Cultural Facts and Differences

In case you didn’t know…

  • Japan has the world’s tenth largest population with about 128 million people (Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures host 30 million alone).
  • Japan has the third-biggest economy
  • 70% of the country is covered by mountains and hills


  • Japanese school year starts in April and has 3 terms, separated by summer, spring, and winter holidays (April-July, September-December, and January-March)
  • Schooling years are segmented into lines of 6-3-3-4 (six years of primary, 3 years of junior high and high school, and 4 years of university).
  • Japanese students must take entrance exams, and they are very competitive;  many students attend special preparation schools (juku) in addition to regular school


  •  Japan has an effective public transportation network, and its railways are known for its punctuality and safety.
  • Trains are crowded; people push their way in when completely full; the workers litterally push people in like cattle when the doors close


  • It is impolite to eat or drink something while walking down the street
  • One says Itadakimasu before eating and deshita when finished, especially when being treated as a guest.
  • When sharing a dish, put what you want to eat on your plate before eating it
  • Do not use chopsticks to skewer food or move dishes around. Do not dish out food to another using the same ends you just ate from- use the top ends.
  • Don’t point at someone using your chopsticks, and don’t let them touch the table.
  • Don’t leave chopsticks standing in your food
  • It is normal to pick up your rice or soup bowl and hold it under your chin to eat.
  • Don’t leave a mess on your plate and fold napkins nicely; condense food and dishes.
  • It is polite and normal to SLURP noodles.
  • No tipping in Japan


  • DO NOT BE LATE!! Everything starts on time (or 5 minutes early)
  • Do not chew gum or drink soda when working
  • Don’t shout loudly on public transportation
  • On escalators, stay to the LEFT.
  • The Japanese gesture “Who me?” pointing to their nose, not chest
  • The Japanese gesture “Come here” is palm facing down and then making a waving motion towards the floor. The American way is only for animals
  • Always change your shoes when going inside or in the toilets. Don’t wear toilet shoes outside the toilet room. Don’t wear inside shoes outside and visa versa
  • When laughing Japanese women cover their mouths with their hand; comes from an old Buddhist notion that showing bone is unclean; but also to hind the lack of orthodontics in Japan.
  • The entire family uses the same bath water; shower outside using the shower handle and bench, and then sit in the hot tub to soak, once completely clean.
  • For dinner you sit on the floor; no chairs.


  • Take off all clothes in changing room and leave in basket
  • Enter bathroom with small towel and toiletries; there will be a bucket beside the tub; scoop out some water (or spray with shower head) and pour it over yourself to rinse your body
  • wash body or hair in front of faucet (outside tub)
  • Soak in bathtub- remember not to bring anything in, not even towel.
  • Japan has public bath houses as well; basically you shower and then there are baths upon baths to choose from- but I’ll leave that for a second blog- just imagine going to a hotel pool, but there are 7-9 pools, and they are all hot, and everyone is naked. That’s what people do to relax here (and I got to experience it!)


  • It is custom to pay in cash; many places to not accept debit or credit cards


  • If you do something wrong, you are basically shunned and seen as a horrible person; people don’t make mistakes here (or are expected to be perfect all the time). There is a lot of pressure on young people especially when it comes to school entrance exams.
  • Driving age is 18- it is very expensive to drive in Japan (almost $5,000 for a driver’s ed class). Most people do not drive and rely on the trains and buses, also bikes!
  • Drinking age is 20- but when it comes to foreigners they do not ID because most are too intimidated and cannot read a foreign driver’s license.
  • Books are opened from the back (usually). If so conji is read up and down; if it is opened from the front then it is read left to right.
  • Japanese people drive on the left side of the road, on the right side on the car…
  • Fruit is VERY expensive



2 thoughts on “Cultural Facts and Differences

Let me know what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.