Photo: Lucia Romero/Shutterstock

13 Ways to Humiliate Yourself in Japan

by Chris Barstow Aug 10, 2015

1. Overdo the informal bow.

An angle of about 15 degrees is appropriate for most informal greeting bows. It’s not necessary to genuflect and skim the pavement with your forehead when someone merely hands you a packet of tissues on the street.

2. Show off your ink at the onsen.

Fancy relaxing naked in tubs of hot eggy-smelling water with total strangers? Before you do, cover up your taboo tattoos with sticking plasters or bandages as you may be mistaken for a yakuza kingpin and asked to leave.

3. Stick your chopsticks upright in your food.

You’re munching a bowl of rice and cow gristle at Sukiya, not grieving at a funeral.

4. Mix-up your Japanese syllables when flirting.

Looking for a tongue-wrestle rather than a tongue-lashing? Be careful to tell your beau-to-be that they are kawaii (cute) and kirei (beautiful) rather than kowai (scary) and kirai(hate).

5. Leave a tip.

When eating in a restaurant, it’s polite to leave a tip somewhere between 0% and 0%. Anything else is just insulting.

6. Abuse the buttons on a modern toilet.

Be careful not to over-experiment with the multitude of buttons on a modern Japanese toilet. Nobody likes a sudden jet of tepid liquid up their moneymaker to the tinny sound of ‘Auld Lang Syne.’

7. Position yourself incorrectly on a traditional toilet.

Face the wall and angle yourself carefully when using a squat toilet. You’re aiming for the porcelain bowl, not the floor.

8. Leave your indoor shoes at home.

If you have generously endowed feet and visit a place that forbids the nexus of fragile tatami and mucky Converse sneakers, it is advisable to pack your own indoor footwear. Squeezing your size 13s into the Lilliputian slippers provided by most Japanese establishments is not a good look.

9. Forget to take off your toilet slippers when leaving the bathroom.

Your fellow diners don’t want bacteria-encrusted plastic plimsolls anywhere near their sashimi.

10. Confuse delicious snacks with body parts and secretions.

Crunky Balls Nude are chocolates, not testicles. Homo Sausage is a pork snack, not a pork sword. Pocari Sweat is 100% inspiration, 0% perspiration. Pungency is a milk tea, not the smell emanating from a sumo wrestler’s armpit.

11. Pick your karaoke song haphazardly.

Choosing ‘Come On Eileen’ and realizing that you don’t know the verses or starting the chorus of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ a an octave too high and breaking all the glasses in the room as you crucify the last note will evoke sniggers and ensure that your future song choices mysteriously disappear from the upcoming playlist.

12. Make phone calls on the train.

Phoning your aunt Gladys to chat about the awesome time you’ve just had at Tokyo Disneyland whilst you’re riding the train is a big no-no. Let your exhausted fellow commuters nap, read manga or contemplate the meaning of life in peace and stick to playing Candy Crush Saga on silent mode.

13. Refuse random offerings of fruit from strangers.

The chances are that the little old lady thrusting a free bag of apples in your face is not trying to trick you into eating fruit laced with tranquilizers so she can rob you of your yens, but is merely displaying traditional Japanese hospitality. Embrace it and eat to your heart’s content.

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