Travelore Tips 5 Common Mistakes Travelers Make In Japan
Yuko Ehara, the Palace Hotel Tokyo's expert on manners, shares five of travelers’ most common mistakes—and what to do instead.
With its baroque rituals and ancient traditions, Japanese etiquette strikes fear in the hearts of even seasoned travelers. But no need to worry: It’s effort—not execution—that matters most to the Japanese. “Everybody understands you’re from a different culture,” says Yuko Ehara, a Tokyo-based tour guide and etiquette expert. “If you make a sincere effort to learn, we are appreciative and forgiving of mistakes.” Now, the Palace Hotel Tokyo has launched Cultivating Tokyo, a series of private etiquette seminars to help business and leisure guests avoid faux pas (81-3- 3211-5211; two-hour lessons from about $170). We asked Ehara to share five of travelers’ most common mistakes—and what to do instead.
1. Mistreating business cards.
One’s business card is an extension of oneself. Accept (and offer) each card with two hands while facing the other person; then look at the card before putting it away.
2.Dipping the rice part of nigiri sushi into soy sauce.
To avoid breaking up the rice, turn the sushi upside down and dip the fish into the sauce. Just do so sparingly—dousing sushi in soy sauce offends the chef.
3.Sticking your chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice.
To Buddhists, this means you’re offering your rice to the dead. Instead, lay the chopsticks horizontally across the bowl or rest them on the ceramic holder provided.
4. Wrapping your kimono the wrong way.
If you stay at a traditional Japanese inn, you might be given a yukata, or light cotton kimono. When you put it on, be sure to wrap the left side over the right; it’s done the opposite way only on corpses.
5. Letting your bare feet touch the ground outside before entering a home.
Japanese hosts often expect you to remove your shoes before you come inside. If you step on the ground with bare (or socked) feet, you’ll bring dirt in—and show disrespect to your host.