Weird Things in Japan That Just Make Sense | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan
Weird Things in Japan

Weird Things in Japan That Just Make Sense

By Luisa Seftel Nov 30, 2022

For all people coming to Japan or wanting to travel here, this article is for you! A few things may seem weird, funny or illogical on first impression, but they make so much sense. So let’s take a look at some weird things in Japan!

Interesting and Weird Things in Japan You May Encounter

Handing Out Tissues

Handing out Pocket Tissues

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When visiting Japan, you probably encountered people handing out pocket tissues on the streets. What may seem weird in the eye of a tourist or a “Japanese newbie”, companies, restaurants or sports clubs use this technique to get people’s attention. Read more in-depth about this exciting method here.

No Talking on the Train

Talking on the Train

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While it may be common in your home country to take calls and happily chat on the train with friends, in Japan, it is seen as impolite. The thing is – no one will call you out, as Japanese people tend not to cause any trouble, BUT it’s one of many unspoken etiquettes in this culture. Of course, there is an exemption to every rule, but especially during morning hours on weekdays, refrain from talking on the phone and set it on silent mode while riding the train in Japan. 

Taking off Your Shoes 

Taking off shoes

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This is a big one! When coming to Japan, you MUST take off your shoes when you enter someone’s house (or even offices and specific restaurants). The entryway (also called genkan 玄関) is where guests and owners take their shoes off. The reason behind it is simple – not getting the floor dirty. In Japan, it is very common to sleep on the ground and eat meals on tatami mats (traditional Japanese flooring). Although not all households are furnished with tatami mats because they are pretty hard to maintain, taking off your shoes for cleanliness is a significant sign of respect and is rooted in Japanese culture. 

Toilet Slippers

Toilet slippers

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Talking about not wearing your street shoes inside houses, the famous toilet slippers are provided for guests in restaurants, hotels and many households. It may seem like one of the many weird things in Japan, but looking at the Japanese “toilet history” makes a lot of sense. Before western-styled toilets entered the Japanese market, simple-styled “squatty potty” toilets were used. They are a bit more challenging to use, with a higher chance of getting wet. However, recording to this article, after asking over 2000 Japanese people about the necessity of toilet slippers, over 70 % find them still necessary.

Wearing Masks

Facemask in public

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Long before Covid, I visited Japan as a tourist and saw many people wearing masks on trains, parks, and streets. What seemed a bit odd at first makes so much sense! Japanese people are very polite and cautious regarding their stance in society. So, for example, heaving a cold and sneezing on the train, causing other passengers trouble, is a thing that Japanese citizens try to avoid. So wearing a mask protect yourself against colds and hay fever and avoid infections. It may seem like one of the many weird things in Japan, but it does serve a significant cause and is part of Japanese culture. 

Wet Towels before Meals 


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Another example on the “Weird things in Japan” list is oshibori (おしぼり or お絞り). These wet and often warm towels are handed out in restaurants and bars before meals. You use it to refresh your hands, neck and face. But watch out, even if you see some Japanese people wiping their faces with it, after oshibori etiquette, it is considered a bad form. 

Free Public Footbaths


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When travelling through Japan, you may have encountered this sign”足湯”. Ashiyu is the term for a Japanese footbath and can be found in various places in Japan. Regarding the popularity of footbaths, Japanese citizens and travellers also adore them a lot! They are often built near tourist spots, so you can relax your feet from all that sightseeing you just did while soaking up the atmosphere of your surroundings. 

Fake Display Food

Weird things in Japan fake foods

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Shokuhin sampuru (食品サンプル) are astonishing, realistically looking food samples found in front of Japanese restaurants. They help non-Japanese speakers to order delicious food despite the language barrier and display what consumers can expect from a food order. There is a long tradition behind Shokuhini sampuru., Even legends are being told that the craftsmanship of modelling plastic and wax parts into mouth-watering food samples is over 200 years old

Weird Things in Japan – A Recap

The examples above are everyday things to remember when coming to Japan. It is an exciting country with a different culture and values. This is one of many reasons why people travel to Japan to experience its uniqueness. Even when things may seem funny or illogical, there are many background stories behind them. So stay curious and start exploring!

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