Manners to practice & what to avoid while traveling in Japan

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Before going to Japan I had heard there were manners that I should learn even though I had also read that the Japanese are generally forgiving of international tourists. I did my best to actually follow everything listed below and generally everyone was excited and/or impressed.

Here are as many as I can think of that you should practice and avoid!

Please don’t…

  • Do not eat and walk! Move to the side and eat.
    • Bonus info: Take-out is rare and they don’t allow you to take leftovers at restaurants.
  • Do not talk above a whisper or low voice on trains, subways or buses.
    • Text rather than talk on your phone too
    • In general don’t be too noisy
  • Chopstick no-nos: sticking them in the rice, passing food with chopsticks, laying across your bowl (unless you’re done), or rubbing them together to get the slivers off (seen as implication that they’re cheaply made).
  • Don’t touch or take photos of the geisha without permission! Don’t pressure geiko or maiko into photos but I’ve read that apparently if they don’t seem in a rush it may be ok to politely ask for a photo.
    • Side note: My Japanese (duh) Air B & B host said that Maiko are apprentice Geiko and the term “Geisha” is used to describe them together as a group but I am trusting him 100% to be accurate ‘cuz I did not verify.


  • Give up your seat to elderly people
  • Place cash and coins or credit cards in the little tray when making purchases; if there isn’t a tray then give the money with BOTH hands.
  • Wait in line/queue to board trains, subways, and buses.
  • Stand to the left on escalators single-file to allow others on the right side to quickly get up or down.
  • Slurp your noodles when eating ramen and udon! If introverted me can do it on a solo trip and get over the initial embarrassment, so can you!
  • This is more important if you end up hanging out with locals but pour drinks for nearby people in your party and allow others to pour your drink.

“When in doubt…”

“…pinky out.” – Patrick Star

When in doubt, think to yourself “will this action inconvenience those around me?” because ultimately almost everything listed here is done with that question in mind. If it’s a “yes” then do your best to avoid.

I’m sure I didn’t cover them all! Add your own advice in the comments below! #afkadventures

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