Tokyo Etiquette: Do’s and Don’t s While Visiting or Living in Japan

Don’t s  in Tokyo Etiquette

That which cannot be touched

First thing’s first, one must never forget that while living in Japan, never, and we mean never, blow your nose in public. In fact, try to avoid touching your nose altogether (for it can easily be considered one of Japan’s cardinal sins). Ever wonder why people wear surgical masks in Japan in the first place? The pervasive surgical mask may seem like a mystery to most foreigners who visit Japan for the first time, but the reason behind them is actually quite straightforward. As a courtesy to others and in order to keep them from getting sick (as well to avoid the itch to touch/blow your own nose), the mysterious surgical masks have become a pervasive staple on every Japanese streetscape.

All hush aboard

Considered a public space in a country that deeply values privacy, peace, and quiet, the train in Japan is a place of nearly complete silence. Speaking on the phone on the train is seen as a unique foreigner faux-pas. There are even signs displayed in English which politely ask people to refrain from talking loudly on their phones while riding. Consider the train, not unlike a library; read, quietly listen to music with headphones on, take a nap, but absolutely no loud noises. Additionally, it’s always helpful to be conscious of large obtrusive backpacks (we’re looking at you backpackers). Throughout Japan, you will often find signs in English (along with cute cartoon mascots to drive the point home) that discourage unconscious backpacking.

Beware of the index finger

While it may seem as less of a faux-pas for those of us in the West, finger pointing is generally avoided altogether in Japan. Instead, use your entire hand while pointing or gesturing at signs and directions. In the land of the rising sun, finger pointing is generally considered offensive, forceful and has a slew of negative connotations. Pointing should only be done with the palm faced upward and with the entire hand. Try it out; you may find it to be more pleasant and it may help you understand the Japanese mindset better!

Never cross streams

Considered unsanitary, passing food with chopsticks is essentially a way to pass germs. This gesture is also considered taboo due to the connotations associated with using chopstick-like utensils during funerals to prepare the body for burial or cremation. In addition, crossing chopsticks is generally frowned upon.

Do’s in Tokyo Etiquette

Sweet dreams

If you’re hard-pressed for sleep because of a late night finishing a paper or a long day at work, you might be pleasantly surprised to find that sleeping on the train in Japan is quite customary. Why not blend in and make like the locals if you’re tired, or after a few beers, and just take a nap wherever. Throughout the country, you will often find businessmen, complete with briefcase and wallet, leisurely (and drunkenly) napping just about anywhere (especially on the train during the wee morning hours or late at night). You can easily join in the fun and find a comfy space en-plain-air. Although a custom throughout the country, more recently the Tokyo government is discouraging the practice for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (to no avail). Luckily for the sleep-deprived Japanese masses, this practice is still rampant!

Slurp away!

Slurping noodles in Japan is considered a sign of good gesture towards the house and the chef, signaling a delicious meal. But this custom also has a practical purpose; slurping usually aids in cooling noodles by allowing air to pass through them while eating. This is often necessary because noodles (especially ramen) are served piping hot, and are best consumed at the hottest temperature. Slurping is particularly encouraged while eating ramen and soba, and slightly less common when eating other noodles like udon. While difficult for foreigners to get used to, after a while, this custom will quickly become second nature!

Reading everywhere!

If you walk into a convenience store in Japan, don’t be surprised to find people reading magazines and books on display –something that in other countries may grant you a sharply addressed reaction from the store owner. The practice is so common that there’s even a name for it; ‘tachiyomi’ which literally means ‘stand and read’. This is true unless the magazine or book is taped shut or wrapped in a yellow elastic indicating that there are promotional items inside that could fall out. Otherwise, all reading material is fair game for your reading pleasure.

You have a light?

Influenced by salaryman culture, Japan surprisingly still allows indoor smoking within designated areas. This is particularly the case in izakayas, arcades, pachinko (or pinball) parlors and small bars. Don’t be surprised when visiting a restaurant and being asked, “smoking or non-smoking?”

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5 Major Insights On Chinese Business Culture And Etiquette

The difference between China and other western countries regarding business culture and etiquette cannot get ignored. It’s big and diverse. China’s unique history contributes immensely to their distinctive business culture and etiquette. With China’s economy opening up and joining trade organizations like WTO, it sure has become a darling of many in doing business. If you intend to travel to China for business reasons, there’s no better advice than you having to learn some basic Chinese business culture before traveling.

In this article, you will gain insight on how to conduct a successful business in China as you avoid cultural and social disasters. Here are the tips:

The First Approach.

Chinese prefer doing business with people recommended to them by other business associates other than direct contacts. Referrals form the basis of business relationships. If you have no connections, contact investment committee for direction and advise.


Unlike business relationships in the Western countries, in China, they graduate to a social relationship with time. Business relationships become closer as you share more of your political opinions, personal life, hobbies, aspirations, and family. They accept your deal based on how much they know you.


Chinese business people value addressing each other based on rank. One gets addressed according to his/her seniority and especially in the state-owned businesses. The other party gets addressed as Chairman, Director, Manager, or other titles that represent a particular rank. They avoid addressing each other as Mr., Miss, or Mrs. While giving out any documentation like name cards, always start with the senior person. Make sure you stretch out your both hands.

Giving Face.

Giving face also refers to giving due respect. Respect gets accorded according to rank. When giving gifts, they should differ according to seniority. Those in high positions get better gifts than those in lower levels. Sitting in board meetings or when dining should get accorded according to rank.

Gifts and presents.

Gifts, especially from the western origin significantly enhance business relationships in China and especially in the small cities and towns. Similarly, you will receive gifts from them and especially products with a touch of Chinese art. You should not refuse gifts from them as they refer such an act as impolite and will affect your business relationship.

While conversing with the Chinese, never mention the following topics and avoid them as plague:

  • Independence of Taiwan as a country.
  • Your Friendship with Japanese or show that you praise them over Chinese.
  • Anything to criticize Deng Hsiao Ping.

They term them as taboo and mentioning the above topics results to nasty arguments. Converse anything else under the sun with the Chinese except for the above topics.

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Use the right gestures/greetings

The Chinese are a reserved nation in general. Normally people don’t like being touched by strangers. It can be abrupt if you make a sudden body contact with the person, such as hugging and kissing, though it is common in the western world. Sometimes nodding and shaking hands can do for all. Bowing is a very old gesture to show respect to someone of great significance. Don’t bow with your palms pressed together in front of your chest- it’s a Thai gesture that gets confused a lot by westerners

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House customs

Do’s: If you are a guest coming to somebody’s house, it is a polite thing not to take a seat before your host invite or offer you to have a seat. If it is in a house, guest should take the seat closest to the door facing the inside part of the house, while the host sit on the opposite facing out ward.




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Sit on your pillow

Do Not Sit On Pillow Or You Will Get Boil On Your Butt. The (headrest) pillows which are commonly used when we sleep. According to Javanese custom it is inappropriate to sit on then with your buttocks. Since they are children, the Javanese people are taught to treat the head pillows appropriately. It is a taboo to sit on it. To make their kids obey the rule, the parents simply warn them that if they dare to break it or sit on it they will get boil on their ass. The myth is so entrenched and sometimes adults subconsciously believe it is so.

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Chinese and smoking

Smoking cigarette is also usual in China, even when you are having lunch or dinner together. Chinese people are not accustomed to the concept of non-smoking area. So if your clients or hosts start smoking while having a meal, please don’t be surprised.

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Before Important Events

Success and opening a new chapter of one’s life is very exciting and joyful event that may deserve a celebration. Some people do celebrate before, during, and after the event in different ways. In the Philippines, old ones may tell the younger ones not to travel or go home late before a special event in the younger one’s life especially when he or she is about to graduate or get married very soon. According to the old people, those people are prone to accidents and they have to be extra careful. A lot of younger ones actually follow that belief.

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Bawal Umihi Dito

One can really enjoy having a vacation in the Philippines because of the country’s physical features, natural resources, foods, jolly and hospitable people and their wonderful culture, and a lot more reasons. When a tourist will travel from one place within the country to another, he might ask himself and wonder about the meaning of the sentence he might see in different places (usually on walls) in the country that says “bawal umihi dito”. It means “do not void here”. Those were on walls or gates because years ago, male Filipinos void even on public walls. Years passed by and they became educated and disciplined. Now, you almost cannot see them do that but still, a lot of signs are still on the walls.

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What One Should Not Do While Cooking and After Eating

Filipinos are known to be good in cooking. A lot of Filipino chefs have been successful all over the world. What others do not know is any Filipino who knows the most basic in cooking can be good in it. Ordinary people can cook very good foods even without formal cooking education or learning from cook books. Philippines is a country where people love to cook. Since cooking is a known activity, there are also known beliefs about it. They say, a males or females who are single should not sing while they cook because they may not have the chance to marry someone someday and will be forever a bachelor or an old maid. The same will also happen if one will get the last piece of food on a platter.

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Traditional Chinese festivals

Chinese love to celebrate festivals. There are plenty of festivals throughout a year. Most of them are based on lunisolar calendar, which divides a year to 24 solar terms. For example, you probably don’t want to hang out at night on 4 April or 5 April, as it’s Qingming festival, known as tomb-sweeping day. It is believed that all the death and evil spirits will return on this day. People normally go visiting the graves of their ancestors with food, drinks and flowers. Therefore it is not considered a good day to conduct business. Other festivals like mid-autumn festival, double-seven festival(Chinese valentine’s day), lantern festival and dragon-boat festival are commonly celebrated by the Chinese.

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Karaoke and mahjongg

Chinese people love two things: Karaoke and mahjongg. But if you think they are just entertainments, you would be wrong. Both of them happen to be very important business activities as well. Offers can be discussed in a karaoke box or at a mahjongg table. Playing Mahjongg requires both luck and tactics, and make sure to ask about the rules they play by – every place has its own rule. And you don’t have to be good at singing to go to a karaoke, just enjoy the atmosphere and sing confidently. These are perfect ways to establish Guanxi with different people. So just relax and have fun.

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