Exploring Japanese Etiquette: 10 Tips for First-Time Travelers to Japan

istockphoto 544466394 612x612 1 Exploring Japanese Etiquette: 10 Tips for First-Time Travelers to Japan
Japanese businessmen bowing in traditional Japanese customs used when greeting colleagues and formalizing deals
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Konnichiwa everyone!

Do you dream of visiting Japan? It’s a magical place filled with modern technology, delicious food, and ancient culture. But did you know that Japan has its own unique set of customs and etiquette? Don’t worry, I got you covered with my top 10 tips for first-time travelers to Japan!

Tip #1: Remove Your Shoes

When entering a Japanese home or traditional restaurant, be prepared to remove your shoes. They provide slippers for you to wear, but make sure to take off shoes before stepping on the wooden floors. This is to keep the floors clean, and it’s considered rude not to comply.

Tip #2: Bowing

Bowing is a common tradition in Japan that shows respect and gratitude. When greeting someone, bow slightly and take cues from their response. Bowing too low or too little is usually fine, but it’s important to show respect.

Tip #3: Use Chopsticks

Chopsticks are the utensils of choice in Japan. While forks are available at some places, it’s a good idea to learn how to use chopsticks. Remember not to stick them upright in food, as it resembles a funeral ritual.

Tip #4: Practice Silence on Public Transit

If you are taking public transit in Japan, be sure to keep the noise level down. Loud conversation, phone calls, or music can be disruptive to others, and it’s considered rude. Opt for using headphones and keep the volume low.

Tip #5: Say “Sumimasen”

“Sumimasen” translates to “excuse me” or “I’m sorry” and is a powerful and common phrase in Japan. It’s vital to use this phrase if you need to get someone’s attention, ask a question, or when apologizing.

Tip #6: Line Up

Queuing up is vital in Japan, and it’s most vital for public transit. You have to line up and wait for your turn, no matter how long it takes. Don’t try to bypass others, as it’s considered rude.

Tip #7: Be on Time

Japan is known for its punctuality, so make sure you are on time for any appointments or tours. Arrive a few minutes early if possible. If you will be late, let them know, and apologize.

Tip #8: Elevator Etiquette

Elevators in Japan have their own etiquette called “sekitori” or “elevator keeper.” It’s a polite custom to greet people who enter the elevator and then hold the doors open for those behind you. When it’s time to exit, make sure to turn around and bow slightly before walking out.

Tip #9: Eat and Drink Responsibly

It’s customary to say “itadakimasu” before eating and “gochisosama deshita” after finishing a meal in Japan. Be sure to enjoy your meal and drink responsibly, as getting drunk in public is not well-received.

Tip #10: Show Gratitude

Gratitude is of high importance in Japan, so saying “arigatou gozaimasu” (thank you very much) is a crucial phrase to learn. It is also customary to give a small gift when visiting someone’s home or office.


Visiting Japan is an exciting adventure, but it’s necessary to understand the country’s culture and etiquette. By following these ten tips, you will show respect and courtesy to the Japanese people while having an unforgettable experience in the beautiful country of the rising sun.

Arigatou gozaimasu for reading, and have a great journey!

Written by Adrian Martinez

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