Japanese Etiquette Tips
In spite of the fact that Japan appears to be very Westernized, especially among its younger people, it is still important to abide by their customs whenever possible. Remember to be polite and respect Japanese traditions.
1. Table Manners
- DON'T pour an alcoholic beverage into your own glass. Instead, serve your dining partners their drinks.
- DON'T get noticeably drunk at a nice restaurant.
- DON'T start drinking until everyone at the table is served and the glasses are raised to toast. The Japanese drinking salute is usually "Kampai!"
- DON'T pour soy sauce over white, steamed rice.
- DO drink miso soup out of the bowl and use your chopsticks to eat the solid pieces.
- DO slurp noodles and soup.
- DO keep the bowl close to your mouth when eating noodle soup. This will avoid a mess.
- DON'T stick chopsticks into your food or spear your food with the chopsticks.
- DON'T tip. It is not customary in Japan.
3. Gift Giving and Accepting Gifts
- DO give and receive gifts with both hands.
- DO give a gift to thank somebody. Good gifts include cake, sweets, and sake.
- DON'T open a wrapped gift until later.
- DO avoid giving gifts that have to do with the number four. It is bad luck.
4. Body Gestures
- DON'T use your chopsticks to point to something.
- DO bow when greeting someone. A bow can range from a small nod to a ninety degree full-body bow. If you are greeting someone with a higher social status, the bow should be more pronounced. For the most part, however, as a foreigner in Japan, you won't be expected to know the specific bowing etiquette.
6. Bath Etiquette
- DO be aware of the communal bathing culture in Japan. Japan has a long history of communal bathing and it can be traced back to the eighth century. There are public bathhouses called sento and hot springs called onsen. There are usually separate baths for men and women.
- DO wash yourself outside the bath before getting in.
- DO bring your own toiletries, such as towels, pumice stones, toothpaste, shaving supplies, etc.
7. Visitors Etiquette
- DO take your shoes off when entering temples, shrines, or a Japanese person's home. Your host will likely provide you with a pair of slippers.
- DO take slippers off when entering a room with a tatami floor. Tatami mats are associated with religious rites and tea ceremonies. Slippers can damage the mats, but you may walk on them either barefoot or in socks.
- DO take your slippers off when entering a bathroom. There will be special toilet slippers there for you to put on.
- DO bring a gift. It's a nice point of gesture to go to a Japanese person's home with one.
- DON'T drain the water after taking a bath at someone's house. Everyone in the household uses the same bathwater. As a guest, you'll probably be able to use the bath first.
8. Business Meeting
- DON'T sit until told where to sit. Usually there is a seating arrangement based on professional status.
- DON'T stand once the meeting is finished until the person with the highest professional status stands.
- DO bring a gift, such as a little souvenir from your native city.
- DO show a lot of gratitude if given a gift by a business associate. Ask questions about the gift to show how interested you are.
- DO take notes during a meeting and use a black or blue pen.
Even though Japan, especially in the major cities, is adapting more to Western influences, they still maintain many of their traditions. Throughout your travels, keep some basic Japanese etiquette in mind to make a great impression, and enjoy your trip to Japan!