10 Surprising Things You’ll Discover In Japanese Culture

There’s an immediate feeling of joy mixed with anxiety travelers experience when surrounded by people with a different culture and maybe even a different language. Learning new cultures is a life skill every traveler needs to have, but some things can be surprising and hard to understand at first. Enter culture shock.

Culture shock is a state of fear, anxiety, and even loneliness that accompanies moving into a new environment that is different from what travelers are accustomed to. Visiting Japan for the first time can present some challenges for travelers, so these are ten things to be aware of during one’s first trip.

10/10 No Indoor Shoes


While the habit of removing shoes when going indoors is popular in many places, it goes a mile further in Japan as this practice is not just for the home only but also at hotels, restaurants, temples, and other public spaces.

There is usually a particular area at the entrance of buildings where people can place their outdoor shoes and put on indoor ones. More often than not, there are separate toilet slippers. If not, one can go in barefoot or with socks on.

To be sure when to follow this practice, one can confirm with those around or check to see if there are shoes already at the entrance. Another tip is confirming if the entrance floor is raised.


Another possible source of culture shock in Japanese culture is the apparent absence of physical affection. A custom in Japan is to express feelings through the right words rather than a hug, kiss, or even a pat.

Continuous eye contact is also avoided in Japanese culture, which can be quite the adjustment for vacationers.

Related: What To Expect In Tokyo, The World’s Largest Metropolitan Area

8/10 Japanese Culture Has Much Bowing

A prevalent Japanese tradition is the habit of bowing. A visitor who gives a handshake might be met with an odd stare, but a bow is always accepted. People often bow to everybody, even among friends.

The number of times or how deeply one bows shows respect or authority. For example, a friend might receive a slight nod while a superior at work, a deep bow one or two times.

7/10 Don’t Stand Up The Chopsticks

Placing chopsticks in a bowl after eating might turn a few heads at a Japanese restaurant as it contradicts the culture. In Japanese culture, chopsticks are not usually left in the bowl, as chopsticks standing upright is considered bad luck.

Related: 10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Japan During Spring

6/10 Shindo And Buddhism, Part Of Japanese Culture

Religion is unique in Japan, too. Shindo and Buddhism are two of the prevalent religions practiced in Japan. Some people even practice these two religions together, and it is not uncommon to see a Buddhist and a Shinto temple built together.

Centuries ago, these two religions used to be practiced as one, i.e., shinbutsu.

5/10 Bathing Together, A Japanese Culture

The tradition of bathing together is an ancient and carefully preserved culture as it still happens in the various communal baths in Japan.

The communal baths, called sento or onsen (the latter referring to hot spring baths), are not tourist destinations and are actual public bathing places. Most are separated by gender and involve specific etiquette rules.

4/10 No Tips In Japanese Culture

Tipping is not a standard custom in Japan, and it may even be considered rude, especially when tips are offered by travelers.

There are various explanations for this tradition, but one is that people in Japan value dignity and hard work, so a tip is considered unnecessary.

3/10 Most Of Japan Reads Manga

More than half of all the adults in Japan read manga, a comic book. Tourists unfamiliar with the prevalent craving for comic books may be surprised at this tradition, but others will recognize manga and appreciate how widely available it is.

2/10 Games Are A Japanese Mainstay

It is common knowledge that Japan is the origin of famous video game systems such as PlayStation Nintendo and the popular Pokémon franchise.

Video games remain popular in Japan, with many people exhibiting a passion that other countries can’t match.

1/10 Japanese Foods Are Unique

Japanese cuisine is vast as it combines all the regional and traditional foods passed down and developed through numerous centuries. There is the famous sushi, rice with miso soup, and the different varieties of seafood usually served raw or slightly cooked.

While many Japanese foods are surprising to travelers’ palates, especially North Americans’, the culture shock in Japan is likely milder than in some other countries. Still, it helps to know what to expect before visiting!


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