Following numerous conversations with Japanese people, I could not help but notice they have an every different way of travelling and more particularly compared with Europeans. Naturally, everyone is familiar with the long hours they work and the very little time off they get. In Europe, we are entitled to 4 to 6 weeks a year depending on our employer, we take a long annual leave at least once or twice a year with some nationalities commonly taking an entire month off in the summer and we are thrilled to be off work during that time. In the meantime, the Japanese have an entirely different attitude towards a holiday.
The regular short trips:
First, Japanese people will in most cases take very short trips such as 2 to 3 days at a time. This is due to the fact they only get around 10 days off a year outside the other 16 public holidays. Furthermore, taking time off work is not well perceived as an employee’s commitment to the company is primordial. An other reason which explains why the Japanese are so reluctant to take a long holiday is usually out of guilt towards their colleagues as going away means handing over their workload to a team member. Indeed, although they might be excited about the idea of relaxing or going sightseeing, ultimately they do not feel light-hearted about it.
Linked to the excitement of a trip is the way people would talk about a vacation. Compared to Europeans who love to brag about their destination, in Japan it would be considered very bad-mannered. Discussing the details of a travel is considered very personal even if it is a standard family trip and it might also sound frustrating for others stuck in their routine during that time.
Overcoming the hassle of visiting remote places:
Japanese people can go to some very remote places to visit a specific spot. A good example are some famous flower fields such as the lavender fields in Furano outside Sapporo or the blue flowers in Ibaraki. They would not mind going on a 4 hour drive to see a place that takes little time to explore. I was also surprised by the number of Japanese who went to France and all they visited was the Mt Saint Michel which is quite remote from any big city. I have yet to meet a French who has set foot there.
The cliché about Japanese people is their eagerness to visit many countries or cities in one go when travelling abroad. That is once again explained by the limited time off they benefit from. It is true they tend to stick to the highlights while going country-hopping, but they can also cover one place in a few days and head back home right after that. It seems getting out of the beaten path and exploring less renown places is quite unusual although you can come upon the odd adventurous Japanese travelling alone.
The importance of finding Japanese speakers in their destination:
Some Japanese people could come across as a little fussy when selecting a holiday destination based on whether there are any Japanese speakers in the hotel they will be staying or the tour they will be taking. They tend to underestimate their English skills and fret about not being to understand or be understood and therefore opt for the convenience of people speaking their language. Many of my acquaintances will look for a hotel with receptionists or hire tour guides and skiing instructors that speak Japanese. This could be related to the language as in Japanese the responsibility of understanding a conversation lays on the listener’s shoulders rather than the speaker and therefore Japanese people feel that is their responsibility to understand their interlocutor more than it is the speaker’s role to try and be understood.
The return with omiyage:
Finally, after coming back from their trip Japanese customarily bring omiyage (souvenirs) to their colleagues which usually consists in a box of treats as well as individual souvenirs to family members or friends. That is why you often see these beautifully presented boxed of sweets each of them nicely wrapped. At first, it might be difficult to conceive why those are placed in individual wrappers as it seems quite troublesome and environmentally unfriendly, but it made sense once you grasp the purpose.