Bowing is how Japanese people greet each other. It can be a subtle head nod or a full bow that requires bending at the waist. Usually, a head nod is enough for greeting friends and casual acquaintances, while the deep bow is frequently used for formal situations to show utmost respect.
Entering a Japanese home
The Japanese do not wear their shoes inside their homes. Once they enter the house, they leave their outdoor footwear by the entrance area (known as genkan), arrange their shoes so as the front or toe caps are facing the door, and put on slippers that are only for indoor use.
At restaurants, customers are usually provided with wet towels for cleaning their hands before the meal. If there are no wet towels available, simply wash your hands with soap and water.
Once food has been served, whether at a restaurant or at home, everyone at the table utters “itadakimasu”, a phrase that means “I humbly receive”, which works similarly to “Bon appétit”.
To eat food from a small bowl, pick up the bowl and raise it up to about mouth level so that getting the food from the bowl to your mouth is much easier.
Properly hold your chopsticks by placing your fingers near the ends. If you are not using them, put them down on the tray or on top of the bowl, parallel to each other. Do not stick them vertically into the food.
Avoid burping, loud munching, blowing your nose, and making other audible noises while eating.
Once you are done, return all the bowls, plates, lids, and others to the same positions as when they were served to you, and end the meal by expressing gratitude for the food and the people who prepared it by saying “gochisosama deshita”.
Visiting temples and shrines
It is important to remain quiet when visiting shrines and temples so as to not disturb the other people around you, especially those who are praying. Do not talk loudly. Do not smoke. Do not eat. Before taking any pictures, ask if photography is permitted. Always read the signs around.