Travel Tips for Japan
· Important websites: japan-guide.com and japan-guide.com/railpass. For longer trips around Japan, purchase the JR or Japan Rail Pass before leaving the US. For shorter trips around Japan the IC or Intelligence Card will save money.
· Take cash. Credit cards are fine for the larger purchases, for your hotel stay, for shops catering to tourists. Do not expect to use a credit card for your morning cappuccino or your afternoon green tea ice cream. Smaller purchases are expected to be made in cash.
· Japan is more formal than the US. Greetings are important, although Westerners are not expected to have mastered all the finer points of bowing.
· Bring business cards to be exchanged. When offered a card, accept it with both hands, a nod of the head, and examine the card before putting it away. Try to pronounce the name on the card—that will make a favorable impression.
· Eating has very specific etiquette rules. Again, Westerners are given some slack but be careful of big no-noes. For example, never put your chopsticks straight up, always put them to the side of the bowl on the little chopstick stand if possible. Straight up chopsticks are rice served to the deceased.
· For Japanese bodily functions are a necessary evil that are best disguised. Hence the wonderful toilets that will clean you and disinfect and deodorize your immediate surroundings. Also, blowing your nose in public is considered rude, and never wipe your nose while dining. Find a restroom or someplace with privacy.
· Tipping is not necessary for most servers. Do tip your tour guides, and round the cab fare up or add a couple of yen.
· Do not expect your taxicab driver to speak or understand English. Carry a translator or bring a card from your destination.
· If staying in Tokyo for anything longer than a few hours, investigate getting a Suica card. It will make it easier to use the extensive public transportation, pay for small items, negotiate Japanese vending machines, and even help when taking taxis.