Manners in Daily Japanese Life (indoors, outdoors, when socializing, etc.)

Japan has a number of interesting customs and aspects of daily life that are unique to the nation. Knowing these in advance will help you to avoid misunderstandings with those around you and to enjoy your time in Japan.

Indoors

Table Manners

When eating a Japanese meal, basically everything is carried out using chopsticks. Please note that using chopsticks in the following ways is considered bad manners.

  • Hovering chopsticks – holding your chopsticks over dishes while wondering which dish to take food from, and moving the chopsticks back and forth
  • Licking chopsticks – licking chopsticks or holding them in your teeth
  • Skewering with chopsticks – skewering food and picking it up with chopsticks
  • Dripping chopsticks – dripping soup or sauce from chopsticks while taking food to your mouth
  • Passing between chopsticks – passing and receiving food between one set of chopsticks and another (this action is performed at Buddhist funeral ceremonies)
  • Standing chopsticks – standing chopsticks vertically in a bowl of rice (this action is performed at Buddhist funeral ceremonies)

Also, if the dish is not large, the dish or bowl should be held in the hand when eating from it. For soup, it is acceptable to bring the bowl to your mouth and drink directly.

Created by NTT TownPage based on "Manners when eating with chopsticks" on the Osaka Kyoiku University website.

Footwear Manners

Generally, when entering a private home in Japan, you should take your shoes off at the entrance. When invited to a private home, slippers will be provided so you should put them on before going further inside. However, when entering a tatami room, please take your slippers off just outside the room.

In addition, separate slippers are often provided in bathrooms of private homes. When you go to the bathroom, please put on the bathroom slippers. Afterwards, please be sure to leave bathroom slippers in the bathroom and wear your other slippers.

How to open and close Japanese fusuma and shoji sliding doors

Japanese houses often have doors known as fusuma and shoji that are opened and closed by sliding them sideways. As the handle used to open and close them is attached to either the left or right edge of the door, put your fingers in this handle to open or close the door.

Outdoors

Rules for smoking in the street

To enforce smoking etiquette, some local governments have ordinances prohibiting smoking in the street and littering in all – or specific – areas. You may be fined if you violate these ordinances, therefore avoid smoking in the street and instead make use of the smoking places provided, for example, in front of train stations.

Trash Cans

You may find it difficult to find trash cans on the streets in Japan. The number of trash cans has been reduced partly as a counter-terrorism measure. In general, please take your garbage back to your house or hotel and dispose of it there.

Socializing

Manners when meeting an acquaintance

When meeting an acquaintance in Japan, you should bow when you greet them. When passing neighbors, for example, in the street, you should bow at a shallow angle, however, when greeting customers or a manager, you should bow deeply.

Manners when meeting a business partner for the first time

When meeting a business partner for the first time, you should exchange business cards. The business card is regarded as representing the person, so should be handled carefully.

Real intention and "face"

In Japan, there is a culture of real intention and "face". For example, when refusing something, instead of saying, "No", Japanese people may say something like, "I will consider it". The reason Japanese people do this is to avoid hurting the other party by expressing their real intention and consequently damaging the relationship.

Edited by NTT TownPage
(Created January 2017)

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