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GirlTalk Japan-- A Mini Guide For Women


Evelyn Hannon

How exciting! You're off to Japan, a wonderfully interesting destination. However, be aware. This is not a country you can visit without doing your research. There's much for a woman to learn before her departure -- everything from culturally correct communal bathing to how to eat like a local and deal with Japanese bathrooms. Then there's shopping at 100 yen stores, the books to read, the clothes to pack and ways to handle the antisocial behaviour of gropers on trains and subways. Bon voyage, ladies. We promise that this will be an extraordinary journey.

Let's start with packing...

Journeywoman suggests you pack lightly. Trains in Japan have no porters, no checked lugguage, and there is little overhead space for carry-on items. Most train stations have stairs so your luggage wheels become useless, and most train stations have lockers, but only major stations have lockers large enough to hold big bags. How to get around this problem? Use Forward Luggage service called "takkyu-bin" to send all but an overnight bag to your next stop. This service is available from airports and hotels. Or, if you are staying at a small family-run, budget "ryokan" (inn) in the city, you can usually arrange takkyu-bin with a nearby convenience store. Cost for an average bag? $US15.00

Pack an umbrella or buy one at the airport. It can rain in Japan, especially in June and early July.

In the wintertime take along slacks rather than skirts and don't forget to bring thick socks. Since people remove their shoes when entering temples and shrines and since these places are not heated, you will spare your legs and feet from the cold.

Light, breathable clothing is recommended if you're travelling anytime between June and the end of September. The humidity is more than just unbearable, it's unbelieveable. However, if you are travelling during the summer, even though it may be hot outside, the air conditioning inside can be very strong. Carry a light jacket or sweater. Also, no matter how hot it is, it is not proper etiquette to wear overly skimpy and revealing clothing at temples and shrines or in crowded places.

Lisa in Tel Aviv, Israel writes...
If you wear clothing larger than US size 10, or shoes larger than size 36, you will experience great difficulty in finding anything to fit you in Japan. The only place in Tokyo that carries shoes up to size 40 is the Birkenstock store in Harajuku, and even the Gap does not carry clothing larger than size 10. Someone told me that the shops near Tokyo Disneyland
do carry larger sizes, in order to accommodate Western tourists, but I did not have an opportunity to verify that.

Women who prefer tampons over pads would be well advised to pack their favourite brand. Japanese women do not tend to use tampons, and I did not find a single pharmacy in Tokyo carrying them.

She eats like a local...

Be a savvy female traveller. Learn these few simple dining rules -- they'll help you to fit in.

She eats soup Making loud slurping sounds while enjoying noodle soup is perfectly acceptable for men in Japan but not for women. Understand that you will not be given a spoon to use -- only chopsticks. The chopsticks are used to eat the meat, vegetables and noodles. You can then drink the broth directly from the bowl.

She eats sushi When eating sushi, try not to soak your rice in the soy sauce. Instead, dip the top portion containing the fish into the sauce. Then put the sushi into your mouth with the fish top facing down on your tongue so you can savor the flavor.

She eats rice When you have finished eating your rice, put the chopsticks down along the side of your plate (usually chopstick holders are provided). Never ever place your chopsticks straight up in the rice. This is how rice is normally served to the dead. Your Japanese hosts will not be amused.





For More on cultural correctness and getting around Japan...

Back to GirlTalk Japan



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