Man in hakama in front of Kubota Itchiku Museum in Kawaguchiko, Japan

5 Most Surprising Things in Japan

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When someone travels to Japan for the first time, as a tourist or for business reasons, they are often surprised by the same things after arrival. This amazement usually stems from the great cultural differences that exist between Japan and other cultures. What are the 5 most surprising things for newly-arrived foreigners in Japan?


When entering any store or restaurant in Japan, the customer will always be received with a cordial expression: “irasshaimase”. This phrase means something like “welcome, please come inside.” It is a greeting made with great respect and with a smile, and it is usually proclaimed pretty loudly. Hence the surprise!

Maid cafes are one of the most surprising things in Japan for tourists

Kawaii Culture

In many locations in Japan’s large cities, you can feel the presence of Kawaii. This word can be translated as ‘pretty’ or ‘cute’. It includes characters, symbols, animals, signs, books, and gifts. In Japan, kawaii is about making all kinds of things smooth and pretty. This, through the implementation of kawaii in daily life.

Colorful billboards in Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan

Sleeping in Public Transportation

In Japan, there is also a word called ‘Inemuri’. This word refers to the act of falling asleep standing or sitting on public transportation without paying much attention to your surroundings and, almost always, waking up right upon arrival at the destination station. It is something that surprises many foreigners when visiting the great cities of the country. In Japan, sleeping on public transport is a symbol of the hard work of the day and it doesn’t make you look bad.

Japanese business man sleeping in the train in Tokyo, Japan

Slurping is OK

In Japan, it is not rude to eat noodles by slurping. Rather, it symbolizes that you are enjoying the full flavor of the food. It is very common to go to any soba, udon, or ramen restaurant and hear all the diners slurp their noodles. It may seem a little unpleasant at first, but over time you will get used to it.

Eating ramen noodles in a Tokyo noodle bar

Very Punctual Public Transportation

Public transportation is neat and punctual. Trains in Japan, in any direction, will arrive at the time indicated in the schedule panel. If there is a delay, they will let the riders know several minutes in advance so that they will be mentally prepared. In addition to this, it should be noted that the seats of the trains look like sofas because they are padded. Also, there are different decorations depending on the line. The train service in Japan, apart from being efficient, is clean and elegant.

Shinkansen train in Japan

What will or what has surprise(d) you on your first visit to Japan?

Your Japan Tour

If you are thinking about making a trip to Japan, as seasoned Japan experts we can help you create your perfect Japan tour. We can include great (private) guides who can help you understand Japan a bit better with their cultural expertise. Contact us to start planning your unforgettable holiday to this fascinating country full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, culture, history, nature, and delicious food!

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