KCP students on a culture trip.

A Glimpse into Japanese Culture

When travelling to Japan to embark on a life-changing study abroad journey, it’s always good to get to know the culture and how to behave with locals. This will help you understand some of the unique customs and traditions of the Japanese as well not to stick out like a sore thumb. The Japanese have a tendency to be more formal and conservative compared to Americans. Knowing the proper behavior and manners to observe around locals will ease your transition in your new environment.

Japanese tea ceremony being practiced by KCP students.Japanese tea ceremony being practiced by KCP students.

About the country

Japan has a rich, colorful culture dating back to the country’s prehistoric period known as the  Jōmon period between 14,000 and 300 BCE. The culture and traditions of Japan are unique because of its island-nation geography as well as its isolation from the outside world during the Tokugawa shogunate regime.

Over the years, Japan’s culture and traditions have been influenced by other Asian countries, America, and Europe as well as other natural factors such as land, natural resources, and seasonal climate.  Borrowed ideas from other countries are infused with existing customs to become something distinctly Japanese.

KCP students in cooking class.

KCP students in cooking class.

Japanese traditions and basic etiquette

Greeting with a bow

Bowing is perhaps the best-known form of Japanese etiquette. The custom of bowing is more complicated than most people think. Bowing can be used for introductions, appreciation, apologies, and greetings. The specific intricacies of bowing vary, with duration and depth of bow prescribed for every circumstance.

Chopsticks etiquette

Using chopsticks isn’t as simple as it seems. It may take some practice to get the hang of it as there is a proper way to hold and use chopsticks. But once you’ve mastered using chopsticks, you can work on the next step—catching a fly with it as in the movie “Karate Kid.”

KCP students on an excursion in Japan.

KCP students on an excursion in Japan.

Behaving on a train

The Japanese also observe high standards for public transportation etiquette. It would be useful to know the common things to avoid doing while on a train in Japan.  Some common examples to avoid are to not speak on your mobile phone in a loud voice, don’t take up too much space and don’t ride the train while drunk.

Cultural variations in the classroom

Japanese etiquette and manners are a large part of Japanese society. When preparing to study abroad, whether in Japan or any other country, it would be appropriate to get to know the proper etiquette in the classroom. Sometimes what may be normal behavior to you will be perceived as rude in the country you’re in.

Wherever your travels take you, always remember to embrace the culture and traditions and most of all, have an open mind.

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