GET READY FOR JA­PAN

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS -

TIME truly has flown. Ex­actly one year from to­day, Wales take on Ge­or­gia in their first game of the ninth Rugby World Cup in Ja­pan. And when they open their cam­paign, there will be thou­sands of fans in the stand as they fol­low War­ren Gat­land’s men from Tokyo to Ku­mamoto City, with a few stops in be­tween.

While the rugby venues and fan zones may pro­vide a sense of fa­mil­iar­ity, on the whole Ja­pan will present an ex­pe­ri­ence un­like any which trav­el­ling fans have en­coun­tered be­fore.

It’s a beau­ti­ful and wel­com­ing na­tion. But its cul­ture is very dif­fer­ent from ours, the lan­guage can add to the con­fu­sion, and the sheer vol­ume of peo­ple can be dis­ori­en­tat­ing.

There are a few sim­ple things that you should know be­fore head­ing out next year in or­der to avoid run­ning into trou­ble or un­wit­tingly caus­ing of­fence. TAK­ING OFF YOUR SHOES One of the most fre­quent dif­fer­ences be­tween the cul­tures that I en­coun­tered re­volved around a fairly reg­u­lar re­quire­ment to re­move my shoes.

Don’t be of­fended if you are asked to re­move your footwear, it’s very com­mon.

At some palaces and cas­tles it is a re­quire­ment as you en­ter. There are said to be many rea­sons for this, in­clud­ing re­spect and to pre­vent mark­ing the build­ings and keep them in a good con­di­tion.

At authen­tic Ja­panese restau­rants, there will be a rack by the door for you to leave your footwear be­fore you move through to your ta­ble, which may of­ten be built into the floor.

Just make sure you don’t have holes in your socks and are wear­ing match­ing ones!

In some places, toi­let slip­pers will be pro­vided for you to change out of your out­door shoes be­fore en­ter­ing the loo. This is for hy­giene rea­sons and helps pre­vent the trans­fer of dirt or bac­te­ria. DIF­FER­ENT CHAR­AC­TERS The peo­ple of Ja­pan are in­cred­i­bly wel­com­ing and help­ful but they are, on the whole, far more mild-man­nered and re­served than those of us from the UK.

Loud, bois­ter­ous be­hav­iour is not as com­mon or ac­cept­able in pub­lic places.

This might be some­thing to keep in mind when leav­ing bars or fan zones af­ter a few sakis! TAT­TOOS In Ja­pan, tat­toos hold his­tor­i­cal links with or­gan­ised crime groups like the Yakuza.

As such, if you have vis­i­ble tat­toos, you may be re­fused en­try to swim- ming pools, hot springs, beaches and some gyms.

In fact, when Scot­land played in Ja­pan in 2016, their play­ers had to get up at the crack of dawn if they wished to use the pool be­fore it opened to mem­bers of the pub­lic.

Cover­ing them up may suf­fice, and at­ti­tudes to­wards tat­toos are be­ing re­laxed, par­tic­u­larly if you are clearly a for­eigner. BE­ING PO­LITE AT THE TA­BLE Drinks and meals are usu­ally paid for af­ter you’ve fin­ished, and tip­ping is not nec­es­sary.

One thing I no­ticed is that if you fin­ish your plate or your drink, it’s taken as a sign that you are not full or that you are still thirsty and more food and drink may ap­pear!

Slurp­ing your noo­dles in Ja­pan is not frowned upon or dis­missed as rude, it is per­fectly ac­cept­able. Some say it’s a sign that you’re en­joy­ing your food – and it fits in with their pace of life.

You may bring small bowls of soup to your lips and drink it from the bowl.

I’d rec­om­mend learn­ing how to use chop­sticks be­fore you go. Most places will cater for you and pro­vide a knife and fork if you can’t use them, but, per­son­ally, I felt a lit­tle em­bar­rassed that I strug­gled with them.

How­ever, never stick your chop­sticks into your bowl of rice un­der any cir­cum­stances. This is con­sid­ered very rude. BE­HAV­IOUR AT PALACES AND CAS­TLES Ja­pan is a coun­try that fiercely cel­e­brates its his­tory and cul­ture, which is the rea­son they are very in­tent on pre­serv­ing the re­main­ing cas­tles and palaces.

Nagoya Cas­tle – near where Wales face Ge­or­gia – will be closed dur­ing the World Cup as it is be­ing re­built. The cas­tle is a na­tional trea­sure but was flat­tened by US air raids in 1945, then re­built out of con­crete. It is now be­ing re­built out of wood, us­ing the same tech­niques that were used dur­ing its orig­i­nal con­struc­tion in the 17th cen­tury. off to walk around the cas­tle and take ex­tra care on the stairs be­cause they’re in­cred­i­ble steep. This is be­cause it was eas­ier for the Sa­mu­rai to throw their en­emy down them.

Back in the city of Nagoya – Ja­pan’s fourth most pop­u­lated city – you can find Nagoya Cas­tle.

Dur­ing World War II, the cas­tle and the Hon­maru Palace, that’s housed within its grounds, were com­pletely de­stroyed by air raids.

The cas­tle was re­built out of con­crete, but will be closed dur­ing the Rugby World Cup be­cause the mayor of Nagoya has or­dered that it be com­pletely re­con­structed.

Though vis­i­tors next Septem­ber will still be able to take a look

Nagoya Cas­tle in Ja­pan is a na­tional trea­sure, and is cur­rently be­ing re­built

Rugby World Cup 2019 brand­ing on dis­play out­side the train sta­tion in Toy­ota City

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