Are you traveling to Tokyo for the very first time? It’s a good idea to do your research and know what you’re getting into before you go! While many visitors are surprised by how easy it is to navigate Tokyo despite not speaking or reading Japanese, there’s no denying the serious culture shock and language barrier many tourists experience when they arrive.
Don’t let yourself be caught by surprise by the quirks that make Tokyo a different experience than many other destinations. I’m excited to share a handful of tips and tricks that will help you navigate the culture of Tokyo and experience the city with minimal embarrassment or headache. Ready to go? Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you get prepared to visit Tokyo:
CASH IS KING IN TOKYO
While your debit or credit card will likely be accepted in major hotels, big department stores, and chain restaurants, you won’t have much luck using it to pay at local shops, market vendors, and many other spots around Tokyo. Avoid putting yourself in a position where you can’t pay by simply keeping cash on hand when you’re visiting Tokyo.
Don’t convert dollars to yen in the airport – that’s a surefire way to be penalized by conversion fees and less-than-favorable rates. Instead, find an ATM within the city to withdraw cash. Not sure where to find one? 7-11 locations in Tokyo are open 24/7, and many have an ATM for customers!
DON’T LEAVE A TIP
Tipping for great service can be tempting if you’re from a Western culture. However, leaving a tip in Tokyo is a big faux pas. It’s not just unwanted – it’s considered downright rude. Don’t run the risk of offending someone, even if you’re really tempted to leave something behind to celebrate excellent service. Rest assured, the wait staff, bartenders, and cab drivers you encounter are well-paid for their work.
COVER UP THOSE TATTOOS
Unlike America and many other Western countries, tattoos aren’t considered a creative form of self-expression in Japan. Instead, tattoos – especially visible ones – are highly associated with the yakuza, the Japanese mafia. Needless to say, it’s not a great group to associate with, and while most hotel receptionists and restaurant waiters will recognize you probably aren’t a criminal, you’ll definitely attract some unwanted attention if your tattoos are exposed.
MIND YOUR MANNERS
Japanese society highly values politeness, and it’s important to follow social norms and rules as well as you can while you’re there. Speaking on cell phones in crowded rooms, blowing your nose or dealing with other personal hygiene issues in public, walking on the wrong side of the street, or smoking in an inappropriate spot are all quick ways to get the stink-eye from locals. You won’t always be able to read every sign you encounter, so you may not always have all the instructions, but when in doubt, pay attention to what everyone else is doing and take your cues from the locals.
Tokyo is a world-class city to visit – clean, safe, and easy to navigate. Keep these tips in mind as you go, and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying your time while you’re there!
SHARING IS AWESOME!
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