27 Sep 2019

Rugby World Cup: How to be a good tourist

3:25 pm on 27 September 2019

Welcome to RNZ's how-to guide on what to do and what to avoid as a Rugby World Cup fan in Japan.

Shibuya crossing, Tokyo.

Shibuya crossing, Tokyo. Photo: Joe Porter RNZ


It's considered rude to ask for a fork when eating out in Japan. Learn how to use chopsticks, properly (don't stab bits of food, or stick them up in rice).

It's not hard (my 3-year-old can do it) and there are plenty of youtube tutorials. You don't have to be a master of the art, a little effort will be greatly appreciated.


When entering some restaurants (sushi houses for one) and people's homes and anywhere you might find yourself stepping into a traditional room or onto a tatami mat (rice straw mats that Japanese have traditonally used on their floors), you must take your shoes off. Check your socks for holes.


Keep your head and neck straight and bend from the hips.

Bow when meeting and greeting people, thanking someone or saying sorry.

Talking on the phone on public transport is considered rude and is discouraged.

Talking on the phone on public transport is considered rude and is discouraged. Photo: Joe Porter RNZ

Don't eat while walking

Eating 'on the run' or while walking/travelling is considered rude in Japan, and you'll notice sideways glances if you do.

Drinking isn't considered quite so rude, but is also best to avoid if possible. The supermarkets or mini marts all have seating areas to eat.

Slurp those noodles!

While burping is considered rude, the louder you slurp your noodles is a compliment to the chef in Japan.

Don't talk on your phone on public transport

There are signs everywhere telling you not to use your phone for a conversation in almost every train or subway car.

It's a big no-no to make or accept calls on public transport. No loud music or loud talking either.

There are even signs asking people listening to music through headphones to make sure the volume isn't too loud and 'leaking out' to nearby passengers.

The Japanese are some of the kindest and most helpful people you could meet, especially to lost looking visitors.

The Japanese are some of the kindest and most helpful people you could meet, especially to lost looking visitors. Photo: Joe Porter RNZ

Blowing your nose

It's considered rude to blow your nose in public. In contrast to NZ, sniffing is the preferred option in Japan as it's seen as less crude (sniffing everywhere on trains!).

You can wipe your nose discreetly with a tissue if it runs, but blowing it is to be avoided if possible. Use a toilet or bathroom to do it if you have to.


Obeying the rules is very important in Japan, and no one really crosses the road without having a 'green flashing man' or light to tell them to do so.

Everyone waits patiently on street corners, even when there's no traffic nearby. If people see someone start to walk, it might set the whole crowd off as people trust others not to jaywalk.

Rubbish bins

There are hardly any bins in public or on the streets, but Japan is relatively litter free. People tend to hold onto their rubbish in Japan and dispose of it later.

As it's rude to eat, drink and smoke on the go, there isn't such a need for bins.


Japan (surprising given they're leaders in technology) is still a very cash based society.

You can never be quite sure if a credit card will be accepted, even in bars and restaurants.

Taxi's often only take cash, especially outside of Tokyo or the major cities.

Japan is a safe country and wallets are more often than not returned with cash still inside, so don't feel nervous about carrying some cash wherever you go.


Japanese bars or "izakaya" are typically small, holding 20 people at most, serving alcohol and Japanese 'tapas' type food, often "teppanyaki" or "yakitori".

While this provides a wonderfully intimate experience, there's concerns over how the eateries and bars will deal with groups of 20 World Cup fans descending on them at once.

As it's legal to drink in public in Japan, it might be common to see groups of WC fans drinking in a park or on street benches.

There are also vending machines with booze on almost every street corner.

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