Do’s and Dont’s in Japan

Whenever we travel abroad it’s really important to prepare or research their culture and norms so we can behave properly. Japan has a very unique culture and traditions, some people may get culture shock if they’re not familiar with it.

So here are some common courtesy guidelines in Japan that most foreigners should know.

Don’t be late. 

As a Filipino, being late is somewhat part of our culture already, hence, the term “Pinoy time” was coined. Yes, there may be several factors to be considered why you are late in the Philippines (eg. traffic jams, train breakdowns or crowded). But rather than accepting “Pinoy time” as part of our daily lives, we should change this and act more responsible.  

Here in Japan being late is a big no no. Everything here in Japan is precise when it comes to time. You can make someone really angry for being late for just 1 minute. Whenever you’re going for an interview, work, dentist appointment, or meeting a friend, arrive on time or at least 15 minutes earlier.

Don’t eat while you are walking


 I got scolded by a friend one time for eating Famichiki (FamilyMart’s Chicken) while we are walking on the streets of Ikebukuro. At least had the courtesy to stay in one corner first and finished what you are eating. Drinking while walking is okay but eating is considered very impolite and frowned upon in Japan.

Don’t talk on your phone loudly in public areas / no phone calls on trains

In my opinion, this should be common even for other countries. But sometimes, when we are in a foreign country we’re too excited and can’t wait to share it with your family or friends, we forget the fact that some nearby people will be annoyed or disturbed by our boisterous phone calls. Phone calls while inside the trains are prohibited, If someone is trying to call you, just reject the call and message them that you will call them when you’re off the train.

Keep it down in public places

You should always remember to be mindful to others while in Japan. As we mentioned above, you should avoid disturbing others. Keeping your volume down while talking in public places is the common practice. There are some places that you can be loud like in pubs (izakaya), karaoke bars or amusement parks.

Don’t play around with your chopsticks

Never use your chopsticks as a drumsticks or use it for pointing, it’s considered very rude in Japan. Also, don’t pass food from your chopsticks to theirs and sticking the chopsticks into a bowl of rice because it’s symbolizes death in Japan.

No tipping please

Yes, yes, yes you received some excellent quality service and you want to show your appreciation however, if you gave extra cash as a tip here in Japan the results that you were expecting may be different. Most likely they will think that you forgot your change and a waiter might chase you and return it. In Philippines it’s really common to give tips especially to restaurants and taxi, some may even expect it. So if you like giving tips, you should better control yourself and always remember that you don’t need to give tips here in Japan.

Yes to slurping

Slurping soup on your ramen, udon, soba or even miso soup is standard practice in Japan. Not only it helps the hot soup to cool down because you’re simultaneously inhaling cold air, it also tells the chef that you’re enjoying their food. So go ahead and slurp away, don’t be shy.

Don’t forget to close the door in some restaurants

Some ramen shops or food chains doesn’t have any automatic doors, so you don’t forget to close them whenever you enter or leave the premises.You don’t want to be disturbed by the sudden cold breeze from outside while eating right? 

Follow the rules

In Japan, all the policies and rules are strictly enforced. Most likely you will see some sign boards all over Japan that tells you how to do things or what are allowed and not allowed. You will also see most of them have some English translations especially in Tokyo so please  do follow them. One good example is their garbage disposal system. Trash bins are rarely seen on the streets but common to see in train stations and convenience store. Each bin has their respective grouping such as burnable, non-burnable, plastic bottles, etc. so make sure you sort out your garbage. Also, in each city or town has their own system and schedule of garbage collection, it may be too overwhelming or inconvenient at first for a foreigner, but it’s not impossible to appreciate this kind of system.

Few more examples of rules to follow are queuing properly in train stations or no smoking in public areas.

Remember to be polite at all times and try to learn some basic but important Japanese words, this will certainly impress them at the same time appreciative for your efforts in learning their language.