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5 Strange Rules in Japan

Written by Sean Smith

Many people would like to visit the eastern country of Japan because of its beautiful landscapes, magnificent monuments, and fascinating people.  Tourists need to understand that Japan has some strange, unwritten rules.  In order not to offend the people of Japan, here are just 5 of the strange rules that visitors need to follow:

  1. Train Manners

In many countries, people rush in and push each other to get a seat on the train as soon as it arrives.  In Japan, people are much more considerate and wait patiently in one line to get on after the other passengers have gotten off the train.  Backpacks can be annoying and take up space, so passengers in Japan take them off and hold them in their hands.  Some may even put their backpacks on the racks above the seats. Passengers are not supposed to sit with their legs crossed because it is considered rude when the train is crowded since crossed legs can kick other passengers.

  1. No “Thank you” Is Necessary for Cashiers and Waiters

It is very common in the United States and in other countries to say “thank you” to a cashier or waiter when someone appreciates something that has been done for or given to them; however, in Japan, people do not do this.  In Japan, cashiers greet and talk with customers while they just wait to be checked out.  Customers might nod or bow, but they leave as soon as the cashier is finished.  At restaurants in Japan, customers will say “gochisosama desu,” which means “thank you for the food.”  This is considered more than enough to waiters.  The reason Japanese people don’t say “thank you” to cashiers or waiters is because they feel they shouldn’t have to thank them for a job they’re getting paid to do.

  1. Take Your Trash Home

It is very common to see trash cans and recycling bins all over as a way to keep areas clean and to be environmentally friendly.  In Tokyo, Japan, however, you will not find any of these.  The expectation is that Japanese people take their trash home with them and throw it away there.  Most vending machines do have a slot for bottles, but the opening is only fitted for bottles.  Even without trash cans, areas are always very clean in Japan.

  1. Japanese Punctuality

Japanese people really value punctuality so they don’t expect anyone to be late for work or an appointment, not even a minute.  If an employee shows up late to work several times, he will have a bad name regarding his punctuality.  If someone is running late because of a delayed train, official papers can be given to prove that the train was late.  If someone has an injury such as a broken leg, Japanese people don’t use this as an excuse to be late.  They are expected to leave earlier to get where they’re going in order to be on time.

  1. Smoking Allowed Indoors, but Not Everywhere Outdoors

It seems that many people have given up smoking to improve their health, but there is still a large percentage of Japanese men and women who smoke.  Until recently, smokers had the luxury of smoking pretty much anywhere in Japan — inside and outside — and since tobacco is cheaper there than in most other countries, smoking has always been pretty prevalent.  Recent laws have changed smoking rules a bit.  People can smoke inside of less expensive restaurants, bars, and clubs.  People can only smoke outside in designated areas, which are usually near parks or stations.  It is absolutely unacceptable to walk and smoke at any time.

These may seem like strange or extreme rules to anyone who visits Japan, but to the people who live there, this is a more orderly and polite way of life.  No matter what the Japanese people do, they act in a way that shows respect for themselves and others at all times.


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About the author

Sean Smith