Tokyo Local Custom Tips by kdoc13 Top 5 Page for this destination
Tokyo Local Customs: 229 reviews and 398 photos
Narita Airport during Golden Week
Golden Week may be the best, and worst time to see Tokyo. It comprises four holidays, and is one of the busiest times of the year for tourism. Most Japanese tend to get up and get outta town during this week. As a result, views from the Tokyo tower are better, and traffic is less congeted.
There is a downside though. Many of the local attractions and businesses are also closed. So whatever else is left to see, isn't going to be much. If it is open, and it is outside of town, you can even forget seeing it. Trying to get to Mt Fuji is going to be impossible.
If you have to travel to Japan, it is best NOT to travel during golden week. But if you are there already, try to enjoy what you can. In 2005, Golden week falls on April 29th, to May 5th. But this tends to spill over onto the weekends too.
Check it out, Dido is open for business!!!!!
Mondays in Tokyo can be quite boring. Why? Because almost all of the cool tourist things are closed. A lot of the business in the city are closed on Mondays. I am not sure why? I have heard 2 stories, the first one seems more legitimate. First that since they are a day ahead, everything is closed on Monday so their stock market is somewhat following the US stock market. The other story that I have heard is that following the war, the US markets were the only ones open, and no one every seemed to go there on mondays. Since there was no business, the stores just didn't open on Mondays and the tradition held.
Either way, if you plan to go out and see the sights on a Monday, you may want to call ahead or ask the tour company about businesses being open. For smaller businesses, a white flag outside the door means they are open. No white flag means they are closed.
My friend Ayano doing Ema.
At many of the shrines you will find little pieces of wood with writing on them. These are for the practice of Ema. Ema is when you write a wish for the following year on the piece of wood, something like happiness, health, proseperity, etc. The wood hangs around for a while and then at the start of the new year is burned, taking your wish to heaven to be granted.
It didn't really work for me when I tried it, but your results can be different.
The dreaded Asian Style Toilet.
This came as a shock to me when I first saw one, I had no clue what to do. So, to alieviate that pressure form others, I present instructions below, and a web link to a site that can also help.
Most importantly, bring toilet paper and towels with you as they are not always provided in public facilities! If you are near a major subway station, you can often get little tissue packets from people handing them out by the station. (they do contain information abo call girls, but that's not important.) The other thing to remember is that some places charge for use of their facilities, so bring change otherwise you may be on the outside looking in.
First thing to know, the front of the toilet is the raised curved part below the tank in the picture here. You stand with legs on either side of the basin and drop your pants around your knees. Next, you squat over the basin, and go about business, making sure to keep your balance while you do. The next part is the trickiest, to flush the paper or not. There is some debate over this. Many Japanese style toilets will have a small trash can next to them with a plastic bag in them, I have been told this is where you place the soiled paper. But I have also seen ones that don't have this little can. If that is the case, I have assumed that it is ok to flush the toilet paper there.
If you are in some places, there will often be a pair of slippers outside the door. This is so you don't dirty your own shoes.
Fortunately Japan has been making the move to more western style toilets and they are often there in the places westerners are most likely to visit. If you are at the home of a Japanese person though, don't be afraid to ask them how to use one, it is not uncommon, and you won't lose face for doing so.
Coming soon to a theatre near you...
You would think that movies in Japan would be the same as those in the US of A. But no, it is very different.
The most obvious difference is reserved and assigned seating. Unlike in America where you can just go wild and pick any seat you want, your seat in Japan will typically come with a seat number. It is reserved and a guy with an odd hat will show you how to get there. Don't be alarmed, it is normal.
The best seats in the theater are often in the special reserved area. You pay a little more, but you will be in the center of the theatre, and towards the back. In America, I love the back row and in the very middle. In Tokyo, that is an extra 3 bucks I am not willing to spend.
Odd theatre snacks. They have the typical candy and popcorn in Japan too, but bowls of noodles and beer can be found in some of the theatres, especially the nice ones in the Ginza. Slurping of the noodles is done before the movie, and the theater is dead silent durring. Talking in a movie is strictly frowned upon, as is excessive entering and leaving for restroom trips. Once you are in your seat, sit down and shut up.
Finally comercials play before and between movies, you will sit through hundreds of them.
Tokyo Subways can be quite busy/
There are a lot of things a Westerner needs to know about riding the subway in Tokyo. Where to begin? First of all, if you are non-Asian looking, people on the subway will automatically be nervous about you. You are disturbing their chi (a mystical energy, sense of calmness, etc.) Just try to fit in, don't talk to the people on the train (unless you are with someone, preferably a local).
Seating. If you are western and sitting on a seat while Japanese are standing, you will probably get a lot of strange looks (unless you are female, then it is somewhat ok.) Western men are just expected to stand. And if you give up your seat to an old lady who is standing, don't be surprised if a Japanese man jumps into it before the lady can. It is just the culture.
Porn, don't be surprised to see people reading what appears to you to be pornography on a subway. Many of the magazines feature full nudity or sex in them, even comics. It is considered rude to look over someones shoulder at them, and the fact that you are western and looking will make people uncomfortable too.
The most important rule, never touch a Japanese person, especially women or schoolgirls. You are cruising for a beating that way. There are many Japanese perverts on the subway who already touch the women inappropriately, don't be that person. Plus, as a westerner, the locals already think you are going to rape or kill them in the back of their minds. It is just their overall impression of Americans, and they are afraid of them for the most part.
Play by the rules and everything will be ok on the subway.
When I worked in Japan, a frequent question around the office was what my blood type was. At first it worried me, especially when the young ladies were the one who asked. But, hey, I didn't know the culture then. I just figured there were sharp objects and they wanted to know in case I needed a transfusion or something... yeah, I am a dork!
The blood type question is usually asked by someone who has romantic interests in a person, as a way of measuring compatability. It is so common that many of the J-pop stars, models, actresses and other celebrities list their blood types on their promotional materials. I seriously saw a campaign poster for Junichiro Koizumi (The prime minister as of 2004) which had his blood type on it.
People drawing Omikuji
Omikuji are fortunes written on slips of paper,sold at temples and shrines all over Japan. You shake a container full of bamboo sticks and then remove one through the hole in the container. It has a number on it, and you take a corresponding slip of paper with fortune written on it from the drawers. At other temples and shrines you simply put your hand in a box full of omikuji and draw one. Omikuji is said to have been imported from China in ancient times, and used as a message medium of the gods on such important occasions as business transactions and marriage. However, nowadays there are omikuji vending machines. talk about taking the fun out of it.
Hiromi (Right) buys a vending machine drink.
Vending Machines are everywhere. The picture here is one row of three of vending machines at the Meiji Shrine. Vending is a tradition in Japan. I love to watch people grab a coke from a vending machine that talks. Sometimes when the machine says thank you, a Japanese person will actually bow to the machine! It is like the Matrix or something.
There is literally nothing that you cannot buy in a Tokyo vending machine. My favorite has always been the one in Shinjuku with the used women's panties, but we won't go into that here. Seriously though, you can buy everything from eggs to porn to photos and a place to recharge your cell phone.
I love the fact that I can go out to the middle of nowhere on a hiking trip on Mt. Hakone, and half way up the mountain, in the most remote spot imaginable, there will be a vending machine! What is more impressive is that alchol is served in many of them. The Holiday Inn I stayed at had a Suntori Whisky vending machine on my floor near the elevator. I was asked by some Japanese kids to break a 1000 Yen bill for them, and was was surprised when they used the change to buy a bottle. I'll never do that again, at least not without carding them first!
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