you will come across a “Japanese style toilet”, I only had to use them once during my 2 week trip when visiting the Hachimanyama park in Utsunomiya.
• The waiter doesn’t really check up on you like they do in the U.S. To get their attention people just yell “sumimasen” or they might have a call button at your table.
• Be prepared to take off your shoes when you enter a restaurant and leave them by the door.
• You’ll find that the portion sizes are much smaller than we’re used to in the U.S.
• Tea is served instead of water in most places.
• Most menus have pictures so you can order fairly easily, even without knowing the language.
- To use the trains you put your ticket through the machine (where it punches a hole in it) then pick it up after you walk through. On the way out you put it in the machine then instead of spitting it back out, it keeps it. If you are getting reimbursed for your train tickets be sure to take pictures of them before you leave the station!
- People wait in lines to board trains and buses. It’s not a free for all as it usually is in the States, the riders form an orderly line and the beginning of the lines are marked on many of the train platforms.
- There will be a hand washing station outside of any shrines you visit. Use the cups provided to spoon water on your hands and to rinse your lips before entering the shrine.
- You also will need to take your shoes off before entering the shrine, typically there are shoe cubbies around but if not look to see where others have put their shoes.
- In Japan they don’t seem to believe in air conditioning. Buy a fan or bring a wash cloth around with you if you are coming in the summer and be sure to pack extra lightweight clothes as yours will get sweaty really quickly!
- In Japan they drive on the left side of the road which means they also walk on the left. If you are riding an escalator it is expected that you will stand on the left and pass on the right.
These are some things that took me by surprise when I visited Japan so I thought it might be helpful for others too! Do you have any tips to add to my list?