Unlike most other countries in the world, Japan is ruled by an unspoken set of etiquette rules. The intricacies of the etiquette rules can be a little daunting for someone who’s visiting there for the first time. 


Don’t worry! One of the best parts of traveling in Japan is that people there are extremely polite and don’t expect you to know all their rules. 


However, having a basic understanding of the rules and cultures is essential before visiting a new country, and Japan is no exception.


This article looks into some of the etiquette tips you must know before going to Japan.

Etiquette Tips for Traveling Japan


You won’t be penalized for making any etiquette mistake, as long as you are polite and respectful to them. However, knowing the rules and traditions will help you fit right in when you’re there.


Here are some of the tips that will help you have an amazing trip to Japan.

Remove Your Shoes


While visiting Japan, always remember to take off your shoes indoors, especially before entering someone’s house or in a tatami room. 


However, don’t worry about getting your socks dirty as most houses will offer you extra slippers that you can wear inside. 


Not every place will require you to remove your shoes. However, if you see a mat next to the door with a line of shoes, that will be your social clue . 

Handle Your Chopsticks Appropriately


Even if you’re a chopstick expert, you can end up making a mistake if you don’t know some Japanese etiquettes. For example, sticking your chopstick into a bowl of rice is quite disrespectful since it’s reminiscent of a funeral rite.


Also, don’t point your chopstick to another person, instead wave them in the air. If you want to pass some food to the person next to you, then use the back end and place it in a dish.

Don’t Forget to Bow


Bowing is a well-known tradition in Japan and many travelers know about it.

However, if you’re used to shaking hands, things might get a bit difficult for you at the beginning.


While it’s a custom to bow when greeting someone out of respect, most Japanese are now accustomed to shaking hands when meeting foreigners. However, following their etiquette will definitely help you leave a great impression of you..

No Need to Tip


If you have always struggled to tip while visiting a foreign country before, you will be happy to know that tipping isn’t common practice in Japan. 


Restaurants and bars in Japan will provide exceptional service and will seem to go out of the way to please you, yet they expect no tip at all. In fact, insisting on tipping might even be turned down. 

Let The Host Fill Your Glass


Don’t forget the alcohol etiquette when you’re visiting someone’s house in Japan. While dining with them, always let them fill your glass. Filling it yourself may imply that your hosts are impolite and not welcoming.


When they are pouring the drink to your glass, raise it a little off the table to show your gratitude. 

Don’t Waste Food


If you’re invited to a Japanese house, remember not to waste food or be picky while eating. They consider this type of behavior as extremely disrespectful to the host and the farmers who cultivate the food for you.


Also, try to taste a little from each dish since it will make your host happy.

Bring Food as a Gift


When in Japan, you will notice that the airports and train stations are packed with food shops and gift shops. There is a reason for that.


It’s a tradition in Japan to gift someone food. So, if you’re planning to buy a gift for someone who lives there, go for some flavored snacks or their favorite food instead of trinkets or magnets.

Learn About Their Taxi Doors


If you have a bad habit of slamming the car door, it’s time you got rid of that habit before you hop on that plane to Japan. Japan is highly advanced in technology and don’t be surprised if you see the taxi door open automatically.


So, be patient and wait for the door to automatically open for you. Even if you hail a taxi with a low-tech lever system, the driver will manually open and close it for you. So, don’t slam it and scare them.

Business Card Etiquette


If you’re in Japan for a business purpose, don’t forget to carry your business card and present it to your new acquaintance before the meeting starts.


When receiving, always hold the cards with both hands. Always keep them in a business card holder or place it on the table with the face-up. 


It’s okay to ask them if you don’t understand how to pronounce someone’s name, but don’t write it on the card they give you in front of them.

Don’t Eat While Walking


While it’s quite normal to walk and eat in our grab and go western cultures, that practice is socially unacceptable  in Japan. You will see most people are eating or drinking while standing in the vending machine or carrying them in a secure bag to eat later


While you will be allowed to eat certain foods during the festivals, it’s better to find a secure place and finish your meal and not walk while you eat.

Giving Up Your Seat in Public Transportation


When you’re using public transport in Japan, don’t forget to give up your seat for those in need, such as a disabled, elderly person, or a pregnant lady. Don’t use the seats reserved for them.


You may have some difficulties understanding who’s pregnant as most Japanese women stay quite slim during their pregnancy. You will be able to identify them with the pink tags they must carry.

Know The Etiquette When Bathing in The Hot Spring


It’s highly recommended that you try bathing in their Onsen or hot spring while in Japan. However, things can be pretty intimidating if you’re not familiar with it.


First of all, you have to bath in the nude as swimsuits are not allowed in the traditional onsen. You need to go to the change room to change and  take a shower before you reach the baths.

Final Thoughts


Visiting a new country will always give you some new experiences, both good and bad. You will be able to learn about their traditions, culture, taste delicious foods, and explore much more.


However, knowing a little bit about that particular country before you go will help you to adapt to a new environment, particularly in a country like Japan where the traditions and culture are incredibly unique.


Always try to maintain these etiquettes while traveling in Japan. It will not only help you to mingle with the Japanese people, but you will also gain their admiration and respect.


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