Japanese cuisine, now a favourite in the West,
involves very sensitive flavours, crisp fresh vegetables and an
absence of richness. Specialities include teriyaki
(marinated beef, fish or chicken seared on a hot plate), sukiyaki
(thin slices of beef, vegetables and tofu prepared in soy sauce
and then dipped in egg), sashimi (slices of raw
seafood dipped in soy sauce) sushi (slices of raw
seafood placed on lightly vinegared rice balls – very tasty
and refreshing) and tempura (deep fried seafood
A superb place to try sushi is
a Kaiten Sushi Bar, where several varieties pass
the customer on a conveyor belt permitting complete choice over
which delicacies to sample, at cheaper prices than a traditional
Sushi Bar. Great Oriental food (Korean – very hot –
and Chinese) is served in restaurants.
A vast number and variety of international restaurants
are also available, catering for all tastes and budgets, from French
and Italian to Chinese, Thai
and Indian. Western cuisines in expensive
places are good, but cheaper restaurants are sometimes disappointing.
Restaurants have table service and in some places it is required
to remove footwear.
Green tea is definitely the most popular
beverage amongst the Japanese. The quality of the tea varies
largely from matcha (a bitter
green tea used in tea ceremonies), to houjicha
(a common brown-coloured tea) to. Sake, rice
wine served cold or hot depending on the season, is strong
and uniquely fresh tasting. Shochu, a strong
aquavit, is a taste that must be acquired. Japanese
wines are well worth trying once, and beer
– similar to lager – is recommended.
Popular brands are Asahi,
Sapporpo, Kirin, and Suntory.
Waiter service is normal in bars. The Japanese are quite
fond of original Scotch whisky, however this is both very
costly and highly sought after, therefore Japanese versions of this
drink are often served. There are no licensing hours. A part of
drinking is the long-standing rituals of politeness. The hostess
will pour a drink for the guest, and will insist on the guest's
glass being full. It is also appreciated if the guest pours
drinks for the host, but it is not good manners for a visitor
to pour one for himself.
Tokyo has a vast amount of cinemas,
theatres, coffee shops, bars,
, nightclubs and discos. A wide
variety of bars are available, from the upmarket and stylish to cheap street
stalls. In the summer, rooftop
beer gardens are very popular.
There are also some clubs with hostesses who expect
to be bought drinks and snacks. In larger bars and nightclubs, a
basic hostess charge is levied. However, there are thousands of
other clubs and bars. In Tokyo there are concerts
of all styles of music just about every night. Foreign opera
companies, orchestras, ballet
companies and rock/pop stars visit Japan
all year round. There are also some live jazz houses.
For those who desire to experience the traditional Japanese
performing arts, there is Kabuki and Noh
theatre in Tokyo. Play Guide ticket
offices are located in major department stores.
It is recommended to buy the tickets in advance because shows sell
out fairly quickly. Karaoke bars are a quite popular form of entertainment
A mixture of Oriental goods and Western
sales techniques confronts the shopper, especially at the
large department stores, which are more similar to exhibitions than
shops. Playgrounds for children are also available. Special
purchases include kimonos, mingei (local crafts including
folk toys and kites); Kyoto silks, screens, fans, dolls; religious
articles such as Shinto and Buddhist artifacts; paper lanterns;
lacquerware; cameras hi-fi equipment, televisions and other electronic
equipment. Bargaining is not usual.
Tax exemptions: These are available in approved
tax-free stores. Certain items costing over ¥10,000 are exempt
Shopping hours: 10:00-19:00/20:00 every
day of the week and on public holidays.
A vast number of festivals are held in the country year round in
various parts of Japan. Some are hugely spectacular, and some are
religious in orientation. For additional details of events and festivals,
contact the Japan National Tourist Organisation (see Contacts
The below list is a selection of special events occurring
in Japan in 2006:
||Ippan Sanga (Imperial Palace
Celebrations, palace opens to public), Tokyo
||Toka Ebisu (Festival of Imamiya Ebisu Shrine),
||Niramekko Obisha Festival, Ichikawa.
||Sapporo Snow Festival
||Cherry Blossom Viewing, nationwide
||Omizutori (Water-drawing Festival), Nara
||Hinamatsuri Doll Festival, nationwide
||Sanja Festival, Tokyo
|| Tanabata (Star Festival), nationwide
||Nagasaki Memorial Day
||Tokyo Gay & Lesbian Pride
||Jidai Matsuri (Festival of Eras), Kyoto
||Shichi-go-san (Children’s Shrine Visiting
||Chichibu Yo-matsuri (All-night Festival),
|O-Shogatsu (New Year’s celebrations),
Japanese customs and manners are very different from those of Western
people. A strict code of behaviour and courtesy is observed and
followed by virtually all Japanese. However, they are aware of the
difference between themselves and other countries therefore they
do not expect visitors to be familiar with all their customs, they
just expect polite and formal behaviour.
straightforward refusal is not part of Japanese etiquette.
vague ‘yes’ does not really mean ‘yes’ however
the visitor may be comforted to know that misunderstanding caused
by non-committal replies happens between the Japanese themselves.
guests in the home is not as customary as in the West, as it is
an enterprise not lightly taken and the full red-carpet treatment
men are also sensitive lest their wives be embarrassed and feel
that their hospitality is not adequate by Western standards; for
example, by the inconvenience to a foreign guest of the custom of
sitting on the floor.
is the traditional greeting but shaking hands has become common
for business meetings with Westerners.
honorific suffix san should be used when addressing
all men and women, for example Mr Yamada would be addressed as Yamada-san.
entering a Japanese home or restaurant it is traditional to remove
manners are very important, however Japanese host will be very tolerant
towards a visitor. But, it is best if visitors become familiar with
basic table etiquette and use chopsticks.
is traditional for a guest to bring a small present when visiting
of gifts is also a common practice in business and may take the
form of souvenir items such as company pens, ties or high-quality
is only prohibited where notified.
Tips are never expected since a 10 to 20 % service
charge is added to bills at hotels, ryokan and restaurants; where
a visitor desires to show special appreciation of a service, money
should not be offered in the form of loose change but rather as
a small financial gift. Special printed envelopes can be purchased
for financial gifts of this type.