Japan has a fascinating culture, long history, and beautiful scenery. Japan was recently ranked the #1 country tourists want to visit by the World Economic Forum. So we initially started Pickleball Trips to show people cool places in Japan.
But with a different language, weird foods, and confusing etiquette, some people find traveling to Japan intimidating. So we are here to help you every step of the way with native speakers and professional coaches/guides. Before you visit, here are a few cultural tips to help you prepare for traveling to Japan and having fun playing pickleball in a foreign international setting like Japan.
Yes, weird Japanese food items are available for the more adventurous eaters out there (raw horse sashimi, anyone?). However, we do our best at Pickleball Trips to provide palatable meals that suit everyone’s tastes. There is plenty of delicious Japanese food that is delicious and not weird, so we always give you that option. We also cater to vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dietary restrictions, but please let us know in advance.
Japanese people love giving gifts. After a trip, people bring back a few trinkets or snacks to give to their friends, family, and co-workers. Since they will probably give you something, it’s not required but nice to reciprocate. This could be anything from apparel from your local pickleball club to a food or drink that is well-known where you live. It’s not the actual gift but the thought that counts.
Indoor vs. Outdoor Shoes
We play pickleball both indoors and outdoors on the Pickleball Trips to Japan. Technically, you should have separate shoes for indoor venues and outdoor venues. However, if you don’t have indoor shoes, you can wipe off your outdoor shoes at the entrance and magically turn them into indoor shoes. No one will know the difference!
Japan is extremely safe. You could leave your wallet on the street, and it will be there or in a police station when you return. I’m not saying you should leave your wallet lying around, just that you could… All that to say, Japan is great because you can enjoy the trip without worrying too much about personal safety or having something stolen.
Japanese Style Accommodations (Ryokans)
Japanese style accommodations featuring a hot spring onsen, tatami mat, and sleeping on a futon mattress are unique Japanese experiences. We include at least one Ryokan stay in every tour of Japan. Where else in the world can you have that experience? Sleeping on the floor might sound uncomfortable, but we always ask for a double layer of mattresses so you are comfy.
Bowing vs. Hugging or Shaking
Japanese people indeed bow when greeting each other. However, they know that Westerners hug or shake hands, so they don’t mind either. Do what feels natural and comfortable. If you want to immerse yourself in the culture entirely, give bowing a try. Or, if you feel like you made friends with someone during recreational play, shake their hand or give them a hug.
Knowing a couple of things about Japanese etiquette will go a long way when visiting Japan. First, Japanese people typically take off their shoes inside. Look around at what everyone else is doing and follow their lead. Second, don’t stick your chopsticks in rice or food; just lay them to the side. Sticking chopsticks into rice is a Buddhist funeral thing. Finally, when bathing in a hot spring, shower before you enter the bath. The bath is just for soaking in. Of course, we will remind you of all these etiquette items in Japan. Those are the major ones to watch out for, though.
Don’t Worry About Breaking Etiquette Rules
I know I just explained some etiquette rules. In reality, the Japanese are welcoming towards visitors and forgiving towards international tourists. So breaking some etiquette rules isn’t a big deal. It’s more important to relax, have a good time and make memories. Our Japanese hosts will definitely remember you more for that.
Visiting Japan is a great experience, especially on a Pickleball Trip. Most people leave pleasantly surprised with an appreciation for Japanese culture. Knowing these few things before your trip can make a huge difference and help you enjoy the journey even more. We can’t wait to see you soon!