First time in Japan? Here are a couple tips that will serve you well.


  • Memorize this: nama (draft beer), daijyoki (make ‘em big) and — if you haven’t learned how to count — hold up the appropriate number of fingers.
  • Stand on the left side of escalators. Unless you’re in Osaka, then you should stand on the right. But don’t walk once you get on the escalator, because East Japan Rail Co. is urging passengers not to. Or maybe do, because the people behind you might get impatient. Or maybe just take the elevator instead?
  • Learn the word “sumimasen.” You can use it to apologize or attract someone’s attention, and you’ll need it if you want to order a drink. Eye contact with the bar staff just won’t cut it.
  • Shower down before hopping (or, better, gliding) into a public bath. Best not to take your rubber duckie in as well.
  • Indulge your inner pop star by going to karaoke. You’ll probably find a more appreciative audience for your singing there than on the train on the way to a game.
  • Accept free tissues from people handing them out outside train stations. You never know when public toilets might be out of paper.
  • Slurp to your heart’s content when eating noodles. Totally cool.


  • Be surprised if staff yell at you as soon as you walk in the door of a convenience store or a pub. It’s nothing personal.
  • Mistake wasabi for avocado. And no matter how many pints you’ve had, never ever snort it.
  • Be scared if you see hundreds of masked people coming toward you in the morning. It’s just the morning rush hour, not a swarm of ninjas.
  • Leave a tip. Your money will just sit there untouched as the taxi driver or waiter stares uncomprehendingly at it.
  • Attempt to open the back door of a taxi (unless you want to get whacked by an automatically opening door) or try to cram five people into a taxi. It’s just not going to happen.