A Japanese tourism board has called on foreign tourists to refrain from public “belching or flatulence” in an etiquette guide which was hastily rewritten, reportedly after complaints from a Chinese resident.
The Hokkaido Tourism Organization, which represents Japan’s northern-most island, published a downloadable brochure on its website, with polite instructions on everything from public bathing to using a Japanese toilet.
Helpfully, it even dedicated an entire section to protocol for avoiding bodily functions.
“Japanese etiquette is based on avoiding causing discomfort or nuisance to others,” the guide points out.
“Accordingly, Japanese will avoid bodily functions such as belching or flatulence in public entirely, or perform bodily functions as discreetly as possible.”
However, the Chinese-language guide — originally entitled “Common Sense When Travelling in Hokkaido” — upset a Chinese resident who angrily claimed the diagrams featuring examples of bad tourist behaviour were offensive, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported.
The complaint prompted a new, foreigner-friendly version with softer explanations of Japanese customs.
In the updated guide available in Chinese and English, gone are the large ‘X’-marks next to cartoon illustrations of tourists committing, from a Japanese perspective, embarrassing gaffes, such as putting used toilet paper into the waste bin — the general custom in China — instead of flushing it away.
According to The Japan Times newspaper, the original booklet was first published last August and was targeted at Chinese tourists, including a reminder not to open products before buying them when shopping, a habit also seen in China.
China has said it will monitor the behaviour of unruly tourists abroad and punish them on their return home after being shamed by a string of well-publicised incidents in recent years.
Research by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch found that more than 100 million Chinese tourists went abroad in 2014, spending some $164 billion.
But reports of disruptive behaviour have tarnished their reputation, such as passengers scalding a flight attendant with hot water and noodles or a holidaymaker fined in Thailand for washing her feet in the wash basin of a public toilet.
Media in Japan have carried a spate of reports of alleged uncouth behaviour by Chinese visitors, though some local commentators have urged understanding, recalling that the emergence five decades ago of Japanese tourists as a force in global travel was often met with complaints about their behaviour.
Around 85,000 copies of the Hokkaido tourist brochure have reportedly been printed in Chinese and English, to be distributed to hotels and tourist attractions across the island.