Culture & Customs

No matter where you travel, different rules, manners, and local customs exist. Knowing the basics before you leave home will help you avoid miscommunications, befriend local people, and increase the quality of your trip overall. Here are some things about Hokkaido to know before you go.

Traditional Inns & Hotels
Japanese-style inns, called ryokan, often provide guests with yukata or leisurewear that guests are free to wear within the premises. It is a popular tradition to wear yukata while staying at one of these accommodations, and it allows guests that want to visit the onsite onsen, or public hot spring baths, an easy and comfortable alternative to street clothing.

It is important to remember to remove your shoes upon entering your private room. Similarly, when you enter a tatami-matted room, which is often seen in traditional restaurants or upscale dining, you also remove your footwear. It keeps the area clean for guests and helps to preserve the tatami.

Restaurants & Public Spaces
At izakaya, Japanese pubs, it is a common custom to receive an otoshi, or a small dish, when you are seated. The otoshi is given in exchange for a seating charge, and is a non-negotiable part of visiting the restaurant. When you settle the bill at an izakaya, it is common to receive the bill at your table, but take it to the cashier to pay.

Like most countries, it is common courtesy to refrain from using your mobile device while on the train, in movie theaters, museums, and at upscale dining establishments. In particular, speaking loudly over a mobile device is frowned upon, so be mindful of your surroundings.

When using public transportation, it’s important to let passengers off before getting on; this reduces confusion, and helps everything run on time. Please wait your turn in line if the station or terminal is crowded. All forms of transportation have priority seating, which is reserved for the elderly, handicapped persons, or pregnant mothers.

Like many other countries, smoking cigarettes is banned in most public facilities, on public transport, and in most restaurants and bars. If you are a smoker, there are designated areas inside and outside of buildings that provide ashtrays or an air filter system. Please refrain from smoking while walking.