Avoid Offending Others With Akimahen Rules! The Dos, Don’ts and Being Respectful in Kyoto

  • HOW TO
  • Kyoto is a real draw to tourists due to all the landmarks, shrines and temples. There are many ancient buildings in Kyoto as it was the capital of Japan for hundreds of years. Therefore, it is important to be polite and follow the Akimahen rules of Kyoto. Akimahen means “do not” so follow these rules and you will not offend anyone.

    Shrines, Temples and Old Buildings

    Shrines and temples make up a large part of Kyoto’s tourism and so, unfortunately, it means that some visitors do not respect the rules of these sacred places. This may just be because people do not know how they are meant to behave, so the new signs will help.

    No Photos in Prohibited Areas

    The first rule that is stated is not to take photos in prohibited areas. It is important to remember that shrines and temples are not museums but places of worship for many and many people and need to be respected. You wouldn’t go into a church or mosque in your hometown and start taking pictures! Many of the paintings or fittings in shrines and temples can be very, very old. Photography, especially flash photography could damage these items.

    Just like the objects in a museum, those in shrines and temples may be very old, so keep them safe by not damaging them with a flash. Also, there are certain places that do not allow photography. Please respect these areas. The items within a shrine or a temple may represent a kami or something holy. In these cases it is not allowed to photograph these things, it is actually very rude to do so. Please do not offend people in shrines or temples.

    Be Quiet, Respectful, No Sunglasses or Hats

    There are two more rules to follow in temples and shrines. The first of these is to be quiet and respectful. As I have already said these are active places of worship, not simply a beautiful building for your enjoyment. Please speak quietly when going around the temple. Do not take food or drink to be consumed on temple grounds, this is also being disrespectful. Look closely at signs around the shrine or temple and do not go to places where you are not allowed, this would be embarrassing.

    Secondly remove hats and sunglasses. Just like a church or mosque it is important to be respectful inside the shrine or temple. Hiding your eyes or head is not.

    No Damaging Objects/Buildings

    Another word of akimahen is to avoid breaking or damaging any of the ancient parts of Kyoto. As many buildings here may have stood for hundreds of years they can be quite delicate. If you don’t have to touch it then do not touch it. It may be very interesting to see what it is like but please refrain! Equally do not touch any objects within buildings unless it is obvious that this is okay to do so. Japan is a nation that respects and understands their past and so luckily many objects have survived. These things are national treasures within Japan, so don’t be the one to break it.


    Toilets are a big deal in Japan and many visitors are fascinated by them. Now that Japan receives so many international visitors they have noticed some problems with the toilets. Not only has an Akihamen been released for toilets but also as a secondary guide to be placed in toilet cubicles. The Akihamen for toileting is to keep the toilets clean. That means that if you were to make a mess simply clean it up before you leave. Always leave the toilets how you would like to find them. The second and the more specific guide shows the three most common mistakes for visitors using toilets in Kyoto.

    The first is how to sit on the toilet, different countries have different ways, but the toilets in Japan are built for a specific method, so don’t break it! In many Asian countries, the toilet paper is not flushed but instead is put in a bin as the sewer system isn’t designed for paper. In Japan, the toilets can take the paper, and it is actually not clean to leave the toilet paper in a bin as the cleaning is not set up for this. So please do flush any toilet paper you use. Thirdly flushing. Now, this can be confusing as there are many different types of flushes in Japan, but please do flush away so that the next user does not have to do it for you.

    It is important to be aware that some toilets you will come across in Japan might be very unfamiliar to you, these are the old Japanese style toilets which look similar to a urinal placed on the ground. These toilets can take a little getting used to, so please be careful.

    Enjoy your trip to Japan but please be mindful of the people who call this place home, and also of other visitors. You can enjoy your trip much more if you follow these rules. Kyoto is an amazing city, keep it that way for the future.

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