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Culture Shock and Surprises in Tokyo

Traveling through Japan can be a wonderful experience.

Japan street

Traveling through Japan can be a wonderful experience. There is so much to see, do, and learn about. It is a very different culture, and a lot of things there might be quite different from what you’re accustomed to. Below are some things that may come as a shock or surprise if you are traveling around Tokyo.

Clothing Sizes

If you enjoy people watching, pay attention to how slender and healthy the Japanese people appear to be. This is probably due to the fact that they eat pretty healthy foods and tend to spend a lot of time walking around instead of driving in cars. That being said, it is important to try on any clothes before you buy them as the sizes may be different since the average size of a person may differ from those in other countries around the world.

Eating out is Cheaper

Depending on where in the world you live, you may experience that cooking at home is cheaper than eating out. In Tokyo, that might not be the case, as fresh fruits, vegetables and meats are pretty expensive. Especially when you are staying in a hotel, you will likely need to consider eating out, and although it is hard to believe, you might actually be saving yourself money that way. Eating out will also allow you to have more time to explore, and will give you a great cultural experience as the food is amazing.

Be Early, or At Least on Time

In some areas of the world, arriving late to a gathering might be seen as “fashionably late”, but not in Japan. This might be difficult for those who are perpetually late to everything. Those in Japan are very respectful when it comes to other people’s time, so therefore, being late may cause you to lose your spot. If making a reservation for dining out or for an appointment, do your best to get there at least ten minutes before you are scheduled. Unfortunately, if you are late, it is possible your spot will be given to someone else.

Public Transportation

There are many cities throughout the world that rely on public transportation, but in Japan, it is the absolute best way to get around. You can get just about anywhere. In fact, there are many recommended places to stay in Tokyo that are near the trains, so you can get anywhere you need to go. There are also bullet trains that can take you to other cities quickly. A few things to keep in mind when riding public transportation in Japan are:

  • No eating or drinking while on the train
  • No talking on your cell phone or talking too loudly in general
  • Carry with you what you brought on
  • Do not place purses or bags on the floor (laps or empty chair will do)
  • Be sure to give up your seat for those with disabilities, the elderly, or someone who is pregnant, and
  • Be aware of the train cars as sometimes there can be designated “women only” trains

Taking Your Shoes Off

While in many places around the world taking your shoes off is polite, in Japan it is almost required. If shoes are worn inside, the floor is considered to be dirty. Almost all places that you will visit will likely provide you with slippers to wear. This includes Doctor’s offices and places of worship. If you are ever unsure of when and where to take off your shoes, look around to see what others are doing. This can be a great indication of what should be happening.

Safety

There is a relatively low crime rate in Japan, compared to other places in the world. It is not unsafe to travel alone, but it doesn’t hurt to use the buddy system. It is also very common to see young children riding the train alone. They are taught at a very young age how to get around, and many children use the train to get to school or go see their friends. Do not be alarmed if you see young children on the train alone.

Cleanliness

When walking around, you will notice that Tokyo is very clean. People are very respectful about picking up after themselves and not leaving litter wherever they go. In fact, there are some public trash cans that you can use when out and about, but if there is no trash can, the people are accustomed to carrying their trash with them until they find a proper place to dispose of it. Be sure to do the same, and be respectful during your visit.

Especially if you are visiting Japan for the first time, you will be amazed at the culture and the experience you will have while there. It doesn’t hurt to be prepared with what you will find when traveling. There are many aspects of Tokyo that you might find surprising. 

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