10+ Things You Should Not Do In Japan

Japan has attracted many visitors thanks to its unique culture, friendly people, and impressive natural scenery. This country also has “unwritten rules, which are the etiquette and customs that you should know. 

Before traveling to Japan, you should keep in mind Japanese etiquette and customs.

Here is a list of things you should never do when visiting Japan.

Do not tip

Unlike other countries, Japanese services don’t require a tip.

If you tip someone in Japan, they will feel confused and give you back.

Sometimes accidentally giving a tip will lead to some unnecessary hassles. Tipped staff will feel guilty because they don’t seem to have done a good job, and some even consider it a loss of their dignity.

You pay for your food, and the waiter gets paid exactly what they have to and did.

So don’t use tips in Japan.

Japanese food
Tipping is a big No in Japan.

Do not eat when walking

In Japan, people don’t eat or drink while on the go.

Fast food is sold at the counter, and customers will stand to eat on the spot.

Drinks from vending machines will be served immediately, boxes or bottles will be put in the recycling bin next to the machine.

Similarly, eating and drinking on transport is not very polite, except for long-distance trips.

Do not make noise in public transports

On public transport, many people use their phones to text, listen to music, watch videos or read books, but few make phone calls.

If necessary, they only exchange briefly and very quietly.

If you need to use the phone in public transport, try to keep it short and call the other person again when you leave the bus or train.

things to do in Japan
You definitely should not make noise in public transportation.

Do not rush when queuing

Japanese people line up everywhere, bus stops, train stations, or elevators.

At the train station, people line up at the marked location on the floor. When the train arrives, commuters will wait for people leaving before boarding.

Cutting lines or interrupting will make you “outstanding.”

Do not wear shoes inside

If you don’t want to be judged as disrespectful, do not bring shoes or slippers into the house.

Remove your shoes and sandals at the door, and you will be given a separate pair of slippers. If not, wearing socks or bare feet is an appropriate option.

things not to do in Japan

Do not smoke in public

In most cities, including Tokyo and Osaka, outdoor smoking (especially during the day) can be fined up to 50,000 yen, except for certain designated areas that allow smoking. 

Do not shake hands

Most Japanese think that shaking hands is not polite.

Instead of shaking hands, bow to an angle of about 90 degrees when you meet new people to show respect to the other person.

A deep bow will be most appropriate if you meet an older person or a high-status person.

Don’t bargain when buying

Stores in Japan have a clear price list, so you shouldn’t bargain or ask for a discount like other countries in Asia.

However, when you buy items such as fruits or vegetables in small areas, the sellers are usually happy to give you a little more.

Do not call by the first name

If it’s the first time you meet someone, you should add the suffix “san” after calling their name. 

Depending on the gender, the accompanying words will change with younger people, with the boy as “Kun” and the girl as “chan.”

Your teacher or superiors should be called “Name + Sensei.”

If you are talking to someone with an important status, you can use the suffix “Sama” to show respect.

Do not wear swimwear in the onsen

People don’t wear any clothes on the onsen in Japan, so you shouldn’t wear a swimsuit when bathing in hot springs.

Note when visiting an onsen in Japan

Before taking a dip, take a clean shower with an outside shower.

In addition, onsen baths in Japan also have their own rules. You must tie your hair into buns, and you shouldn’t let towels touch the water and do not swim in the tub.

If you have a tattoo, you may not be allowed to get in public baths because a tattoo is considered related to yakuza.

Do not point at people

Pointing at someone is quite common in many countries, but it is considered rude in Japan. Using chopsticks to point to is also considered offensive.

Instead of using one finger to point, the Japanese use their whole hand to gently outline what they are talking about.

They will touch their noses with their index fingers when referring to themselves.

Do not blow your nose in public

If you have a cold or fever, you will be considered impolite if you don’t wear a mask when going out.

You must not blow your nose in public. Ideally, you should go to a toilet to do that.

Japanese people hate blowing their nose in public, or worse, seeing someone blowing their nose in front of them.

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2 Comments

  1. I have been fascinated with the Japanese culture for years – thank you for putting these Don’ts together! Doesn’t it sound like you are not supposed to do a lot of things?

  2. Mia Evans says:

    It’s interesting to know that it is not recommended to eat when walking in Japan. As you said, you have to stand and eat on the spot. I will keep that in mind no that I plan to book a Japan guided-tour package next year to celebrate my 30th birthday by going to another country with friends.

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