9. You will make some mistakes…
Don’t wear shoes inside; purify yourself on the way into a shrine; never pass food from one set of chopsticks to another, or gesture with them, or stick them upright in rice; don’t leave a tip; do slurp your noodles; don’t apply make up on the train; never blow your nose in public; always bring a gift when you’re staying with someone. Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg: there is no way you’re going to get everything right.
10. ...but you will be forgiven
One of the many good things about being a gaijin in Japan is that, when you do mess up, you’ll probably be forgiven. If it’s something that absolutely has to be pointed out (like wearing toilet slippers around the house) it’ll be done politely, and if not then most Japanese people will just let it slide. So long as you’re trying your best and learning as you go, you’ll be accepted with good grace.
11. You’ll leave desperate to come back
Crazy festivals, complex etiquette, incredible food, stunning landscapes, beguiling history… there are so many amazing experiences in Japan that you’ll never even scratch the surface with one trip. Whether it’s the genuinely warm, hospitable people, or the desire to visit that one famous temple you missed (oh, and that mountain you didn’t climb, and of course that restaurant your friend recommended, and that day-trip you couldn’t squeeze in), you’ll leave with some inarguable reason to come back to this bizarre, beautiful country and learn everything all over again.
If you want to do some research before you go, try checking your nearest JNTO office, and explore more of Japan with The Rough Guide to Japan.
Top image: Himeji Castle in spring with visitors for the cherry blossom season © Sean Pavone/Shutterstock