Japanese culture and traditions are incredibly unique, making it a dream destination for a lot of travelers. That said, the fact is that Japan can be an intimidating country for first-time visitors, and not just because of the language barrier.
Getting to know the ins and outs of local culture is important no matter where you’re traveling, and Japanese culture is no exception. If you’re planning a trip to Japan—or daydreaming about planning one in the future!—here are some handy etiquette tips and facts to know before you go.
1. Take Off Your Shoes
Some places will require that you take off your shoes indoors, especially in a persons home, or anywhere there are tatami mats. You obviously won’t need to take your shoes off everywhere, but if there’s a mat next to the front door with some shoes next to it, that’s your cue.
2. Bow When Greeting
There are all kinds of customs around bowing, but you shouldn’t worry about knowing all the particulars—the Japanese generally don’t expect foreigners to get it completely right. But as a baseline, tradition is that you should bow when greeting someone out of respect. That can vary from a slight nod of the head to completely bending down at the waist.
The longer and deeper the bow, the more respectful—but don’t feel obliged to overdo it every time! And—pro tip—bowing with your hands together in front of your chest isn’t the custom in Japan.
3. Don’t Tip
Tipping is always something to adjust to when you’re in a new country, because it seems that every one is different. In the Japanese culture, it’s easy: you don’t have to do any quick math or remember specific percentages because tipping is not customary. Not in the traditional restaurants, hotels or for cabs. You can leave some leftover coins, but tips aren’t expected.
4. Bring the Gift of Food
You’ll notice that at train stations and airports there are entire shops filled with a plethora of food products. If you want to buy a gift for someone in Japan, that’s usually the way to go. Stay away from tchotchkes like magnets and shot glasses. Instead, food items like matcha flavored snacks or mochi are more the tradition.
5. Slurp Your Noodles
In Japanese culture, slurping your noodles is not only customary, it is good manners—a sign that you’re enjoying your food. Whether you’re drinking soup from a bowl or eating noodles with chopsticks, slurping at a reasonable volume is pretty standard. If you’re worried about being too loud, you can always take note of how loudly (or quietly) everyone else is eating.
Of course, burping and loudly crunching are still off limits.
- These are the reasons why Japanese can be an intimidating country for first-time visitors except one.
- What do you call the mats that Japanese used that is mentioned in the article?
- What does the longer and deeper bow means for the Japanese people?
- What is the tradition in Japan about giving tips?
- What is the Japanese tradition when they eat noodles?