Imbibing Japanese Manners and Culture

Foreign travelers to Japan always take note of the manners and politeness of the Japanese people. As a culture, they follow the rules and exude respect. Here are 10 local etiquette tips to keep in mind when you travel to Japan:

Travel Etiquette in Japan. Tip #1: Local Attire

The first thing you will notice is the attire of the local people. Aside from the Harajuku area, locals dress conservatively in terms of proper black work clothes.

While you don’t have to dress like you’re going to a corporate job when traveling in Japan, keep in mind that you should try to dress decently. You are visiting modern, metropolitan cities – so dress according to your surroundings. Remember, Tokyo, Osaka, and the countryside towns are not the beach.


Travel Etiquette in Japan. Tip #2: The Bow

After local attire, you will then notice how locals greet each other and foreigners. Bowing is a sign of respect and how people greet in other, likening itself to the western handshake. The deeper the bow, the more respect and gratitude. You will notice after you make a purchase, the cashier will escort you out and bow as you turn to leave. As a traveler, you can simply bow your head when greeting locals.


Travel Etiquette in Japan. Tip #3: Quiet Voices

Outside of the U.S. talking voices are generally quieter and more subdued (especially among the more educated and higher classes). In fact, you can easily pinpoint the Americans when traveling simply from the volume of the voices. When in Japan, particularly in restaurants, take note of your volume level to not disrupt the locals around you.


Travel Etiquette in Japan. Tip #4: Cellphone Etiquette

Sadly, in many cultures today “cellphone etiquette” is becoming more and more of an oxymoron. Fortunately, in Japa,n the culture educates its locals to be mindful when using their cellphones.

In public transportation, there are signs to not talk on your phones and to use it without volume (although you will notice all heads down and engrossed in their phones when inside the subways and trains). While walking through train stations, there are signs not to use your phone while walking so the pace of walking is not slowed down and to avoid unnecessary collisions. In restaurants, phones are not in front of faces and people are actually conversing (either that or they are focused on eating their food).

So, let’s learn from the Japanese and imbibe their culture in Japan and maybe even abroad.


Travel Etiquette in Japan. Tip #5: Taxis

Look for taxi stands and line up. If there are no stands around you, you can hail one from the sidewalk. Taxi doors can open and close by the taxi driver. Let him open and close the door for you to avoid breaking the car’s door mechanism. Also, when you arrive at your destination, the taxi driver does not open the door until after you pay for the ride.


Travel Etiquette in Japan. Tip #6: Paying with Money

Japanese culture is full of ceremonies, including when paying. Money is not exchanged from hand to hand. Rather, whether it is cash or credit cards, place your money on the small tray by the cashier.


Travel Etiquette in Japan. Tip #7: Tipping

Traditionally, tipping is not required, expected, nor encouraged. In fact, you can offend locals if you tip. It has been culturally instilled in them that it is their jobs to do well, and they are not going out of their way to garner tips.

However, in recent years, more and more locals have been quietly accepting tips. If someone helps you well, then consider the gesture of tipping, but know that it is not expected nor required.


Travel Etiquette in Japan. Tip #8: Handing Over Items

Whether it is exchanging business cards or handing back your credit card, locals will use both hands to present you with items as a sign of respect. So when paying or handing over items, do the same to show your respect.


Travel Etiquette in Japan. Tip #9: Lining Up

Discipline and order are deep-rooted in the Japanese culture. Don’t even think about cutting lines, regardless of how long you have waited or if you are in a rush. Line up properly and wait your turn.


Travel Etiquette in Japan. Tip #10: Escalators

Like lining up, escalators in Japan also have their unspoken rules and etiquette. Stand to one side, and let those in a rush pass on the other side. Note that in Tokyo, you stand on the left side and pass on the right. In Osaka, it’s the opposite – stand on the right side and pass on the left.


Read Even More of my Travel Etiquette Tips for Japan here (Tips #11-17)


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