6 things you must know before you travel to Tokyo
According to the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), the number of overseas visitors in Japan rises every year. In 2016 it had over 24 million overseas visits. Not only that, but Tokyo was also named the 9th most visited city in the world in 2016 as well. Japan is constantly flourishing so keep on reading, and discover all of the opportunities and experiences that it has to offer! Who knows, maybe you’ll even want to book a flight afterwards!
Planning a holiday to Tokyo? Start here!
1. Japanese pop culture is more than just geishas
When told to think about the Japanese culture, many people associate it with geishas. However, there is so much more to it other than women dressed in traditional kimonos. Anime and manga have become very popular in Japan, especially Tokyo. Anime are Japanese animated cartoon videos that typically air on television and can be released on home video. Manga are Japanese comics that are often pictured in black and white. The love for both of these things became so prevalent in Japan that stores began to emerge, selling comics, videos, toy characters, etc., making Japan’s pop culture businesses flourish.
Pop culture is progressively becoming the superpower and core of life in Japan. Japan has plenty of attractions to offer such as:
Karaoke, the pastime we’ve all come to know and love. Karaoke originated in Japan and has become one of the world’s most entertaining activities. With over hundreds of locations, karaoke bars are widely dispersed all throughout Japan. Click here to learn about some of the best karaoke bars in Tokyo.
Recently, Japan has been receiving much praise for their sake. Sake is rapidly becoming more famous not only throughout Japan, but throughout the western world as well. Sake brewery tours are also trending as an activity for tourists who are visiting Japan. To find brewery tours and tastings in Tokyo, click here.
- Cat Café
If you like tea and if you like cats, then this is the place for you! The Nekorobi Cat Cafe (located in Tokyo), allows you to have tea while interacting with cats. What more could you ask for than cute kitties and a nice cup of tea!?
Looking for more attractions to visit when you are in Tokyo? Click here.
2. Manners matter in Japan
Remember when you were younger and your parents always told you to mind your manners? Feels like forever ago, right? Well if you’re traveling to Japan, you’re going to have to channel some of these memories because manners are definitely important there. Some of these include:
- Avoiding saying the number four as much as possible.
People in Japan avoid saying the number four in Japanese because it sounds very similar to their word for death. You should even avoid giving someone anything in counts of fours because it can be portrayed as threatening and is considered very unlucky.
- Walk on the right side of the sidewalk, but leave the right side of the escalator open
- Do not point at people
- It is impolite to eat and/or drink while walking down the street, it’s considered as messy
- Don’t pour your own drink. This is considered impolite. Instead, pour your friend’s drink and have them pour yours.
- Blowing your nose in public is considered rude. Blow it somewhere private instead.
- Many places in Japan have slippers sitting outside of their bathrooms for people to put on. It is customary to change into slippers when entering a Japanese home, traditional restaurant, temple, and many times museums and art galleries.
- Japan uses a different style than you may be used to. The traditional Japanese toilet sinks into the ground and has a hood that faces the wall and covers part of the toilet, preventing water from splashing when you flush. To use this toilet properly, one must squat or kneel facing the hood with their legs on each side.
- When entering a home in Japan, it is a custom to remove your shoes. Once you remove your shoes, you will want to place them in the genkan facing the outside. The genkan is the entryway of a traditional Japanese home. After you remove your shoes, it is custom to put on a pair of slippers. The slippers may be worn until you leave; however, they must be removed before entering an area that has tatami mats. It is considered rude to walk on tatami mats with shoes on, so either walk on them with socks on or barefoot.
- Slurping food and drink is deemed as polite and gracious. It shows that you are enjoying yourself.
- Although slurping is considered polite, belching is not.
Need a refresher on these when on holiday? Find it here.
3. Eating sushi in Japan is an art form
The Japanese eat sushi in a very specific way. So make sure to know these tips when dining at a sushi restaurant in Tokyo.
If you are seated at a sushi bar, only ask the itamae (chef) for sushi. Ask your waiter/waitress for other non-sushi items such as drinks, soup, etc. Be sure never to ask if something is fresh. It is considered rude and insulting to the itamae.
At the beginning of your meal, you may be offered a hot towel (also known as an “oshibori”). Cleanse your hands with it and fold it properly as it was given to you before returning it.
It is alright to eat sushi with your hands; however, sashimi is to be eaten with chopsticks.
Do not put wasabi into your soy sauce dish. The itamae often places it under the fish for you because it reflects what he feels is the proper balance of wasabi to fish. If the itamae does not place the wasabi onto your sushi for you, then you yourself can place it under the fish. As far as ginger (gari) goes, it is considered to be a palate cleanser in Japan and should be eaten between different bites or when switching the type of sushi that you are eating, it should not be eaten with it.
If you notice that your waiter has given you soup without a spoon, do not be confused. Some restaurants serve it that way and expect their customers to pick it up with their hands and drink it.
If you are feeling extra hungry and want to try a friend’s sushi, use the end of your chopsticks that you hold instead of the end that you put in your mouth.
After you are finished dining, if you were seated at the bar it is polite to tip the itamae. There may be a jar that sits on the counter, place your money there so he does not have to touch it with the hands that he cooks with. It is also polite to thank the itamae after you have finished your meal. You may say, “Domo arigato” which means “thank you” or you can say, “gochisosama deshita” which is more formal and translates to “thank you for the meal”.
Keep more handy tips close to you while travelling around Japan. Find it here.
4. Japanese hospitality has its own name
When you travel to Japan, you may notice that the quality of customer service is unlike any other that you have experienced before. This is because they pride themselves on their customer service. Japan truly believes that the customer should be the most valued and well-treated person. This is where the idea of “omotenashi” comes into play.
Omotenashi is the staple of Japanese hospitality. In many English dictionaries, you will often find “omotenashi” defined as “hospitality”, but to the Japanese culture, it means much, much more. It is an ideology dedicated to creating a divine and unforgettable experience for guests. It has been and will continue to be practiced for centuries to come.
You will feel the spirit of omotenashi from everyone and everywhere you go in Japan including in restaurants, from bathroom attendants, and at various cultural events. However, there is nowhere that truly radiates of omotenashi like a sado (a traditional Japanese tea ceremony) does. This is where the idea of omotenashi originated. At a sado, the guest is treated with comfort and warmth as the host prepares a hot bowl of tea made with love and care.
What some may forget to tell you, is that omotenashi is a form of mutual respect. While you receive omotenashi, you are expected to give it back. It’s almost like the idea of the golden rule, treat others the way you want to be treated. If you are late for your reservation at a restaurant, call them ahead of time and let them know while giving them an estimated time of arrival.
You may be experiencing omotenashi without even realizing it. For example, do not try to open or close your own taxi door. The taxi drivers there will usually drive cars that have automatic doors. You may also notice that when you dine at certain restaurants there are little baskets under or next to your table. Be warned, these are not trash bins! They’re actually compartments for you to keep your bag or purse so that you won’t have to place it on the ground.
They even take omotenashi into consideration for things as small as how your sushi is prepared! The itamae carefully adjusts the temperature of the rice in order to match the tastes of the different fishes. He then dresses the sushi with just the right amount of sauces and seasonings. To top it off, the itamae finally decides the sequence of the sushi as it is brought out to you. Wow, is all I can say. Don’t you wish your sushi was prepared like this all of the time!?
Omotenashi cannot simply be explained to someone, they have to go to Japan and experience it for themselves to truly understand its meaning. The more that you open your mind and your heart to Japan, the more experiences you will gain that will last you for a lifetime.
Want to learn more about Omotenashi? Read it here.
5. Tokyo transportation isn’t as tricky as you might think
Japanese transportation can seem a little tricky at first, but don’t worry, it’s easy to get used to. Most people get around by the JR (Japan Railways). There are many branches of the JR. The JR East covers Tohoku and Kanto, where Tokyo is. Tickets are available for purchase at various ticket machines, which are located next to or near the ticket gates.
If you have a tourist visa, you are eligible for the JR Rail Pass, which you can put money on and just touch and go whenever you enter or exit through ticket gates, much like the MRT. However, you must buy a Rail Pass before you arrive to Japan. They are not available to purchase at ticketing gates.
You can also purchase a Suica card which is a prepaid card for JR East or JR trains in the Greater Tokyo, Niigata and Sendai regions.
Pasmo is the prepaid IC card of Tokyo’s railway, subway, and bus operators other than the JR.
There are 10 of these cards available for purchase, so make sure you buy the one that works best according to your travel schedule.
Need the JR map close to you when you travel? Get it here.
6. Put down your maps and pick up this guidebook
With categories such as beautiful destinations, safety tips, and deep cultural insight, the SOMPO GUIDE TOKYO is just what you’ll need for your fabulous vacation to Japan.
SOMPO Holdings is a Japanese insurance company that prides itself on its brand slogan, “Innovation for Wellbeing”. SOMPO truly believes that the customer is the priority. Their philosophy is to strive to contribute to the health, security, and wellbeing of their customers and society. Their goal for this guidebook is not only to provide beautiful and fun memories that will last their customers for a lifetime, but to do it in a safe and efficient manner.
These are 6 reasons you should buy the book.
- Free Wi-Fi is incredibly rare in Japan, so you may be traveling at times with little to no internet connection. This makes it difficult to surf for places online that you want to go when you are not in your hotel, a café, etc. As an added bonus, the guidebook also informs you if your selected destination has Wi-Fi or not.
- The SOMPO GUIDE TOKYO also offers you with an easy to read summary about what you need to know, places you should visit, and how to plan for your travels, ultimately maximizing your time. It can also help you save money by offering you the cheapest, safest, and easiest ways of getting to and from your desired destinations.
- If you are someone who likes to avoid the “cliché” tourist areas, big crowds, and long lines, then this guidebook will help you find better suited alternatives. Or if you prefer larger gatherings and meeting new people, it will have suggestions for you as well!
- Weighing 7.8 ounces (less than two sticks of butter) and having dimensions of only 4.7 x 7.2 inches, the SOMPO GUIDE TOKYO is very easy to carry around without putting too much weight in your bag.
- The SOMPO GUIDE TOKYO provides you with more information than just destinations to visit. It also provides the reader with a deep understanding of Japanese manners and culture, which are important to know when traveling to a foreign country.
- If none of these reasons why you should buy the SOMPO GUIDE TOKYO have grabbed your attention, then this one definitely will. IT’S CHEAP! It only costs US $18.17. Coming out at a much better price than other guidebooks which often average to around US $20 to US $30.
Interested in this guidebook? Pick up a copy at the following locations.
Bookstores in Japan
Kinokuniya Bookstore Shinjuku Main Store
3-17-7 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 163-8636 81-3-3354-0131
Junkudo Bookstore Ikebukuro Main Store
2-15-5 Minami-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo 171-0022 81-3-5956-6111
access : http://bit.ly/2jXcrzk
Book 1st Shinjuku Store
1-7-3 Nishi-Shinjuku, SHinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0023 81-3-5339-7611
Mode Gakuen Cocoon tower B1(Zone A)
access : http://bit.ly/2kgN6g8
NARITA Airport, 4th floor Central Building Terminal 2 81-476-34-8811