The Kansai Tourism Bureau released a fun video series on January 21, explaining the basics of Japanese culture to the ever-increasing number of tourists.
This Japanese Culture 101 installment covers Lesson 7 and Lesson 8.
Lesson 7: At The Convenience Store
Known in Japan as combini, convenience stores make your life a lot easier on many levels.
The ones in big cities are usually open 24 hours a day, seve days a week, and offer the basics — drinks, snacks, dinner bento boxes, and many more — if, for example, you are having a food craving at 3 A.M.
But they also offer an impressive quantity of services.
- Find an ATM that takes a foreign bank card?
- Buy tickets for a concert, an exhibition, or a day at Disneyland?
- Copy and scan documents?
- Pay bills?
- Pick up an Amazon delivery?
Do it at the combini.
You get the picture.
With everything small-sized to cater to the buy-on-your-way-home customer, it’s no wonder this ubiquitous institution is so popular with Japanese and tourists alike.
Service is also notably hospitable — visiting a combini is a Japanese tourism experience in and of itself!
Lesson 8: Going to the Public Bath
The concept of people bathing in public bathhouses is by no means unique to Japan. But, depending on the country, the customs can be slightly different, so it’s quite easy to feel intimidated.
Most people will happily explain things to you, but to save you a pantomime while trying to get shampoo out of your eye, here are a few simple rules.
You will figure this out pretty quickly, but as a rule public baths and spas will be gender-divided. There are no swimming suits allowed, so make sure you leave your bikini at home — you won’t need it. Instead, you get a cute little towel to use while you’re there.
A key thing (which is quite easy to forget) is to remember to rinse yourself off before going into the bath. Most places still have a broad tile floor with individual faucets along the side. Buckets to fill and drizzle over yourself are almost always nearby, though some modernized baths have shower handles to use. Shampoo and body soap are sometimes found along the ledge, so look for them if you need them.
You will be provided with a small towel, usually when entering the segregated sections of the bath. Most Japanese fold it and put it on their head, to be retrieved later to help dry off. If you use it to scrub yourself (a godsend really!), make sure you rinse it out at the tap, not in the communal water. The cute little lady next to you might be a bit cross if you do!
On your way out, if available, make sure you pick up a bottle of coffee-flavored milk — it’s beyond explanation, but there are few things as delicious after soaking in the warm water.
Click here for more information and to reach links to the rest of the series.
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