Don’t Be Rude! Here’s How to Be Polite When in Japan

  • HOW TO
  • Every country has its own unique customs and ways of expressing emotions, Japan is no exception. When you visit another country, it is always nice to try and abide by some of the etiquettes while there, and it also makes the experience better! In Japan, some things that are often done in other countries can be seen as rude, so you may want to avoid these practices when you are next visit.


    Japan is arguably a nation of smokers, there is currently no national smoking ban in buildings or on trains. However, although you may be able to smoke while eating a meal there are some things you should be mindful of. In Japan, it is not allowed to walk and smoke at the same time. This may seem odd, especially as you can smoke inside. However to be considerate of other people smoking is limited to specific smoking areas when outside. On many corners and in areas in parks and attractions you will find giant ashtrays with signs, in both Japanese and English, asking you to smoke there. At train stations and other places, you may even find a smoking box to smoke in. To be polite, simply save smoking until you reach a smoking area, and always put your cigarette butt out and in the ashtray.


    In the UK and other Western countries, it is common to see people eating everywhere while walking, on the bus or even in a shop. In Japan this is not the same, it is sometimes considered rude to walk around while eating, to eat on the train or while out. Some exceptions to this are on shinkansen and more long-distance trains, where they encourage you to buy food on board. Also eating outside is common during matsuri festivals and hanami, where food vendors are selling and eating areas are set up.


    Trains are more than a mode of transport in Japan, they are celebrated and innovative. You will find that most trains are clean and tidy when in Japan, so there are a few ways you can be too! If traveling on a train make sure you don’t take up more room than you need to, if sitting put your knees together so people can sit either side. Also, try not to be too loud on the train, there are other people and board who might not want to hear it. Making sure your music is not too loud through your headphones is a polite thing to do. It is also frowned upon to speak on the phone while, on the train, it is fine to answer and say you will call someone back. There are lots of little things we can do to make everyone’s train journey more enjoyable.


    In the UK and America, it is seen as rude not to leave a tip after eating in a restaurant or using a service such as a taxi. However in Japan tipping is seen as extremely rude! Make sure you do not tip in restaurants, in hotels or when using a taxi company. However there is one exception, and that is if you are staying at a traditional ryokan, here you can politely tip by placing some money inside an envelope and directly giving it to who you think deserves it.

    It is nice to follow local customs when visiting another country, why not try on your next holiday to make a good impression.