Although Japan is not much of a going-to-the-movies culture, you can still find hundreds of cinemas you can pop in for an international premiere, the latest anime movie, or even that new soapy J-drama you want to see on the big screen. However, there’s one thing you should be aware of – that movie theater etiquette is slightly different in Japan compared to the West. Here’s what you can expect to go through when going to see a movie in Japanese cinemas:
1. Tickets and seat numbers
First, you will have to purchase your tickets. You can either do that online, at the movie theater counter, or at a ticket vending machine (usually also inside the cinema.) Some extremely popular films can be sold out weeks in advance, especially if we’re talking about big Western titles, so you might want to pre-order your ticket in advance if you want to see the next Disney movie while in Japan.
Also, keep in mind that Japanese movie tickets have the seat number on them, and it would be best to just stick to it. Naturally, nobody is going to blame you for switching to another seat when the theater is half empty, but when it’s not, it’s best to keep to your seat number so that you don’t cause confusion.
Luckily, snacking and going to the movies go hand in hand in Japan as well. To the even greater joy of foreign visitors, Japanese cinemas also sell beer, besides the typical soda. Popcorn is a movie theater staple food in Japan – and you can come across some pretty unique flavors as well, such as soy sauce, curry, and shichimi (Japanese seven spice mix). However, portions are much smaller than in the West, both for snacks and drinks. Another big difference is that you’re supposed to take all your empty cups and bags and throw them in bins as you leave the screening room. Although that’s also the norm in most Western countries, you will still sometimes see people leaving their behind – but you’d better not do that in Japan.
3. General etiquette
Let’s talk some general movie theater etiquette. Japanese movie theaters are usually much quieter than Western ones – people tend to chat and laugh less, both before and during the screening. They also tend to keep silent during the end credits, because the lights are turned off until the very end of it. That may come across as a bit weird to us Westerners, but it’s best to just roll with it. You are supposed to turn off your phone, and not bother those around you in any way – be it taking up both elbow rests, kicking the seat in front of you, or laughing loudly. However, that is pretty much just common sense you should stick to everywhere in the world, not just in Japan.
Lastly, Japanese movie theaters usually sell movie merchandise, which is not very common in the West. Also, most of those items are movie theater exclusives, so might be worth getting them if you’re a huge fan or merch collector.
As you can see, going to the movies in Japan is not too different from doing it in the West. A good rule of thumb is sticking to some common sense rules – including sitting in the designated seat, turning off your phone, and not bothering others. Your reward? Delicious and unique snacks, a clean movie theater, and unique movie merchandise to take home!
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