Tokyo—the beautiful capital city of Japan—boasts some great places to visit. It is especially popular with students and houses millions of them each year—including those from other countries. There are many places to stay and great things to do while in Tokyo. However, understanding some basics of Japanese culture is essential—especially if you have never been to Japan. This guide contains things to keep in mind when planning a long-term stay in Tokyo.
Greetings in Tokyo are a key part of the culture—and the Japanese highly value their culture. When it comes to greetings, it pays to become familiar with basic greetings and protocol. Be sure to follow the lead of locals. Plus, it’s important to note that younger people always bow first before those their senior. In Tokyo, you must say Ossu to friends—which simply means “hey”.
Dining Out in Tokyo
The food scene in Tokyo is amazing, but there are a few courtesies to remember when you dine out. While in Tokyo, you must say Itadakimasu before any meal.
Understanding Restaurant Service in Tokyo
Normally, westerners love greeting staff, thanking people who serve them and leaving a tip. However, things aren’t the same in Japan. For instance, you don’t give tips to restaurant staff. In fact, they incorporate all service charges in the bill.
Learning to Use Chopsticks
When you’re in Japan, especially for a long-term visit, you must learn to use chopsticks. Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy and straightforward. Soup can sometimes be a challenge for Western visitors. Many restaurants in Tokyo only have Chinese-style soup spoons. Therefore, eating noodles using such spoons can be challenging. You will need to know how to use chopsticks to eat the noodles.
Do be aware that there is chopstick etiquette in Tokyo. For example, never rest your chopsticks on the table during the meal nor should you ever rest them inside the bowl. When the meal is over, place the chopsticks back in the original wrapper. And never bite your chopsticks.
In certain areas of Tokyo, shoes are not allowed. In such a case, you will be given guest slippers and required to wear them. Wearing shoes—especially in a temple—is an act of disrespect. Plus, you won’t be allowed to wear shoes into a tea ceremony room. In most cases, you are given two sets of slippers. You will wear one pair in the washroom and the other pair outside of the toilet area.
Driving in Tokyo
If you plan to drive a car during your extended stay, you need to familiarize yourself with the driving culture of Tokyo. For instance, you will drive on the left side of the road. Street signage is either posted in Romaji or English. It’s also important to note that all speeds appear in kilometers. Tokyo accepts all international driving licenses. It is valid for one year upon your arrival in Japan. There are limited bike lanes—so you will need to share the road with other riders and be aware there are lots of pedestrians in Tokyo.
When You Visit Tokyo
Tokyo is a great place—housing a diversity of people. So, if you are planning an extended stay in Tokyo, remember these tips and enjoy your visit.
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