31 voters

15 Unspoken Rules About Japan That All The Locals Know

September 8, 2021 269 votes 31 voters15 items

List RulesJapanese locals: vote up the rules that all tourists should know before they visit.

Like any tourist destination, there are some dos and don'ts of Japan that all tourists need to know. Luckily, the locals have been kind enough to supply tips on what to do in Japan, and what not to do in Japan. Vote up the most useful ones.

  • 1

    Stop Talking On Your Phone

    From Redditor u/LimeWizard:

    Don't talk on your cell phone on the train. Be conscious of yourself and your stuff, like if realize someone's behind you trying to pass by, let them. Usually, it's pretty subtle hints. Do as others do. Try not to criticize Japan to Japanese people, obviously, some are fine with it, but some could take it the wrong way. I could go on, and others will probably say more but honestly, you are a tourist and people will know that, so there's not a huge deal if you do some small thing wrong. It's basically trying and being courteous.

    Good to know?
  • 2

    Customized Food Is Not A Thing

    From Redditor u/kuroageha:

    Remember that customizing your food is very rare. There is not much 'I'd like X but without X' for the most part, especially at fast food places and izakaya.

    This can be a challenge if you have food allergies, as in most cases, they might just pick out the item you don't want from the prepared plate. (Assuming they can understand what you're trying to say.)

    There's a whole sidebar link if you happen to be vegetarian and vegan as well.

    For a minor amusing one: nobody else uses artificial sweeteners outside of the U.S., so you look hilarious and I will laugh at you under my breath when I overhear you trying to explain to your waiter with poor English that you want Equal or Sweet and Low.

    Good to know?
  • 3

    Explore More Options

    From Redditor u/ClemClementine12:

    For Visiting:

    Don't take cell phone pictures on a phone a lot if you are a guy.

    Don't speak loud English just because someone can't understand you.

    Don't take up space on an escalator if you are standing. Stand to the right.

    Don't assume a restaurant/shop takes credit cards wherever you go. Cash is widely used there.

    Don't be a d*ck.

    Don't just go to Tokyo

    Don't just eat Ramen.


    Learn basic words and phrases for when you need help/assistance. It goes a long way. Doko / Ikura / Nan desu ka / Sumimasen / Arigatou / Ohaiyou. More importantly, you can learn a really important phrase like, "Do you speak English?" - Eigo wa dekiru ka? Or, Eigo wa hanasemasu ka? My Japanese is a bit non-practiced recently, sorry if a vowel is wrong.

    Bow. A lot.

    Be quiet on the trains and offer your seat to the elderly if possible. If they don't take it, don't worry about it, at least offer.

    Drinking can be done anywhere, don't take advantage of that in an awkward place.

    Have printed out hotel/restaurant locations in Japanese you can hand taxi drivers and hotel employees.

    Don't assume you can take pictures of women in kimonos or men in traditional garb. Ask first. Point at your camera and say, "Shashin, ii desu ka?" There is a better way to say it, but this is the easiest. (SHA-SHEEN, EE DES KA?)

    Venture out and eat all the different types of food you can. YakuNiku / Shabu Shabu / Sushi / Tonkatsu / Ramen / Soba / Udon / Try eggy rice at least once, and anything traditional you see in Kyoto or smaller cities. Usually, they have a full tray of fish, pickled veggies, soup, rice, and protein. Very delicious.

    I lived in Japan for a year as a student when I was 25, so this is all that's coming to mind right now.

    Good to know?
  • 4

    No Drinking While Walking

    From Redditor u/cbunn81:

    One thing that is very different from America is that it's considered rude to eat or drink while walking.

    On the other hand, it's not considered rude to slurp your noodles. This would probably be frowned upon in the States, but in Japan, everyone slurps and it's considered a sign that you are enjoying the meal. Some argue it makes the noodles taste better, but I haven't noticed.

    The key thing to remember is that in America, individualism is most important, while in Japan (among other Asian countries), collectivism is most important. You should consider other people first when in public.

    Good to know?