Japan is a bucket lister’s paradise. It’s a place where traditional and modern cultures mix to create something incomparable. There are experiences here unlike anywhere else, but if you come unprepared, you might miss out. This is our list of the top 8 Japanese culture and lifestyle to seek out here.
Japanese Culture And Lifestyle
Wear a kimono
These elegant pieces of traditional clothing are often passed down through the generations of a family, and new garments cost tens of thousands of yen. Even yukata, the cheaper summer version, can get expensive when you factor in all the accessories. Luckily for tourists, more and more rental shops are popping up in traditional districts like Gion in Kyoto and Asakusa in Tokyo. These stores offer one-day or overnight rental for men and women, giving you just enough time to snap some keepsake photos around town.
Watch a sumo match
One of Japan’s oldest sports, sumo is a martial art unlike any other. Consider observing a match even if you aren’t a sports fan, for sumo’s origins are entwined with Shintoism, and even today the matches are accompanied by traditional ceremonies. Tournaments are held in multiple locations throughout the year. In Tokyo, you can catch them at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in January, May, and September.
Have a hanami
If you’re lucky enough to be in Japan when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, hanami is a must. Enjoy this simple act of setting up a picnic blanket or tarp under the cherry trees, and appreciating the view with your friends (and usually a few drinks). Locals and tourists alike flock to top blossom spots like Mount Yoshino and Himeji Castle, but hanami can be enjoyed anywhere. It’s more about who you’re with than where you are.
Bathe in an onsen
No matter what you get up to in Japan, the best way to relax after a long day of traveling is soaking in a hot spring. Onsen are communal baths with natural spring water where visitors bathe naked. Don’t knock it til you try it! Some like Nyuto Onsen in Akita Prefecture are hidden away in the mountains offering total seclusion. The waters are said to contain healing properties—and even if they didn’t, relaxing in the peaceful baths with your friends and family is healing enough all on its own. If you’re shy about getting naked, don’t worry, most onsen are separated by gender.
Bow When Greeting
There are all kinds of customs around bowing, but you shouldn’t worry about knowing all the particulars—the Japanese generally don’t expect foreigners to get it completely right. But as a baseline, tradition is that you should bow when greeting someone out of respect. That can vary from a slight nod of the head to completely bending down at the waist.
The longer and deeper the bow, the more respectful—but don’t feel obligated to overdo it every time! And—pro tip—bowing with your hands together in front of your chest isn’t the custom in Japan.
No Tipping is Required
Tipping is always something to adjust to when you’re in a new country, because it seems that every one is different with different customs. In the Japanese culture, it’s easy: you don’t have to do any quick math or remember specific percentages because tipping is not customary. Not in the traditional restaurants, hotels or for cabs. You can leave some leftover coins, but tips aren’t expected.
Don’t Slam the Taxi Doors
Of Japanese customs, this one may especially get you going “wait what” at first sound. But it’ll make sense to you as soon as you hear that the Japanese taxis’ back doors opening automatically, meaning you won’t even have to touch the door handles. In fact, it’s a rule of the taxi drivers’ that you don’t touch them.
It’s definitely something that takes a little getting used to, but you don’t want to shut the door when you get out of the car and accidentally slam it. I did it once and ended up scaring the bejesus out of our driver in Shinjuku!
Being Punctual is Serious Business
Punctuality is another important part of Japanese culture and lifestyle. When it comes to your workplace, you’re expected to arrive some 10 minutes before the start of your shift, and it will actually be a huge deal if you arrive even a minute late. This doesn’t just include arriving to work or for meetings or gatherings with friends, but even the subway in Japan is so punctual you wouldn’t need a clock to tell the time!