Navigating Cultural Etiquette in Japan: Dos and Don’ts You Need to Know

Categories: Featured, Japan
Japan Do's and Don'ts

The dos and don’ts of cultural etiquette when traveling in Japan

Japan is a country that is rich in culture, traditions, and customs that have been passed down for centuries. As a result, when traveling to Japan, it is important to be aware of cultural etiquette to ensure that you have an enjoyable and respectful experience. This article will highlight some of the dos and don’ts of cultural etiquette when traveling in Japan.


Remove your shoes: In Japan, it is customary to remove your shoes when entering a home, temple, or traditional Japanese inn (ryokan). It is also customary to remove your shoes when entering certain restaurants, museums, and other public buildings. Make sure to look for signs indicating when to remove your shoes and where to place them.

Bowing: Bowing is a common form of greeting and showing respect in Japan. The depth and length of the bow depend on the situation and the person being greeted. Generally, a slight bow is appropriate for casual encounters, while a deeper bow is necessary for formal situations, such as meeting with a business associate.

Use chopsticks correctly: When eating in Japan, it is important to use chopsticks correctly. Never stick your chopsticks upright in your rice, as this is a symbol of death. When not using your chopsticks, place them on the chopstick rest provided or on a clean surface, such as a napkin.

Observe personal space: In Japan, personal space is highly valued. Try not to invade someone’s personal space or touch them without their consent. When standing in line, make sure to leave a comfortable distance between yourself and the person in front of you.

Respect the culture: Japan has a rich cultural heritage, and it is important to show respect for it. When visiting temples, shrines, or other cultural sites, observe the rules and customs, such as removing your shoes, not taking photographs of certain areas, and being quiet and respectful.

Japan Do's and Don'ts


Wear shoes indoors: As previously mentioned, it is customary to remove your shoes when entering homes, temples, and other buildings in Japan. Wearing shoes indoors is considered disrespectful and unclean.

Eat or drink while walking: In Japan, it is considered impolite to eat or drink while walking in public. If you want to enjoy a snack or drink, find a designated eating area or a place to sit down.

Tip: Unlike in Western countries, tipping is not customary in Japan. In fact, it can be considered insulting. Instead, show your appreciation by thanking the person with a bow or a kind word.

Talk loudly: In Japan, speaking loudly in public is considered rude and disruptive. Try to speak softly and avoid making loud noises or using your phone in public places.

Ignore the rules: When visiting cultural sites or public spaces, it is important to follow the rules and regulations. Ignoring the rules can not only be disrespectful but can also result in fines or other penalties.

Do not blow your nose in public: Blowing your nose in public is considered impolite in Japan. If you need to blow your nose, try to do it in a private area, such as a restroom or a private room.

Do not be too assertive: In Japan, being too assertive can be seen as rude and aggressive. Try to avoid being too forceful or pushy in social situations and instead, take a more passive approach.

Do not leave chopsticks standing upright: Leaving chopsticks standing upright in a bowl of rice is a major taboo in Japan. It is reminiscent of the way rice is offered to the dead at funerals, and as such, it is considered highly disrespectful.

Do not be late: Punctuality is highly valued in Japan, and being late is considered impolite. If you have an appointment or a meeting, make sure to arrive on time, or even a few minutes early.

Do not display public affection: Public displays of affection are not common in Japan, and excessive displays of affection, such as kissing or hugging in public, can make people feel uncomfortable. It is better to reserve such expressions of intimacy for private spaces.

Do not forget to remove your hat: Wearing hats indoors is generally not done in Japan, and it is considered impolite. If you are entering a traditional Japanese building or a shrine, make sure to remove your hat.

Do not point: Pointing with your finger is considered impolite in Japan. Instead, use an open hand or gesture with your whole arm to indicate something or someone.

Do not forget to slurp your noodles: Slurping your noodles, especially ramen, is considered good manners in Japan. It is a sign that you are enjoying the food, and it is also believed to enhance the flavor of the dish.

Do not refuse a gift: Gift-giving is an important part of Japanese culture, and it is considered impolite to refuse a gift. If someone offers you a gift, accept it graciously and express your gratitude.

Do not be too loud: Japanese culture values tranquility and harmony, and being too loud or disruptive can be seen as disrespectful. Try to keep your voice low and avoid making unnecessary noise, especially in public places.

In addition to the above dos and don’ts, it is also important to be aware of traditions in Japan. For example, it is customary to bow when greeting someone, and the depth of the bow can vary depending on the situation and the person you are greeting. It is also important to remove your shoes when entering a traditional Japanese building or someone’s home, as this is a sign of respect for the space.

Overall, when travelling to Japan, it is important to approach the culture with an open mind and a willingness to learn and adapt. By following these dos and don’ts of cultural etiquette, you can show respect for the country’s customs and traditions, and make the most of your experience in this fascinating and unique culture.


In conclusion, travelling to Japan can be an amazing and rewarding experience, but it is important to be aware of cultural etiquette. Observing cultural customs and showing respect for the culture can help you avoid unintentionally offending someone and ensure that you have a pleasant trip. Keep in mind the dos and don’ts outlined above, and you will be on your way to a respectful and memorable trip to Japan.


About the Author – Miri is the founder of Mileagespot, a website dedicated to helping travelers make the most of their airline miles and credit card points. With years of experience in the travel industry, Miri has a deep understanding of how to navigate the complex world of loyalty programs and maximize rewards. She is passionate about helping others achieve their travel goals and has helped countless travelers save money and experience the world in ways they never thought possible. Through Mileagespot, Miri aims to make travel more accessible and enjoyable for everyone

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