From my thoughts,  Japan Culture,  Life in Japan.

Things you probably shouldn’t do in Japan.

In the light of recent events of vlogging misbehavior in Japan, and now that the storm seems to have calmed down a bit, I want to share with you some of the things that, to my understanding and knowledge, you probably should not do in Japan.

This post comes from my personal opinion and experience of living in Tokyo. I am still learning and I’m only human so please read this as my two cents and nothing else. 🙂

I would not expect English


Sometimes, as we travel, we forget that other countries do have other languages and nope, there’s no law to force people to learn English for the traveler’s comfort. I was guilty of this for many years, asking myself “Why don’t they speak English in this day and age?” but someone pointed me to my mistake and now I appreciate English but I prepare myself for the possibility of interacting with people that don’t have great English, if at all. That’s the case with Japan.

Some people speak English in Tokyo, a few speak English outside Tokyo. And often, the people that speak the language are not confident about it and don’t wish to practice it with you. Of course, hotels, bigger stations and info spots are a safe place, but keep in mind that even that modern-looking bistro may have no English menu or English-speaking staff.  And that is fine. Do some research before coming to Japan and make sure you have Google translate at hand.

I would not act or behave VERY differently from normal behavior because “I’m in Japan”


As a disclaimer I will say I love tattoos and had piercings and my hair every single color of the rainbow for the past decade. I am very passionate about self-expression but! so very often I find small groups of travelers that look SO out of place doing what I suspect is trying to fit in (their idea of Tokyo, I guess). As if they were expecting Japan to be Naruto or a crazy sci-fi world in which it’s acceptable to behave like a sempiternal bachelors party.  From dressing up like 2009 gyarus to trying to talk with a  high-pitched kawaii voice, not to mention full grown men wearing flashy polyester “kimono” in the middle of Ginza, they’re easily spotted and heard. What I’m trying to say is, if you wouldn’t do it any Tuesday in your hometown, don’t do it because “you’re in Japan”. It makes everyone uncomfortable.

I would not smoke anywhere on the street

There are designated places for smokers to have a cigarette. Don’t just light one up and walk, specially on crowded areas! By the way, I always say that if I succeeded at giving up smoking everyone can. Believe me. I’ve been smoke free almost 7 years now, it’s doable and the best, bravest thing you will ever do for yourself.

I would not do drugs in Japan (or anywhere really)


Just imagine trying to explain yourself to someone that doesn’t speak English, IN JAIL. Also, deportation. Also, drugs are bad.

I would not expect to be able to pay with card everywhere

In Japan cash is king and not all places accept credit cards. The good news is you can find ATMs very easily, there’s one in almost any convenience store.

I would not ignore the local customs

When in Rome, do the Romans. Here are a few tips:

Walk on the left in crowded areas, but use the right side of the escalator if you wish to actively come up the stairs.

Being noisy is generally not welcome – especially in public transport- but you can audibly slurp your noodles if you’re comfortable with that (which I am not but trying to come to terms with it).

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Bow when meeting people. Even a small bow is welcome, even if it feels a little weird it shows you’re trying.

Don’t give tips. There are no tips in Japan, which I like because I rather the staff being consistently paid instead of depending of strangers that may be having a bad day (also I’m very bad at math).

That’s all that comes to mind right now. A good rule of thumb (when traveling anywhere and in life) is to be kind and have common sense of course. Have fun and enjoy yourself but just be nice! right? Right :).

What do you think is a faux pas in Japan?

Thank you so much for reading and talk to you guys very soon!


  • Karen Skoog

    I love etiquette articles! The things you mentioned cannot be overstated. Here is one more. When you buy something there is a little tiny tray for the cash. It’s expected to put your money on the tray. The clerk will put your change on the tray. It’s a major etiquette violation to try to put money in someone’s hand or to take it from their hand. Must use the tray. How do I know this? Of course by messing it up. Doing the wrong thing. Clerks were really offended. Thank goodness someone told me the right way to do it.

    Speaking of handing things to someone, a business card must always be offered and received with both hands and a bow. This means having a place to put your phone so your hands are free for properly handling cards and bowing.

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