Do NOT assume that your foreign plastic (i.e. credit cards) will be
accepted anywhere except the absolute biggest of the hotels, the
biggest of the train stations (and even then, only at restricted
ticket booths), the biggest of the department stores, etc. Almost all
mid- or small-sized restaurants and shops will only accept
cash. Similarly, although your guidebook may say otherwise,
assume that you can easily find ATMs. My personal experience is that
it is annoying and time-consuming to try and find ATM machines in
Japan that accept foreign ATM cards. (And I'm almost certain it will
be annoying and time-consuming in the Osaka City University area.)
Some do accept foreign ATM cards
such as Cirrus(MASTERCARD) and Plus(VISA)
especially those at post offices and Seven-Eleven's.
My personal suggestion: do as the Japanese do, and just operate in
cash. You should be able to withdraw cash at an ATM at the
Kansai International Airport, or else exchange for Japanese yen at
Always have a pack of tissues and hankerchief at hand.
do not always have toilet tissue or paper towels available (they assume you have
tissue and hankerchief with you).
Japanese toilets are not all Western-style. --
some toilets are the old-school squatting kind (though most places do
have Western-style toilets).
When indoors, take off your shoes.
This rule holds unless it's patently obvious
that you're not expected to do so. Often, you'll be able to determine this by
looking around when you enter the building; in public buildings where
you're expected to take off your shoes, there will be a clearly
demarcated area where shoes are to be stored, and there will be a row
of guest slippers laid out for you for your use while indoors.
(For instance, at the Kansai Kenshu
Centre and at the OCU conference facilities, you don't need to take
off your shoes; on the other hand, at the OCU Guest House, you should
take off your shoes when entering your room.)
This is not a vegetarian-friendly society,
and the Japanese are only very very recently getting used to
the idea of someone being "vegetarian" (pronounced "be-ji-ta-ri-an" in
Japanese). Japanese cuisine tends to use many more ingredients in one
dish than Western-style cuisine; often, fish stock or other small
portions of non-vegetarian items will be used in an otherwise
vegetarian dish. Strict vegetarians can eat at the Kansai Kenshu
Centre, where the internationally-aware cafeteria staff are careful to
prepare truly vegetarian dishes. If you are more adventurous, go out
to the vast array of Japanese restaurants, but ask carefully
All that being said, Japan also does have a long tradition of strictly
Buddhist (and therefore vegetarian) cuisine, so vegetarians need not
despair and only eat cucumber sushi and tofu for the duration of their
stay! You'll just need to do some extra preparation and research to
know where to go and what to order.
This isn't exactly a cultural note, but,
if you have a serious food allergy or otherwise serious dietary
restriction, please please PLEASE let us know BEFOREHAND. To the
extent possible, we will make arrangements with the Kansai Kenshu Centre
cafeteria staff ahead of time. See the ``Kansai Kenshu Centre'' section
of this webpage for more details.
This is not a non-smoker-friendly society
either, although here too the culture is changing. There ARE
non-smoking cars on trains (and make sure to request one when you buy
tickets for assigned seats), which are clearly labeled as you enter
Do NOT tip.
There is no such thing as tipping in Japanese
society. Waitpeople and taxi drivers will not know what you are doing
if you give them extra cash and will simply give you the exact
change. If you leave a little extra cash on the table at a restaurant,
they will come running after you for several city blocks, exclaiming politely,
"Excuse me, miss, you left some money on the table!"
Turn off cellphones in all Japanese trains and subways.
It's Japanese etiquette to TURN OFF cellphones on all public
transportation. Talking on a cellphone while waiting for a train at
the platform is considered acceptable, but once you get onto the
train, you should turn it off. (On the other hand, people turn off the
sound and check their e-mail and get news reports on their cellphones
all the time.)
Hotels sometimes operate on a pre-pay system, so don't be alarmed
if you're asked to pay in advance when you check in.