10 Examples of Japanese Etiquette That Would Drive Us Crazy

Anyone who has visited or read about Japan would know that it is famous for its unique etiquette rules. They have the habit of turning any simple action into a ceremony, and everyone in Japan seems to enjoy this.

Here are 11 Japanese Etiquettes that you should know.

1. Format of addressing people

We usually address people by their first names. However, this is not enough in Japan. They give respect by adding the title ‘san’ to the character. But this is also not enough as there are many titles used to address people.

  • kun– This title means friend.
  • chan- This title is generally used for children, female family members, friends, and lovers too.
  • sama– This title is used when you want to give too much respect to the person. It is used to refer to lords and deities.
  • senpai – This title is used to address your colleagues and schoolmates older than you.
  • kohai-This is the opposite of senpai.
  • sensei- This title is used for addressing teachers, doctors, scientists, politicians, and other authority figures.
  • shi- This title is used when you are writing formally to someone.

2.Exchanging your business cards


  • When people in Japan exchange their business cards, this is what they do:
  • They ensure that their business card’s front side is facing their counterpart while giving them.
  • They use both hands while handing over their card.
  • If your position is lower than your partner’s, then you need to hold the card lower than they do.
  • If you receive a business card, you need to look at it for a few seconds before placing it in your cardholder.
  • They take a bow.
  • The cardholder is a must. You should have it with you.
  • Putting the business card in your pocket is not welcome.


3.Etiquettes in an elevator


  • If you are the first one to enter the elevator, you automatically become the captain of the elevator. It would help if you stood near the button panel area.
  • It would be best if you also held the elevator door then open it until everyone enters. You need to do this on every floor that the elevator stops!
  • And there is more, you need to leave the elevator last, and you are expected to do everything quickly.
  • If you are in Japan as a tourist, then ensure that you never board the elevator first.


4.Etiquettes in Subways


  • While you are using the subway, you cannot talk in person or over the phone. Also, staring at anyone is strictly prohibited.
  • The trains have special seats marked for pregnant women and disabled people. These seats are supposed to be kept empty if not in use. Also, it is not expected to empty your seat and give it to an older person because there are seats specially reserved for them.


5.No Touching


  • Touching someone is not at all welcome in Japan. It is considered to be rude even if you look people in the eyes. They believe this respecting each other’s personal space.
  • Kissing is also not allowed in public space. In fact, before 1945, it was considered to be a violation of public order if caught doing it.


6.Alcohol Drinking rules


  • Japanese people, when they drink, they drink too much. This dissolves their
  • Social hierarchy. You will find a professor drinking with his/her students and then going home also with them. Instances have shown that an admin staff was seen drinking with his senior and then even puked on his suit. Well, all this is considered normal in Japan when drunk.
  • It is funny to know that later, they forget all these acts and become usual with each other again as they would be in their daily lives. All is forgotten with the boozy night.




  • Japanese people do not show money in public. They decorate it in an envelope in public. If they don’t have a fancy envelope to cover, they wrap it in a piece of paper before giving it to anyone.
  • When they purchase a thing, they don’t need to wrap their money in an envelope, but yes, they do not hand it over directly to the cashier’s hands. Instead, they put the money in the cash tray.


8.Sitting Etiquettes


  • The Japanese people sit on the floor by folding their legs underneath their thighs. This way of sitting is called “seiza’. This is their most preferred position to sit.
  • Tourists are not forced to sit like them. However, if you are Japanese, then you are expected to sit in the seiza position.


9.Giving Gifts


  • Japanese people strongly believe in giving gifts. Every year, there are two special gift-giving seasons called o-chugen (in summer) and o-seibo (in winter).
  • You tend to open the gift on receiving usually, but this is considered a sign of impatience and greed in Japan. Also, you may not like the present, and that may reflect on your face. As a result, the person who has given the gift may feel hurt.


10. Bowing is important

The art of bowing in Japan is significant, so children learn it from a young age. They take a bow in different ways like standing, sitting, and female and male variants. Some of the bowing styles are:-


  • The greeting bow (eshaku) of 15° is a bow done for people who are of equal business or social rank.
  • The respectful bow (keirei) of 30° is a bow done for people who is your teacher or boss.
  • The deeply reverent bow (saikeirei) of 45° is a bow done when you want to apologize or see a king.
  • The “begging for your life” bow is used only if you have done something very terrible.
  • Visitors to Japan are not expected to bow, but you will indeed receive a bow from a Japanese.


11.Leaving an organization


  • When you leave an organization, all the employees will follow you to the door or the elevator and keep bowing till you are gone from there out of respect.


However, things are changing as the new generation does not like this and ignores this ritual now.
Japan is full of culture and systems. Some good and some not so good. However, as time passes, the younger generation will filter and keep the best for centuries to come.

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