Your guide to etiquette for Japan travel

Correct manners are very culturally important in Japan. As a foreigner travelling to the country, any attempts you make to conform to the correct etiquette in Japan will be well received. Here are some cultural dos and don'ts for scenarios that you are likely to come across when travelling in Japan...

Tables manners in Japan

Etiquette in Japan dictates that you do not pour your own beverages, but pour your friend's and top up their glass if it gets empty. If someone pours you an alcoholic beverage, you should quickly drink it and hold your glass up to them.

It's customary to say itadakimasu ("I gratefully receive") before eating and gochisosama ("Thank you for the meal") after finishing.

Meals are traditionally held sitting on the floor on a tatami mat. In formal situations, it is best to kneel down. In casual situations, men should sit cross legged while women should sit with both their legs to one side.

It is considered good manners to empty your plate. Slurping noodles is taken as a sign that you are enjoying them.

Greetings in Japan

The common greeting is to bow to each other. Casual greetings are usually small nods of the head while more formal greetings, to those of a high social status, will involve a deeper, longer bow.

Visiting shrines and temples in Japan

Behave calmly and respectfully. Signs will indicate whether you need to remove your shoes and whether photography is permitted.

Visiting a home in Japan

When entering a Japanese home or ryokan, remove your shoes at the doorway. Slippers are normally provided by the host. When entering a room with a tatami floor, slippers are removed as well.

Superstitions and etiquette in Japan

Visitors to Japan should be aware of the following superstitions:

  • Don't stick your chopsticks into rice - this is only done at funerals
  • Don't pass from chopstick to chopstick - this is done with the bones of cremated bodies at funerals
  • The number four is considered unlucky because it sounds similar to the word for death. Avoid giving gifts that consist of four pieces

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