Japan is currently in the midst of a tourism boom at the moment, with 31.9 million foreign tourists travelling to the country in 2019, breaking the previous record for the seventh year running.
Now with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics roughly half a year away, tourist numbers are set to swell even further, prompting the Japan Tourism Agency to create a number of etiquette videos to educate travellers on some of the finer points of everyday Japanese life.
Ten videos in total have been released, covering everything from communal bathing to how to ride the trains, with the central theme based around the fact that tourists can be “really cool” by taking care to consider others during their travels.
While the new awareness campaign recalls the “Cool Japan” marketing concept promoted by the government in recent years, it also contains a wealth of useful information for visitors. So how should foreign travellers escape the ire of Japanese locals by being considerate to those around them? Let’s take a look at the videos below.
Taking Pictures Part 1
This is one of the most common aspects of travel that can get on the nerves of locals and tourists alike. Use selfie sticks with care and avoid taking photos in big groups in crowded places. As the video says: “Please be aware of those around you. That is really cool.”
Taking Pictures Part 2
This video reminds tourists to respect signs prohibiting photography, and asks them to refrain from taking photos of people without their permission. While these points should be respected at all places around Japan, they’ve become a particular concern in Kyoto, where foreign travellers have been spotted chasing maiko and geisha on the street for photos.
Walking on the Streets
This isn’t the first time ninja have been used to warn people of the dangers of using smartphones while walking before. It’s an act that’s been known to cause accidents and incite angry attacks so “Why not put your smartphone away and enjoy the scenery of Japan?”
This clip is dedicated to minding your manners on public transport, covering issues like: waiting for passengers to get off before boarding; arriving early to avoid missing your train; storing suitcases out of the way; giving up your seat to pregnant women and senior citizens, and wearing your backpack on the front. Bulky backpacks on backs topped a survey of inconsiderate train behaviors in 2018.
Here we’re taught to keep our grubby fingers off old buildings as they are works of art that can be easily damaged. Also, behave appropriately in sacred places and don’t disturb people visiting a shrine to pray. That type of behavior results in shrines like this one placing a blanket ban on all foreign tourists.
Public Baths and Hotels
Wash yourself before getting into a communal bath in Japan, and don’t drop your towel in the water! Don’t take things other than amenities home with you after a stay at a hotel or ryokan, and instead of giving tips in Japan, just say arigato to thank people for their service.
Restaurants Part 1
We all know people in Japan love to line up for things, but there are rules to doing so – don’t cut into the queue, and if your friend is already in it, both of you should go to the back of the line. Another thing to be aware of is that Japanese people are taught to be thankful for food so only take as much as you are going to eat at a buffet. Eat everything — as every grain of rice contains seven fortune gods — and say gochisosama to show your appreciation after a meal.
Restaurants Part 2
Here we learn about the culture of being served otoshi at small Japanese bars as a kind of table charge. Also, don’t bring your own food and drinks into a restaurant, and if you’re not going to be able to honor your restaurant reservation, call to let them know.
In Japan, smokers should only smoke in designated smoking spaces. Don’t forget to flush nothing but toilet paper down the toilet, and throw trash in trash cans, unless the American president is visiting, in which case you won’t be able to find one.
Public Spaces Part 2
Make phone calls after getting off the train or leaving a building, and if you’re on the train, avoid sitting on the floor and, as many manners posters continue to promote, refrain from talking loudly. Saying arigato to others around you who show you kindness and consideration will keep everyone from hating on foreign tourists who may find themselves blundering about on trains.
Well, there you have it – ten videos jam-packed with a whole lot of Japanese etiquette! Have you had any experiences with any of the scenarios mentioned during your own travels?
Source: YouTube/kankocho via Japaaan
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