Courtesy in Japan: Tips for Polite Travel

In Japan, customs and manners are very important. So, if you’ve been there, or maybe you are planning on visiting, it is quite paramount that you equip yourself with basic norms and skills that should help you blend in as much as possible, in terms of manners.

Angel Reyes
April 9, 2024
Travel Tips

In Japan, customs and manners are very important. So, if you’ve been there, or maybe you are planning on visiting, it is quite paramount that you equip yourself with basic norms and skills that should help you blend in as much as possible, in terms of manners.

So, you may be wondering why the Japanese culture is quite strict on matters pertaining to manners. Well, it is in fact very simple; The culture, or rather customs have placed very high and important expectations of anyone’s and everyone’s behavior.

However, as a foreigner, there isn’t quite much expected of you! All you have to do in order to blend in is follow a few basic, yet very important rules. The expectations from foreigners are pretty low such that following this guide on Japanese Mannerism would possibly earn you a compliment or two when cruising through the streets of Japan.

Eating, or drinking on the streets is disrespectful and impolite. This is one of the basic actions that simply define your mannerism on the streets in Japan. You may be wondering what if you are hungry, or even thirsty for that matter. Well, you will notice that the streets are packed with lots of pubs, eateries, vendor stalls and shops among other eating and drinking spots. Most, if not all of these joints have sitting spots. The right behavior is purchasing and eating all your food on the spot. Please don’t cruise the streets while eating or drinking as you’s be considered impolite.

This is quite as simple as it sounds. Make sure that the sound from your device doesn’t reach the next guy. This is very important. Even if you're wearing headphones on the train, if the person sitting next to you can hear it that's considered rude and people will confront you and rip off your headphones. In the same way, your TV’s or audio system’s sound should not reach the next room. So, in order to stay polite and show etiquette, you have to keep the sound from any and all of your devices to yourself.

When hanging out with a group of friends or any social group for that matter; serve and wait to be served, simple!

Being the basic expectations of anyone who has not been brought up in a Japanese background, putting them into action is very simple. However, you need to be very keen not offend anyone. In social groups, especially of your age mates, it is polite to pour your friends drinks and they definitely do the same. You, however, need to remember that this is normally done based on a number of factors. Most importantly, when in a crowd or any social gathering for that matter; it's considered rude if you don't slurp your food/ soup in Japan. Please keep this in mind at all times.

Avoid Tipping! Tipping is considered normal and polite is very many places. However, you need to understand that the Japanese culture does not tolerate tipping. Absolutely not. Paying for any services rendered is normal and routine for that matter. This includes restaurants, after eating, you head to the counter and pay. However, no one expects you to leave them a tip. You can buy them something say a glass or plate of sake but tipping is considered rude. You should, therefore, avoid it at all costs when in Japan.

Shoes Off! Another very simple, yet very important action in Japan is taking off your shoes before stepping into somebody's home. Also, you shouldn’t put on any shoes walking on the tatami. There are other establishments such as museums and restaurants that will probably have you remove your shoes before walking into the premises. Please ensure that you adhere to those and any other simple rules laid across.

Other basic rules in to guide you include the following;

The escalator lines on one side of the stairs, people are rushing and on the other people are patiently riding it down. Stay your lane!

Do not point or stare at people.

Avoid counting any change given.

Do not shout.

You should have etiquette be respectful at all times.


Acting based on the above guide will ensure that you blend in quite easily and comfortably. However, do not put too much pressure on yourself as you are a stranger to their ways. This means that remember to implement as much as possible but also forgetting will have them politely pointing out whenever need be.

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Angel Reyes

Angel Reyes is a seasoned photojournalist and columnist with a keen eye for the captivating narratives that unfold across the globe. An avid travel enthusiast, he brings to the fore the exilic and reading experiences that resonate with wanderlust seekers and cultural connoisseurs alike. With a portfolio enriched by professional photography, Angel masterfully encapsulates the essence of diverse locales and the spirited tales they harbor. As a versatile contractor, he not only captures visual stories but also produces interactive projects and compelling feature videos, all while contributing to the vibrant tapestry of travel trends for OMG BYE. His work reflects a profound dedication to exploring the uncharted and sharing the beauty of the journey with the world.