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Culture / Customs

Useful Tips for Making Your Trip More Enjoyablee

Everywhere you go has different rules and manners, and not everything what is accepted in your home is not always accepted in Japan and vise versa. Knowing the basic rules and manners before you leave home would help you communicate and befriended with the local people in Japan.

At Japanese-Style Inns

In many of Western countries, walking around in public areas in hotels such as a lobby or a hallway in pajamas is not allowed. However, that does not apply to Japanese-style inn with big common bathtubs. You can walk around freely in the inns and Onsen resort areas wearing Japanese-style pajama 'yukata'. In Japan, this is a popular custom and it also represents a taste of tradition adding to the natural atmosphere.

"What are Ryokans?" Japan National Tourism Organization

At Japanese-Style Rooms

When entering a Japanese-style inn and room,make sure to remove your shoes. It is also the same when you enter a tatami-matted room, which is often seen in Japanese-style restaurants including sushi restaurants. If you are worried about getting your feet dirty, then you shouldn't, these places are usually clean!

"Guest Rooms" Japan National Tourism Organization

At the Common Bathing Area and Hot Spring Facilities

There are several codes you might want to keep in mind when going to a big tub or a hot spring facility. Remove your shoes when entering a changing room and put your clothes into any one of the empty lockers or the baskets provided. Valuables are best to be placed in a coin locker. If there are no lockers, leave them at the front desk. You are not allowed to wear swimsuit in the bath. Before entering the hot water, you need to wash your hair and body and then rinse off yourself throughly. Using the scoop provided, splash hot water over your body and go into the hot tub. Remember not to put the towel into the hot water. If you have a long hair, tie your hair up so that your hair does not go into the onsen. It is not allowed to scrub your body or swim in the hot water. When bathing with your friends, avoid talking in a loud voice. In the sauna room, twisting a wet towel, or taking up too much space should be avoided. When leaving the sauna, make sure to wipe your own sweat off the seat. Before going back to the changing room, dry your sole or body briefly.

How to Use Chopsticks

Please click here for information on how to use chopsticks.

"Dining Experiences" Japan National Tourism Organization

Izakaya - Japanese Restaurants

When you first seated in Izakaya, a small dish called 'otoshi' is served to all customers even though you don't order. This is a Japanese custom and the otoshi is not free. It is considered an entrance fee and the cost is automatically added to your bill. The price of otoshi varies among Izakaya restaurants,so check with the Izakaya staff.When you settle the bill in Izakaya, it is common to bring your bill placed on your table to the cashier and pay at the counter.

Using a Mobile Phone

It is prohibited to use a mobile phone on the railways and many other places including restaurants. It is also recommended to turn off or switch your mobile phone to manner mode in movie theaters or museums before you enter. It is considered to be rude to talk loudly on a mobile phone in front of others, so try to watch your tone of voice.

Trains and Buses

When using public transport such as trains and buses, let passengers off before you get on. When you wait for a train or a bus, form two or three rows. Do not jump the queue, or leave your belongings instead of joining the queue. All trains and buses have seats called ‘priority seats’, which are reserved for elderly or handicapped persons. Passengers can use priority seats when it is not crowded, however it is polite to leave priority seats empty if possible. When you want to get off, but it is crowded and cannot make your way out, just say ‘Orimasu’, which means ‘I’m getting off’, and let other passengers know; they will clear the way.


Japanese hotels or many other buildings have high-tech toilets. They shoot cold or warm water and wash your bottom before using toilet paper. Follow the instructions posted on the wall before using. If you don't understand, it may be better not to hit any buttons as it might start spraying water all over the bathroom.


Smoking cigarettes is banned in most of public facilities and on public transport. If you are a smoker, remember that you are only allowed to smoke at the designated areas with an ashtray or an air filter. Never smoke while walking or throw cigarettes butts on the streets. Please keep in mind that Sapporo implements a smoking ban in downtown, and smoking in outside designated areas can slap penalty.