Usually, before travelling to another country, I will try to research online about places to go, what to eat and what is the culture or practices the locals do so that I know what to expect. However, no matter how I read extensively about these, it will never be the same as personal experiences. So here are some of the fun facts about Japanese culture when I was in Osaka for my recent trip.
1. Are you on the RIGHT side of the escalator?
In Singapore, we always stand on the left side of the escalator and overtaking on the right side. However, this is totally opposite in Osaka. So of course, being cultivated this habit for so long, I could not change my habit overnight. So incident number one, people just got held up behind me because I was blocking their way up the escalator. I was on the WRONG side.
2. Wait for the waiter to show you the table no matter how hungry you are
This is a tried and true story. We had been to this cafe for breakfast for the past two days and we were offered the same table for the two days we were there. So obviously, without thinking, the third day we went there for breakfast, my kids just automatically, like robots programmed by their creator, went to the same table before the waitress could show us the table. To her surprise, she quickly called my kids back to the front door. Of course, my kids did not know the waitress was talking to them and they kept walking towards the table. After I rescued my kids from further embarrassment, the waitress decided to give us a table near the entrance instead of our “usual” table. For your info, our “usual” table was unoccupied and there were only a handful of people inside the cafe at that time. What a blunder…
3. Everything from ticket machines at subway
You can get new IC cards and top-up value from the ticket machines, even when you have only big notes to buy the subway tickets. What happened was we wanted to top up our store card but we only have 10,000 Yen on hand. Then, the ticket machine that we used only accept 1,000 and 2,000 yen notes. Panicked, so we went to look for a station staff and he kept pointing to the row of ticket machines. We walked back to those machines and realised there were special machines that accept 10,000 yen. Whenever in Japan, ticket machines or vending machines are the ANSWER to everything!
4. The plate in front of you is for cash
Every time when we were at the cashier, check out counters or payment counters, we noticed there was always a small plate in front of us. Initially, we did not know what was that for. There was a time we were queueing to buy the ICOCA card for kids at the train station while waiting for our turn, we observed and saw that the plate was for customers to drop their cash and also for the staff to return the change to customers.
5. Silent mode and no talking on phone in trains
Before the movie starts, there is always an advertisement in movie theatre telling us to put our phones on silent mode and no talking on the phone while watching movies. Well, apparently in Japan, these rules also apply to travelling in any trains. We could hear the announcement while inside the trains to remind the travellers to follow these rules. One incident where there was a lady trying to listen to the WhatsApp voice message while inside a train. Because she could not hear it, she had put it in speaker mode and it was creating quite a screeching noise. Very soon she was given the “death stares” by a few passengers in the same train car. She did not realise that until her travel companion told her discreetly to use an earpiece instead.
6. Enjoy your food standing, not walking!
Again, this is a silent rule to locals that no eating while walking. You can stand in front of the store to enjoy the food. Once finished, you can throw any rubbish in the bin near the store. But do not attempt to eat and walk at the same time, it will earn you some dagger-glares.
7. Pockets are handy when you cannot find trash bin
Japan, overall is a clean country. However, when I was trying to get rid of the dirty tissue, I could not find a trash bin anywhere on the street. Since I could not throw it away, pocket became my new “bin” to keep all my trash until I reached my AirBnB apartment or if I was lucky to spot one trash bin.
8. Wear clean and no hole socks, please!
Japanese do not wear shoes inside the house. We stayed in an Airbnb apartment for this trip and it was written on the rules and regulations. Slippers were provided for us to use inside the house. In some fitting rooms you will require removing your shoes before trying the clothes, so obviously you will not want to let others like the shop assistants or shoppers see your toes peeking out of your socks which have been worn for three days. Eww…
So these are my stories I want to share with you. Have any stories you want to share? Let me know in the comments!