Know these Japanese culture and customs while visiting the country
Your guide to seamless cultural immersion in Japan
Stepping into Japan can feel like entering a whole new world. It is a country of ancient traditions and modern innovation, of gracious hospitality and unspoken rules. While it is not necessary to know every aspect of Japanese culture, understanding some of the basic customs and etiquette can go a long way in making your trip smoother and more enjoyable. Whether you’re exploring Tokyo’s bustling streets or relaxing in a serene ryokan, here are some tips to help you navigate Japanese customs with confidence and respect.
The depth and length of the bow depend on the situation and the social hierarchy. Generally, a slight bow with a nod of the head is enough for casual situations, while a deeper bow is appropriate for more formal occasions.
In Japan, it is customary to take off your shoes when entering someone’s home, a traditional inn (ryokan), and some restaurants. Visitors will be provided with slippers or shoe covers to wear indoors. It’s also important to note that toilet slippers are provided in most restrooms and should not be worn outside of the restroom.
Slurping is not rude
When eating in Japan, be sure to use chopsticks correctly, never sticking them vertically into your food or passing food from one chopstick to another. Also, slurping your noodles is not considered rude; in fact, it’s a sign of enjoying the meal.
No loud talking in public
Keep your phone on silent and avoid talking loudly on public transport in Japan. Priority seating is also available for elderly, pregnant women, and people with disabilities.
Cleaning before going to a hot spring
Onsen is a Japanese hot spring, and it’s customary to bathe naked. Be sure to clean your body before getting in and avoid getting a towel in the water.
Gift giving is customary and much appreciated
Gift-giving is an essential part of Japanese culture, and it’s customary to bring a small gift when visiting someone’s home or business in Japan. Be sure to wrap the gift nicely and offer it with both hands. Also the gift should not be too high as it may be seen as a bribe
Learning a few Japanese phrases can go a long way in showing respect for the culture and building connections with locals. Try learning simple greetings, phrases, and numbers.
Tipping is not customary in Japan, and it can even be considered rude. Instead, show gratitude by saying “arigatou gozaimasu” (thank you very much) and offering a small bow.
Know the elevator rule
The Japanese take their escalator etiquette seriously, and it’s important to follow the unspoken rules to avoid frustrating the locals. When using escalators in Tokyo, stand on the left side and allow those in a hurry to pass on the right side. However, if you find yourself in Osaka, switch sides as you’ll need to stand on the right and pass on the left.