How to eat in a Japanese restaurant

How to eat in a Japanese restaurant

How to eat in a Japanese restaurant and not offend anybody

We all know that Japan is a country that takes manners, politeness and courtesy very seriously. Though visitors are expected to make the occasional faux pas, breaking the rules of civility frequently is very bad form. If you are in Japan on business, this becomes even more of an issue as so much will depend on your ability to build a strong, respectful relationship with the people you meet.

One potential minefield for the green gaijin is the dinner table. Ensuring you behave yourself correctly when the time comes to eat could be the difference between an unpleasant atmosphere and a successful trip. Here are the essential dos and don'ts for not making a fool of yourself in a Japanese restaurant.

If you want to really show that you know how to behave yourself in Japan, then put your palms together and say "Itadakimasu" at the beginning of the meal. This simple gesture will show your hosts that you respect and appreciate their hospitality. When the meal is over, put your palms together again and say "Gochiso sama deshita."

One of the main reasons that so many Westerners have trouble with chopsticks is that they use them incorrectly. If you are served food such as rice in or noodles in a small bowl or on a small plate, lift it from the table closer to your mouth. You will find the sticks easier to use from this position. For large dishes, however, leave them on the table. If you still can't hack it, just ask for a knife and fork – nobody will be offended and you'll enjoy your meal better.

On the subject of chopsticks, it is considered extremely rude to point at anything – be it a person or an inanimate object – with your sticks.

There are certain bodily functions that the Japanese believe should be kept private. Blowing your nose and burping are absolute no-nos in any public space but are considered particularly rude when others are eating. Also, if you need to use a toothpick, make sure you keep your mouth covered at all times – nobody wants to see your teeth being cleaned.

When booze is on the menu, be careful not to seem too eager to get stuck in. Ensure everybody's glass has been filled before you put yours to your lips. Chances are there will be a toast before the table drinks. "Kampai" is the word for cheers in Japan. You can say "Cheers" if you prefer but, under no circumstances, say "Chin-Chin". It has a very different meaning in Japan than it does in the west and, trust us, it's not something you want to bring up at a business meeting.

If you finish what's in your glass, it will be taken as a sign that you are finished drinking for the meal. If you want a refill, leave a small amount and somebody will refresh it for you.

When it's time for sushi, be careful with the soy sauce. Never pour it directly on your sashimi, instead pouring it into the small dish provided and then dipping your fish into it. Do not pour more than you intend to use – the Japanese hate wasteful eating habits.

A night of karaoke in Tokyo

A night of karaoke in Tokyo

Everybody knows how popular karaoke bars are in Japan so, if you are looking for a good night out in Tokyo it is well worth stopping into one. Thought, traditionally, the locals like to book private rooms where only their friends can watch them sing their favourite hits while their own waiter delivers refreshments, there are also some wilder, western-style joints available for those that want to strut their stuff on stage.

Chief amongst them is Smash Hits on Hiroo Shotengai. Here the, often very drunk, audience sits in stadium style seating around the singers, while they belt out their favourite tunes to rapturous applause. The catalogue of songs on offer is very much well known and English and it is very popular with both ex-pats and locals alike.

Another popular variation on traditional karaoke in Tokyo is offered at Gigabar in Minami-Aoyama, where you can get on stage with a live backing band to rock out a classic number. You don't have to be the front man either, as they'll let you play guitar, bass or drums too. If you're worried about a live band limiting the choices, don't be. These guys can knock out note perfect renditions of over 200 well-known tunes, including hits by Led Zeppelin, The Stones, The Beatles and more. As you can imagine, it's very much geared towards rock, so if you're the long hair and leather trouser type you'll be in heaven.

Jan Ken Pon is another venue that mixes live music with karaoke. Nestled in the heart of the busy Ebisu neighbourhood, it features an excellent cover band whose sets are interspersed with performances by the clientele. We recommend getting there in the late evening, as it sometimes takes a while to get going.

If you fancy a step into a uniquely Japanese world, then Lovenet in Roppongi could be what you are after. Like the traditional bars, customers get to choose their own private room in which to sing and drink, though these rooms are quite unlike anything you'll find elsewhere. For example, in the Aqua Suite you and your party get to sing from the comfort of your very own Jacuzzi. In the Heaven Suite, you'll find a hypnotic room with crystals beneath the glass floor. This all comes at a serious cost, however – it's about 220 pounds for the hot tub room, and that's one of the cheaper options.

Of course, you could always just go for the more traditional, laid back and, generally, less expensive option and drop into an old-school private booth bar. The most famous is probably Shindax, which is notably more comfortable, larger and more inviting than the average karaoke spot. You can get a suite for up to 40 people and the pricing is pretty competitive.

One last tip for movie fans: if you fell in love with Tokyo after watching Sofia Coppolla's Lost in Translation and fancy recreating some of its most famous scenes, then you'll want to take a trip to Karaoke Kan on Udagawa-cho. It's the bar in which Bill Murray performed More Than This in the movie.

Fuji Rock Festival

Fuji Rock Festival

Dancing neon lights sway to the beat of legendary tunes as an explosion of music drive hurdles of supergroupies, hippies and hedonists into a frenzy in the in the loudest, largest, craziest and most iconic music festival in Japan - Fuji Rock Festival.

Set in a mystifying location in the mountains of Naeba, to get some stages in the Fuji Rock Festival you have to trek through the forest or take a gondola. No wonder the event attracts all sorts of festival-goers, ranging from hardcore rock fans to ecstasy-addicts, festival enthusiasts and nature lovers.

The latter will specially enjoy the opportunities to exercise among the hillsides via atmospheric boardwalks through the forest, past sparkling streams, villages or hammocks and organic food stalls. An hour's walk from the site entrance, you'll come across the hippy hangout "Stoned Circle" where you can play ramshackle instruments and drums. Get on the Dragondola - the longest gondola lift in the world - as it takes you to the top of the mountain which overlooks the festival site.

The centre of the site is called Oasis, where you'll be able to choose from over 30 stalls offering food from around the world. Even though the main site closes each night after the final act, Oasis remains open until late at night, as well as the Red Marquee where you can join a rave till dawn.

The party starts the day before the official festival featuring bon-odori - traditional Japanese folk dance), prize draws, food stalls and a fireworks display. There are seven main stages and other minor stages scattered throughout the site. The main stage - Green stage - has a capacity for almost 50,000 spectators.

This four-day music festival is organised by Smash Japan and features more than 200 Japanese and international musicians. Every summer the event attracts up to a hundred thousands to the festival grounds and has a year-on-year crackling lineup.

Some of the headliners and performers have been The Stone Roses, Radiohead, Heady Eye, Elvis Costello and The Imposters, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Tokyo Ska Paradise, The Faces, The Chemical Brothers, The Faces, Muse, Vampire Weekend, Jamie Cullum, Oasis, Franz Ferdinand, Paul Weller, Weezer, Kiyoshiro Imawano Special Message Orchestra, among others.

If you want to stay at a hotel, it is recommend to book one a year ahead. Otherwise, make sure you bring a distinctive tent and enjoy the unique camping experience. If you feel like relaxing watching a movie, there's an outdoor cinema by the river - now picture how wonderful it is to watch a film in that setting. Don't miss out on the opportunity to have udon noodles for breakfast.

Where to Shop in Tokyo

Where to Shop in Tokyo

Tokyo is the place to go on a shopping spree. With the latest trendiest fashion, traditional handicrafts, branded goods, cutting edge electronics, and colouful anime, shopping in Japan is more than a necessity... It's an obsession. Therefore, surrounded by endless variety of world-class goods and accompanied by your credit card, it's not hard to fall into temptation while shopping in Tokyo.

Tokyo is famous for its department stores, some of which have been open for centuries. These department stores connect massive shopping malls and are extremely convenient for shoppers as they can find everything they are looking for under one roof. Some of these complexes compass 10 floors.

These outlets deal anything from modern merchandise to traditional goods such as cotton kimonos, iron teapots, ceramics, samurai swords and lacquerware. It's no surprise Japan is the best place to look for Manga, but to be more specific, the shops to look for them are in Shibuya and Akihabara.

The best place to buy branded clothing is Ginza shopping area, a fancy area characterised for high end stores, boutiques and cafes. From block to block, you'll find well-established Japanese shops and famous brand names like Gucci, Chanel, Armani, Louis Vuitton, among others.

Numerous fashion labels have appointed their own personal restaurants in Ginza. After a day of shopping in this fancy area, you can treat yourself to a gourmet delicacy from Gucci Café or the Armani restaurant. Some of the onsite attractions include a beer garden during summer and a play area for children.

Alternatively, browse through Harajuku's high fashion boutiques and branded shops to find pop culture and new, trendy styles.

Tokyo is the capital of shopping choices and Omotesando Hills is the proof of that. Here you'll find about 100 exclusive and famous brand shops; for instance "Anniversaire Omotesando" which is popular for its limited-edition champagne and chocolate, as well as Prada, Louis Vuitton and Dior boutiques. If you don't plan on buying anything, at least you can take delight in the majestic architecture of this hip boutiques.

As Roppongi is surrounded by numerous embassies, there are many shops, bars and restaurants distinguished for its international flavour and cater to people from other countries. The area has both aspects as an office town and an entertainment centre with its new shopping centre - Roppongi Hills. One of Japan's newest commercial developments, Roppongi Hills has over 200 shops and restaurants making it the ideal place to spend the day exploring local Japanese culture.

With its train station handling the largest number of passengers in the world, Shinjuku is one of the busiest towns in Japan and as such, it's filled with customers wandering from department stores, electrical appliance megastores and huge book stores. Browse through the dozens of shops in the underground mall to find an unexpected deal. In the Kabuki-cho bright lights district, buzzing with restaurants, adult entertainment spots, arcades and theatres.

A great place to shop for youngsters is Shibuya - one of Japan's busiest towns. There are numerous miscellaneous goods shops, clothing boutiques, shoe stores, accessory and cosmetics shops and fast food stores.