A First-Timer’s Guide to Japan Etiquette: 8 Things You Shouldn’t Do in Japan as a Tourist

It won’t hurt to be more respectful.
by Edgardo Toledo Jan 04, 2023

Don’t wear your shoes indoors

Speaking of cleanliness, some places in Japan, like ryokans (Japanese inns), historic buildings, shrines, temples, and (to a certain extent) Japanese homes, enforce a no-shoe policy to keep everything neat. You’ll usually spot a designated area to leave your shoes, or the host will provide some soft slippers. Be observant or ask questions before entering a place to avoid coming off as impolite. 

Avoid going to public bathhouses and hot springs without showering first

via Flickr

Going to public bathhouses (sento) and hot springs (onsen) are part of the Japanese experience, but before doing so, wash first. Nobody wants to see you scrubbing in a shared pool. It’s best to wash up while you’re seated to avoid splashing water on other bathers. Remember, these establishments are shared spaces. Don’t forget to leave your towel and tie your hair before dipping your toes. Also, expect to go naked. 

Don’t leave a tip

While tipping is a nice gesture, it’s really not a thing in Japan. In some cases, tipping is perceived as awkward or rude. It’s just not part of their culture, although there are several exceptions, like giving tips to ryokan staff for commendable service. 

Avoid taking pictures with maikos or geishas

We get it, you’re excited to meet a maiko or geisha, and snapping a selfie or two would make a good souvenir, but it’s really not a good idea you think it is. In fact, a photography ban was implemented in the Gion district due to travelers harassing them. Their time is precious since they have clients who book them in advance, and you wouldn’t want to be that tourist who would interrupt them over a few photos. It’s best to observe from a distance if you see geishas — or you could hire them if you like! 

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