Every country has it's behavioral nuances. Japan, however (at least from a Westerner's point of view), has many. Before arriving to Japan, I took great care in researching the particular mannerisms unique to this country. I learned through guide books and culture shock etiquette information many of the distinct behavioral patterns so as not to embarass myself unpon entering a new society and workplace. Even through cafeful research, I was entirely unprepared for what awaited me as an alien working in Japan. I will gladly share some of these interesting and sometimes seemingly contradictory guidelines with you all so when you come to Japan you won't embarass yourselves either. Welcome to Japanese Etiquette 101.
1) ALWAYS slurp your noodles, soup, or other liquid items. It is considered a great compliment to the chef. Fortunately, this rule also applies to all times of the day and night, all restaurants and situations. The louder the slurp, the more polite.
2) a) Remove your shoes before entering someone else's house. Remove your shoes in Japanese restaurants. Remove your shoes before entering the classroom. When in doubt, remove your shoes.
2) b) Once shoes are removed, kindly put on house slippers. When entering the toliet area, remove house slippers and put on the appropriate toilet slippers. Never use the toilet slippers in other parts of the house. When entering the tatami mat area of the Japanese house, remove slippers entirely and use socks. (never wear socks with holes, as this is can lead to major embarassment).
3) NEVER blow your nose in public. NEVER sneeze in public. This is very very rude.
4) You must suck the snot back into the nose/mouth so as not to embarass yourself when you have hay-fever or a cold (see rule 3). The louder and more frequent the snorting and sniffing, the better.
5) Always sleep on the train so as to avoid eye contact with other passengers. Eye contact is a scary thing, so do this even if you are not at all sleepy.
6) It is OK to run into pedestrians while riding your bike. Actually, this is preferable to being late to work, so if you're in a hurry, go for it.
7) If you are a drunken man, you may pee in the street. You may also pee by a bush or in any city corner, even if you are in full view of other strangers. A respectable woman, however, would never consider this outlandish act, so forget it ladies.
Alright, this concludes our Japanese Etiquette 101 online course. I hope you found this interesting and useful. Please remain attentive for follow-up material. More to come...