In Japan, Don’t Blow Your Nose in Public (and Other Tips)


During a trip to Japan, manners speak volumes. It may seem obvious to the savvy traveler that using your manners while visiting another culture is the best practice, but depending on where you're traveling, manners may take on very different norms. Some cultures may celebrate the occasional belch as a sign of appreciation of the meal you've enjoyed. Others might be a tad disgusted. In some cultures, saying hello to every passerby is their extroverted calling card, others allow a little more privacy as you negotiate your daily goings-on.

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, do your research. Proper etiquette can insult and make you an unwelcome guest. Here are some general tips:

Don't Be Late

Whether you are doing business in Japan or just vacationing, expect to arrive at any destination or event a few minutes early. No such thing as fashionably late in this country.

Mind your nose!

Do not blow your nose in public. Blowing your nose, spitting and other bodily expressions of the mucus-producing kind are not appreciated in Japanese culture. If you must clear your schnoz, consider tucking yourself away from any other observers, or into a bathroom stall. Always use a paper tissue, not a handkerchief, and throw it away after use.

Getting in line

In Japan, locals are big on following the rules of lining up. If you are waiting for a train, dinner or a show, expect to line up single file, not crowd near the entrance. Busy New Yorkers will find this a new phenomenon.

Visiting Shrines and Temples

Visiting shrines and temples on your Japan travel cultural tour is a wonderful and truly local experience. Washing properly before entering a shrine or temple is an easy way to pay respect to your host culture. Keep an eye out for a purification fountain near the entrance. Take one of the wooden ladles provided, fill it with fresh water and rinse both of your hands over the drain. Then transfer some water into your cupped hand, rinse your mouth, spitting it out beside the fountain. Do not transfer the water directly from the ladle into your mouth or swallow the water. It is ok to skip the mouth rinsing if you are uncomfortable. This process is to cleanse you before visiting this holy site.

There may be an offering box, so bring a coin or two. Light incense bundles if they are provided and use your hands to coax the smoke over your own body to further purify yourself. Bow, say a prayer, and use the gong if that is offered. Your guide can help you negotiate this ritual if you feel nervous, and you will add this wonderful experience to your growing Japan travel adventure.

Wear clean socks, especially to temples, as you will remove your shoes. Photography is usually permitted outdoors at shrines and temples, but never indoors. Watch for signs.

Hotel robes

If your hotel provides you a kimono to wear, wrap the left side over the right. Doing it the opposite direction is used for burials.

don’t eat on the go

Don't eat and walk at the same time - it's considered rude. Stop, enjoy, and give credit for what you are tasting, before continuing on your journey.


If you partake in an onsen, wash yourself completely at the provided washing station before entering the hot water. Guests partake communal bathing without clothing. Men and women will bath separately—unless a double private onsen is booked.

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