Each country has its specific quirks and social norms that may be foreign to many. In a country where societal transgressions are heavily frowned upon, it might be best that you learn some travelling tips to for not just easier navigation, but also plain ole etiquette. Here are 4 interesting tips that no one talks about!
1. Cash Is The Go-To Payment Method
You might’ve noticed that there is a recent push for cashless transactions wherein the world’s biggest economies are choosing electronic payments over cash. For a country dubbed as a high-tech paradise, most would assume that Japan would follow suit, but that’s hardly the case.
A contributing factor for its slow embrace is due to its ageing population. More than 28 percent of the country’s population is 65 years old and older, making the transition much more difficult. Due to the populace’s lack of vigour for cashless payments, cash remains the preferred payment method.
That said, there are a few spots that accept foreign cards. Some of these locations include major departmental stores, middle to upper-end restaurants and convenient stores. Otherwise, be prepared to pay with cash for your purchases, especially at small and local retailers. Theft is almost unheard of in Japan, but if you’re not comfortable carrying a large amount of sum, you can top up your prepaid e-money cards such as Suica or Pasmo cards. They are accepted as a viable payment method in train stations, vending machines, convenience stores and taxis.
2. Eating & Walking At The Same Time
Manners and etiquette are two things Japan takes seriously. It is drilled into the society that one should be considerate and refrain from troubling others.
Whilst it may seem as somewhat far fetched to some, it truly isn’t! Stopping at the side of a building to eat will not only prevent any accidental spillage on a passer-by, the likelihood of you aggravating those who are sensitive to strong food smells is also low.
There are, however, exceptions! Tabe aruki spots are locations that are intended for you to eat and walk in tandem. One such place is the Tsukiji Fish Market. Festivals are also another exception, so you can go crazy!
3. Your Volume
On that note, having loud conversations is also considered rude. Seeing as how one is in a public space, one will also need to be considerate to others within the vicinity. Especially in places such as trains where people would generally sit or stand in silence, you need to pay extra attention to your volume level when you speak. If you wish to talk to your travelling companion, do so in a low voice. Ensure that your phone is on silent and if there is an incoming call, you can briefly pick it up to tell the person at the other end that you’re on a train. This reason is sufficient to garner some form of understanding.
4. The Police And Japanese Law
With every foreign country that you visit, you need to ensure that you don’t commit any transgression, especially in the eyes of the law. Whatever rights you think you might have may not apply here. One of those rights is the right to privacy. What this basically means is that the Japanese police has the right to stop you in the middle of the street to check your ID and ask a few questions should they deem you as suspicious. As with every law enforcement bodies, cooperate with the police lest they bring you to their station and detain you in their police box.
That said, you don’t have to be on guard all the time. The police are great if you need help in directions!
There are more cultural rules in Japan other than these 4 and you might find some of them peculiar. Whilst some are unspoken, there are signs to notify you of some of the things you can and shouldn’t do. For instance, there are signs in Gion to tell you that you can only take photos of Geishas in a specific district. To make sure that you don’t overstep your boundaries, you can perhaps enrol in Japanese classes in Singapore to pick up the basics. Not only will it help you navigate the country better, but being able to communicate in their language will help you out in sticky situations, no doubt.