I once saw an interesting thread on Japan’s ubiquitous BBS 2ch entitled, “Things Japanese people do abroad that mark them as Japanese,” and I thought I’d talk about this topic. The list included things like, being extremely detailed about giving exact change or stressing about leaving an accurate 15% tip, or waiting quietly for the rear door of a taxi to open automatically for you. (Taxis in Japan have a hydraulic lever that allows the door to open automatically.) Back in my university days you could go assume that a person wearing highly evolved fashions with Engrish phrases like “I feel happiness when I eat a potato” was Japanese, but the fashion landscape has changed a lot since the 80s, and most really strange English comes from China these days. Of course the body language of Japanese people is somewhat unique, from indicating “me?” by pointing at the nose instead of the chest, or making that ubiquitous “peace” sign (though that’s become quite accepted all around Asia by now). Another way to tell Japanese people from other Asians is to listen to their speech. Japanese is (thankfully) not a tonal language language at all, unlike Mandarin or Cantonese (which have 4-9 different ways to pitch a given syllable). If the speech sounds “flat” to your ear then it might be Japanese.
There are some interesting things Japanese tourists do when travelling.