Before going to Japan for the first time, most of us read up on the local culture. We search for lists of things to avoid, cultural mistakes, and try our best to be good travelers.
Because, you know, we don’t want to be that foreigner.
The problem with this?
Not a single one of those lists will help you avoid what Japanese actually hate.
Sure there are the basic cultural differences you should be aware of,
Removing shoes before entering homes, and sacred areas (plus wearing slippers when available)Wash before entering a bathNo blowing your nose in publicNo tips
and so on. But, want to know something? Japanese people know the world outside of Japan is different. They do not expect you to know everything before coming to their country.
You closed your Yukata the wrong way. So what?
You fumbled with your chopsticks. So what?
Japanese people will be more impressed with you when you simply engage in their culture. This means you are aware, respectful, open, and willing to try things a different way.
However, even if you follow this rule there are some cultural mistakes you should never do.
7. Wear or Have a Strong Scent
As you can imagine space gets tight in the city, and you will often find yourself very close to others. You might think smelling good is better than smelling bad, but in Japan it’s best to lean on the side of neutral. One frustrated local writes,
“I don’t know whether it’s American fabric softener or perfume, but it reeks! The smell just drives me nuts.”
This is not to say Japanese don’t wear perfume or cologne, just when they do it’s subtle enough not to bother others.
6. Change the Scenery
While nobody should ever deface any monument or structure (anywhere!), it’s surprising what people will do to nature. That small flower you thought no one would notice? Better think again, according to this local its inexcusable.
”I don’t mind when foreigners come to see the cherry blossoms… but when they break off the branches, or put the flowers in their hair? Unforgivable!”
In Japan the surroundings are for everyone to enjoy, so try to leave a place just the way you found it.
Want to know more about how the locals do cherry blossoms? Check out The Art of Cherry Blossom Viewing: Hanami Like a Local