“Don’t stand your chopsticks upright in your bowl of rice – it’s the way rice is offered to a deceased person’s spirit; crossing them means a similar thing. You shouldn’t spear food with chopsticks either.”Emily, Kids and Compass
“If there is a specific restaurant you’re looking to visit in a tourist area, check hours in advance and make reservations. I had more trouble getting seated at restaurants in Japan than anywhere else I have visited, as most had only a few tables.”Nancy, We Go With Kids
My favourite meal during my visit to Japan was surprisingly at a motorway cafe/truck stop — king prawns in breadcrumbs with curry and rice. There was what looked like a vending machine with pictures of the various dishes on offer. This is where you pay and collect a ticket for your order, which you hand over the counter. When your order is ready they will call out your number in Japanese! Near the counter, there was a drinks dispenser with free water and tea.
“I was given this advice when I first visited Japan and it was spot on.”Sarah, A Social Nomad UPDATE: Having spent a week in Japan eating in a variety of restaurants where I was rarely given a choice of what to eat, I’m sorry to say I don’t agree with this tip. For example, while the eel with rice was surprisingly delicious, the eel liver soup (with a whole liver floating in it) most definitely was not, and while I could stomach the crab brains, the raw crab sashimi was, well, let’s just say it was a step too far.
“Did you know most supermarkets offer fabulous sushi? I’ve found it both tastes great and is very cheap, especially if you go one or two hours before closing time when it is reduced to half-price!”Cornelius, Cycloscope
“Don’t finish your drink or meal if you are out with Japanese people. They will assume they have not fed you enough, or have not got you drunk enough. This is insulting to the Japanese people who pride themselves on their hospitality. Always leave a little in your glass, and a little on your plate. Also, let your host pour your drink.”Paula, Contented Traveller UPDATE: This only applies to certain formal situations and generally it’s actually polite to finish your meal, especially your rice.
“Go to a Japanese onsen, preferably one with an outdoor bath. Make sure to scrub and clean yourself thoroughly before entering the public bath. Soap, shampoo, and conditioner are usually provided for you. It’s the best way to beat jet lag or any fatigue, and you will love the experience.”Corrine, Reflections Enroute UPDATE: I was rather nervous about how I’d feel walking around naked in front of strangers but when I plucked up the courage to do it, it was surprisingly easy, although I’m pleased to say that onsen are virtually all single sex only. If there is a choice of indoor and outdoor baths, opt for the outdoor one as you can stay in longer and for me, it felt far more relaxing gazing up at the stars. If you go to a true rotenburo (outdoor bath), there may be no showers at all and just a tub with a ladle near the entrance to rinse your body (and no soap, so it doesn’t get into the natural onsen water). Trying an onsen has to be one of my favourite Japan travel tips and something I’d higly recommend.
“If you need to stop a stranger to ask for directions, don’t start by asking ‘Do you speak English?’– many people are shy and will say ‘No’ even though they understand some English. Instead, try something like ‘Hello, could you please help me? I’m trying to find…’.”Patrick, German Backpacker
”Toilets are kind of a complicated deal in Japan, although in more rural areas you will also come across squat toilets. For the high-tech toilets though, you’ll want to figure out in advance the basics of how to flush, which isn’t always obvious from the outset, and is usually a lever or button separate from the Star Trek-style control panel you might initially be presented with!”Laurence, Finding the Universe UPDATE: I’d recommend taking hand sanitiser as few public toilets have hot water or soap to wash your hands or any way to dry them. Don’t panic if you see a squat toilet inside the cubicle. It’s always worth checking the other cubicles to see if there are any western style toilets as well. And if you notice a button that says ‘flush noise’ it doesn’t do anything other than making a noise. Its sole purpose is to disguise any embarrassing noises you might make. It still puts a smile on my face when I think of it. I’m surprised they didn’t also have a button for covering up embarrassing smells!
“Many ATMs (automatic teller machines) in Japan do not accept foreign cards. ATMs that work with foreign cards can be found at post offices, Citibank, 7-Eleven stores and a few other convenience stores.”Matilda, The Travel Sisters UPDATE: I fell foul of this one on my last day. I ran out of money and wanted to go out for a drink that evening but couldn’t find an ATM that would accept any of my cards. Thanks to Adam from Travels of Adam for bailing me out.