Japan is warm and welcoming to travellers, but its unique culture can be as inscrutable as it is intriguing for the first-time visitor. To help create a faux-pas-free journey, arm yourself with a few of these handy etiquette tips before your trip: from when to bow and take your shoes off, to when it’s OK to be a noisy eater and what not to do with your chopsticks.
Meeting and greeting
Bowing Bow politely when you meet someone, thank them, or say goodbye. The depth, duration and number of bows is something non-Japanese aren’t expected to understand and visitors are unlikely to offend if they don’t do this perfectly. If a Japanese person bows to you, an incline of the head in return will usually suffice. Japanese do sometimes also shake hands, but it’s best to wait for the opposite party to offer their hand before thrusting yours forth.
Gifts Returning from a trip, the change of seasons, and moving into a new home are among the many reasons gifts might be exchanged in Japan. For visitors, it’s a great idea to bring small gifts from your home country, especially if you’ll be staying with locals, or in case you need to say ‘thank you’ to someone during your trip. The simple gesture of sharing something from your home will be greatly appreciated – think souvenir key rings, chocolate bars, and other treats only available in your country. Avoid expensive or flamboyant offerings.
Two hands good The exchanging of business or name cards is still an important part of more formal introductions in Japan. You should use two hands when giving and receiving cards. This also goes for giving and receiving gifts.