Japan is renowned worldwide for various subjects such as its traditional arts which is a subject that we like to discuss here at Au coeur du Japon, but also for its magnificent landscapes or its unique culture which has been transmitted since now hundreds of years. But there is another point for which the Japanese are talked about a lot internationally and that is none other than collective good manners . The Japanese people are in fact renowned for being very respectful and very polite and even quite complex in the way they behave, whether at the table or even in everyday life. This sometimes even frightens future visitors who are afraid of not doing “everything right” as one could say and of being frowned upon or even of stepping on certain ancestral traditions without wanting to. This is what led us to give you a brief summary in broad terms of what you need to know if you plan to go to Japan.
Do not poke your food with your chopsticks
It is understandable that it is not easy to eat with Japanese chopsticks when you have been used to using a fork and a knife all your life, however this is not an excuse to take the easy way out. and prick his food to eat it. This would be frowned upon and the reason is quite simple. The only time the Japanese use their chopsticks in this way is when a person dies at their funeral. Consequently, it goes without saying that referring to this during a meal is a very unconventional practice that you should avoid at the table, especially if you are in the presence of Japanese people.
You must pass under a Torii gate
Shintoism being the traditional Japanese religion, even older than the arrival of Buddhism on the archipelago, it is natural as a visitor to want to visit the Shinto shrines that populate the length and breadth of Japan (more of 80,000 on Japanese territory). It is also very likely that you have already seen one of these numerous Torii gates on vacation photos or souvenirs from Japan. These are present at the entrance to all Shinto shrines and their role is to demarcate the profane world from the sacred world which is therefore inside the sanctuary. Wanting to avoid these doors by heading towards the sanctuary that it presents would therefore be a lack of respect for ancestral traditions and would be frowned upon by those around you.
Do not eat while walking or on public transport
As mentioned in the introduction, Japan is a very respectful country, but it is also a very clean country both in private residences and in public places. Unlike us in French-speaking countries, it is rude in Japan to eat while walking in the street or even on public transport. This helps keep streets and public places more or less clean. If you want to eat you will have to go to a place dedicated to Japan, and there is no shortage of that in the streets.
Do not smoke in the street
For the same reason as food, although it is not actually forbidden but just frowned upon to eat in the street, it is not allowed to smoke in the street in order to avoid finding many cigarette butts on the ground. which would dirty public space (as we can see here the consequences in certain places in France or even in Europe in general). If you wish to smoke, you will be asked to go to the dedicated places provided for this purpose.
Stand up straight
This is not really a rule to respect like not poking with your chopsticks, but rather a way of standing that will allow you to integrate more easily into the Japanese people. The behavior in general, whether it is sitting in the seiza position on a zabuton or even standing up, is indeed something that is very respected in Japan and if you could stick to it that would be ideal. In addition, this cannot harm the health of your spine and in order to get used to it, there are today posture correctors that take up little space and are adapted to your body shape.
Entering an onsen: no tattoos and clean from head to toe
Onsens are certainly one of the best things to do in Japan, both for their cultural side and their pleasant side. But to be able to benefit from this it is still necessary to respect certain rules. The most basic is to enter cleanly in order to respect, as with everything, the site. In addition, you will not be able to enter if you have a tattoo. This is actually something that is quite frowned upon in Japan because it is associated with the yakuza gang and unfortunately for those who have them, it is forbidden to go to onsens if you have them (except that these are really discreet ).
Take off your shoes in houses
In the same way that it is forbidden to smoke outside and it is frowned upon to eat in the streets in order to preserve the cleanliness of public places, it will not be possible for you to walk in Japanese houses with your shoes so as not to dirty them. residential homes. For this you will find at the entrance of each house what we call a genkan which is a small place that could be compared to an entrance and which is intended to leave your shoes there. This is partly due to the fact that the houses are equipped with tatami, especially in the main room the washitsu, and it is not easy to clean it. This habit is quite hard to get into but you quickly get used to it after a few days on Japanese soil.
Do not touch the tokonoma
The tokonoma is a small raised area that you will generally find in Japanese houses. You can find several types of decorations or art objects depending on the seasons, occasions and the personal tastes of your host. In any case this small area is considered sacred or at least requires respect and is only entered to change the decorations. Therefore, don't have fun leaving your suitcases there like some travelers do inadvertently or even try to touch the bonsai or the kakemono that can be found inside.
Keep your good habits
Finally, apart from the main differences mentioned above plus some minor ones that you will discover for yourself if you are lucky enough to go to Japan. There is no real shock from a cultural point of view. So keep the good habits you learned here. Greet people when you meet them, thank them, wish them bon appetit, respect queues and maintain a good mood every day. Just remember to be slightly less tactile, the Japanese are used to greeting from a distance and not kissing like we do in Europe.