TEN REAL TIPS FOR VISITING MODERN JAPAN.
For those of you going to Japan, taking advantage of low fares.
Remember these simple rules to be appreciated as guests of the nation. They expect none of you to follow this, and consider foreigners to be disruptive, unmannerly, loud people.
If you however, display any or all of these behaviors and follow it, they will be shocked, and openly and instantly become your friend for being a considerate foreigner.
Here's guideline to help you understand the peculiar, and not piss local people off.
1. America is not #1 in Japan anymore. It sort of used to be, but that went away as soon as Rambo left the theater screens, and Tom Cruise gave up the seat in an F14 Tomcat. So never assert your rights to a Japanese or a business in Japan. Japan lives by earning privileges, not asserting personal rights. Thus humility and humble nature goes a long way.
2. 99.9999997% of Japanese women are not kimono-wearing geisha and maiko dancers raised to cater to your needs. That's another long-gone myth of a white man who visited in the 1600's towards the end of the feudal era. Japanese men do not wear swords anymore either. You can't buy true samurai swords unless you have proof you're worthy as a samurai. You can't buy this privilege, period.
If you find one at a gift shop for less than $100,000. You're looking at a tourist trap worth no more than a snow-globe with a tiny Eiffel Tower inside. A real samurai swords are priceless. Not for sale to foreigners with Japan fetish... Not even for that Caucasian dude on Discovery Channel who claims to be a Ninja master.
3. Unless designated as such, consider all of Japan's public areas non-smoking area. If marked, chain smoking is perfectly allowed. There is no gray area here.
As for vaping, they'll just assume you've laced the juice with incredibly illegal substance, and most folks won't want to be associated with you. So just use more standard form of smoke when you're there. It's less about health and more about you not looking like an assumed drug thug from CSI:Miami.
4. Japan isn't Tokyo Drift anymore. That's an urban myth created by American movie producers. Over there, it's passe thing from the 90's and not very cool to 99.999999997% of the people today.
If you want to go see an illegal motorsports activity, you need to become friends with such outcasts before you leave, and have him take you there at night. Be prepared to pay the man for highway tolls, gas, and other expenses, as moving a car is pretty pricey in Japan, when the destination is far in the canyons 1-2 hours away from the city. Fuel costs $14 a gallon, tolls are 50 cents a mile, parking is $10 an hour or more in many urban settings.
And this, coming from me, who's a car fanatic. Trust me.
5. DO NOT SPEND MORE THAN 20 minutes in a ramen shop, and promptly leave as soon as you are done eating. There is no such thing as business lunch or conversational dining at any restaurant specialized in noodles. Japanese noodle eating is a time-sensitive thing. It continues to cook in the broth, and if more than 6 minutes pass after you are served, the noodles are considered soggy, and dead. It's insulting to the chef, to let that happen. Portions are tiny and cheap. You can finish it in 5 minutes. Do this.
Also, you can take a photo of the ramen, but don't upload that or spend more than 30 seconds with that phone. Start eating before the chef realizes you are screwing around with your phone, letting his ramen rot while you do so. Yes, it is THAT critical and noodle worship is a serious thing. It's because they are protecting an art that's been around a lot longer than the existence of USA as a nation, and their life is about training an apprentice to carry on his recipe. It's not about being a celebrity chef for only one guy's short life.
6. DO NOT stop on a sidewalk to check navigation, or converse with partners. If there is a flow of walking foot traffic, stay well clear of that, as well as store-fronts. Find a parking lot, small park, or courtyard to do that. Blocking traffic is unmannerly. Even foot traffic. This goes for shopping malls, train stations, and other areas with flowing people.
7. Politely ask before you snap a photo of random people you meet. They have a peculiar sense of privacy that is very different from how we see that concept. In the city, younger girls seem perpetually smiling, and guys seem perpetually hip with energy, but this does not mean they like to be photographed by random unknown people. Just ask, some will be ecstatic, some will run and hide. Just don't assume... It's a different culture.
This includes companions at trade shows and even the Tokyo Auto Salon. If you ask, you'll get the most sincere, alluring, mystical smiles from those spokeswomen, so just ask.
8. ALWAYS wear clean shoes and socks, as in half the dinner restaurants you might see as traditional authentic Japanese eatery, you are likely to have to remove your shoes to enter. Stinky socks, and shoes can ruin a $100 per person dinner in rather sucky way.
9. NEVER talk on the train, always whisper among your traveling partners. If you need to take a phone call, you can't on a local train. On a long distance express train, there are designated areas at ends of cars for taking a phone call.
10. When entering any temple, shrine, or sacred grounds, stay quiet. Try to listen to the spirits and ghosts that guide your presence. If you are not into that sort of thing, pretend you are. Shinto beliefs are actually the oldest continuously protected religion in the world, and they don't like changes. It's the very fundamental belief that protect the land by hands of many gods, empowers the longest continuous monarchy of any recorded history, The Emperor of Japan. And his temples being restored and serviced by the oldest business company in the world, Kongo Gumi master carpenters.
It's been this way for 2600 years, or pre-dating Jesus himself by half a millennium.
If you do not follow these manners...
You will be treated as an imbecile without a clue.
And believe me, they have perfected the art of hospitality. But they are selective so as not to let crassness ruin their turf.
If you can follow these 10 rules, you will have the most splendid trip with friendly Japanese people, beautiful crafts, and unmatched quality of everything you will encounter.
Lastly, share this with anyone you know who's interested in going to Japan please. Because it helps all of us to stay friends as a nation.