1 888 370 6765
My Odyssey
1 888 370 6765
Odysseys Unlimited
Open mobile menu
6 minute read

8 Things to Know Before Traveling to Japan

February 13, 2024

As an international traveler, you have likely experienced culture shock at one time or another.  That’s why, when traveling to some areas of the world, knowing what to expect before you arrive can be invaluable.

To a Westerner, the cultural differences encountered in a country such as Japan can be particularly striking.  So, to help prepare you for any future trips to the Land of the Rising Sun, we have put together a list of eight things you need to know before you go.


1. Expect to Take Your Shoes Off

In Japan, it is expected that you take your shoes off when entering a carpeted room, certain areas of restaurants, and someone's home. We recommend wearing socks in good condition wherever you go.

Occasionally, restaurants will even provide bathroom slippers for you to wear. Remember to only wear these in the bathroom and take them off before returning to your seat.


2. Be Mindful of Your Medication

As with travel to any country, it is important to familiarize yourself with Japan’s rules and regulations on prescription medicine before you go.  For example, all prescription medication must be stored in the original prescription bottle – not in an unmarked container or a pill sorter – when traveling to Japan.


3. Talk Quietly

Japanese culture focuses on being polite to others. As you explore you will also notice that even a bustling city is very quiet.  It is not common for people to talk on the phone or to speak loudly while walking around.  If you are talking to someone, we recommend speaking quietly. This will help you fit in – and you will receive fewer stares from locals.


4. Don’t Eat on the Streets

While in America it is common for people to eat while walking around a city, it is rare in Japan.  Along with this, you likely won’t find many trash cans on the streets of Japan. Therefore, if you do need to snack, we recommend packing a small bag to put wrappers in until you reach a trash can.


5. Pack Pocket Tissue

Many public restrooms in Japan offer bidets instead of toilet paper, although in some cases there will be an option to buy toilet paper.  We recommend packing pocket tissue when out exploring for the day.  However, never use your pocket tissue to blow your nose in public – this is seen as incredibly rude in Japanese culture.


6. Carry Cash

Credit cards are not used widely in Japan. While department stores, top-end hotels, and some restaurants do accept cards, most businesses in Japan do not.  We recommend having plenty of yen on hand for shopping and meals on your own.


7. Don’t Tip

Americans often have a hard time with this, but there is no tipping at all in Japan. It is considered rude, as workers typically make decent wages and do not rely on tips, unlike in other parts of the world.


8. Practice Proper Chopstick Etiquette

Although using chopsticks seems like a straightforward (if not easy) practice, there are plenty of rules you should know and follow.  Never use your chopsticks to take food from a serving plate, or to pass food from your chopsticks to someone else’s chopsticks.  When they’re not in use, place your chopsticks parallel in their holder on the table.  And finally, you should never spear food with your chopsticks, use them to point at someone, or place them upright in a bowl.


We hope the tips above help you prepare for future travels to Japan.  To learn more about our Insider’s Japan small group tour, and to view a detailed day-by-day itinerary, up-to-date pricing, and available departure dates, click here.

Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET

Share your great adventures with us on social media. Tag your pictures with #myodyssey and they may be featured on our website!

Back to Top
crosschevron-down icon-angle icon-bars icon-times