Tokyo – Capital of the Rising Sun
Tokyo is a weird and wonderful city where bright neon lights, quirky shop fronts and and effortlessly stylish locals line the streets. It often tops many travel lists in terms of experience and it really is not difficult to see why. The city is the world’s largest with a population of over 37 million but it never once felt over-crowded nor intrusive in terms of personal space since the Japanese are most polite and considerate.
Apart from copious etiquettes, Tokyo is also renown for its shopping, food and nightlife. From the endless strips of luxury stores in Ginza to the cute and quirky boutiques in Harajuku, the tiny ramen bars to the award-winning sushi houses, Tokyo is a haven for those who seek leisure, pleasure and entertainment. The city also boasts some of the most beautiful parklands and gardens that provide respite from the concrete and bustling vibe.
English is rare and finding a restaurant with English menus or a local that speaks English is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Even when we responded with a bewildered “I don’t understand” expression and if Glenn’s obvious Caucasian appearance was not telling enough, the locals continued to communicate in Japanese. However unlike the French who are known for snubbing foreigners for not speaking the local language, the Japaneses struggle because English is not in their curriculum.
The Japanese rely on systems and efficiency and getting around the city and getting by is easy as long as you embrace their culture with open arms. The Japanese remain most helpful and sincere and will attempt in every way to offer help in spite of culture and communication barrier. We had a few first hand experiences where the locals went out of their way to help two lost tourists and we were marvelled by their earnest verve.
The Japanese culture is rife with etiquettes and it is important to respect them as the locals see them as valuable and meaningful. The Japanese people are about harmonious living and value the idea of the common greater good than one’s own needs and while some of these etiquettes do not make sense to foreigners, we could adopt some of these social behaviours to ease our lives and the lives of others.
Here are 5 etiquette tips to get you by when travelling in Tokyo and Japan:
1) If a tray is provided for payments, ensure you place your money on the tray rather than hand the money to the cashier
2) Blowing one’s nose in public is considered rude so make your way to the bathroom if needed.
3) Talking on your mobile phone is frowned upon on public transport so either go to the designated areas (some trains have them) or send a text message instead
4) If you are using a Western style public toilet, it is considered good manners to use the “sound princess” feature which masks out any sounds you make
5) When eating sushi, pour only the amount of soy sauce that you will use as any leftover is considered wasteful.