Tokyo, Japan: What to Know Before You Go

This blog post is contributed by Ashley Moy (@ashlmoy). All photos were taken by her.

As a city, Tokyo can be a sensory overload to the average suburban Joe. Neon signs plaster the sides of skyscraper buildings. There are so many electronic signs and lights at night that your eyes are adjusted as if it were daylight. You might as well put on sunglasses. I thought New York City was intense, but with the highest population in the world, Tokyo has it’s own crazy buzz.

Streets of Shinjuku lighting up the night

Streets of Shinjuku lighting up the night

 Three things to know before you visit Japan:

1. It has one of most polite cultures in the world, despite being insanely population-dense.

Employees in stores and restaurants greet everyone with kind words and respectful bows everywhere. No matter how hard I tried to reciprocate their politeness and good manners, there’s just something about their genuineness that made me feel like I still wasn’t polite enough.

2. Efficiency and cleanliness are a top priority

Another eye-opener for first time travelers in Japan is street crossing, especially in Tokyo. As a pedestrian, crossing the street means making a mad dash as soon as you see the green light. People hustling every which way. The crosswalks are 30 feet wide, yet you’re still ducking and dodging everyone to cross the road before the light changes. Amazingly, not a single person is in the road by the time the light turns red. Everyone has scrambled out of the way just in time. Order and conformity in all aspects of everyday life- this is an integral part of Japanese culture. It’s mind-blowing how quickly and efficiently everything works, while maintaining extreme respect and politeness. Unlike most urban cities, you’ll never hear angry car honks here.

3. Some of the best and freshest seafood can be found here

Food is always a huge part of my travels, and Japan is no exception. I mean.. if you travel to a country and don’t try the ethnic cuisine, did you really go?

And lastly, here are some weird but important to know cultural/etiquette tips to make your time in Japan a little bit easier:

  • You're not supposed to talk on public transportation. The subway is usually dead silent, and it is rude to talk above a whisper.
  • Women showing cleavage/décolletage is considered very scandalous and frowned upon while wearing really short skirts/shorts is acceptable.
  • You're suppose to give and receive things with two hands to be polite.
  • Complaining is considered extremely rude (even in a restaurant if they got your order wrong).
  • Tipping is not customary and not expected

For more photos from my trip, check out the gallery below!

*Updated from the original post on Violets for Vivien

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