You may read many sites introduce “Japanese etiquettes and manners”, “Dos & Donts” for your trip to Japan.
Those are not wrong, but I feel some sites tell too many picky Japanese rules for happy foreign tourists to enjoy traveling in Japan.
In Japan, I believe there are many public manners and etiquettes but Japanese people never expect foreign tourists do everything right.
We want you to enjoy your Japan trip within reason.
Like saying, proper chopstick manners, don’t dip the sushi bottom in the soy sauce, don’t receive a gift with one-hand???
Even many Japanese people can’t use chopsticks properly, don’t know proper Sushi manners.
In my opinion, You don’t have to be too nervous to follow such picky manners! Japanese people don’t think you are rude.
Yet you shouldn’t bother local peoples beyond Japanese common sense that I talk about here.
Japanese has been making layers of culture in the long history, from generation to generation, regions to regions, so etiquettes and manners are really complicated.
So, I am going to tell you general Japanese etiquettes and manners to give you hints for your trip.
Just relax to read this different culture.
In Japanese culture, physical contacts are not so common. Especially Japanese people don’t hug and shake hands as a greeting.
“Hugs” mean the action that couples do in private space, or mother and kids do.
“Shaking hands” is seen mostly in business situations, but it is seen among big shots.
Even when someone tries to pick lint from another’s body, the Japanese ask if he/she can touch. (Especially females are very sensitive to being touched.)
Japanese understand other cultures have more physical contacts, so they don’t refuse if you offer.
But they may look uncomfortable, don’t worry they just don’t get used to hugs and shaking hands.
I don’t recommend doing to customer service staff, I mean you can, but
in Japanese hospitality culture, the class of guests and customers is higher so hugs may little too much for them.
But it’s my opinion, customer service staff who get used to international customers, they get used to doing so.
What the Japanese do insetd is giving Japanese small bow or smile.
Japanese Small Bow
“A Japanese small bow” called “Esyaku” (会釈) is not formal bow like straighten the back, look forward, watch out where you put arms and bow deeply, blah blah blah.
It is more like tilting and bowing the head down slightly at the same time.
Generally, don’t look down all the way of keeping eye contact.
Put a smile on and bow slightly with tilting the head in situations like you greet someone or tell your appreciation.
Raising (waving) hand is also the action the Japanese often do.
In Japan, tipping is not required, moreover, it is considered a disrespectable manner.
It originally comes from the Japanese spirit, “giving tip or accepting tip (extra money)” means against morals.
In other words, giving tip was considered as wealthy people insult poor people.
Today, the original meaning has disappeared, and just the “no tipping” custom has left.
So don’t worry about tipping in Japan, moreover, you shouldn’t pay a tip.
it causes the staff in the trouble.
Big “Thank you” works for Japanese workers.
However, Here’s a Complex Situation…
However, it is a custom to give a tip called “Kokorozuke”(心づけ) to the room attendant when you stay in a “Ryokan”– a Japanse traditional-style accommodation because the attendant (mostly women) is assigned to provide all-around service for the guest.
It is not mandatory, so some people do, but others don’t in recent Japan. But the service quality will not vary because of that.
The average price of “Kokorozuke” is between ¥1000($10) and ¥3000($30).
- Give “Kokorozuke” when the attendant serves the dinner (In Ryokan style, the dinner served to your room.)
- The proper way is using “Pochi-bukuro“, a tiny paper bag, and new (newer) bills.
Paying At The Table
“A table check” is a rare payment way in Japan.
Generally, waitress or waiter bring a bill to your table when they serve meal or
you need ask a check in some places such as Izakayas.
Take the bill on the table, or ask the check, and pay at the cashier.
Put The Cash On A Money Tray
Japanese cashiers are a little bit bothered with customers who don’t use a money tray on the cashier counter.
It is a unique Japanese culture, but the store indicates you putting money on a tray, it is nice if you follow the custom.
You can put credit card on the tray too.
Staring is an ill-mannered in Japan, but you may feel that you get attention from local peoples.
Even though it is bad-manner, some locals can’t stop staring or gazing at something unusual for them.
People from overseas are not unusual nowadays but peoples in the countrysides may look at you with innocent curiosity.
Blowing nose VERY HARD in public
Some of the sites say “Don’t blow your nose in public”,
YES, YOU CAN.
Very few Japanese still think it is a bad manner, but It’s a physiological phenomenon!
Indeed, it has been wondered whether acceptable or not among the Japanese.
The sniffing nose should be considered more like a bad manner in other cultures, but some Japanese (included me) are still shy to blow nose in public.
As increasing in the population of allergic pollen, blowing nose has been an acceptable manner, but still, some people don’t get used to the sound.
I use the bathroom if needed, but you don’t have to do so.
The major reason that people don’t blow nose is just shyness.
So, don’t worry about blow your nose in Japan, but maybe a little bit pay attention to the volume.
I remember the teacher always laughed that Japanese students were pop-eyed every time someone blew nose when I was a student in Canada.
Well, Japanese people tend to hide their skins (shoulders, legs, and Décolleté ) because there have been still mixed customs with ancient morals, Japanese culture, and shyness.
Especially people over middle-aged think exposing too much cleavage is the inappropriate manner in public and also in front of men.
They think shouldn’t wear clothes too much cleavage.
My mother warns me if I wear the only camisole at home because there are male family members.
I really don’t mind showing shoulder in public and I do, (because I can’t stand the heat in summer), but I wear a loose tank top over the camisole.
Not only the custom reason, but Japanse women cover their body-line because they are also shy to show the fattening parts.
Japanese women don’t walk with leggings only, they cover hips with long or short skirts or short pants, and don’t put the camisole only on.
Japanese girls like loosen clothes, I feel fashion trends in Japan are a bit weird.
Guys, it is not a good idea to walk with half-naked on the streets in the summer season in Japan.
Also, you need to consider when visiting temples, shrines, and respectable places, some people might feel disgusted if you expose too much.
Generally, control your volume of voice is welcoming as the etiquette for enclosed public spaces in Japan because listening to other’s conversations is a bad manner.
But, not all Japanese people consider their volume especially when women start chatting.
Indeed some foreigners think Japanese people talk loudly.
Pubs, bars, and Izakayas, the places usually for drinks, so you don’t have to keep the volume down but depend on the atmosphere.
It is not only because of Japanese habits,
It could be a culture, but I see many people who don’t care about punctuality in Japan.
Generally speaking, Okinawan people are mild of punctuality, even they don’t get mad if someone is not on time.
My husband is an American, he doesn’t like being late.
I am Japanese and I don’t like being late either, but one of my Japanese friends always be late.
so I think it depends on personalities.
Public transportations such as Trains, subways, and Shinkansen almost always be on time except for the accident and bad weather conditions.
Anyway, in Japan, you better care about “on time” for booking accommodations or attractions, in case you will be delayed, notify them.
When you will be delayed much over the check-in time of accommodation, better call them.
In fact, at restaurants, there are troubles that some customers who booked the course meal online and never showed up without notification.
Japanese people MOSTLY follow the traffic rules, so they use crosswalks or footbridges for crossing streets and MOSTLY wait for the green light.
Follow the traffic rule.
Also when crossing the street, make sure the traffic coming and do not forget driving on the left side in Japan, so you need to look left side first.
It is a shame but it is almost CAR-FIRST culture in Japan.
Some drivers don’t give away for the pedestrian outside of a crosswalk, so be careful to cross streets or parking lots.
This is also why you should use crosswalks.
Watch out bicycles too, sometimes they don’t slow down at all.
Leave shoe mess around
As a well-manner, better line up after taking shoes off.
In Japan, you often have opportunities for taking shoes off, so I recommend wearing easy-on-off shoes.
Put hands together for “Thank you”
I always have a mixed feeling every time American people say “Thank you” to me with putting hands together and bow at the same time.
I mean I am very happy, but…it is not a Japanese gesture when telling the appreciation.
I understand and appreciate it comes from the stereotype of Asians and Buddhism.
It is not a bad-manner at all, just it is not a Japanese gesture, but we appreciate it.
When The Japanese Put Their Hands Together?
80% of Japanese poele are Buddist, so we have the coustom of putting our hands together when
- Before and after eating as Japanese custom-“Itadakimasu” “Gochisousama”.
- When greetings to ancestors at the altar and the grave.
- Pray at temples, shrines
Did you get some hints about Japanese public etiquettes and manners?
As well as other cultures, Japanese etiquette and manners have been changing positively and negatively due to the flow of the times.
There are controversy about ridiculous (old-fashioned stubborn Japanese custom) manners and etiquette, on the other hand, the Japanese have been concerning about losing beautiful manners and etiquette.
I am not sure I can tell you what I want to say, but I want to tell you,
stereotypes of Japanese etiquettes and manners are a little too picky for you.
The Japanese want you to enjoy experiences in Japan more than anything.
on my blog, I just tell you only honest and essential etiquettes to protect both, Japanese and you.
I have a guarantee from my 70-year-old mother, so my etiquette should not have a generation gap.