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Japanese Etiquette Guide

by Jack Guy

Feb 13, 2020

Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto, Japan © Nicholashan | Dreamstime

Destinations / Asia

For first-time visitors the etiquette of a new place can be challenging and lead to some embarrassing situations. Here’s how to avoid making some obvious faux pas in Japan.


The etiquette minefield starts with greeting people, when Japanese people tend to favor a bow rather than a handshake. If someone bows at you it is acceptable to incline your head rather than scrape the floor with your nose. Handshakes are sometimes exchanged, but it’s better to wait to be offered one.


In formal situations you may be expected to exchange business cards. Use two hands when you are giving or receiving.


In many situations, such as traditional accommodation, private homes and temple halls, you will be expected to remove your shoes. Make sure you’ve got some decent socks with you, as footwear removal is not up for debate.


In some cases you may be given slippers to wear after you take off your shoes. Remember to remove them when entering a room that has woven straw matting, called tatami.


In restaurants, remember not to leave your chopsticks poking out of a bowl of rice, associated with funerals. Don’t use them to flag down a passing waiter, either.



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