Photo: iStock/ praetorianphoto

Culture shock 101: Expect the unexpected on your Japan trip

By Cassandra Lord

When visiting Japan for the first time, you’re bound to encounter things you’re not used to, and that’s all part of the fun!

But whether it’s being bowed to instead of shaking hands or being given a dish you didn’t order, there are some things to be aware of to avoid misunderstandings and help your trip go as smoothly as possible.

Let’s take a look at some of the things to expect on your first trip to Japan.

Eating out

Interesting culinary surprises await. Photo: iStock/ JohnnyGreig

Most restaurants in Japan will greet you with a loud “irasshaimase,” meaning “welcome,” that will be echoed by the floor staff. This happens when you leave too, with “arigatou gozaimashita” (thank you for coming). You don’t need to respond.

When it comes to food, a big source of confusion for travelers is Japan’s otoshi, a small dish you get before ordering, usually served cold. It’s non-negotiable and serves as a seating charge in most izakaya (Japanese style pubs), so you’ll just have to accept it!

The otoshi is often something pickled or stewed, which might involve unfamiliar flavors. And unfamiliar dishes don’t stop there! In meat dishes, Japan typically uses as much of the animal as possible. You’ll often come across this at yakitori (grilled chicken) and yakiniku (grilled meat) restaurants, where most of the menu is just different parts of the meat, including things like heart and liver.

Speaking of meat, while plant-based meals are gaining popularity in the west, Japan’s vegetarian and vegan options are comparatively limited. Big cities like Tokyo always have some vegetarian restaurants, but a regular Japanese restaurant probably won’t have any or many options. Fish broth is often added to dishes, even ones that are mainly vegetables.

Getting around

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© GaijinPot

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Love Hotel: These do not show up on regular booking websites

They do.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

"In meat dishes, Japan typically uses as much of the animal as possible."

For example...?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

What a queer article, it’s nit the Japan I reside in

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

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