The must-know Unspoken Social Rules of Japan

Adesua Emmanuel 29 September



Japan is a beautiful country with its unique quirks and culture. It is also filled with beautiful people who have a unique way of life, for first-time visitors, these actions may seem strange and unusual, therefore every visitor to this beautiful island nation needs to learn the social norms of the Japanese people, to ensure your visit is as blissful as possible. This article aims to explore the social norms of the Japanese people and give exposure to readers who may want to visit this beautiful country in the future. These social norms were formed due to the social interactions among the Japanese people, different class systems and so much more, after many variations and changes over time. These social norms became the way of life of the people and a knowledge of them would ensure your visit is as smooth as possible. 



How to enjoy friendly drinks


Now, after all, that has been said about smoking and drinking in open places, note that in most bars and restaurants you can smoke and drink. It is also considered weird for you to pour your alcoholic drink, a friend or waiter or fellow drinker should pour it for you after this is done, it is customary for you to wait for every cup to get filled up and after you all say the word "kanpai” before you start drinking. Japanese people love their alcoholic drinks and quite often family members, co-workers and friends go out together to get a drink.



A bow as a sign of respect


The first and most obvious social norm would be the salutatory bow. The bow is a way everyone shows respect in Japan, to say hello, to say thank you, the bow is commonplace in Japan. It is a sign of respect, acknowledgement, and to show rank. If you are not sure you may dodge an awkward bowing situation, but always ensure you act with respect and decency to everybody you meet. 


how to use public transport


Another unspoken social rule is how you board any form of public transportation, in japan people generally act in an orderly manner and form a queue to board, if it is either a bus or train. When you get inside too it is advised you maintain general decorum, keep quiet and sit respectfully, you should also not eat, drink or smoke in a public transport vehicle, doing anything different is usually frowned upon. It is also wrong to talk loudly while in these vehicles. There are also designated seats for the elderly, children, pregnant people, and the disabled, and these seats are always left for these people, other people never sit on them, Ever.  It is also considered decent for you to obey all traffic signals and make sure the light turns green before you cross, you never know there may be young kids around who look up to you for guidance and you surely would not make them rush in front of upcoming traffic. 


Never tip


In major parts of the western world, tipping is a sign of appreciation from the customer for the service rendered cool right? This is far from the norm in Japan. The Japanese people are very prim and proper people who love to follow protocol and one of the unspoken social rules in this country is that they are not big on tipping, if you decide to tip your waitress it may be considered rude and insulting, so to prevent an awkward situation it is advised you pay them for the service done, collect your change, say thank you and move on.


Dislike of noise and impolite behaviour


Moving on to another social norm in Japan is the Japanese people's hatred of noise and impolite behavior. They frown on noisemakers and rude people. Rude behaviors such as noise-making in public places, cutting the line, and disobeying basic etiquette rules are frowned on. It should also be noted that drinking in the open, eating while walking, and smoking in public places is frowned on, it also goes without saying that you should be smoking while walking around leisurely, people would cast askance glances on you.


You should always give customary gifts


For visits to esteemed friends, colleagues, and loved ones it is pretty customary for the visitor to come bearing good gifts. Also known as omiyage(souvenirs) these are usually bottled sake or snacks. These are not usually the general candy and snacks but the expensive kind usually sold at big departmental stores and more. Also when you go to clothing malls to shop, you would meet extra nice store clerks who would try as much as possible to ensure you buy something, you can also try these clothes on before you make your purchase, as usual, it is always good to show respect and decency as with these you would earn brownie points.


general sanitation is important


It should be noted that the Japanese people are very respectful and you get brownie points for being respectful and saying thank you for the services rendered. They also take neatness pretty serious, so you should always dispose your waste very carefully and ensure you don't constitute a nuisance with them, it is also pretty common to keep your waste till you get home so you can dispose of them, because trashcans are not common occurrences in public places, so you may need to keep them until you get home so you can dispose of them, for most western visitors this is a strange occurrence.


How to act in public places and around people


It is also considered decent for you to obey all traffic signals and make sure the light turns green before you cross, you never know there may be young kids around who look up to you for guidance and you surely would not make them rush in front of upcoming traffic. 


Also, note in religious places, keep your voice down and show reverence, it is also nice to make sure your phone doesn't ring loudly so you would not cause any form of disturbance. In specific historic cities and ancient entertainment houses, you may be lucky and see a geisha passing. It is customary you show respect to them and do not rush or scare them, be respectful and if you want to take pictures with them be respectful and if they refuse, kindly move off. 


 There are many unwritten social rules in Japan and it is easy to get confused and mix them all, to be on the safe side it is probably better for you to learn some Japanese if you are planning to spend some time in Japan, also be nice and respectful and you should get along fine with few hassles. This country is beautiful and filled with numerous wonders for all who plan to explore it.