Letter From The Editor: 3 Things Not to Do in Japan

So if any of you guys are like me, you love travel and learning about other countries. What’s that? You hate it? Too bad, you’re gonna finish this blog post and like it!

Ehem. In any case, like some of you may know, I’m an Asian Studies major focusing in Japanese history. Because of this, I went to Japan for three weeks this past summer to study abroad. While I was there I noticed how different the culture was and came up with three things that will probably get you in trouble in Japan.

  1. Public transportation is nothing like in America

Anyone who has ever experienced the subway of New York City will understand that public transportation is a smelly, never-on-time, confusing pit of despair. Now, to some of you that may seem like a gross exaggeration, but after experiencing Tokyo’s metro I can’t help but complain about NYC’s. The greatest thing about the Tokyo metro is the convenience. Tokyo is about 10 times bigger than all of New York City yet the subway is easier than riding your bike down the block. While the map may look confusing, there is a letter and color for every line and a number for every stop. Here’s a link to a great version of the map: http://mapsof.net/map/tokyo-subway-map-metro

What is important to remember on the subway is not to talk too loudly or eat. In Japan, many people use the train to sleep or as quiet time on the way to and from work. It is ridiculously clean and incredibly quiet on the metro. If you have to talk, try using an inside voice because you WILL get stared at by everyone. Also, it may be the death of you if you, god forbid, use your cell phone. Music with headphones is fine but phone calls are absolutely frowned down upon. Not just on the subway but in public in general!

  1. Take off your shoes!!

Some of you may know this rule already as it is probably the most notorious way foreigners get in all kinds of wacky situations. (Read: the way foreigners shame their families) In Japan,

people consider shoes to be one of the dirtiest surfaces in the universe. For this reason, the Japanese use house slippers. You take off your shoes in the entryway of homes and temples and put on house slippers or just wear your socks. Please, if you are ever invited into someone’s home, take off your shoes!!! Also, there are special slippers for the toilet room. Yes, I said toilet room. There’s a bathroom and a toilet room in every Japanese home. DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT wear those slippers out into the rest of the house. If you do, seppuku awaits you.

Pictured: Seppuku

Pictured: Seppuku

  1. Chopstick etiquette

Many of you are probably familiar with chopsticks since this is America and we have everything here! MURICA! What you probably don’t know are the many rules and manners that go with using them. In fact there are so many, here’s a whole list: http://www.japan-talk.com/jt/new/10-golden-rules-for-japanese-chopstick-manners

I think of all the rules out there for chopstick manners, the most important is not sticking your chopsticks in rice. I know this is tempting because wow that rice sure holds the chopsticks nicely! But that practice is used in funeral services when the Japanese offer food to the deceased. In general, most chopstick rules involve not reminding anyone of funerals or dead people.

Tina

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