Japan

Welcome to the Japanese Culture page!

This page, like all of our cultural guide pages, will forever be a work in progress. Please check back at a future date for additional information. If you have cultural or culinary expertise when it comes to Japan, please do share! We’d love for you to email us at with your thoughts.

Cultural Pointers

Home & Family

  • Just like in Canada, it is polite to remove ones shoes in the home. Slippers or indoor shoes are quite common.
  • In Japan, you always close the door when you are in your room. This does not suggest that privacy is desired as it does in Canada. Therefore, you may want to point out to your visitor that a closed bedroom door means privacy please.
  • Most Japanese homes do not have dishwashers. If your home does, you may want to take care in explaining how it is used.
  • Many Japanese homes feature a special room for soaking called an ofuro. The ofuro will have a narrow, deep tub for soaking at the end of a long day. This is not the same as a bath, as one usually showers before entering the ofuro.
  • The average age of marriage is nearly 30 years old among men, and 27 years of age for women. Most families have only one or two children.
  • While times are changing, most Japanese families still follow traditional gender roles. Your Japanese student may be surprised to see a man clean the house, serve a meal, or raise children.

Food

  • As you may well know, Japanese cuisine is quite different than Canadian food. Rice is the main staple, and is served at nearly every meal. Ask your student about the rice theyre used to; its stickier and sweeter than Uncle Bens.
  • Food is typically served on and eaten from separate dishes, not on one big plate like in Canada. Food is also always served on the table, as opposed to buffet style presentation.
  • Your student will be used to fresh food. Try to minimize processed, fried, or frozen foods in your meal plan.
  • Most Japanese people drink green tea, milk, and juice more than they drink water.
  • It is not considered impolite to slurp while eating noodles or soups in Japan.

Society

  • Education is extremely important in Japan. The pressure on students to get into a good university is tremendous. In the past, students were able to relax and let loose in university, but the pressure to graduate with top marks and gain employment in a large company is changing that. Your student may have a great deal of pressure on them to receive top marks and an unrealistic expectation for their English improvement. Try to be understanding if the pressure seems to be getting to them and encouraging of their English progress.
  • Social form is still very important in Japanese society. Respect for elders and superiors (both socially and professionally) is very important.
  • Being seen as polite is also very important. Your student may bow to others often.
  • Japan enjoys one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Help your student learn to stay aware of their belongings and surroundings while in Canada.
  • Gifts are a very big part of Japanese culture. Having a gift ready for your student when they arrive will really help get your relationship off on the right foot. You can anticipate that your student will buy a lot of gifts for their friends and family at home in the weeks before their departure.

For Further Reading:

  • Tim’s Takamatsu - A general website with great resources on Japanese language and culture. Written for westerners living in Japan, but useful for anyone interested in Japanese culture!
  • Everyculture: Japan - A good overview Japanese history & society today.
  • The Chrysanthemum and the Sword by Ruth Benedict, 1946.

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