Essential Customs and Vocab You Need to Know Before Visiting Japan


Before travelling to Japan, it’s important that you familiarise yourself with the country’s culture and customs. After all, when you’re travelling to any foreign country, it’s important that you embrace local customs and show courtesy to your hosts.


Here are some of the essential customs you should try and bear in mind when visiting Japan. Of course, it’s unlikely that you’ll get everything right, but people will appreciate the effort you’ve made to try and understand their customs.

Japanese Customs | Cruise1st Australia


If you’re visiting someone’s home, make sure you remove your shoes before you enter. You will also be required to take your shoes off if you’re standing on traditional Japanese flooring, known as tatami mats. Some restaurants and hotels will also ask you to remove your shoes before entering.

But you don’t need to worry about cold feet… if you’re asked to remove your shoes, you will be given slippers to wear instead. You should be aware that there will be different slippers provided for you to wear in the bathroom – never wear the normal slippers into the bathroom and never wear the bathroom slippers outside of the bathroom.


Unlike in Australia, where tipping is left to the discretion of the customer, in Japan you should not tip at all, in any situation. In fact, tipping is actually seen as insulting – after all, the price you’ve paid covers the products or services you’ve requested, so why should you pay any more?

Blowing your nose 

Blowing your nose in public is also considered rude. Instead, you should find a bathroom if you need to blow your nose.


If you go out for drinks, it’s rude to drink before your group has said Kampai! (cheers).

Japanese Customs | Cruise1st Australia


When dining in Japan, no one will expect you to be a pro with the chopsticks. However, there are a few basic rules you should follow in order to maintain good table manners. These include:

  • Don’t play with your chopsticks – they’re not a toy
  • Never eat directly from a shared dish – transfer the food to your plate or dish first
  • Never stab your food with your chopsticks or stick them in your rice
  • Two people should never pick up the same piece of food with their chopsticks
  • Don’t put your chopsticks down on the table, use a chopstick holder instead


If you aren’t already versed in the Japanese language, it’s unlikely that you’ll become fluent overnight. But making a concerted effort to learn some of the basics will not only make your time in the country considerably easier, but the locals will also be impressed.

Japanese Customs & Vocab | Cruise1st Australia

Here are some of the basics you should know before visiting the country…

Sumimasen – sue-me-mah-sen – Excuse me/Sorry

This is a crucial one! Sumimasen can be used to say excuse me, call the staff in a shop or restaurant, to begin a question, or even to say thank you.

Wakarimasen – wah-ka-ri-mah-sen – I don’t understand

This one will probably come in incredibly useful during your time in Japan! If someone starts talking to you in Japanese and you’re unable to work out what they’re saying, simply reply with ‘Wakarimasen’.

Japanese Customs and Vocab | Cruise1st Australia

Eigo – eggo- English

Following on from Wakarimasen, Eigo can also be useful to explain that you don’t understand because you speak English. For example:

Eigo ii desu ka – is English ok?

Eigo ga hanasemasu ka? – Can you speak English?

Arigatou gozaimasu – a-ree-gah-to-oo go-zai-mass – Thank you

‘Arigatou’ can also be used on its own.

Now you’re well-versed in the customs and vocab of the Land of the Rising Sun, why not check out our selection of cruise deals taking you to Japan? Alternatively, call our friendly sales team on 1300 857 345.

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