7 Japanese Customs You Need to Know Before Traveling to Japan

Don’t get caught looking impolite; learn these Japanese customs before you go.


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Politeness and upholding tradition are an important part of Japanese customs and culture. Our tips on maintaining proper manners in the different social situations you may encounter are perfect for first-time visitors to the country.

Meet and Greet

1.) Bowing, rather than shaking hands, is the traditional Japanese greeting. But for most situations, a simple nod of the head and slight bow is good enough.

2.) The Japanese exchange business cards upon introduction, so bring some or consider having visiting cards made with your name and contact information. For this Japanese custom, present cards with both hands, with the script facing the recipient.

Dining Do’s and Don’ts

3.) Bowls of rice or soup should be picked up; since there are no spoons, you will sip your soup. When eating noodle dishes, it’s perfectly fine to slurp the hot noodles—it helps cool them and indicates that the meal is delicious. So slurp away.

4.) Never pour your own drink when dining with the Japanese. Instead, allow whoever you’re dining with to pour your drink, and then return the gesture. When you’ve had enough, leave your glass full so it can’t be refilled.

5.) Tipping is not customary in Japan. In upscale restaurants and hotels, a 10 to 15 percent service charge is added to the bill.

Japanese Customs While Out and About

6.) Never wear shoes inside a Japanese home, traditional inn or any room with tatami (a traditional floor mat). Plastic slippers are usually provided, but even these should be removed before stepping on tatami.

7.) Eating or drinking while walking down the street is considered bad manners. Many cities also ban smoking on public sidewalks but have designated smoking areas.

If you’re headed to Japan, make sure you travel to Tokyo—the world’s largest metropolitan area.

Ready to visit Japan after this crash-course in culture? Visit AAA.com or call 877-303-4222 to plan your trip.

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Janice Yip-Hudson, AAA Travel Counselor, Daly City, Calif.

Today, people's lives are so busy. We're thinking three days ahead just to get through our to-do lists. I love helping my clients plan vacations where they have nothing to do but relax; where time stands still, and you're just on vacation.

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