How (not) to behave in JAPAN

I really don't know why everyone emphasizes on how different Japan is. Because - different from what? Like everything else in life, different is very relative.


Group of students in Tokyo Japan
Follow the leader. And follow the rules. And....oh, when in Japan, just follow.

When I got to Sri Lanka beginning of this year, on my first train ride I was sitting in front of a lovely old gentleman who was wearing a sarong - yes, that's basically a wrap skirt - and eating rice with curry sauce with his fingers from a sheet of newspaper.
Let me tell you, that was pretty different from what you see on trains in many other parts of this world.
So why didn't anybody whisper full of intimidation Oh, you're going to Sri Lanka. Well, that must be so different.?

Japan is being pretty hyped in this sense. I think it's because foreigners are expected to adapt to the customs and rules right away.
Nobody would expect a European traveller to put on a wrap skirt and eat curry sauce with his fingers from a newspaper sheet.

Yes, good behavior varies from region to region, manners differ, rules and regulations are divers.
In any case, in Japan, you are expected to do it the Japanese way.

That's why I wrote down how to behave in Japan - or not.

JAPAN for First Timers: An Adjustable Guide

Are you planning on going to Japan for the first time?
Being all excited?
Wondering what to expect?
Having a million questions?
Well, I recently came back from my first big Japan-adventure and let me tell you: It was just overwhelming; in a good way!


Geisha with phone in Kyoto


As I had the chance to travel for three weeks, I know that not everybody has the opportunity to leave for so long. Therefore, based on my itinerary, I put together a travel guide that can be individually adjusted to your personal trip - for one, two, or three weeks in the Land of the Rising Sun.

日本へようこそ - Nihon e yōkoso - Welcome to Japan!

A night at the KAGURA

When travelling, I love to attend folkloristic spectacles - due to the language barrier preferably dance shows: In Kandy on the island of Sri Lanka, I saw a dance show, in Chang Mai in Thailand it even came with a traditional dinner and on Bali I witnessed Kecak in Uluwatu and went to see a performance every single night during my stay in Ubud.

English Kagura Performance at the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum, Japan
Good against evil - a classic in performing arts.

You can imagine my excitement when I found out that on Saturdays, there is a Kagura performance at the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum. Saturday - perfect, I'll be in Hiroshima on Saturday; and nothing will hold me back from spending a night at the Kagura.

HIROSHIMA - risen up from the ashes; and a side trip to MIYAJIMA

Hiroshima - one of the names inextricably connected to the first atomic attack in human history.


A Dove of Peace spreading its wings in front of the Atom Bomb Dome.

Visiting Hiroshima, I wasn't able to imagine an average Japanese city with a little over a million inhabitants plying their trades as if their city never had been practically erased and went down in history as one of the biggest humanitarian disasters.

What I found was a charming city - risen up from the atomic ashes of 1945.

OSAKA - the commercial metropole; and a side trip to HIMEJI

Osaka has always been Japan's economic hub - and keeps its status as the country's major commercial center to this date: Major players like Sharp, Sanyo, and Panasonic have their headquarters in Osaka.


View from the Umeda Sky Building in Osaka
One of the many options to see Osaka from above: At the gift shop of the Umeda Sky Building.

This busy metropole was not only briefly the imperial capital in the 7th and 8th centuries, it even outnumbered Tokyo in being Japan's largest city in the 1930s.

Therefore, a visit to Osaka is rather about the cool'n'contemporary than the ancient'n'inherited and pulls its visitors into a whirlwind of skyscrapers, shopping malls, art exhibitions, and food....lots of food.

KYOTO - Japan's Treasure Box; and a side trip to NARA

Oh my God, I'm such a tourist: Visiting Japan, I had all these iconic motives in my head that I wanted to ban on....well, there is no celluloid anymore, so on a storage chip.


Geishas at Kyoto
Yes, this is such a stunning sight. However, according to my experience, every Geisha under the age of 55 is prone to be a
Chinese tourists in disguise. Sometimes stunning just the same.

Interestingly, quite a few of them are to be found in the former capital Kyoto, practically Japan's Treasure Box.
Although after over a thousand years, Kyoto lost this political status in 1868, it is still considered the country's cultural capital and a major tourist magnet. It is home to numerous Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, palaces, and gardens, many of which are listed collectively by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

TAKAYAMA - a travel back in time; and a side trip to SHIRAKAWAGO

Ready for a trip back in time? For narrow alleys lined with old wooden merchants’ houses dating to the Edo Period? For a dozen fascinating museums? For platters of Hida Beef that just melts in your mouth?
If so, Takayama, nestled between the mountains of the Gifu prefecture, is the perfect place for you.


Shirakawago view of the village and bye:myself
Once in Shirakawago, you absolutely have to walk up to the Ogimachi observation deck.
There is already a photographer with a couple of props waiting for you - say cheese!

And although it might be already challenging enough to fit all the landmarks downtown Takayama into your itinerary, you should, nonetheless, by no means miss a little side trip to Shirakawago village - which even made it to the World Heritage Site list in 1995.