....in all day life in Japan! Please help me to avoid them and tell me how to act polite.
1. Walking on tatatami straw mats with shoes.
2. Passionatly kissing someone in public!
3. Washing your body in the onsen bath.
but spitting, urinating, fondling women, belching, picking your teeth in public - THESE are all ok!
Please read some "Know Before You Go" section and the onsen etiquette:
One recommendation is to take shower/bath everyday like most Japanese do. Being in Japan is not like the beach vacation in Thailand. People are so close to each other that they notice the body odor and are very offended.
Let me chip in if you may. With all of those invaluable comments made so far by one of our fellow TA members, I'd say otherwise. No, have no chip on my shoulder, but civilized men on the street never ever dare "spit, urinate, fondle women, belch (and / or fart)," unless they are intoxicated. Yes, you're right in thinking that Japan is historically far more permissive / tolerant a society than expected when it comes to drinking. Misdemeanors by the imbecile are still often blinked at by the public except perhaps for drunken driving or caresses. No, you won't raise their eye brows even when you start "picking your teeth (with a tooth pick not with a chopstick)in public," causing a series of less than cozy sounds by inhaling between your teeth: that a Japanese cartoonist decribes like "she-her-she-her." That "she-her-she-her" stuff has long been taken as a privilege for men on the street while imbibing, but IMHO, that's not the case anymore. Yes, you could witness the way young ladies (mingled with older guys) behave themselves in a red-lantern stall, where some prattlers suspend their chats for that all too familar sound with a belching...
err...sorry...my comments were meant to be ironic...
One of the reasons I like Japan so much is that it reminds me of the UK of my youth when good manners were considered to be an essential part of life. Put simply, it is impossible to say too many pleases, thank yous and your welcomes in Japan.
One of the exceptions to this is that, at any rate in Tokyo, when you enter a small shop every member of staff will welcome you in a loud voice but the Japanese do not respond. I cannot cope with this and always answer them, even though this makes my Japanese friends feel uncomfortable.
Many people assume that waiters and others, who probably only have a handful of English words, can speak the language fluently. Speak slowly and clearly and use simple words. If it becomes clear that you have not been understood, just repeat what you said even more slowly.
Whatever you do, don't make it obvious that you are irritated or cause anyone to lose face. I often see reviews on TA where people complain about service in hotels which I have found to be absolutely wonderful! Complain about something in a loud voice shortly after you arrive at a hotel and the standard of service will then collapse. Constantly smile, apologise for being a nuisance and tell them that their service is marvellous and you will be treated very well indeed.
I once got the ultimate accolade from a Japanese friend, who said, 'You speak so quietly and are so polite I sometimes forget that you are not Japanese.' Not that this means very much as the Japanese are the world champions when it comes to paying compliments.
Hi and thanks.
I am sorry, but not all answers did help - my question has been serious - I have never been in this part of the world so far and just started to learn.
But as for taking a shower every day, oh yes, we even do this in Germany and yes, we brush our teeth,too twice or three times a day.... :).
Quiltlover, let me see if I can help on one point. Japanese people do use a toothpick publicly in a restaurant, but to do it politely, usually cover their mouth with the other hand at the same time. However, if you needed to use a handkerchief and blow your nose, you would leave the table and do that privately. Makes sense when you think it about it--which practice is more unsanitary?
I think what passes for polite behavior in Germany will pass for polite behavior in Japan. The Japanese will be pretty forgiving if you do something that would normally be considered rude, but might not be expected to understand because you're not Japanese.
Don't be loud on a subway. I noticed all the loud people in Japanese subways and trains were either drunks or foreigners. It was very noticeable.
I heard something about not blowing your nose in public in Japan or China.
Don't be confrontational. If there's a problem, bring it up, but don't start raising your voice. I just got back from two weeks in Japan, and I can't remember any Japanese loudly arguing about something.
There is a system of hierarchy in Japan which westerners may find unusual. I can't explain it well, but an example is that the workers in the shop are expected to be extremely polite to their customers, but the customers are not necessarily expected to show the same level of politeness. (Although you shouldn't be rude.)
Apparently that's right simba 8 about blowing your nose. Sniffing over and over is preferred to blowing your nose in public. I've witnessed this a few times in Japan.
Oh well, when in Rome.....
I don't know if this will help but I have it on good authority from a Japanese friend as well as one (brief) visit to Japan last year that the best thing to remember is that as long as you follow your own sense about politeness and manners, the Japanese are incredibly forgiving about minor "mistakes" of foreigners. Like a poster mentioned above, the Japanese are great at compliments and the best one I received from my Japanese friend was "When you come to Japan all the Japanese people will love you because you are so nice". That was all. Because I'm nice. Niceness means A LOT. I HONESTLY believe this: if you are kind to the people around you in Japan, they will be kind to you. If you are respectful of the people around you in Japan, they will be respectful of you. Treat them gently, they will treat you gently. I really believe this. There are no magic tricks. Just be a good person. Oh, and one more thing: let them see your joy and happiness. Like everyone else in the world, the Japanese love it when you are interested in their country and their culture, and are enjoying everything. Smile a lot and show them you are grateful.