This will be the last part in the “well meant advice for foreigners in Japan”-series... for now. If you have any other suggestions or made some stupid mistakes yourself, let me know!
One thing I absolutely love to do when I'm in Japan, is visiting a public bath house, a sentō.
Before you go there, please inform yourself about the rules – Japanese bathing culture is different from western ones.
At the entrance, you pay a small fee (around 3-5 Dollar) and leave your shoes in a locker. The bath for men and women is separated. Even if you can't read the signs, the red (women) and blue (men) curtains leading to the bath halls will show you which way to go.
Tattoos are usually not allowed in public baths, since it used to be a characteristic of the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia. But many bath houses are okay with foreigners having tattoos. I have a few myself and never had a problem going to a public bath house. But you may always ask the staff first, they'll tell you if it's okay or not for you to enter.
efore you enter the bath, you have to take off all your clothes – there will be lockers or baskets in the changing room where you can put your stuff in. Some public baths will have shampoo, shower gel and towels but some will not. Make sure to bring those things just in case.
When you enter the bath, you may not go into the tub directly. First you have to clean yourself from head to toe – only after this you're allowed to go into the hot water for relaxing. And please be aware that the water is really hot! Like hot hot. It's usually around 104-108 °F.
Be careful of staying in the water for too long and get out immediately when you start to feel dizzy! For beginners, there are kid's tubs in a lot of public bath houses with a lower temperature. I once sat with my friend in one, because she couldn't handle the adult tubs. Well, we got laughed at by some kids but what you're gonna do...
Here are some more “good to know” facts when you're visiting Japan:
Here are some more “good to know” facts when you're visiting Japan:-When you're bringing a present to a Japanese friend, they most likely won't open it immediately, but wait until you're gone. It's rude in Japan to open a present the moment you get it, because it makes you look greedy. When you receive a present from someone in Japan, please keep this in mind. If you want someone to open your present to see their reaction, you can tell them it's okay to open it now. When you're on the receiving end, you may also ask politely if you are allowed to open it.
-Since we're all trying to avoid plastic bags to save our planet, you may bring your own reusable bags when you're shopping in Japan – but you have to be quick and better tell the cashier right away that you brought your own bag – or else you'll get your goods stuffed in plastic within seconds. It's not rude to bring your own bag, it's just not very common yet in Japan. The staff will also ask you to hand over the bag so they can pack your stuff in it to fulfill their service. In Juli 2020, Japan finally started taking fees for plastic bags.
-Toilet paper in Japan is very thin – even the one with more layers is still thin compared to what I'm used to. If you want to have that special luxury, bring a few toilet paper rolls with you. Nowadays I even bring a package of toilet paper for my foreign friends who live in Japan as “a present” and they always highly appreciate it!
Okay, that's it for now. I will keep writing about stuff I find interesting about Japan, but please comment if you want to read about a specific topic!