Japanese Culture: What Every Visitor Needs to Know

Source : tourist-note.com

Japan has a rich culture that endears many visitors. Naturally, each country has its own standards of appropriate etiquette, so before travelling to Japan, there are some basic things you should know. Japanese people don’t expect tourists to be experts in their culture and customs, but they certainly appreciate it when they show respect. Learning the basics will help your trip run more smoothly.


When you meet someone, it is polite to bow slightly and when greeting an older person, you should bow lower to show respect. You can also bow to thank someone for preparing a meal for you. Bowing isn’t necessarily required by tourists, but locals will appreciate your effort in learning their culture. Keep in mind that Japanese people are not very “touchy-feely”, so only shake hands or hug if the other person makes the gesture first.


While tipping is expected in some countries, it is not required in Japan and can even be unacceptable, with some people actually offended by the gesture.

Table manners

Good manners require that you show appreciation for a meal before and after you have finished eating. You should say “Itadakimasu” (thank you for the meal I am about to receive) before eating and “Gochiso sama deshita” (thank you for your effort in preparing this meal) when you finish. Slurping soup or noodles is completely acceptable and shows that you are enjoying the meal. Do not burp at the table and if you need to use a toothpick, cover your mouth with your free hand.

Handling chopsticks

Many visitors are not adept at using chopsticks, so it may take some practice to get it right and use them in the proper way. It is considered rude to stab food with your chopsticks and if you want to take food from a serving plate, use the other end of your chopsticks. Do not pass food with your chopsticks either, as this is done with cremated bones at funerals

Using your cell phone

Talking on your cell phone on buses, trains or other confined spaces is considered rude. So when on public transport, be sure to put your phone on vibrate or silent mode.

Keep your voice down

It is common in Western countries for people to talk loudly in public places but in Japan this does not show good manners. Try to keep your voice down when in public places as this shows consideration towards others. If you look around and notice you are the loudest group, remind your friends to lower their voices.

Street etiquette

Avoid drinking or eating while walking, as it is considered bad manners in Japan. You should also avoid talking on your cell phone while walking down the street.


If you are sick, wear a mask to prevent spreading germs to others. While sniffling is acceptable, blowing your nose around others is not. If you need to blow your nose, head to the bathroom to do so.

Shoes off, slippers on

When entering a Japanese home, leave your outdoor shoes at the door and wear the slippers provided. Inside the home, you should remove your slippers before stepping on a tatami mat. When you go to the bathroom, use the special toilet slippers.

No littering

Visitors are often impressed at how clean the streets are in Japan and this is because the Japanese take littering seriously. Don’t litter and always put trash in the bins according to the correct recycling category.

Taking pictures

Seeing a geisha for the first time is exciting and you will probably reach for your camera right away. But be sure to ask her permission first before taking a picture. This goes for taking pictures of anyone you don’t know- it is always polite to ask first.

In most places you can snap as many pictures as you like but in some areas you will see a sign showing a crossed out camera, which means taking pictures is not allowed. One place you will usually find these is in temples. These signs are taken seriously, so don’t try to sneak a picture in!


While waiting for a bus or train, it is expected that you form an orderly line. Show respect for others by refraining from pushing ahead in line.

Temples and Shrines

Although they are tourist attractions, temples and shrines are places of worship, so be respectful and don’t attempt to enter areas that are off limits. Also be sure to dress respectfully and to speak softly.

Witten by Simone

Tourist Note JAPAN

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Tourist Note JAPAN