Food: Japanese cuisine is a real experience and there are plenty of opportunities to eat your way around Japan. Starting in Tokyo, did you know that the city has the most Michelin starred eateries than any other city? The Ginza District offers everything from gourmet French to Kaiseki, a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner that changes with the seasons.
Also in Tokyo is the Tsukiji Fish Market, the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and a large tourist destination. It is so incredibly clean you don’t even notice the smell of fish. Wander the market and you can settle on a sushi restaurant, although they tend to be pretty pricey, it is the freshest sushi found anywhere. Otherwise find a Kaiten-zushi restaurant where plates of fresh sushi circle the eating area on a conveyor belt. Did you know the reason for serving ginger with sushi is that is cleanses the palate in between different types of sushi. Another helpful tidbit, is that tea and beer are usually served with sushi, not sake.
Try the Art of the Noodle at the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum in Yokohama. Here you can taste the delicious warm miso broth, this is considered to be the “food amusement park” and a top destination.
If you are a ski buff and are out in Niigata skiing, the area is also know as the Sake Kingdom as there are 90 or more sake breweries in the region.
Culture: When I travel to other countries I tried to learn what is acceptable and not acceptable in that particular country. The plan is to travel with some knowledge and to not offend the people and their rich culture.
In Japan you will find the people may try to shake your hand as they know that is our custom, but try the bow, it is their traditional greeting. If you find yourself invited to a private home always take a gift. Present the gift with both hands and they are usually given at the end of a visit. Remove your shoes before entering a home or room at the Ryokan. Use the slippers provided and you may need to change in and out of bathroom slippers when using the restroom.
It is rude and impolite to blow your nose in public and using a handkerchief instead of a paper tissue is considered unsanitary.
The Japanese line up and wait their turn, do the same and don’t push. This method is extremely successful.
Don’t eat food while walking, if you buy take out food, you need to stop, stand or sit down to eat your meal.
Tipping is rare in Japan. Typically a service charge will be added to the bill.