TEN THINGS NOT TO DO IN JAPAN
Walking and eating: look at you go! You're walking and eating like the true multi-tasker you are. Win win. This doesn't really fly in Japan. One is supposed to respect their food which involves sitting down and taking the time to savour and appreciate it. Occasionally when I've been really pushed for time and rather hungry I've sneakily eaten while walking, all the while noticing little old ladies looking at me suspiciously as I faux yawn and slyly pushing morsels into my mouth.
Clipping your fingernails at night: the belief is that if you cut those nails you won't be able to be with or near your parents when they die. No mani's or pedi's post 5pm! Another no no for night time is cutting your hair. You're practically inviting that lady from The Grudge to take up residence in your house.
3. I've always covered my mirror at night for fear that I'll get up in the middle of the night to go to the loo and see a ghost behind my reflections or worse, the Candyman! I think watching movies like Poltergeist at a young age has terrified me forever. I was happy to discover my irrational fear does not make me look so crazy in Japan. Word on the street is that a woman from another world comes through the mirror in the night and either kills you or takes you back to her world. Noooo!
- Lying down after eating: you will turn into a cow. That is all.
- Eating an apple: this is a bit of an awkward one. I've spent many an afternoon in my office pulling a shiny red apple from my bag and happily chomping away. The Japanese don't really eat their apples whole, instead they cut them into dainty pieces and delicately eat them. Watching someone eat an apple whole has been compared to shoving a whole pizza in your mouth in one sitting - lacking grace and elegance. Whenever I bite down on an apple I get quizzical looks.
Most people are familiar with the Japanese practise of taking ones shoes off when going inside a house, school or office. Things are a little more complex than I bargained for. It's shoes off, then slippers on, but if you go to the toilet, slippers off, new toilet slippers on. Then, if there's is tatami in the room, slippers off altogether, so make sure your socks aren't heinous, full of holes or depicting embarrassing sexual positions. Also, walking up stair with slippers on can be a little bit difficult as they have a tendency to fly off your feet. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have tripped up the stairs. The only time you can throw caution to the slipper shoe rule is if there's an earthquake or a fire. Run for your life!
7. If you're unlucky enough to attend a funeral in Japan remember the following things or be cursed forever - hide your thumb when the funeral car passes or your parents will die soon, sprinkle salt on yourself before you go back to your house or the spirit of the deceased may follow you, and of course, don't jam your chopstick into your rice so they're standing up right, this is only done with rice that is being put on the funeral altar.
If you eat fried eel and melon in the same meal YOU WILL DIE.
When drinking alcohol with people always hold off taking a sip of your delicious beer/wine/cocktail/whatever and wait for the toast and a round of cheers (kampai!)
Another no no for the night time: no whistling. 'Yoru ni kuchibiru o fuku to hebi ga kuru'' (If you whistle at night a snake will come to you). From the 1600-1800 whistling was a way for burglars to communicate and warn each other and as a result whistling has become associated with inviting the bad guys into your house. No jolly tunes allowed.
So there you have it, if you visit Japan you'll now be free from looking the fool, your parents dying, a scary lady coming through your mirror, ghosts following you, dying, burglars and of course, magically transforming into a cow. Yay!