Top 5 Japanese Etiquette Blunders You Must Never Commit

August 7, 2015
Top 5 Japanese Etiquette Blunders You Must Never Commit

The world is shrinking and people of all nationalities mingle more today than they ever have at any point in human history. It is a great time to be a world traveller and learn bout different cultures. The one thing that is as important to keep in mind when you visit a different country is the social norms and etiquettes in order to avoid committing a faux pas.

In the case of Japan, it is a destination that draws both business and leisure travellers and the cultural practices here are of significant importance as they dictate the course an interaction might take.

The Japanese culture is one that puts a lot of importance on social niceties and even subtle gestures can cause delight or give offence. Here is a list of blunders to avoid on your next trip there!

1. Wearing the wrong shoes at the wrong place.

  • The shoes you wear outdoors are not to be worn inside a Japanese home.
  • The host provides you with slippers to wear indoors.
  • There is another change of footwear required when entering the bathroom, which the host will provide.

2. Not knowing how to show respect at a temple or shrine.

  • Always check if photography is permitted first.
  • Dress modestly and show deference towards the religion.
  • Also when visiting shrines and temples you may be required to remove your footwear.

3. Not knowing the correct chopstick etiquette.

  • When eating with chopsticks, never fiddle with them or wave them about in the air.
  • When you’re done with your meal, place the chopsticks at the side of your plate or bowl, or back in the sleeve.
  • Never stick the chopsticks upright in your rice bowl, as this is a funeral custom.
  • Do not serve someone else with your chopstick or use them to move dishes around.

4. Not following the drinking customs.

  • Never pour your own drink, as it is considered impolite.
  • It is considered polite to pour your friends’ drinks and they will pour yours.
  • Make sure everyone has a full glass and refill his or her drink from time to time.
  • Always wait until everyone at the table has been served before you begin drinking. There is usually a toast that precedes the drink.

5. Not following gifting guidelines.

  • Never gift anyone something in sets or multiples of four, as the words for “four” and “death” in Japanese are the same.
  • Don’t accept a gift immediately, it is considered polite to refuse a few times.
  • When receiving a gift, accept it with both hands and bow slightly to show gratitude.
  • Never open a gift in front of the person who gifted it to you.

Apart from these specific guides, use basic courtesy and behave according to the social setting of your encounter. Then, all should go smoothly on your trip to Japan!


Photos for Top 5 Japanese Etiquette Blunders You Must Never Commit by Unsplash.

About Erica Brooks

Erica Brooks is a lover of travelling, languages, and cultures, an amateur photographer. A constant mover, she has made travel a motivation of her life.

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