How to Travel in Japan: No Eating or Drinking

When you visit a new country it’s always good to learn a thing or two about the local culture. It’s always good to learn what’s acceptable and what isn’t acceptable.

In this short post I want to talk about shopping for food and drinks in Japan. If you are going to a supermarket or convenience store in Japan to buy food or beverages you should definitely follow Japanese norms.

What does that mean?

DO NOT open snacks or beverages in the shop or supermarket and start eating/drinking them before you have paid for them!

Japanese people would almost never NEVER do this.

In the past few years, tourism in Japan has been booming.

In the 9 years I’ve lived in Kobe I have personally seen a remarkable increase in visitors from other Asian countries, North America and Europe. I also live very close to a few large hotels so I often see tourists in local convenience stores and the local supermarket my family frequents.

Recently I have started to see more tourists from other countries in Asia as well as Europe walking around our local supermarket opening snacks and eating them while they shop. I’ve also seen people open up soda, juice and alcoholic drinks and consume them as they shop.

I know these fine folks plan to pay for the products they are consuming once they get to the cash register, but it makes Japanese people feel VERY uncomfortable.

I asked my wife and several Japanese colleagues how they feel about this and they were unanimous. They said it is NOT GOOD! It makes them feel very strange. They get the impression that these tourists might steal the products. It’s also pretty disrespectful.

These signs have been places all over a 7-11 in Kobe near my house that is close to a large hotel. Many foreign tourists shop at it and I’ve seen them pull ice cream out of the coolers and start eating  and crack open beers from the cooler before paying. This is a BIG NO NO in Japan! Pay first…then enjoy!

I have to admit that I feel really uncomfortable when I see this too because where I’m from in Canada, I rarely saw people consuming food products in a shop before purchasing them. When I did se it, I thought it was weird.

Long story short…

People in Japan would never eat or drink while in a shop or supermarket so please respect them while visiting Japan. Wait until you’ve paid for your snacks and drinks and have left the store. Then you can enjoy them!



The writer:

Kevin O’Shea is the host of the Just Japan Podcast and the Just Japan News Podcast. He is also the guy behind JustJapanStuff. Kevin is a Canadian educator who lives in Kobe, Japan with his family.

Follow him on Twitter: @madformaple





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