Japan Cultural Traditions


The number of traditions and rituals that are obligatory or recommended for observance is simply huge. Almost all areas of the country’s life are permeated with a network of traditions and ceremonies, this is especially noticeable in communication between people and public life. The Japanese treat nature with care and love, admiring the natural beauty of the landscape, weather, flowers or the sea. Numerous ceremonies of contemplation of flowering trees, the full moon or autumn colors are integral elements of society. The traditional Japanese costume, the national interior, the literary Japanese language, the tea ceremony, the kabuki, no, bunraku theater and many other, no less peculiar traditions have remained practically unchanged since the Middle Ages. And all this – surrounded by ultra-modern technogenic civilization!

Handshakes are not accepted, they are replaced by bows, and “return” bows are required with the same frequency and deference shown by the other side. The Japanese are polite and helpful in communication. Hospitality is in the blood of the Japanese. A direct refusal is not accepted even if it is impossible to fulfill the request, so you should think in advance about the feasibility of your wishes. Also often misleading is the traditional smile of the Japanese, especially women, under any circumstances – even a refusal or some unpleasant moment will be accompanied by a smile, which confuses many foreigners. At the same time, “familiar” relations (even a too small distance between the interlocutors) are completely unacceptable and cause a sharply negative attitude among the Japanese. It is also not recommended to look the Japanese directly in the eyes – this is perceived as aggression, and actively gesticulate. The “passion” of the Japanese for hygiene and cleanliness is also widely known.

Dishes, table setting and decoration of dishes are of great importance. Before eating, it is customary to wipe the face and hands with a special hot oshibori napkin. Each dish is served in dishes specially designed for it and occupies a strictly defined place on the table, and an individual table is allocated for each person. There is no change of dishes, the entire order (except tea) is put on the table at once, but is accompanied by obligatory heating devices (braziers, alcohol stoves are strictly divided into “male” and “female”). There is a separate stand for chopsticks (“hashi” or “hashi”), and they are served in a special colorful paper case (“hashi bukuro”). “Hashi” should not be crossed or stuck in rice (associated with death), you can’t point chopsticks at anything or wave them while eating – this is considered a sign of bad taste. Also, do not move food on a plate or dishes on the table. Drinking “to the bottom” and pouring yourself is not accepted. It is recommended to fill a neighbor’s glass or bowl, and he, in turn, should do the same for you.

It is not accepted to smoke in public places, in offices, at stations and railway platforms, as well as in houses and cars without the permission of the owner.

You can not step with a shod foot on straw mats “tatami” – this is regarded as sacrilege. This is especially true for dwellings or visiting temples.

You should also change into special slippers before and after visiting the toilet.

In the event of an earthquake

As you know, Japan is located in a zone of increased seismic hazard. The country’s authorities pay serious attention to preparing the population for possible emergencies that may arise as a result of strong earthquakes, creating assistance to the victims, including foreigners temporarily staying in the country. In principle, the possibility of preliminary or warning notification (from several hours to several days) of a possible earthquake is provided. However, as a rule, earthquakes, including destructive ones, occur unexpectedly both in place and in time.

In such cases, you should, while remaining calm, follow these recommendations:

  • while indoors, slightly open the front doors to avoid sticking them;
  • turn off heaters and open sources of fire (gas stoves);
  • stand in the doorway under the supporting structures, covering your head from falling objects, or take cover under a solid table;
  • in the event of a fire or the impossibility of staying in the room for other reasons, leave it, taking with you the things prepared in advance, while not using the elevator. If you are in an elevator during an earthquake, stop it at the nearest floor and exit it;
  • for shelter in the city, use underground passages, open areas. Keep a distance from the glazed walls of high-rise buildings, beware of falling objects (air conditioners, signboards);
  • while in the train car, stay in it until the end of the earthquake or until you receive permission from the employees of the subway, railway, etc. after the earthquake, the city disaster prevention headquarters informs (in Japanese and English) the public about the situation, takes measures to eliminate the consequences, and provides assistance to the population. In this regard, at the earliest opportunity, use the radio or TV for the latest information.


Useful phones:

110 – Police

119 – Fire brigade, ambulance

At the same time, if you dial the number 110 or 119 on a payphone, having previously pressed the red button provided under the telephone, this frees you from the call fee.
Police stations are located along the intersections of wide roads, thanks to which the crime rate in Japan is much lower than in foreign countries.
Well-equipped medical facilities provide a high level of treatment.

Embassy of Russia in Japan (Tokyo)

Phone: (8-10-81) 03-3583-4445

Fax: (8-10-81) 03-3586-0407

Official website of the Russian Embassy in Japan. www.rusconsul.jp/hp/index.html

Embassy of the Russian Federation in Japan Address:, 1-1, Azabudai; 2-chome, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan, 106-0041

Tourist Information Centers

Japanese tourist information centers are very helpful. When you arrive at Narita Airport or arrive in Tokyo, you can pick up information brochures, maps and train schedules in English free of charge. In general, you need to look for information centers either at the main railway stations or in their vicinity. TIC staff speaks English.

Japan Cultural Traditions

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