10 Things That Surprise Foreigners about Japan


If you have ever been in Japan, you are likely to have experienced some kind of culture shock. In a positive way, of course. Japan turns out to be strange and interesting place for first-rime visitors, kaleidoscope of venerable traditions swirling alongside the urban technologies. What Japanese would consider absolutely commonplace and routine, could be surprisingly different, confusing and amusing for foreigners.

Many people keep telling me that visiting Japan is like landing on a distant planet. You never know what to except and how to react the right way. Imagine having witnessed the giant tuna auction in the morning, then being amused by the dancing robots when the sun goes down. Japan is a strangely amazing and strikingly captivating place that can impress you in the most unexpected ways. If you are going to be there soon, get yourself prepared for the culture differences. I have compiled the list of 10 things considered normal in the Land of the rising sun and surprising for other countries. Get a glimpse of incredible Japan!

Image 1: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tangledcontrolpads/233821725/in/set-72157607214131870

Author: Brian Costelloe

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  • Smart toilets

Have you ever seen smart toilets? Boy, I am spoiled now. Automatically moving lids, buttons for gadgets, heated seats and other extra features make going to the bathroom in Japan a pleasant experience. I remember my first visit to the tearai room very well. I was so surprised being greeted by the welcoming toilet seat that I had a sudden urge to turn my back and run away! Do not miss the chance to have a talk with the most intelligent toilets all over the globe. Only in Japan!

Image 2: https://www.flickr.com/photos/brainwashers/2872255067/in/set-72157610866370010

Author: BrainWashers

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  • No Tips for Service Left

Tipping is an important part in the routine lives of my fellow citizens. I tip waiters in the restaurants, bellboys in the hotels and bartenders in the pubs. In Japan, tipping is actually a little bit insulting. Price is fixed; you will get your change.  Do not try to leave extra money for the service you found agreeable as some workers may see it demeaning. Every Japanese is proud to earn his fair wage!

  • Plastic Food in Restaurants

Restaurants in Japan often have a window display of plastic replicas of the food customers can order. Mouthwatering sushi, noodles, burgers and deserts look surprisingly realistic! I remember waiters secretly laughing at me when I took seriously the bowl of spaghetti and suddenly realized the fork is actually levitating in the air. It is a fake, they said. You need to simply point at what you like and get it within few minutes. What a shame I felt!

Image 3: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dan_h/14478518538/in/set-72157645661283962

Author: Dan_H

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  • Beware of Rush Hours

Even though foreigners praise Japan for the most comfortable transportation, rush hours are pretty extreme for newbies. Passengers are literally squeezed in the train by complete strangers with their arms stuck out at odd angles. If you see the station staff on the platform, it is a bad sign. Get prepared to squeezed in like a can of sardines. Most awkward for females, I guess.

Image 4: https://www.flickr.com/photos/amirjina/2282812623/in/gallery-47198561@N04-72157623354403332/

Author: Amir Jina

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  • Convenience Stores Everywhere

That is what I adore about Japan. If you feel starving at 2 a.m., you need less than 5 minutes to reach the closest convenience store located nearby. Main chain stores Lawson, 7/11 and Family Mart are opened 24 hours a day. My favorite night meal was traditional Japanese oden consisted of boiled eggs and vegetables stewed in tasty broth called dashi. Even you are on a tight budget, you can survive on these oden soups, rice balls and snacks. Good for students!

Image 5: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ayrcan/10748655693/in/set-72157633615491861

Author: Ayrcan

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  • Erotic Magazines and Comics

Many convenience stores have adult magazine corner packed with magazines and manga comic books. Nobody is hiding sex related stuff and pornography in the dark places hardly seen. Get a glimpse, look through the pages, purchase. When it comes to the erotic manga, Japan hits the score. However, it has always been a controversial topic for the conservative residents and first-time visitors. On the other side, no harm is seem by open-minded people.

  • Get Naked at the Public Bath

Public bath is quite popular place in Japan considered must-try by all the newcomers. There is nothing more relaxing than slipping into a hot-steamed bath. When I first went to a Japanese onsen as my friends suggested, I was terrified. I was told that the only thing permitted to wear is a towel on my head. Getting naked in front of strangers? No way! Lately I realized that it has nothing to be ashamed of and let go of my clothes. That onsen experience took me from a nervous and embarrassed foreigner to a relaxed and happy Japanese resident.

Image 6: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bolfingyamauchi/4038316758/

Author: Jean-Marc Bolfing

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  • Japanese are Super Polite

It is not a secret that Japanese behave themselves in a perfectly polite and proper way. I found it quite endearing! Customers are always treated with a sincere smile and thanked with warm-hearted words. I have never experienced so many bowings in my life. Moreover, “bowing wars” are happened quite often when people fight for their right to come out with more respect and keep on bowing for several minutes.

  • New Tastes of Japanese Sweets

I bet you have never seen green Kit Kat’s chocolate bars in your life. Unwrapping the familiar snack is like opening the doors to Narnia. You should definitely try a new, unique taste of Japanese sweets. Refusing to purchase the plain chocolate, Japanese customers have been accustomed to green tea chocolates, dry squid pieces covered with waffles, grilled lamb candies and pizza drops.

Image 7: https://www.flickr.com/photos/smaku/490569202/

Author: Taku

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  • People Sleeping in the Trains

First thing that has me puzzled in Japan was significant number of people sleeping on trains. Actually, I have seen Japanese napping everywhere from public parks and stations to the bank buildings. They can fall asleep within seconds! What I liked even more is that sleeping in the public places is absolutely safe. You should not be afraid of thieves might stealing your precious bag. Nobody cares for it!


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