So how about you? Be sure to avoid these 7 travel sins on your next visit to Japan. (warning: this advice isn't candy coated)
1. SelfishnessThis is the big one.
Japan isn't an English speaking country. If people are kind enough to speak English to you — speak slowly. Use visual communication such as hand gestures. Keep your words simple.
You might get lucky and find people who speak English as well as you do — but generally you need to speak with care. A few words of Japanese are always appreciated. Communication is a two way street.
2. ImpatienceThe Japanese have completely different set of social norms and manners. In fact, every country does.
What's socially acceptable in one country may be completely taboo in Japan. Likewise, what's rude in your country may be perfectly acceptable in Japan.
Here's where patience and common sense help the traveller. Take cues from the locals. If you're on a crowded train and people keep pushing their way in — that's normal. Chill.
Different norms and manners are a challenge — but you're up to the challenge.
3. PrideVisitors to Japan say the word gaijin a lot.
Sure, gaijin are a small minority in Japan. If you're the only foreigner in a restaurant or a train — you might feel that you really stand out. The truth is that you don't.
There are a lot of foreigners living in Japan. Most Japanese have lived abroad or travelled extensively. In other words, the locals aren't interested in you simply because you're a gaijin. It's generally better to forget all about your race and enjoy yourself.
4. Forgetting YourselfWe all step out of our shell on vacation. After all, it's your holiday — you've worked hard for it.
Enjoy it but don't forget yourself. If you don't strip naked and go swimming in fountains at home — Japan is probably not the place to start. Japan is a conservative country with conservative laws:
Yes, Japan has the death penalty.
Yes, the police can hold you in jail for 23 days without charge, without being offered bail, and without proper legal representation.
Yes, over 95% of people confess to their crimes in those 23 days.
Yes, if you get in a fight or dispute with the locals — they can communicate with the police and you can't.
Yes, your embassy will try to help (if the police decide to allow you to contact them). Usually, there isn't much they can do.
No, the police don't have a soft place in their hearts for foreign tourists who just wanted to express themselves.
5. LamenessNow, that I've scared you with the state of the Japanese legal system. Let me remind you again — Japan is a safe and reasonable country. If you treat people with respect it will be reciprocated.
Japanese people are proud of their culture. They enjoy sharing their culture with foreign visitors.
When you're walking down a street looking for food it's tempting to step into a McDonald's. Especially when most restaurants only have Japanese signs and menus. Japan is a wonderful place to be adventurous. Try new things. People will help you.
6. SlothCities such as Tokyo are too big to just wing it. You need to prepare. Wandering aimlessly just doesn't work.
7. InflexibilityEveryone has expectations about a vacation. Japan is too set in it's ways to bend to your expectations. Be flexible and Japan will exceed your expectations every time. Enjoy!