The Ultimate Travel Guide: 20 Things Not to Do in Japan as a tourist

The Ultimate Travel Guide: 20 Things Not to Do in Japan as a tourist

Have you ever wanted to know what not to do in Japan? This guide is all about that. Visiting Japan is exciting, but it’s different from other places. Things you do at home might be rude there.

Let’s talk about how to act nicely in public, like on trains and when eating out. We’ll also learn about being polite with chopsticks and shoes inside houses.

In this guide, we focus on actions that can make people upset in Japan. For example, blowing your nose where others can hear or see it isn’t good manners there. To not stand out for the wrong reasons, we need to understand their ways.

We’ll tell you why it’s smart to know Japanese customs before going. If you act like you do at home, someone might feel bad or offended. So let’s be ready! By learning the don’ts in Japan, you show respect for their culture.

This will make your trip better and stop any trouble with locals who care a lot about etiquette. Read on and find out how easy it is not to mess up!

Proper Etiquette in Public Places

When walking and eating, it is considered rude to do so in public. Additionally, talking loudly on trains and taking phone calls in quiet places are also social taboos that tourists should be mindful of while visiting Japan.

Walking and eating

Eat before you walk. In Japan, munching on food while walking is seen as rude. It’s not like other places where eating on the go is normal. Find a spot to sit and enjoy your snack instead.

Keep streets clean by not leaving crumbs or wrappers behind.

If you have takeaway food, wait until you’re home or in a designated eating area to eat it. Japanese people value cleanliness and order, so follow their lead. This will show respect for their customs and keep their public spaces tidy.

Talking loudly on trains

Keep your voice low when on trains in Japan. Speaking loudly is considered impolite and disruptive to others. Adhering to this cultural norm shows respect for the peaceful environment Japanese people value during their commutes.

It’s crucial to be mindful of this custom while traveling in Japan, as it is an essential aspect of social etiquette that locals take seriously. Ignoring this can lead to tension or discomfort among fellow passengers, so remember to maintain a quiet volume level during your train rides through Japan.

Taking phone calls in quiet places

When in Japan, avoid taking phone calls in quiet places like public transportation, restaurants, and temples. This is considered rude and disruptive to others around you. Remember to switch your phone to silent mode or turn it off when entering these spaces.

Showing respect for the peaceful atmosphere is crucial in Japanese culture.

Adhering to this cultural norm will help tourists blend in seamlessly and demonstrate their awareness of Japanese etiquette. By being mindful of where you take phone calls, you’ll show consideration for those around you while enjoying your visit to Japan.


Tipping is not a common practice in Japan. In fact, it can be considered rude or even insulting. Japanese service industry workers take pride in their work and do not expect to be tipped.

It’s important for tourists to understand that tipping is not part of the culture and may cause confusion or discomfort. By respecting this aspect of Japanese customs, visitors can show appreciation for the excellent service without the need for tipping, aligning with local expectations and avoiding any potential cultural misunderstandings during their stay in Japan.

Remember that when visiting Japan, it’s crucial to understand and respect the local custom of no tipping. By doing so, tourists can avoid unintentionally causing offense while appreciating the exceptional service they receive throughout their trip.

Cultural Manners

Learn about the proper use of chopsticks, removing shoes inside buildings, and respecting personal space in Japan. Make sure to familiarize yourself with these cultural norms before your trip.

Ready to dive deeper into Japanese cultural etiquette? Keep reading for more helpful tips!

Removing shoes inside buildings

In Japan, it’s crucial to remove shoes before entering a building. This shows respect for the cleanliness of indoor spaces and is an important cultural norm. Different from many Western customs, this practice maintains hygiene and keeps outdoor dirt from being tracked inside.

Being aware of this custom helps tourists blend in and demonstrate cultural sensitivity while visiting Japan. Understanding and following this simple yet significant rule can help visitors avoid standing out as disrespectful or uninformed.

Proper use of chopsticks

Using chopsticks in Japan requires finesse and respect for the culture. Hold the chopsticks closer to their end, not in the middle or near the pointed ends, to avoid looking rude. Avoid sticking chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice as it resembles a funeral ritual.

Instead, rest them on the provided holder or across your plate. Don’t pass food directly from one pair of chopsticks to another, as this gesture is reminiscent of a Japanese funeral custom associated with cremated bones.

It’s important to be mindful when using chopsticks as they hold significant cultural meaning in Japan. By handling them with care and being aware of proper etiquette, tourists can show respect for Japanese customs and traditions while dining out.

Respect for personal space

When in Japan, respect personal space in public places. It’s important to maintain a comfortable distance from others and avoid physical contact unless necessary. Understanding the value of personal space is crucial in Japanese culture.

Being mindful of personal space contributes to showing cultural sensitivity when interacting with locals, ensuring a positive experience for both visitors and residents. Adhering to this practice reflects awareness and respect for Japanese social norms.

Social Situations

Addressing others with proper honorifics and participating in wedding customs are important aspects of Japanese social etiquette. Sharing food, pouring drinks for others, and handling business cards also require careful consideration in social interactions.

Addressing others with proper honorifics

When interacting with locals in Japan, it is essential to address others using proper honorifics such as “san” after their last name as a sign of respect. This cultural etiquette demonstrates politeness and consideration for social hierarchies, showing that you appreciate and acknowledge the person’s status or position.

It’s crucial to use honorifics not only when speaking directly to individuals but also when referring to them in conversations with others. By following this custom, tourists can show understanding and respect for Japanese traditions while avoiding unintentional disrespect.

Wedding customs

During a Japanese wedding, it’s customary to give money in a special envelope called “oshugi” instead of physical gifts. This is a traditional way to help the couple cover the costs of their new life together.

Additionally, it’s important to dress appropriately for the occasion; wearing black or white attire should be avoided as these are colors typically associated with funerals in Japan.

Instead, opt for formal attire in subdued colors like pastels or neutrals to show respect for the solemnity of the event and blend in with local customs.

Sharing food

When dining in Japan, it is essential to understand the cultural significance of sharing food. One important rule to remember is never to take the last piece of food when sharing a meal.

This act demonstrates thoughtfulness and consideration for others at the table, which is highly valued in Japanese culture. Additionally, instead of reaching for dishes directly, use serving chopsticks or utensils provided to transfer food onto your plate.

This shows respect and cleanliness at the table, an important custom when enjoying a meal with others.

Pouring drinks for others

When pouring drinks for others in Japan, it’s important to fill their cup first before yours. This gesture shows respect and consideration, reflecting the Japanese value of putting others before oneself.

Refilling someone else’s glass is also customary, so avoid letting your companion’s cup go empty as a sign of hospitality and attentiveness.

To uphold proper etiquette when pouring drinks for others in Japan, remember these customs: always pour carefully without splashing and never pour your own drink. By adhering to these practices, you show cultural sensitivity and respect towards your Japanese hosts or companions during social gatherings or meals.

Handling business cards

Respectfully receive and examine business cards with both hands. Do not immediately stash a business card away. Always acknowledge the business card presented to you, as it’s a sign of respect in Japanese culture.

Remember to bow slightly when receiving and giving out business cards, showing appreciation for the exchange.

Understanding these cultural nuances will help you make a positive impression when engaging in business interactions in Japan. Failure to adhere to these customs can be perceived as disrespectful and may hinder successful communication.

Do’s and Don’ts in Accommodations

Proper garbage separation is essential in accommodations. Be mindful of noise levels and nighttime etiquette to respect others around you.

Proper garbage separation

Correctly separating your garbage is essential in Japan. Familiarize yourself with the specific guidelines for recycling and disposing of waste, adhering to the categories outlined by the local authorities.

Understanding and abiding by these practices are crucial in demonstrating respect for the environment and Japanese culture. Failure to comply can result in inconvenience for both you and those around you, as well as contravene local regulations, potentially leading to fines or penalties.

When discarding your rubbish, be attentive to separate materials such as plastics, paper, glass, cans, and organic waste into their designated receptacles. Complying with these requirements not only showcases your cultural sensitivity but also contributes positively toward maintaining cleanliness throughout Japan’s communities.

Being mindful of noise levels

Respect the Japanese culture by separating your garbage correctly. Avoid leaving a mess and disturb guests during the night. Remember to be mindful of noise levels, especially in accommodations and public places.

This shows cultural sensitivity and respect for others around you.

Be considerate of your noise level at all times, whether it’s in an accommodation or when out exploring public spaces. This reflects your understanding of Japanese customs for tourists and contributes to a positive experience for both you and those around you.

Nighttime etiquette

Be mindful of noise levels when in accommodations. It’s important to respect the peace and quiet, especially during nighttime. Japanese culture values tranquility at night, so loud conversations or noisy activities should be avoided.

Additionally, if returning late to your accommodation, try to be discreet and considerate of other guests. Following these practices will show cultural sensitivity and respect towards local customs during your stay in Japan.

When staying in Japan, it is essential to adhere to the proper garbage separation guidelines for that area. Take note of the specific rules for disposing of waste after dark as some areas have different regulations for evening rubbish disposal.

Tourist Mistakes to Avoid

Avoid eating while walking, wearing shoes inside buildings, forgetting to carry a handkerchief, not showering before entering hot springs, and taking the last piece of food when sharing.

These are common tourist mistakes that can be easily avoided with proper knowledge of Japanese cultural norms.

Eating while walking

Eating while walking is considered impolite in Japan. It’s important to find a place to sit and enjoy your meal, as it shows respect for the food and those around you. Japanese culture values mindfulness during meals, so opt for designated eating areas or restaurants instead of consuming food on the go.

This simple act acknowledges and honors the cultural norms, reflecting an understanding of the local customs and etiquette that will be appreciated by locals.

Wearing shoes inside

Remove your shoes before entering a building in Japan. It is a cultural norm and sign of respect to take off your shoes when stepping inside someone’s home, traditional accommodations like ryokans, and even some restaurants.

This shows awareness and consideration for Japanese customs, keeping the floors clean as they consider it unclean to wear outdoor footwear indoors. Remember this etiquette to avoid inadvertently causing offense or discomfort to locals during your visit.

Forgetting handkerchief

Don’t forget your handkerchief in Japan. It’s essential for personal hygiene and etiquette. Carrying a handkerchief shows respect for cleanliness and consideration for others. Not having one can make you stand out as a tourist, so always have it with you when traveling around Japan.

Remembering to carry a handkerchief is crucial due to the cultural significance of personal hygiene in Japan. Japanese people often use them to wipe away sweat, dry their hands, or clean surfaces when needed.

As a tourist, embracing this practice will help you blend in more seamlessly and show respect for local customs.

Not showering before entering hot springs

Before entering hot springs in Japan, it’s essential to shower thoroughly. This is not just a cultural practice but also crucial for hygiene as soaking in the onsen requires cleanliness.

Japanese people take great care with their hot springs and expect visitors to do the same. Showering before entering the hot springs helps maintain their purity according to traditional customs and demonstrates respect for this cherished tradition.

By washing away any sweat or dirt beforehand, you show consideration for others sharing the communal baths while adhering to proper onsen etiquette. Ignoring this important step can be seen as disrespectful and offensive to locals.

Taking the last piece of food when sharing.

Consideration for others is vital when sharing food in Japan. Always avoid taking the last piece of food from a shared dish, as it may be seen as selfish and inconsiderate. Showing respect for communal dining by leaving the last portion demonstrates cultural sensitivity and good manners.

This small act reflects an understanding of Japanese social customs and emphasizes your awareness and respect for local traditions.

When sharing a meal in Japan, it’s crucial to be attentive to the unspoken rules surrounding communal eating. Endeavor to leave some food on shared plates, showing thoughtfulness towards others at the table.


In conclusion, understanding Japanese cultural norms is essential for tourists. Implementing these simple tips can enhance your experience in Japan. Respecting customs and etiquette will greatly impact your interactions with locals.

For further exploration, delve into additional resources about Japanese culture. Embracing these insights will enrich your journey and create meaningful memories. As you travel, remember that cultural awareness fosters mutual respect and understanding.

12 interesting facts about Japan


1. What should tourists avoid doing in Japan?

Tourists should be careful not to break social customs or cultural norms, such as speaking loudly on trains or ignoring proper behavior at temples and shrines.

2. Why is it important to follow cultural etiquette in Japan?

Following the cultural etiquette shows respect for the local culture and helps prevent committing a cultural faux pas that could offend locals.

3. Can you give me some taboos in Japanese culture I should know about as a tourist?

Yes, some taboos include tipping service staff, entering a house with shoes on, and failing to use polite language when necessary.

4. How does understanding social customs improve my experience in Japan?

Understanding and respecting social customs will make interactions smoother and more enjoyable for you and show cultural sensitivity towards the people you meet.

5. Are there specific travel tips for tourists related to cultural dos and don’ts in Japan?

Definitely! For instance, do bow when greeting someone but don’t point your finger at people or objects which can help maintain good tourist etiquette while visiting.

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