12 Things Not to Do in Japan (My Reply to Chris)

Etiquette in Japan from Abroad in Japan

Go Japanese Etiquette Response to Abroad in JapanThis new video that Chris made was pretty accurate… and being I’ve been living in Japan for awhile in the Southern part of Japan. Chris lives in the Northern most part of Japan so, I thought I’d cross examine these 12 no-no’s in Japan. To be fair, he got them pretty much all right on the head and the ending advice is something to take home when deciding to visit Japan. So here is what I see compared to what he pointed out as well as some interesting stories… If I have them for the specific etiquette.

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#1 Don’t eat or drink while walking in Japan

My response: Although I sort of knew this one when I first came here, I’ve eaten and drank while walking many times in public without anybody giving me any bad looks, I constantly drink a beer walking down the street, in fact I feel rather at home and at peace about it. But despite knowing this and having done it several times myself I got TONS of BAD looks when my wife and I decided to sit off to the side near a building one day and eat lunch real quick… We had more bad looks then any other time since we’ve been here, I looked around afterwards and we were not in anyone’s way, there was no grave stone behind us or anything saying to not be in the area…. Till this day I still wonder what the hell we did to piss people off. So it goes to show you, you can know all the etiquette in the world here (or think you do)… You may get that look still anyway.

#2 Chopstick No-No’s

My response: The big chopstick no-no’s… I only once stuck my chopsticks into rice ONCE. I was at a place eating gyumeishi with a friend and my wife, of course I was drinking and did it anyway, despite “knowing” about this etiquette, I felt a bit bad, but nothing happened from it, nor did anyone notice besides my friend who quickly snapped at me about it. 😛 Damn booze, getting me into trouble. You can read a bit more about these Chopstick Etiquette Guidelines of Japanese here.

#3 Tipping (Don’t do it!)

My response: I actually knew this before coming and I love this part of Japan. But I do have a story around this. I went to an Izakaya with a friend 6 months ago and he was lets just say, not really suppose to be drinking, but we all ended up doing nomihodai (here are some etiquette tips about Nomihodai), and we drank for awhile, it was fun… for awhile… then all of a sudden this friend passed out on an empty plate and threw up all over the table, we got him up and to the bathroom, then he came back and did it again. That was our, better get the hell outta here know barf and while we were leaving everyone that was in that group decided to try and “soak” up the barf with tons of napkins, well, that was really fucking nasty and I felt bad knowing that these poor waiter gals were going to have to clean up all this dudes barf. I tried my damnest to give them something extra despite knowing they wouldn’t. I also successfully did the deepest and longest bows of my Japanese “life” ever, I felt horrible about it.

All they said was…

“Come again soon!” … with a pasted smile… Thing is, I could never face them again, but a few of those friends actually did go back. I suppose that’s the way to “tip” if you feel you need to, just go back.

You can read a bit about Japanese Bowing Etiquette here.

#4 Using your phone in public transport

My response: I’ve never done this as I don’t actually use a phone here in Japan… Weird right? Well, I can’t stand how people are lost in there little worlds here with their phones, they have signs saying “LOOK UP”, of course 1,000s pass by daily and do no such thing.

But one story I have about this is when I was getting on a JR line it was really empty, so my wife and I are sitting up front to watch the oncoming tracks. Then we stop at an Eki, and this guy comes on (Japanese) with his phone in his hand, was finishing up his call and he was fairly quiet. The conductor told him to stop using it, and the guy was trying to finish up and the conductor came back and about grabbed it out of his hands… Scary little guy. I’m not sure what to think about what the hell happened there, but the guy on the phone was even in shock.

Here are some Japanese Train Etiquette tips so that you appease the Japanese train conductors. <- (The 8 Mortal Sins of Train Riding)

#5 The importance of business cards

My response: I’ve known about this and it makes me awkward as hell when someone gives me a card. Although I remember my cards, I still freak out when people give them to me.

#6 Blowing your nose in public

My response: I’ve seen several Japanese indulging in this activity, but of course most do not. Me? Being an American, I just kind of don’t care (as much) and do it if I need to, of course I avoid it in super crowded places like a train, but if I’m on the street I will go on the side and do it, I try to meet etiquette half way at least if possible, but sometimes… I mean, c’mon it’s like hanging out anyway, lets just finish it!

#7 Don’t get physical

My response: I’ve noticed not much touching here when first meeting people, but by golly jeewhizz, you get some alcohol in them and they’ll be hanging off of you like a monkey in a tree.

#8 Be overly opinionated

My response: Well being my Japanese is sub-par most of the time it would be hard for to be like this with most Japanese people and then even when I’m in the thresholds of “mastering” this language, I think I’d still find it a bit hard to do this. My opinioned-ness comes from speaking English really loud when I’m pissed about something.

But yesterday I kind of came up with a slogan about Americans vs Refugees flooding Europe… and yes, yes. It’s a horrible thing to pick and make jokes off of (I blame the booze I was drinking while walking), but I felt it appropriate… “We don’t rape, we just agitate”… 😐 yep. NEXT!!

Better Ways to Learn Japanese Fluently

#9 Taking off your shoes in Japan

My response: I got busted doing this ONCE, the first time I enter my shared house when getting here. Other then that, it’s pretty easy to remember, no big stories here like Chris’s.

#10 Don’t litter

My response: It’s true there are very very few places to toss trash… but I see trash all of the place still here in Fukuoka, (<-check out the gomi rules here of Fukuoka) and I can tell you right now, if you own a Jidouhanbaki… A vending machine.. You better provide people a way to throw trash away, because Chris is right a lot of people will drink whatever right there and then throw it away, if there is no bin… people start stacking it all over the place around it.

#11 Jaywalking on red lights

My response: This is the point that made me want to do this post as I posted my response already on this video in comments — I do this ALL the time! I see tons of people doing it here in Fukuoka… maybe that’s why it also has the highest rate of people getting hit by cars? … Hmm odd. Perhaps then, this is also the reason there are more “drunk” driver auto accidents here too? Perhaps they all get caught from hitting people crossing at red lights? Hmm… fascinating!

#12 Don’t worry about knowing the etiquette

My response: You will be given TONS of leeway here… except if you’re eating an obentou off the side on a building curb… then you’ll get death stares. So relax, you’ll learn or you’ll get the looks.

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Nomihodai Meaning, Etiquette & Proper Precautions Before Ordering

Nomihodai Japanese Meaning and EtiquetteNomihodai – Meaning, Etiquette and Precautions Before Ordering

Nomihodai, what does it mean and why is it so important… mostly to foreigners? Nomihodai means “All you can drink” or in Japanese the literal translation is Nomi 飲み = “Drink” and Hodai 放題 = “all you can” or sometimes called “Free Drink System”. This is a sort of option you can have with certain izakaya to bars and restaurants. There is also all you can eat (tabehodai) that at times couples with this type of promotion. From what I know of nomihodai, is that it ranges from $5 to $20 for 1 hours to 2 hours of all you can drink face wrecking fun.

Better Ways to Learn Japanese Fluently

Now many times you have to be aware of what you’re getting into, you may think that $5 is super cheap, and I’d say you’re right, especially to sit there for 1 hour to 2 hours sucking down alcohol. But you’ll find when you visit Japan that many of these places that offer nomihodai will also have some clauses in their “Terms of Service” which you should ask about before agreeing to nomihodai.

For example, you may enter into a bar and request nomihodai, you may actually have to pay an entrance fee and it can vary from place to place, which could range from $3 to $10 depending on where you go. Now, that’s not where it stops, you will want to also ask the greeter or host/hostess about the plate minimum. Now… what is a plate minimum? A plate minimum is a requirement to order X amount of dishes while you are drinking  per person (usually). But usually this shouldn’t be a problem I’d hope for most people. You’re sitting there drinking, you think you would want to eat too right? So as to not entirely punish your liver, this usually is a wise idea.

So the $5 to $20 all you can drink ends up many times for 2 people being more like $40-$50 for an all your can drink fiasco, I’d say still for 2 people to go all out and spend only say $40 to have a hell of a time and get a bite to eat is pretty cool.

Now let’s get into more nitty gritty about the infamous nomihodai!

One thing to note is if you’re planning on a night of sorrowful drinking because your ex left you, then think again, as generally nomihodai can ONLY be ordered when 2 or more people are par-taking in the fiasco of controlled liver destruction. Of course I’m sure if you REALLY wanted to slam it home, you could possibly negotiate for 1. But, the fun of nomihodai is to have that unsuspecting friend to ambush with your recent breakup. Although there are izakaya, restaurants and bars that offer nomihodai openly, there are also several places that reserve this right to people who RSVP for a larger group, just keep your eyes open.

A Few Etiquette Rules to Keep in Mind:

  1. Foreigners usually abuse the hell out of nomihodai, with that in mind at least have the courtesy to drink your current beverage all the way first before asking for more. About 20 minutes before your time is over you’ll be given last call, don’t be rude and order 5 drinks effectively wasting the drinks because your dead drunk on the floor.
  2. All drinking Etiquette applies here. A few rules are: Not beginning until your entire group/party is ready to sign on for the onslaught of their liver with a proud and forceful ‘KANPAI!’. So make sure you’re not holding people up! Another is pouring for others and not yourself, if you want more pour for someone else and they’ll pour for you and if you see anyone with a empty cup, be courtesy and refill their cup. But note leaving your cup full indicates your finished drinking. This is something you might want to take note of if you ever nomikai… your liver will thank you knowing this information.
  3. Loud drunkness is not only okay, it’s promoted as long as it’s within normal means, but outrageous drunken behavior that takes the joys of nomihodai from other customers is something to avoid, if you’re a straight out crazed maniac when you drink, perhaps you should buy a six pack and stay home.

What REALLY To Be Cautious of With Nomihodai or General Izakaya/Restaurants in Japan?

Now here comes my main concern to all you Eggs out there looking to have your first izakaya, nomihodai or nomikai experience. There is something YOU MUST be aware of, there is an imposter that lurks in the darkness, claiming to be something of great value to the lives of Japan, but it’s sneaky, it’s not what it claims to be. What is this mysterious imposter?

Happoshu….  はっぽ酒

What is happoshu you may ask? Well to shine a light from heaven on to the sin of what happoshu is, it’s simply pretend beer. What do I mean by that? I mean that it’s light beers 2nd removed cousin, and it’s not just light it’s LIGHT beer. It’s considered a diet beer many times and has been quoted by some to taste like ‘weasel urine’ (you’ll see what I mean). The reason this wannabe beer… or rather alcoholic drink exists is to avoid tax margins that are imposed by the government of Japan. By either brewing the beer with non traditional ingredients like corn, soy, rice and potato’s they can effectively sell their beer for much much less as well effectively ruin your liver twice as quickly. The rule is that if there is less then 67% malt used in the beer it can then apply for tax cuts, and if there is NO malt, it’s consider a 3rd Tier Beer, I believe imported beer can also fall into this tax cut category as it’s not brewed in Japan so they can avoid this tax altogether (don’t quote me on that though).

Who drinks 3rd Tier Beers? Find out in Tokyo Desu’s article about Japan’s Gretest Faux Beers. I believe you should get an idea of why you should avoid these beers altogether, but more importantly you’ll discover useful reasons why you would even want to drink these ‘beverages’.

So when you go out to a restaurant or izakaya, make sure you ask if they have draft beer (nama biiru). If they act funny afterward, you know it’s for sure a sign to respect the liver god has given you and carry forth to the next possible choice. To really shine a light on the horrible-ness of these beverages take a look at the general rating (if you have not already) of the fake beers at beer advocate, you’ll notice only 3 out of the 65 listed ‘beers’ have a rating of 4/5 (80%) then quickly it buckles down into the high 1’s. For the most part, they’re pretty bad. But to be fair those ‘top’ rated happoshu beers only had 1 or 2 reviews.

The idea of nomihodai was take from the ‘All you can eat’ buffet restaurant types that were inspired originally by the Swedish back in the 1950’s in Tokyo… So you can certainly play this stuff your face attitude with nomihodai, but I’d say in ending have fun but know for the majority of Japan, nomihodai is not a place to smash your face in with a beer bottle, Japanese people actually are well known to keep it to a threshold they can manage (for the most part), so enjoy yourself but just know you might get a ‘yappari’ or ‘baka gaijin’ throw your way if you make an ass of yourself.

-Nathan Scheer



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Japanese Bowing Etiquette 101: CRASH COURSE

Bowing 101 in JapanLearn Japanese Bowing Techniques and When to Use Them!

If you’re totally confused about when to bow in Japan, this quick crash course guide and videos will give you an idea of when and how to use these bowing methods.

Better Ways to Learn Japanese Fluently

The more I researched into this field of etiquette the more I found that it’s not as easy to really completely master and understand. But, it’s good to note that the Japanese do not expect foreigners to bow and really understand the nuances of this social custom, so for those who are visiting don’t sweat it, but I still suggest do as the Japanese do and learn these three basic bowing customs. This video here though is good to take note of as it will show you several examples of other types of bowing body language that you may see while in Japan.

While you’re in Japan or if you are watching movies about Japan or Japanese people or their culture you will notice that when watching the Japanese bow, the person initiating the bow is expressing appreciation and respect to the other person which is being bowed to. When a person bows, they bow from the hips, not the chest. But it can be used to say hello, good bye, thank you, I’m sorry or, I’m EXTREMELY sorry and many other types of expressions.

There are three different types of bowing in general in every day use in Japan and it really all depends on how deep one bows from the waist/hips when it is performed. The first is the most casual bow, it’s called ‘eshaku’. Eshaku is when the bow extends from the waist at about 15 degrees, it is also common to dip the head slightly and your gaze is straight out from the level of the head. This eshaku is preformed in casual greetings or if you happen to pass by someone of a higher social status then you.

It’s also proper to speak when passing or meeting, but if you add eshaku while saying thank you it will further the expression of how you feel towards being grateful towards the person. It’s said that %7 of our words convey what we really say to another, but our body language is what is really speaking, and the Japanese truly want to express themselves through the act of body language instead of just language, which is quite interesting, being that some western body language is barely seen at times when someone is conveying gratitude or appreciation, yet feels it!

The second most common situation with bowing is called ‘keirei’ bow. This is generally used for business interactions. The bow comes from the waist, and the torso of the body reaches down to about 30 degrees. It’s used when leaving or entering reception and meeting rooms as well as when meeting or greeting a customer.

Diagram of Degrees of Bowing in JapanThe third is called ‘saikeirei’ and it is the most polite bow. It’s extends down to 45 degrees and is used for express extreme feelings of thankfulness ‘Domo arigatou gozaimashita’ or if it needs to be a very sincere apology. ‘Gomenasi!!!’.

Hand gesture in Japan before and after eatingThere is another custom that can be noted here as well. There is a gesture called ‘gassho’ which is clasping of the hands. It’s a gesture of putting the palms of both of your hands together in front of your chest. This gesture originally comes from Buddhism, and being that most of Japan is Buddhist it’s fair to say that this custom is common. It’s custom to ‘gassho’ before and after when it eating.


Which is a word that means ‘to receive’ or ‘accept’, it’s a way to express thankfulness towards the food and who prepared it. But at times could also come off like ‘LETS EAT!’.

Here is a great video with a bit more bowing etiquette within it! It’s great to actually hear stories from an actual Japanese person about bowing, you really can start to understand it a bit more by seeing it through their eyes.

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