Being yourself is key at a Nagomi Visit. The host has already read about you through the request you sent, and excited to meet you so there is actually nothing to worry about. Just figure out how to get to your host’s place using Google Maps, or your hosts can definitely help. Make sure to get there on time and be hungry.
However, since this may be your first time going to a Japanese home, you might be a little bit nervous being out of your element so here are a few tips to prepare yourself for your big day.
1. Contact your host before the Nagomi Visit
Email or use your messaging app to contact your host before the Nagomi Visit. Getting to know your host before meeting always makes the Nagomi Visit experience more meaningful for everyone. Check in with them to figure out directions but also, don’t forget to simply share how excited you are to meet them. Communication is key to an enjoyable Nagomi Visit
When preparing an emergency contact
Inform yourself of free wifi services available all across Japan. Buy a sim card for your phone in case there is no wifi available nearby. You can also rent phones or wifi routers at the airport. Make sure you provide the host with an emergency contact number or messaging app account that goes directly to you and not your travel agent.
2. Come hungry
Though the hosts are not put under pressure to cook any more than what they can manage during their busy schedules, many are very eager to go the extra mile so you will be able to get a full experience. So make sure to come hungry not only so you won’t miss out on all the delicious food but as a host, a clean plate is just always nice to see.
3. Be on time
Remember that punctuality is important. Unless a host recommends otherwise, take the train instead of buses or taxis when meeting your host since trains are almost always on time. Keep in mind that trains depart and arrive exactly on the minute their schedules promise, so if your host recommends you get on the train that departs at 17:23 it will most likely depart exactly at that time so make sure to arrive before that so you can get on that train.
4. Say hajimemashite! (hah-gee-may-mah-she-tay) with a smile when you meet your host at the station
It means “nice to meet you” and is a greeting used when you meet someone for the first time. Saying a greeting in Japanese might help to break the ice. Don’t worry if you pronounce the phrase incorrectly, it’s the thought that counts.
5. Refer to the host profile to strike a conversation
The walk from the station to your host’s home is your first opportunity to talk with your host. This might be a good time to refer to the host’s profile to strike a conversation so make sure to read the “Your Nagomi Visit booking is complete!” email you got from us before the Nagomi Visit.
6. Practice the art of taking off your shoes
You may already take off your shoes at the front door in your own home but give the Japanese-way a try. When you enter your host’s home, you may notice that the room’s floor level is higher than the entrance level. The trick is to try your best to place your feet on the floor level right after you take your shoes instead of the entrance level. It might be hard to balance yourself so placing your bags on the floor level before taking off your shoes will help. If your host happens to have slippers prepared, then slip them on. Some travel guides talk about bare feet not being acceptable unless you are a close friend but don’t worry too much about these sorts of details as you are hopefully going to become good friends with your host. What is important is to enter your host’s home with respect and clean feet!
7. Ask if your host needs help
Some hosts might feel it’s rude to have you help as you are their guest, but if you are interested in seeing how they are preparing the food, just ask and most likely your host will be delighted to share.
8. Bring some props to foster conversation
A few digital photos of your hometown, work, hobbies, or local cuisine will make for great conversation. Remember that the host really wants to get to know you so don’t be shy about sharing because that is what a Nagomi Visit is all about.
9. Say itadakimasu before you start eating
Before you start eating, your host will most likely signal you to say in unison, itadakimasu (ee-tah-dah-key-mahss) which means “thank you for the food.”
10. Remember a few rules of etiquette while eating
There is no specific order to eatUnless you are eating a full course meal at a restaurant, most of the time there is no specific order in which you need to eat your food. Yes sometimes it might be better to try more flavorful or fattier foods last but this has more to do with keeping your taste buds sensitive to the distinct flavors than etiquette. Another example might be when you are making food at the table which happens a lot in Japanese cuisine, like hot pot for instance. The order in which you put the various ingredients has more to do with starting with the ones that take more time to cook. However, the one exception is the shime or finish. Rice or noodles always usually goes in last in the remaining broth so you can fully enjoy the amazing bowl of umami flavor.
Pick up your bowl to eat
If your host has prepared rice and miso soup, remember to try and pick those bowls up with one hand and eat with your chopsticks in the other hand. Sipping is okay when it comes to miso soup but when eating rice, use the chopsticks to bring the rice towards your mouth. Don’t worry too much because the rice will be sticky enough for this to be surprisingly easy. Don’t pick up the other plates or bowls.
A lot of guides say not to take food from the communal plate with your own chopsticks but this actually depends on the host so just ask. You can also tell if they have serving utensils already prepared. If you want to try an advance way, then flip your chopsticks around and try using the top end to pick up the food from the communal plates.
Yes you may have read somewhere to not pass food from chopstick to chopstick, and to not stick your chopsticks upright in your bowl of rice, but don’t get too stressed out with all the rules. Just Hungry has a great post about the details so if you want to learn more, read through everything before your Nagomi Visit. Just remember, the visit itself is a time of learning too so the host won’t be offended if you make any mistakes. Just do your best.
11.Slip in this one Japanese word while eating
Just remember, oishii (oy-she)! If you think something is delicious, just say it.
12. Say gochiso-sama deshita once everyone has finished eating
When you see that everyone is full and has stopped eating, saying gochiso-sama deshita (goh-chee-soh-sah-mah-day-shee-tah) and for the advanced, adding a oishi katta desu to express how delicious the food was will make your host smile!
13. Gifts are of course great but not a requirement
You probably read somewhere that gift-giving is essential in Japanese culture, and although some of that is true, remember, on a Nagomi Visit, none of our hosts expect you to give them gifts. They are excited to meet you, so your stories and photos are already a gift.
However, if you want to bring a gift, any snacks from your hometown, or you may think of something your host might like after reading their profile.
You may have heard of specific rules of etiquette, such as not bringing any chrysanthemum flowers since they are only for funerals; it is the thought that counts, so don't worry so much about offending your host.
14. Don’t hesitate to ask questions
Your Nagomi Visit is your chance to ask questions. Jot down all your observations or questions if you know you will forget. They may not know the answer but it will always be a good conversation starter and you both might learn something from the experience.
15. Have fun
This one is a no-brainer but wanted to remind you just in case. Yes, etiquette is always good but coming to the Nagomi Visit ready to communicate, listen, and share is probably more important so get ready and have fun!
If you ever have any questions or concerns feel free to contact your host or the Nagomi Visit team anytime!