Do and don't in Japan

Are you living in Japan? We need you to share your experience of the local customs :)

Is it difficult to adjust to the local customs in Japan?

Could you please share with us a list of the do's and don't's in Japan?


I think the local customs are not difficult to adjust to if you come here with an open mind. Of course the customs are different from home so if you are someone who doesn't like change then I guess this is more difficult.

In truth I have been here a while now and so when you ask about customs it is difficult for me to easily pick them out anymore. Still, examples include the bow - the deeper the bow the more respect you are paying. If you are not sure how to bow or feel uncomfortable then you don't need to do it. Japanese people don't expect you to know everything, they just want you to respect what they do. If you do that you can't go far wrong :)

I think that as a foreigner you are allowed to get away with a lot for a reasonable amount of time but if you are conscientious you will pick up what other people are doing.

But off the top of my head in no particular order:

1. Take your shoes off when entering a house you will get slippers. To be really polite turn your shoes to face the door after taking them off.

2. When you enter a house say OJAMASHIMASU! I think it means "I'm being intrusive!" - for the life of me I can't remember what you say when you leave! I think it is OJAMASHIMASHITA which means "I was intrusive" but I'm not sure....

3. Do not wear slippers onto the tatami floor of the house

4. Change house slippers for toilet slippers - Don't wear toilet slippers out of the toilet!!!

5. Wait to eat at the dinner table everyone will say ITADAKIMASU (let's eat!) together then you can begin. At the end of the meal say "Gochisosamadeshita" which means "That was delicious!"

6. If you are a guest your drink will be continuously topped up by the host if you serve yourself it's not too bad but then you must pour someone else a drink. This works at drinking parties also.
7. Try not to be too loud out in public.

8.Don't stand your chopsticks in food it is reminiscent of the death ceremony.

9. Wipe you hand with the moist towelette before eating and fold it nicely to the side of your setting.

10. Don't lick your chopsticks.

11. When complimented seem shy/embarrased and say "No it's not so!" or "You are being kind!" It's rude to be egotistical or brag.

12.When you see someone in the morning say "Ohayogozaimasu"
afternoon "Konnichiwa" and evening "Kombanwa" before you go to sleep say "Oyasuminasai!

13. When someone gives you a gift give profuse thanks, next time you see them say thank you again. This works for apologies also.

14. Business cards/name cards mark your "rank". Accept the other business person's card with both hands and a slight bow, look at it and make comments about the style or remark on the position at a seated meeting leave the card in front of you until the end of the meeting. When you hand over your card do so with both hands and a slight bow. They will do the same with your card.
Respect the other persons business card, don't pick your teeth with it, don't fold it and don't forget it.

15. If your chopsticks come in a paper sleeve when you are finished eating put them back in the sleeve and fold over the end then lay them on your plate.

That's just off the top of my head. For business there are many more complicated social mores to keep in mind. The way of entering an elevator, the seating arrangement in a car and the seating arrangement at a meeting are all very different from western perceptions.

Just one more - do not blow noisily your nose and if possible do not blow it at all at public places especially such as restaurants - it is considered very rude.