Tokyo, Japan, is a dream destination for many adventure lovers and travelers who seek to enjoy the beautiful blend of culture in the big city. It integrates both traditional and modern culture to make up a city like nothing you have experienced before. There is a lot you may not know about Tokyo until you get there. However, this guide will help you understand what to expect as soon as your Cathay Pacific flight lands in the city. Remember, you don’t want to find yourself in an awkward position as a foreigner in the city, so get yourself some tips.
Get a rechargeable travel card.
As soon as you set foot in Tokyo city, get yourself a rechargeable travel card that will enable you to move around using their famous public transport system. The city has an overground, underground, and bus transport system, and the local travel and guide maps are usually in the English language. You can buy a travel card from any ticket machine, and the good thing is that it works both on the train and the bus.
The travel maps can be confusing for the first time to equip yourself with a google map to guide you in the city. Google maps make traveling easy, especially on the train, since they tell you where you are heading to the trip costs.
Tipping in Tokyo will leave you in an awkward situation since it is not acceptable there. Note that while in Tokyo, the rules are strictly followed, and prices are strictly adhered to. It means that services do not warrant any form of tipping. The services charge is always included in the price tag, so you don’t have to add more. In fact, many of the service providers will consider that as an insult as they assume you are undermining their ability to charge their services. Plus, they will not accept the tip, and you will end up in a more awkward situation. So avoid tipping all the same.
Learn a few Japanese phrases to survive around
When you get to Tokyo, you will quickly realize that English is scarce, with many of the locals preferring to use Japanese. As a survival tactic, you can take some time to learn a few Japanese phrases that will rescue you out when you find yourself in a restaurant with no single word in English you can spot. Do not stress yourself out. Learn only the basic terms and be ready to laugh at yourself when you find yourself unable to pronounce a string of Japanese syllables. Note that many signages and announcements are in Japanese unless in the tourist regions and train stations, and the locals prefer to use their dialect. However, you will encounter a few locals who know English, foreigners like yourself, or some students who are learning English and will be more than willing to practice it with you.
Sanitation is key
Note that you will rarely spot garbage cans on Tokyo’s streets, even in the densely populated areas, but that doesn’t mean you should dump your trash anyhow. If anything, keep your trash to yourself if you don’t find anywhere to dump it. As a rule, they prohibit littering, so you will not spot any litter on the streets. But you may come across a trash can in a restaurant or hotel room. You can always carry a bag in your purse so that you stash your trash there until you find somewhere to dump it.
Kindly wear guest slippers.
Many Japanese facilities do not allow shoes inside, and if anything, you should remove the shoes and line them up with the toes to the door like the others. However, many will offer guest slippers for you to wear while inside, so kindly take them. The ‘no shoes inside’ culture are common in Tokyo facilities such as temples, museums, castles, tea ceremony rooms, hotels, and homes. You will need to leave your dirty shoes outside. To avoid embarrassment, be picky with the socks you wear. Ensure they are in a decent and clean condition, or you will be forced by the attendant to remove them lest you embarrass the establishment.
Know how to use chopsticks
The soba noodles are an everyday traditional, cheap, and delicious meal in Japanese restaurants, and there is no other way of eating them than using chopsticks. You will encounter them all over the city in different varieties, and you will want to get experimental with them. The only other spoon you may find is the Chinese-style soup spoon, and you can’t eat noodles with it. In addition to that, do not rub your chopsticks together while eating. It shows you undermine them. If anything, fold the corners when you finish eating and wrap them up in the food container.
Observe smoking rules
There are strict smoking rules in Tokyo, and smoking in public is not acceptable. Keep your second-hand smoke to yourself by smoking in specially designated areas for smoking. Do not smoke while walking, or you will find yourself roughed up by security. You will find designated smoking areas in restaurants and hotels, and you can eat there and have your smoke simultaneously.
Walk on the left
Ensure you walk on the left in Tokyo’s streets and do not immediately stop since there will be a multitude behind you who won’t be happy with that. They won’t understand your confusion and express frustration when you mess up with their traffic flow. If you need to take a photo, stand on the right, or move away from the sidewalk.
As a tradition, the Japanese bow to show respect. When you initially meet someone, it is customary to bow to show respect. Note that the bend’s duration and degree communicate a lot, and you should pay attention to that as well. If you meet a friend, a quick 30degree bow is suitable but if you meet a superior person, use a 70degree bow with your eyes facing the ground. However, if you don’t get it right, they won’t judge you publicly.
The bottom line
Maybe you won’t understand, but rules are rules in Tokyo. Strive to blend in as much as you can and obey their regulations to make your stay comfortable.