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What not to do in Japan as a foreigner?


Japan is a beautiful country with a unique culture that is quite different from what most foreigners are used to. As a foreigner, it is important to be aware of the dos and don’ts in Japan to avoid any misunderstandings or offending the locals. In this article, we will discuss what not to do in Japan as a foreigner.

Don’t Wear Shoes Indoors

In Japan, it is customary to remove your shoes before entering a house or even some businesses. You will usually see a designated area where you can leave your shoes and put on slippers provided by the host. Wearing shoes indoors is considered dirty and disrespectful, so make sure to follow this rule.

Japanese Snack Box

Don’t Talk Loudly on Public Transportation

In Japan, public transportation is quiet, and people usually don’t talk loudly or use their phones. It is considered rude to disturb others’ peace in public spaces, so make sure to keep your voice down and avoid making loud noises.

Don’t Tip

Tipping is not common in Japan and may even be considered rude. Japanese service workers are paid respectable wages, and tipping may come off as an insult to their professionalism.

Don’t Eat or Drink While Walking

Eating or drinking while walking is not common in Japan and may even be considered impolite. It is preferable to find a designated area such as a park bench or food stall to consume your food or drink.

Don’t Be Late

Punctuality is highly valued in Japan, and being late may be seen as disrespectful. Make sure to arrive on time for any scheduled meetings or appointments.

Don’t Blow Your Nose in Public

Blowing your nose in public is considered impolite in Japan. It is better to excuse yourself and go to a private area such as a restroom to take care of any nasal issues.

Don’t Point with Your Finger

Pointing with your finger is considered rude in Japan. It is better to use your whole hand or nod your head in the direction you are referring to.

Don’t Hug or Kiss in Public

Public displays of affection such as hugging or kissing are not common in Japan and may be seen as inappropriate. It is better to show affection in private spaces.

Don’t Forget to Bow

Bowing is a common greeting in Japan, and it is essential to show respect by bowing when meeting someone new or showing gratitude. Make sure to follow the appropriate bowing etiquette based on the situation.

Don’t Be Loud and Obnoxious

Being loud and obnoxious in public spaces is frowned upon in Japan. It is better to be calm and collected, showing respect for the people around you.

Don’t Ignore the Rules of Onsen

Onsen, or hot springs, are a popular Japanese attraction. However, there are rules that need to be followed, such as washing before entering the water, not wearing clothes in the water, and not bringing towels into the water. Make sure to follow these rules to avoid offending other visitors.

Don’t Take Photos of People Without Permission

Taking photos of strangers without permission is considered impolite in Japan. If you wish to take a photo of someone, it is better to ask for their permission first.


Japan has a unique culture that should be respected by all visitors. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that you have a great time while avoiding any misunderstandings or offending the locals. Remember, when in doubt, always ask for guidance or clarification.

What not to wear in Japan as a tourist?

It is best to avoid wearing tank tops, shorts, and mini-skirts, and instead choose more conservative clothing, even if you don’t plan on visiting temples or shrines. Additionally, it is generally not acceptable for women to wear clothing that shows cleavage or has offensive messages or designs.

Are Americans welcome in Japan?

At present, individuals with U.S. passports can visit Japan for short periods (up to three months) without a visa. However, starting from October 11, 2022, fully vaccinated travelers who have received vaccines approved by the Japanese government will not need to take a pre-travel COVID-19 test.

What are some rules that foreigners should know when they visit Japan?

When visiting Japan for tourism or business purposes, it is necessary to always carry your passport. If you are residing in Japan, it is mandatory to carry your residence card. It is considered illegal to purchase or consume alcohol if you are under the age of 20.

Does Japan allow tattoos?

Contrary to popular belief, tattoos are not against the law in Japan and are generally accepted. In fact, there are people in Tokyo who even display fashion tattoos. However, it is common for individuals with tattoos to keep them concealed under clothing.

What I Cannot bring to Japan?

Prohibited items include firearms like pistols, revolvers, and machine guns, as well as bullets and related components. Additionally, explosives, gunpowder, and materials for chemical weapons, as well as harmful germs like anthrax. It is also illegal to possess counterfeit coins and banknotes, forged credit cards, and obscene or immoral materials such as child pornography.

Is it okay to show your stomach in Japan?

When visiting temples and shrines, it is recommended to be respectful by wearing a top layer with sleeves and covering the stomach and cleavage, but this is not mandatory and it is common to see Japanese people not adhering to these dress-code guidelines.

Don’t Leave Your Trash in Public Spaces

Japan is known for its cleanliness, and littering is considered a serious offense. Make sure to dispose of your trash properly in designated bins or take it with you until you find one. It is also important to separate your trash based on the categories specified by the local authorities.

Don’t Ignore Chopstick Etiquette

Chopsticks are an essential part of Japanese cuisine, and there are certain etiquette rules that need to be followed. For example, it is impolite to use chopsticks to move food from one dish to another or pass food directly from chopsticks to chopsticks. It is also considered rude to leave your chopsticks sticking upright in a bowl of rice, as this resembles a funeral ritual.

Don’t Wear Revealing Clothing in Certain Settings

While Japan may seem modern, it is still a conservative country when it comes to dress codes in certain settings. For example, revealing clothing is not appropriate in temples, shrines, or traditional events such as tea ceremonies or kabuki performances. It is better to dress modestly and respectfully in these settings.

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Gift Giving

Gift giving is an essential part of Japanese culture, especially in business settings. If you are invited to someone’s home or meeting someone for the first time, bringing a small gift such as sweets or a small souvenir is a thoughtful gesture. When giving gifts, make sure to wrap them nicely and present them with both hands.

Don’t Assume Everyone Speaks English

While many people in Japan do speak English, don’t assume that everyone does. It is always best to learn some basic Japanese phrases and speak slowly and clearly when communicating. Showing effort and respect for the local language can go a long way in building relationships with the locals.

Don’t Forget to Experience Local Customs and Traditions

Japan has a rich culture and many unique customs and traditions that are worth experiencing. From tea ceremonies to wearing a kimono, there are many opportunities to immerse yourself in Japanese culture. By showing interest and respect for local customs, you can gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Japan.

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