Top 10 Cultural Differences Between Japan and the USA – Roadtrips

In the course of the previous decade Japan has grown into one of many world’s high journey locations – helped in no small half by internet hosting a sequence of worldwide sporting showcases, together with the upcoming 2021 Summer time Video games in Tokyo. The Japanese capital’s electrical cityscape, UNESCO-recognized culinary heritage, quirky subcultures, and rags-to-riches historical past put it atop many People’ journey bucket lists — a development anticipated to proceed.

Throughout this meteoric rise, Japanese cultural variations from the western world have reached some extent of cliché: the unfailing punctuality of the Japanese folks, the effectivity of the transport community, the politeness of the locals and their inference on customer support, or how eating places and bars – when you possibly can lastly find them – exist on a charmingly miniature scale.

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However there’s a motive such clichés exist. Japan was closed off to the remainder of the world for over 200 years from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries – often known as the Sakoku Interval – throughout which era the nation simmered completely in its personal tradition, free from the palms of out of doors affect. As such, Japanese cultural norms developed in a singular style, a lot of which remains to be obvious at the moment.

When evaluating Japanese tradition vs American tradition, the first variations stem from the diametrically opposed foundations upon which Japanese and the US society have been constructed: collectivism vs individualism. That is the basis explanation for the cultural variations you’ll want to think about when visiting Japan in your travels.


At all times Carry Money

tokyo cash paymentJapan might love robots, digital bogs, and neon-flanked highways, however its high-tech picture is, frankly, a little bit of a misnomer. On the degree of normal enterprise infrastructure – which incorporates cashless fee methods – Japan is definitely lagging fairly far behind the US and the remainder of the developed world.

As such, it’s really helpful to have money, at all times. Some financial institution ATMs will assist international credit score/debit playing cards, often indicated by an indication above the machine. Whereas nearly all comfort shops, that are as a rule open 24/7, may have ATMs, and these ought to work with all international credit score/debit playing cards.

Lodges, stylish eating places, and large chain shops will often settle for card fee strategies, however at avenue degree, particularly within the unbiased brick and mortars, money reigns supreme.

Smoking Legal guidelines are Complicated

smoking in japan vs american cultureSome of the weird cultural variations between the US and Japan are the legal guidelines round smoking. Restrictions on smoking indoors have been not too long ago applied in Tokyo with a view to the since-postponed 2020 Summer time Video games (rescheduled for July 2021).

Nevertheless, in smaller bars and eating places within the capital it’s not unusual to wine and dine within the firm of plumes of tobacco smoke — and past the prefectural borders of larger Tokyo, you’ll discover but extra smoke-friendly eating places.

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Opposite to america, smoking outdoors can be a social fake pas, if not outright forbidden as it’s on the streets of Japan’s main city areas. Somewhat, you’ll see – or scent – designated smoking areas which sit on avenue corners as open-air cubicles. Alternatively, people who smoke could also be directed to small ventilated rooms inside eating places or deep throughout the bowels of buildings.

The place Are All of the Trash Cans?

trash cans in japan stand out for tourists visiting

Japanese trash cans are nice… when yow will discover them, that’s. Drift by vacationers on the streets of Tokyo and also you’ll quickly hear some of the generally voiced chagrins: “How are these streets so clear, but I can by no means discover a trash can?” Although public trash cans have slowly begun to look, their shortage remains to be obvious.

In Japan, it’s typical to type your individual trash – of which you’ll usually collect lots due to the excess of comfort shops and merchandising machines – earlier than bringing it dwelling to deposit within the appropriate waste bins. These days, in sure practice stations and most comfort shops, you’ll discover trash cans marked with Japanese script and an accompanying image indicating what goes inside: PET bottles, cans, glass, burnable waste, and so on.

ALWAYS Carry Your Passport

passports in tokyo japanOne of many cultural similarities between the US and Japan, although it’s solely effected upon guests, is the mandate that each one authorized aliens should carry a passport on them always. This will appear a little bit austere, and is not any pleasure for the traveler who tends to depart issues astray, however it’s a rule and the native police are permitted to detain any who breach it.

The Japanese police aren’t assured to talk English to any diploma of competence, which means the method for engineering your exit again out of the precinct will possible be lengthy and laborious. Moreover, throughout international occasions, Japanese police are likely to patrol in larger numbers and are recognized for finishing up random ID checks.

So simply to reiterate: Carry your passport.

Observe Prepare Etiquette

train etiquette in japanPrepare etiquette is among the most blatant examples of the variations in western individualism and Japanese collectivism. In Japan, folks are likely to keep away from appearing in any approach which may be deemed insensitive, offensive, egregious, and even mildly off-putting to these round them. Japanese folks are likely to concentrate on sustaining the ‘wa’ – the collective concord; the social order.

What this implies in apply – on trains no less than – is carriages crammed full of individuals which lull alongside the tracks in nearly full silence. To assist preserve this ambiance of ‘wa’ when utilizing Japan’s public transport system: chorus from consuming, ingesting, speaking loudly, sneezing, and make sure you flip your cellphone on silent; principally, do because the Japanese do.

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Don’t Fret Over Tipping

tipping in tokyo difference between USAThere’s a uncommon story one hears in Japan, often whispered in hushed tones by somebody who’s been aware of that the majority uncommon of situations: the Japanese waiter who accepts a tip. Although it will be disingenuous to say this by no means occurs, your possibilities of recognizing a leprechaun on the finish of the rainbow are roughly as excessive.

For those who merely can’t resist the urge to tip, count on to get chased down the highway with a handful of yen cash reasonably than the recipient workers bowing graciously as they settle for your beneficiant imbursement. That is arguably the largest distinction in Japanese and US social etiquette. However don’t let it concern you, Japanese restaurant and bar workers are sometimes effectively compensated by their employers, and look at tipping as pointless reasonably than downright impolite.

Communication Can Be Oblique

communication in japanMastering the darkish arts of Japanese communication has baffled foreigners since they first started to reach en masse within the late nineteenth century. That is largely because of Japan’s oblique strategies of communication and even their physique language – a holdover from the times of the samurai when sustaining peace was precedence primary – which stands in stark distinction to the extra up-front and private fashion of communication within the west.

And it’s not simply the gaijin (foreigners) who discover it confounding. When Emperor Hirohito broadcast dwell Japan’s give up in WWII, he used such an archaic and oblique type of the language that many weren’t completely positive of what he was saying.

In any case, if you get a response to a query alongside the traces of “it may be troublesome” or “I’ll give it some thought”, that is usually shorthand for no. Or possibly it’s not. You might have to learn between the traces.

Punctuality is Key

punctuality in japan timeJapanese folks, notably inside Japanese enterprise tradition, see punctuality not as a mere signal of respect, however an unequivocal advantage – to the extent they’ll typically arrive for conferences exactly on the agreed upon time, not a minute early or late. So, simply keep in mind, exhibiting up if you please in Japan could also be thought-about extra disrespectful than in different components of the world. This isn’t to say all People forego timekeeping, however reasonably to strengthen the purpose: the Japanese take punctuality very, very critically.

Working example: trains in Japan are nearly at all times on time. Finally there’s nonetheless a margin for human error, such because the story which made worldwide headlines in 2017 when the Tsukuba Categorical Line administration apologized profusely for a practice that departed 20 seconds forward of schedule. Few practice networks on the planet nevertheless, may declare to be fairly as environment friendly or punctual because the Japanese system.

Omotenashi – The Artwork of Buyer Service

Omotenashi hospitality in JapanOmotenashi is certainly one of Japan’s many untranslatable phrases. However typically, it’s ascribed to the nation’s famed customer support; one thing hinged upon rigorous protocol which has been tuned over the centuries right into a high quality artwork. It’s one other part of Japanese tradition which is, in its personal approach, singular — and it’s obvious all over the place.

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Assume it of omotenashi as predicting the shopper’s wants earlier than he/she is aware of what mentioned wants are: scorching towels in winter or chilly towels in summer season on arrival at a restaurant, retailer clerks who greet buyers with essentially the most courteous Japanese phrases (often known as “keigo” – respectful language) and deep bows, or slippers to make use of within the rest room if you’re in a no-shoes institution. Omotenashi focuses on the little issues, which regularly make all of the distinction.

Bogs of the Future

japanese toiletAt first, Japanese bogs can appear wildly sophisticated and will come as a tradition shock. Many foreigners, extra conversant in the usual chain or lever system, discover the management panels with flashing buttons overwhelming. Nevertheless, most buttons include pretty explanatory photographs, and if doubtful, look out for “大” (huge flush) and “小” (little flush). Additionally be at liberty to fiddle round with the controls – there isn’t a ejector seat button.

When you turn into well-acquainted with the digital Japanese rest room and its jets of water, in-built nature soundscapes, and a number of flushing choices, returning to your previous mannequin might fill you with melancholy. However you’re taking solace in the truth that you’re not alone.

Roadtrips Summer time 2021 Unique Journey Plan

Now that you’re effectively versed within the cultural variations between US and Japan — although you’ll little doubt uncover some extra alongside the way in which — be a part of Roadtrips in Japan for our extremely anticipated 2021 Summer time Video games Journey Packages. Our unique, experiential plans will enable you get essentially the most out of a once-in-a-lifetime Summer time Video games trip.

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Associated posts:

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  3. 7 of the Coolest Eating places and Locations to Eat in Tokyo Explored
  4. Journey Ideas: Japan – Cultural issues for Summer time Video games journey to Tokyo

In regards to the Creator

David McElhinney

David is a Northern Irish journey, tradition and sports activities author dwelling in Tokyo. When he’s not bashing his head in opposition to a keyboard, he likes to journey, eat good meals, drink good drink, play rugby, and butcher the Japanese language. David’s writing is at and extra of his articles may be discovered on and

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