Good etiquette is all about understanding other cultures, but it’s difficult to develop cultural awareness when travel is restricted. To help make the right impression when you finally reach Japan, take a crash-course on the country’s culture from the comfort of your own laptop
Watch the cherry blossom bloom
Spring is the prettiest time of year in Tokyo as cherry blossoms, or sakura, turn pockets of the city a beautiful shade of blushing pink. The ongoing pandemic has meant that hanami (flower-viewing parties) are going virtual, meaning anyone can join in. Instead of hosting one of Tokyo’s largest cherry blossom festivals, the banks of Chidorigafuchi Moat are instead being live streamed on YouTube. If you want to really steep yourself in the season, Weather News has compiled a list of the best videos of previous bloomings, including virtual reality options so immersive you can almost smell the pollen.
Learn to speak ‘crazy Japanese’
Learning Japanese is an intimidating undertaking that involves three different alphabets, a mix of formal and casual grammar rules, and a mastery of pitch levels that would flummox Mariah Carey. To help make learning fun, Fuji Television has released ‘Mind Blowing Tips! Crazy Japanese Lessons’, a free series of two-minute videos each featuring a new ‘crazy’ phrase that can be used in everyday conversation. Hosted by comedian Nobuyuki Tsuchiya, the lessons cover everything from insults to expressing your heart’s desires, and are so laugh-out-loud funny, you’ll forget that you’re improving your language skills along the way.
Become a master chef
Bentoya Cooking, is an English-language Japanese cooking school in Tokyo that has temporarily moved online via Zoom, meaning you can join in from anywhere in the world. Students learn to master a range of Japanese staples including soy sauce ramen, rolled sushi, bento boxes, and okonomiyaki – but with a twist: all of the recipes are vegan. Private classes cost ¥4,400, which include a 90-minute lesson and a recipe to help you re-create the meal yourself. Profits are donated to a Japanese organization supporting orphaned children and families with financial difficulties, making Bentoya’s dishes the ultimate comfort food.
If you want to do serious business in Japan, you’ll need to understand what makes the country’s companies tick
Master Japanese business
If you want to do serious business in Japan, you’ll need to understand what makes the country’s companies tick. Online learning company edX’s business leadership course will do just that. Under the careful instruction of Professor Jusuke J.J. Ikegami from Waseda University, you’ll learn about some of the biggest and most enduring Japanese brands, such as Toyota and Softbank, as well as their management styles, business strategies, and performance over the past few decades. All from your executive seat on the couch.
Take a virtual tour of a museum
Just because you aren’t able to travel to Japan doesn’t mean you can’t visit some of its greatest museums and art galleries. Some of the country’s cultural institutions have teamed up with Google to put their exhibits online. You can take a virtual saunter through the 150-year-old Tokyo National Museum, the excellent Yamatane Museum of Art or the quirky Sand Museum and its impressive collection of sand sculptures. All will leave you desperate to book a ticket and make your way to the country as soon as conditions allow.