Japanese manners and customs that each traveler to Japan ought to know

Customs and manners are so important to Japanese culture that many travel websites have sections devoted to the subject.

Japan is currently closed to international travelers, but the country is looking for ways to safely reopen before the Tokyo Summer Olympics begin, which is slated for late July. Tourists are not expected to understand all of Japan’s complex social rules, but they can avoid the most common gaffe.

Here’s a guide on what to do – and what to avoid – based on advice from the Japanese government-affiliated tourism organizations.

Don’t touch the geisha

What many travelers call “geisha” is called “maiko” or “geiko” in Kyoto. This is considered to be one of the best places in Japan to see the decorated female entertainers.

If anyone is spotted, the Kyoto City Tourism Association (KCTA) travel website advises travelers not to stop or ask Maiko to pose for photos.

“Don’t bother her or grab her by the kimono sleeves,” the website said.

A maiko or appentice geisha walks in the snow in the Gion district of Kyoto, Japan.

Koichi Kamoshida | Getty Images News | Getty Images

This is one from Kyoto Manners Akimahen, a list of 18 tips, recommendations, and warnings for travelers to Japan’s Capital of Culture.

The list of “Akimahen” (which means “not” in the local dialect) ranges from tips on automatic taxi doors (“Make sure you stand far enough for the door to open without bumping into you”) to trash can result in a fine of 30,000 Japanese yen (US $ 280).

Emoticon ratings indicate the severity of each crime. Tipping, which is frowned upon in all of Japan instead of thanking people in the local dialect (“okini”), takes on a sad face. Riding a bike drunk gives you three angry faces – the worst rating – not to mention a possible prison sentence of up to five years.

Expect pushing but not talking on trains

Travelers should expect to be pushing and shoving on overcrowded trains Go to Tokyo, the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau’s travel guide website.

“But remember that this is not aggressive behavior, just the product of daily life in a metropolis,” the website says.

Japanese people rarely talk or eat on trains, especially when they are crowded.

Junko Kimura | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Videos The number of white-gloved train attendants pushing people onto Japanese trains has fascinated travelers for years. They also make it easy to understand one of the most important rules of Japanese public transport: no cell phone calls. In fact, travelers are advised not to even let them ring the doorbell.

“If you have a phone with you, leave it in silent mode,” the Go Tokyo website said.

“Etiquette in public places is serious business in Japan,” he explains Travel website for the government affiliated Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO). “Public observance of these rules is probably the main reason a big city like Tokyo can function so smoothly.”

Eat sushi with your hands

Travelers unfamiliar with chopsticks can request cutlery, advises the JNTO travel website, although they “may not be available, especially in more traditional locations”.

Instead of fighting with chopsticks, the tourism organization recommends travelers to follow another local custom.

In Japan, it is common to eat sushi with your hands, especially nigiri sushi, which translates as “two fingers”.

Makiko Tanigawa | DigitalVision | Getty Images

“If you came to Japan for sushi, remember that you can eat it with your hands,” the website says.

Shrines and temples

A tourist attraction for one person is a sacred place of worship for another person. According to the KCTA website, travelers should “be calm and respectful in shrines and temples”.

The Kyoto Tourism Association also asks visitors to remove hats and sunglasses in places of worship.

Dai Miyamoto, founder of the tour company Tokyo localizedsaid he often sees tourists “sitting in every place … shrine and temple”, even in places “where there is no bank or a place to rest”. He also sees tourists taking photos of Buddha statues and places where photography is prohibited.

Go Tokyo recommends travelers to enjoy the “full cultural experience” of the Shinto shrines by walking along the sides of the path leading to the shrine, as the center is “technically reserved for the anchored deity”.

At the entrance to the site, travelers can rinse their hands and mouth with “cleansing water” before approaching the main hall. There they can “bow slightly, ring the bells, put a small offer of money in the box, bow twice, clap twice, and bow again to complete the ritual,” according to the website.

The rules of the ryokan

Staying in a traditional inn or ryokan is a popular way to experience Japanese hospitality, but this involves more social rules than staying in a hotel.

Ryokans tend to be neither cheap nor exceptionally classy, ​​which may surprise travelers who associate higher prices with sprawling suites and plush bedding. Ryokans are typically one-bedroom accommodations that are spartan and lined with straw tatami mats.

Ryokan prices are often quoted per person rather than per night.

Recep-BG | E + | Getty Images

KCTA has a list of guidelines for ryokan guests, including changing into (provided) slippers before entering. Luggage wheels must not touch the inner floor. And bags should never be kept on the wall molding or the tokonoma where flowers and scrolls are displayed.

Meals are often served in rooms and visitors dress in casual kimonos called yukata to eat. After dinner, plates are cleared and futon-style mattresses are placed on the floor for sleeping.

Onsen etiquette

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s How to Enjoy Tokyo: Manners & Custom Handbook advises travelers to remove all clothing and use onsens, which are bathing areas associated with Japan’s natural hot springs.

As a volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsens, many of which are part of a hotel or ryokan and are segregated by gender.

John S Lander | LightRocket | Getty Images

According to the government ManualBathers must rinse themselves before entering and are not allowed to swim, jump or dive into the water. Hair and towels must not touch the water.

People with tattoos may be denied access to more traditional onsens as tattoos are linked to Japan’s “yakuza” or organized crime groups, Miyamoto said. This is on the decline due to the popularity of tattoos among younger generations and foreign travelers.

Sightseeing and shopping

Cutting lines is banned in most countries, but in Japan, keeping a place for friends or family members is also considered inappropriate, according to Tokyo’s Manner Guide.

It also advises travelers not to go up or down escalators. If you are in a hurry, you should use the stairs.

Negotiating better prices is not common when shopping. And the clothing sizes differ from those in western countries. An oversized men’s shirt in Japan is similar to a medium-sized US men’s shirt.

Miyamoto, 5 feet 9 inches tall and 185 pounds, wears a Japanese size XL because “big is too small”. However, he said Americans who need larger sizes are out of luck.

“Uniqlo, the most famous casual brand in Japan, sells over XXL sizes … in online stores,” he said.

Miss Manners: Repairing a household rift, and a automobile window | Leisure

Keep it simple and don’t blame it: “We’re sorry the situation with the car got out of control. Now that we’ve resolved it, let’s make every effort to do better in the future. Us Do you miss.”

Miss Manners can’t promise that your daughter will respond to it or even read it, but at least she’ll have to take greater action if she wants to block or make the mail system more unfriendly.

Dear Ms. Manners: Before the pandemic, two long-time friends invited me over to their home for dinner once or twice a year. In the thank you letters I sent later I mentioned that I had a wonderful time, the atmosphere is warm and they are in good company, and that the food was delicious. I have explicitly referred to at least one dish each time. But I worry about my notes repeating themselves.

I understand that sincere, if repetitive, notes are better than noneand I have no intention of sending a note in case you or anyone else should prepare a meal for me in the future. But I wonder if I missed an additional element that should be included.

Gentle reader: How about the conversation? “I’m so glad that we could shed some light on the subject of sea turtle conservation. Freya really got me to think about my position and now I’m deeply researching their migratory habits.”

Miss Manners: Getting neighbors to calm down | Leisure

Judith Martin


Dear Ms. Manners: My new upstairs neighbors don’t seem to understand that this is an old building with gauzy walls. Occasionally, when they’re feeling in love, it gets quite noisy.

The first time it happened I mentioned right after they finished and then went outside that the walls are very thin and the neighbors can hear quite a bit. I wasn’t referring specifically to their activities, I didn’t want to embarrass them or myself.

Same thing last night. So I emailed the boy asking if he might not be able to suppress the noise of his “activities” and I copied his landlady. Our bylaws say renters are the responsibility of the landlord, but they also told us before he moved in that they wanted to be informed of any problems. Problem: His landlady is also his mother.

However, he responded with a Bible verse from Matthew to the effect of “Do not judge lest you be judged,” which was strange since I do not receive visitors hereand the landlord / mother responded with an offer for his, the tenant’s cell phone number, so we can discuss this over the phone.

I’m not sure it’s worth discussing. It was uncomfortable and uncomfortable for me to bring it up. It seems to me that sex is something between two consenting adults, not between two consenting adults and their non-consenting neighbor. For now, I’ve resigned myself to noise canceling headphones, but do you have any suggestions?