Never stick chopsticks vertically in your food – Surviving Japan


Survival is essential when travelling the world and here are our favourite tips on how to behave in Japan. Make sure you’ve got your game face on and thinking hat ready- these rules are crucial when exploring all that Japan has to offer.

Jumping Through Japan

  • Never stick your chopsticks vertically into your food. It may seem like the perfect thing to do when eating oriental food at home, but it’s a definite no-no in Japan. This applies across Asia as in the Buddhist tradition, this is only done when offerings are made to the dead. Always lay one’s chopsticks on the chopstick holder’s provider or horizontally on your plate, or across the rim of your bowl. We suggest ordering-in a take away and practising the night away.
  • Always give business cards with two hands, face-up and with your information facing towards the recipient. Never extend business cards as though you’re dealing cards at a poker game! Receive it with two hands as well. You are to present your business card with humility, and receive the other’s with great respect because to the Japanese, a business card is deemed to be an extension of the person. Therefore, the amount of respect you show towards receiving their business card is indicative of how much respect you show towards them. This is also why you should neither exchange business cards in a hurry nor give a less-than-pristine card. It would be impolite to do so and will translate as blatant disregard for the person whose card you are receiving and to whom you are giving your card. Remember, if you’ve got your Twitter handle on your card, they’ll just @mention what a terrible card giver you are and you’ll forever be known under that label.
  • When invited to a meal, wait for your host to seat you as there’s usually a pecking order. Guests of honour are commonly seated furthest away from the door. So, unfortunately for you, you might feel like the last kid waiting to be picked for a team.
  • Something to keep in mind is that in Japan, it’s not customary to make reservations for the same date & time at various venues, decide on which one at the last minute and then cancel the rest. This is generally frowned upon and considered rather rude- make sure you’ve got a stellar excuse. Michelin-starred restaurants also tend to have very strict cancellation policies, and some will only tentatively confirm reservations that you make on your own until your hotel calls to confirm that you are, in fact, a guest of theirs.
  • Tipping is not customary in Japan so in most cases, there are no expectations for gratuities. If you would, however, like to give staff a tip as a gesture of appreciation for service deemed outstanding, then it’s recommended that you do so by putting the money in an envelope or wrapping it in a piece of paper of some sort and giving it to the person discreetly- the Japanese would deem it quite indecent to receive/handle the money directly. Yes, it will feel like you’re making a deal with James Bond and have hidden a secret note.

If you still feel as if you’re out of your depth, then you can find assistance at the Palace Hotel Tokyo, where they can help prepare you in the art of Japanese etiquette. There’s a new package to help travellers with the cultural differences- The Cultivating Tokyo package starts at £647 for Club Deluxe Rooms, and is great if you’re looking for an extra helping hand on your travels. Make sure you brush up on Japanese etiquette before embarking on a noodle feast.

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Images provided by Hotel Palace Tokyo

BOE Magazine