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Do's

Take plenty of cash

Japan is largely a cash-based society, so you’ll find that some places may not accept your credit card – especially outside of major cities. You’ll generally need to use cash in local restaurants, bars, markets, and tourist sights. We recommend changing your pounds to yen before arriving in Japan. It’s an extremely safe place, so the biggest risk is probably losing or misplacing the cash.

Use your chopsticks

When in Japan, why not try and use chopsticks when you can – you’ll gain praise from the locals! Just remember these simple rules: don’t wave them above your food, use them as drumsticks, mock swordfights or point to people with them. Always consider them a pair and don’t poke at your food with a solitary stick. Don’t pass food to each other using them and never stand them upright as this is done during funeral rituals and is deemed very ill mannered.

Bowing

Perhaps one of Japan’s most well-known customs, bowing is considered a sign of respect. When greeting one another, people bow instead of shaking hands. The deeper the bow, the more respectful it is. Bowing is also used when thanking or apologising to someone.

Be sure to keep enough distance to avoid bumping heads!

Removing your shoes

Whilst removing shoes before you enter someone’s home in the UK is seen as polite, it is considered hugely offensive if you do not remove your shoes in Japan. Even some restaurants share this custom, so don’t be surprised if some ask you to go barefoot. Toilet slippers are common in Japan and it is considered bad etiquette if you do not remove your slippers when exiting the bathroom. To be safe, be prepared to take your shoes off before crossing any household thresholds.

Always try and save time to eat

As you may already be aware, Japan is the home of vending machines with roughly 5.52 million nationwide. However, as convenient as they are it is very impolite in Japan to eat whilst walking so give yourself time to eat at the vending machine.

In the UK people are often seen eating snacks in public whilst getting on with their days, however in Japan eating in public is less common, in fact it is often frowned upon by locals. Eating in public, such as on public transport, can be seen as dirty and gives off bad odours that are unpleasant to others. Japanese people usually eat in restaurants or cafes, with plenty of fast food restaurants with seating areas available.

Say “kanpai” when clinking your glasses before you drink

In Japan, an alcoholic drink is considered well deserved after a hard day at work (or sightseeing, if you’re a visitor). Before you take a sip of your alcoholic drink, you can say “kanpai” which translates to “dry glass”. This is much like the England equivalent of saying “bottoms up”.

Get your coffee from convenience stores

Convenience stores are always trying to outdo each other, which is why it is the ideal place to get a self-service coffee. An average coffee from these stores can be bought for as little as 100 Yen (£0.76).

Learn some Japanese phrases

A few basic words and phrases in Japanese will go a long way, and locals will be impressed by even your most tortured attempt at speaking their language!
Thank you – arigato or arigatoo gozaimasu.
Please – onegai shimasu
Excuse me – sumimasen.
Sorry – Gomen’nasai.

Don'ts

There’s no need to tip

Nobody tips in Japan. Ever. In fact, tipping is seen as a rude gesture. Don’t be surprised if a taxi driver hands your tip back, or a waiter chases you down the street to return it. In Japanese culture, when you give extra money, it is essentially telling the employees that they need to improve their service.

Don’t litter

Rubbish bins are few and far between in Japan, and this is because the Japanese find it rude to eat on the go. Be sure to take a backpack or tote bag around with you and keep hold of your rubbish until you return back to your hotel.

Don't smoke on the streets

Smokers can be fined for lighting up a cigarette outside on the streets in cities all over Japan; these rules are most prevalent within Tokyo and Osaka, where there are designated ‘tobacco corners’. Lighting up on the street, outside of a designated smoking area, could see you land a fine of up to ¥50,000 yen.

Don’t cut the queue

Jumping the queue is as unpopular in Japan as it is in the UK. No one enjoys queuing, so be patient and respectful to those around you. Ironically though, it is not routine in Japan to wait and hold a door open for someone who may be following.

Don’t think about jaywalking

It isn’t uncommon to see jaywalkers greeted by honking cars from disapproving road users. Always look for a suitable crossing point, rather than making a dash for it as whilst the probability of getting a fine is very low, it is possible to be fined as much as ¥20,000 if caught.

Don’t be afraid of the interesting toilets

If you’re lucky, you may encounter a high-tech toilet during your time in Japan. Luxury toilets are quite common across Japan. Some allow you to adjust the water temperature, change the toilet seat temperature, play music, spray water and blow hot air – these toilets have something for everyone!

Don’t Be Afraid to Slurp and Burp

With all the Japanese guidelines for chopsticks and table manners, it can take foreign visitors by surprise to hear the locals loudly devouring their meals. They’ll sip, chomp and even burp audibly throughout the meal as a polite sign that they are enjoying the feast. The louder the better, it seems. So, go ahead, the cook will be flattered.

Don’t completely finish your meal

If eating out with Japanese people, then finishing your meal may be interpreted that you have not had enough. The Japanese pride themselves on their hospitality, so a good tip if you have finished is to leave a little food on your plate.