12 Dos and Don’ts to Know Before Visiting Japan, According to Locals

Asian woman wearing japanese traditional kimono at Temple in Tokyo, Japan.

As you embark on your global gallivanting escapades, remember this golden rule: what’s perfectly acceptable in one country might send the locals running for cover in another! It’s like the international version of accidentally wearing socks with sandals. So, before you set sail on your voyage toward the land of the rising sun, let’s take a delightful detour through the dos and don’ts of Japan. Buckle up because this rollercoaster ride of cultural enlightenment is about to begin!

1. Do Learn Some Greetings

Business people greeting bowing gesture in Japan
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It is important to study little phrases and words of greeting to break the ice with locals when visiting Japan. One participant commented on learning the word ‘sumimasen’; one can use this to start every sentence. It means sorry or excuse me.

2. Do Carry Cash

Customer paying bill by cash at bread counter in bakery shop
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Carrying cash is one main tip for visiting Japan. It is advised by a solo traveler who has visited Japan many times. Although Japan is a technological country, it does not always accept electronic payments at stores. So it would be convenient for visitors to make sure they have cash in their pockets.

3. Do Visit Department Store Basement Food Courts

Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan - June 16 2023: Interior of the Tokyu Kabukicho Tower food court known as "Kabuki-Yokocho".
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Visitors and foreigners usually look for five-star hotels and restaurants for good food. But it is less common to know that the departmental stores have good food courts in their basements. These food courts are not only good in taste, but also can be budget-friendly. Any visitor can entertain themselves with great food on a cheap budget there.

4. Don’t Speak Loudly on Trains

Tokyo, Japan - 10.2022: Japanese rush hour with worker and student commuting on express train crammed into the carriage
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Japan is very conscious of traveling ethics. You should not speak loudly on trains. Loud does not mean shouting; it is even one’s normal voice. So it is advised to keep the vocals low on public transport. One viewer mentioned that a person on a call speaking loudly on a train could be kicked out of the vehicle in Japan.

5. Don’t Eat/ Drink in the Streets

Two geishas wearing traditional japanese kimono among Sensoji Temple in Asakusa Tokyo, Japan.
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Japan’s streets are highly clean and clear. And the inhabitants of this nation are quite conscientious about keeping their streets clean. The city of Kamakura has even banned drinking or dining on the streets.

6. Don’t Close Taxi Doors by Yourself

Taxi driver and female passenger in Japan
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Japan’s advanced taxis are well known. Along with many other features, the doors of these taxis are automatic. There is no need for manual intervention. So it is good to know before visiting Japan that you will likely not need to open or close your own taxi door.

7. Don’t Have Tattoos in Public Bathhouses 

close up tattoo machine. Man creating picture on hand with it in salon
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Body or facial tattoos are very common all over the world. But Japan officially does not allow tattoos in certain areas, such as in public bathhouses. In some offices, you have to cover the tattoo area as well. Some schools and colleges do not allow kids with revealing tattoos to enter. 

8. Do Learn the Etiquette of Escalators in Japan

Tokyo, Japan July 15, 2016 - Middle aged businessman commutes via Tokyo subway system.
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There are rules for using an escalator in Japan. If one is using an escalator in Tokyo, they have to stand in the left corner, leaving the other corner for people who wish to walk up the escalator. And if one is in Osaka, one must stand in the right corner and leave the left corner open for walking.

9. Do Learn Japan’s Rules for Chopsticks

Japanese sushi chopsticks over soy sauce bowl, rice on black background. Top view with copy space
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In Japan, the way of using chopsticks is judged. One should learn chopstick manners when dining in restaurants. For example, pointing to things with your chopsticks, passing food, rubbing them together, and leaving them on a plate after finishing are considered the most offensive activities.

10. Do Bring Your Trash With You

TOKYO, JAPAN - November 3, 2022: Waste containers for different kinds of trash (plastic bottles; bottles and cans; paper and plastic) outside a Lawson convenience store in Tokyo's Koto Ward.
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It is a point of wonder to notice that the streets of Japan are clean and clear, but there are hardly any trash cans there. People are used to carrying their trash with them and disposing of it at home. Stick a plastic bag in your backpack when exploring during the day, so you can collect your trash and dispose of it at your hotel in the evening.

11. Do Take Advantage of the Vending Machines Everywhere

HAKONE, JAPAN - AUGUST 8: A line of cup noodles on display for purchase in a vending machine shown on August 8, 2015 in Hakone, Japan
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One most interesting things about Japan is the vending machines everywhere. At every few steps, one can find vending machines. These machines offer tea, coffee, snacks, cold drinks, noodles, and more.

12. Don’t Take Pictures of Geisha or Maiko Without Permission

Maiko geisha walking on a street of Gion in Kyoto Japan
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You can always ask ‘shashin kudasai?’ if they don’t seem to be in a hurry. However, don’t bother the maiko when they ARE in a hurry. It should also go without saying but don’t grab the maiko or touch them in any fashion. One local said there was a disappointing rash of this in the last few years, and one poor girl had her kimono torn. 

Source: Reddit

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Two geishas wearing traditional japanese kimono among Sensoji Temple in Asakusa Tokyo, Japan.
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OSAKA, JAPAN - DECEMBER 27: Locals eat a late night dinner outside a restaurant on December 27, 2014 in Osaka, Japan.
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