Gion, in Kyoto city, launches the project to send push-notification via the application for promoting courtesy practices.
Not only Kyoto, but the residents and business owners in popular sightseeing spots in Japan have been bothered by ill-manners tourists and it has been getting very serious issues due to the sharp growth of foreign visitors. (it is called “Tourism pollution, Overtourism”)
- Enter into private properties for taking pictures without permissions
- Break private own stuff (branches, flowers for taking pictures)
- Destroy private yards and gardens
- Make lots of noise in residential areas
The “tourism pollution” is caused by not only language barriers but also the difference in recognition of public manners.
Also, the Japanese government, tourism organizations, and local societies have delayed making the environment for foreign tourists.
In order to keep positive relationships between tourists and locals,
What you should learn about what bothers Japanese people while traveling in Japan?
Poi-sute ; Littering
This is one of the top ill-manners that bother locals in popular sightseeing cities.
Speaking on the overseas visitors’ side, they don’t have a place to throw trash away because the trash bin is hardly found in public areas.
For preventing terrorist threats like the one that occurred in 1994 (Matsumoto sarin attack), Japanese societies eliminate trash cans in public places, since then, it is very hard to find trash cans in Japan.
Especially, in the station, you can’t find anywhere to throw trash away.
There were trash cans outside of convenience stores use to be, however, most stores put trash cans inside because so many people throw domestic garbage in it.
Some of the polite Japanese people usually bring their trash back home, because they know there are very few trash cans around in public places.
However, people from overseas how so they know about it?
They can’t find trash cans, and then litter.
In order to solve this problem, Japanese societies started to put signs shows “No litter” or “Trash can is this way” in several languages to reduce littering.
Also, some of the cities started to consider(still!) to increase public trash cans.
So it’s better to bring bags for taking trash back with you during the Japan trip.
Warikomi ; Cutting in Line
In Japan and the US, making lines is as common sense while waiting at cashers, restrooms, and boarding on transportations.
But, is this common sense all over the world?
When I traveled to European countries, I was surprised people didn’t make lines in some situations, but it wasn’t causing chaos because they gave ways to each other making eye-contacts.
At the airport, my American husband got unhappy when we were about boarding the plane, other passengers cut in front of ours, however, it was not cutting in for them. I learned common sense is not the same in each country.
Japan is the (making) “LINE” country.
In Japan, people wait in line to get on transportation such as trains, subways, and buses, until all passengers getting off first.
Have you ever hard iconic stories about the “LINE” country?
In the evacuation situation at the shelter, evacuators wait in a line for the water and food supplies, and no one tries to cut in line.
You know, it is not a law of making waiting lines, but it is common sense for Japanese.
Tourists should follow rules and manners in the country they are visiting to keep positive relationships.
Make sure your behavior is not cutting in a waiting line, look around carefully whether a line is or not.
If you don’t wait for all passengers to get off and skipping lines to get on when you use public transportations, people might give you dirty looks.
You may see the taped waiting line on the floor in some places such as platforms, convenience stores, drugstores follow the line if you see it.
Keep Public Restrooms As Clean
Everyone wants to use clean public restrooms.
I don’t say all public restrooms in Japan is very clean,
but relatively they are clean and Japanese people try to use them as clean.
Toilet rules vary in each country, but in Japan, you can
Flush toilet papers, don’t throw used toilet papers into an etiquette box,
don’t flush anything except toilet papers.
Also, not allowing smoking in the restroom.
By the way, knocking doors is common in Japan.
When someone is knocking a door when using, just knock the door back.
Talk Loud ?
It is not a pleasant manner to talk loudly in public places, I think it is based on the Japanese etiquette aesthetic which is “listening to stranger’s conversation is impolite”.
In public places, Japanese people consider how shame revealing their privacy and should refrain from doing so.
Honestly, I don’t know the specific reason why we can’t talk loud in public places, Japanse people include me, we have been imprinted “we should keep enough volume to not bother other peoples in public” for generations without a specific reason.
So anyway, you may get attention from locals although you think it is just a regular volume for you.
On Public Transportations
There is NO RULE about the talk volume, but it is not allowed to talk on cell phones at your seat of public transportations.
First of all, you need to put the cell phone on silent mode.
As a Japanese public transportation rule, you shouldn’t answer the phone call, but you can tell to return calls in whisper voice quickly or send a text to return calls.
When you have to make phone calls on the train, get off the next station, or move to the deck if there is.
Temples and Shrines
It is the same when you visit churches, mosques, synagogues…
Do you talk loudly when you go to your holy place?
Yet, it is true that many people enjoy visiting temples and shrines so that make sure your volume is not too loud.
Follow the sign if it says “Be quiet” though.
Use common sense.
If you stay in a vacation house in residential areas, be aware of making noises at night.
The walls in Japanese apartment house are much thinner you think.
Also, mind the volume on hall ways.
Do not have a party at parking lots.
There are reports that residents had bothered by party people who had drinking parties midnight in parking lots in convenience stores.
Smoking In Public
In most public places, you are allowed to smoke in the “smoking area” only.
At restaurants and cafes, there are separate areas.
Izakaya restaurants or bars, generally smoking is allowed if you see the ash try on the table. If you are not sure, ask the staff.
Smoking On Streets
Beware of smoking in the streets, or walking with smoking.
It is not illegal yet, but some people are very sensitive about it.
Besides, over 40 cities and wards ban smoking or walking with smoking on the streets so that you might get fined.
I don’t recommend smoking outside except for the smoking area or places you can smoke.
Consider taking pictures
Indeed, some private properties in Hokkaido where owners voluntarily opened for other people have closed, and important cultural assets in Japan are fenced because of the bad manners of tourists.
- Do Not take photos where the sign says “No Photo”
- Do Not enter where the sign says “No enter”
- Do Not trespass private properties without permission.
- Do Not enter someone’s house and garden without permission.
Although it might no problem to take a picture or trespass private properties in your countries, it is unwelcome manners in Japan.
Shamefully, some Japanese tourists also do troublesome activities for taking pictures.
“Geisha” is Japanese iconic kimono girls, however, they are not mascot characters like Disney’s characters and others in amusement parks.
They (“Maiko” and “Geiko” ) are professional entertainers that patrons pay for, so you must know the rules if you see them.
- Do Not block their way or stop them (They are going to go work!)
- Taking photos is the generally unpleasant manner for them
- Do Not take selfies and update with their face on SNS
- Do not touch them
Don’t be sad.
There are some events to take pictures of “Geisha” girls, one of the famous events is “Miyako Odori”. If you buy a green tea ticket, geisha girls serve a tea for you.
Go you can have an experience of the “Geisha” girl in some rental kimono companies.
The Japanese side also started to promote “Japanese common etiquettes” in several languages more by using brochures, stickers, posters, signs, and web sites.
Due to different common sense between different counties, getting rid of misunderstanding is important rather than complaining first.
Especially Japanese people are not good at advising and also many people don’t have English skills.
Not only in Japan, but there is also the campaign “Travel, Enjoy, Respect” developed by the world tourism organization to keep comfort relationships between tourists and locals.
Do not forget that you are traveling in the different country under the different culture,
while respecting other cultures, don’t be nervous about making mistakes.