A Travellerspoint blog

Japanese Etiquette 101

sunny 15 °C

We are currently staying in a ryokan in Ogi on Sado Island. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese guesthouse with an onsen, (a communal hot tub), and there are very strict rules of etiquette. Firstly, all shoes must be removed at the front door and replaced with slippers. However, not all slippers are created equal; there are regular slippers and toilet slippers. Regular slippers must be worn at all times except in toilets, bathrooms and on tatami mats. Tatami mats cover the floors of all rooms used for sleeping. We sleep on futons on the tatamis…
Everything is done on the floor in traditional Japanese ryokans. We walk, sleep and sit or kneel on the floor. The tables are just 12 inches high. There are no chairs, but if you are elderly or foreign you may sit on a legless chair on the floor with your feet stuffed under the table where there is a small electric heater…
The Japanese love warmth and spend a lot of time in hot water. Etiquette is paramount to the orderly minded Japanese and we spend time in hot water if anyone catches us not wearing slippers or wearing the wrong ones…
This is easily done as the largest Japanese slippers are made for ten year old western kids. The slipper protocol is as follows: When you enter you take off your shoes and cram your feet into a pair of regular slippers. You trip on the stairs as you go to your room because the slippers don’t fit, and then sigh in relief when you get them off to walk on the tatami mat. You then realise that you needed a pee, so you step off the tatami and squash your toes back into the slippers. You take five shuffling steps to the bathroom, take off the regular slippers and jam on the toilet slippers...
Once you’ve pee’d you wrench off the bathroom slippers, squeeze into the regular ones and painfully shuffle five steps back to the tatami before you remember that you left your glasses in the toilet. So you ram your regular slippers back on again and painfully shuffle five steps etc. etc. etc. It’s all very civilised really – apart from the swearing.

We love staying in ryokans because the food is fabulous. However, there is no choice – you eat what you are given…
This is only part of one dinner. The island of Sado is renowned for its seafood and we had 8 different fish in this meal including the infamously deadly puffer fish (fugu). We survived, so the chef must have known what he was doing. The sashimi chef also had a good handle on things as he made us this dinner…
We love ryokans that have communal hot baths,(onsens), but there is etiquette to be observed. Bathers have to be totally nude, (but never mixed), and must balance a few inches off the ground on a midget stool made for a size one bum while washing under a Lilliputian’s shower. Only when totally clean can you enter the bath.
It’s all very civilised – no tattoos, no photos and absolutely no swearing.

Posted by Hawkson 06:03 Archived in Japan

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:Oh my goodness I got a good giggle at this. Don't slip on your slippers. Now I know why they are called by that name. And watch where you pee!
We miss you at Book Club ...love

by Jean McLaren

No drinking after 6PM. Will stop the swears and pee. Gorgeous photos and place. Can you bring your own slippers in a larger size? What about walking on your knees? Food looks divine.

by Sue Fitzwilson

Pippa, Nick and I were in stitches .
I would had huffed, puffed and sworn for England but be in heaven eating all that wonderful food, a feast for the eyes too.
Back from the Alps, no one with broken bones. Xx

by Christine Lloyd

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