When visiting Japan, it is crucial to respect local customs and etiquette, which may differ greatly from other cultures. Violating these cultural norms could cause embarrassment or offense.
In this article, we will discuss ten things NOT to do while in Japan to ensure you have a respectful and enjoyable visit.
🚫🥢 Chopstick Etiquette in Japan
Mastering chopsticks is important—don’t point them at people, leave them sticking up in rice, or cross them, as these gestures have negative meanings. Instead, hold one stick like a pencil and the other stationary, keep chopstick tips even, and practice picking up food. Start by grabbing food between the chopstick tips before trying more advanced techniques.
🚫💵 Cash Etiquette in Japan
Don’t hand cash directly to cashiers. Place money neatly on the provided tray to avoid germ transfer and show care through tidy bills, as wrinkled money implies laziness. Bring exact change when possible as the Japanese value precision. Carry a coin purse and neatly folded bills to facilitate transactions.
🚫📢 Mind Your Volume: Train Etiquette in Japan
Don’t talk loudly on trains. Overcrowded trains demand muted voices to maintain peaceful spaces. Look to locals for cues on proper public behavior. If you must take a call, keep it brief and quiet or consider waiting until you exit the train.
🚫💰 Respectful Dining in Japan: The Taboo of Tipping
Don’t tip at restaurants. Hospitality is freely given in Japan without expectation of reward, so tipping undervalues service and insults staff pride and dignity. Say “thank you” and compliment excellent service instead. If you wish to gift something, small souvenirs like pens or chocolates are acceptable.
🍶👥 Respecting Japanese Drinking Culture: Dos and Don’ts
Don’t pour your own drink first. When drinking socially, pour for others first to display humility and gratitude. Leave drinks slightly full to avoid overconsumption. Sip slowly while continuing conversation to avoid appearing impatient.
🚫🍣 Proper Etiquette for Ordering and Eating Sushi in Japan
Don’t order lots of sushi at once. Ordering 1-2 pieces ensures optimal taste and temperature. Flip nigiri fish-side down when dipping to prevent overwhelming soy flavor. Trust the itamae (sushi chef) to serve pieces at the ideal pace.
💳🚫 Cash is King in Japan
Expect to use cash. Japan relies heavily on paper money, so small shops may not accept cards. Use ever-present 7-Eleven ATMs when needing more cash. Research average meal costs in advance to withdraw appropriate amounts per day.
🚫🖋️ Tattoo Taboo in Japan
Cover tattoos in public. Tattoos still denote criminality, so bathhouses can deny entry without concealed skin art. Show cultural appreciation by covering up. Wear long sleeves, pants, rash guards or temporary tattoo covers when visiting hot springs or pools.
🤝📇 Proper Etiquette for Exchanging Business Cards in Japan
Receive business cards respectfully. Accept with both hands, study carefully, then place gently in your wallet to convey regard for the relationship. Having a dedicated business card holder or case shows professionalism.
🚫👞 Shoes Off, Please
Remove shoes indoors. Dirt is seen as disrespectful in cleanliness-valued Japan. Follow shoe removal customs at homes and restaurants. Carry a small pack of antimicrobial wipes or spare socks to ease barefoot transitions.