Business Travel Guide to Tokyo
Japanese Travel Etiquette
Travelers know Japan as a society with extremely important respect and values, and it’s very important to understand this when entering Japanese society. Having little or no preparation for the Japanese culture could have a negative impact on business opportunities in this country.
1. Respect is Key
In the Japanese culture, two tokens of respect are imperative to their society: bowing and honorifics. Bowing is a very simple concept. For the traveler, slightly tilting your head shows respect. Honorifics, however, are slightly more challenging. Honorifics are small suffixes added to the end of a person’s last name to indicate his or her status in the community. “-san” indicates respect and “-sama” indicates a high degree of reverence towards that person.
2. Don’t Tip
In American culture, traditional tipping follows good service. In Japanese culture, tipping is seen as awkward or insulting. To show respect without insult, simply pay with no tips.
Politeness is extremely important in Japanese culture. Drawing attention to yourself at any location is rude and disrespectful. Do not be the first to eat or drink when served at your table. Do not talk or laugh loudly, and avoid talking loudly or colorfully on your cell phone. Manners are more prominent here than in American society. Simply follow the lead of those around you.
4. Learn to Use Chopsticks
Chopsticks are not easy to use efficiently, but if you are willing to try to learn this skill, it will be very impressive to clients. Try to learn to use chopsticks before your trip to avoid spilling or difficulties.
5. Remove Your Shoes
In Japanese culture, people expect you to remove their shoes upon entering a building, homes, hotels, and many businesses. These buildings will usually have a specific place for you to store your shoes and will offer a pair of slippers to wear. They will provide extra slippers in “unclean” areas such as the bathroom or basement. Do not wear your slippers in these areas. Use the extra pairs awaiting your entrance. Along with these rules, never step on a woven straw tatami mat while wearing your slippers.
Following these guidelines greatly improves your trip to Japan. Visiting this country is far more challenging than simply booking a flight. It takes preparation to truly make the most out of your experience.