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Are you planning a trip to Japan? Whether you’re a Japan first timer or regular visitor who keeps getting bemused looks from the locals, the following Japan travel tips should help you get around and avoid committing ‘social hara-kiri’ (ie. a massive cultural faux pas) on your next trip to Japan.

Write things down in Japan

Students in Japan study English for at least six years but many find it hard to follow conversational English (or could simply be too shy to try it out). When asking for help, print your question clearly in English and you will almost certainly get the help you need.

Don’t blow your nose in public

While sniffling drives some people crazy (myself included), it is part of life in Japan where blowing your nose in public is considered to be very rude and uncouth. Sniffle until you can excuse yourself and blow your nose in private.

Don’t pour your own drink

If you’re eating with other people, don’t pour your own drink. Fill someone else’s glass and wait for him or her to reciprocate. It is unlikely you will have to wait long. Pouring your own drink without serving others first is considered rude.

Take off your shoes

You will almost always be required to take off your shoes when you go inside in Japan. If in doubt, take a discreet look at what your host or other locals are doing and follow their lead. Pack plenty of clean socks and newish shoes rather than your old, slightly stinky favourites and your hosts’ and fellow travellers’ noses will thank you.

Get ready for ‘card, card, swap, swap’

Name cards or business cards are culturally significant in Japan. Every business person hands one out upon meeting someone, they are collected with reverence and considered to be an extension of who you are. For this reason you should never bring cheapie-printed-at-home cards to Japan as these will reflect badly on you. You will likely go through about four times as many cards in Japan as you do on a business trip of the same length back home so make sure you bring enough with you.

Disclosure: The writer travelled to Japan as a guest of Japan Tourism. She went through a lot of business cards. 

Want some tips that save time, money and your sanity when you’re flying or at the airport? Check out our suggestions for how to pass the time at an airport with kids, how to access airline lounges (even if you’re not a member), and how to make the most of a stopover.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.