Japanese Customs

Japanese Customs

Japan is rich with many traditions. Some are stringent to adhere to while others are those which are practiced by only the locals. If you want to make sure to follow the guidelines which are important to them, make sure to read up on what is allowed socially and what is not. Don’t take a chance on offending the natives, know ahead of time if there are things that are a sign of respect while visiting.

Bowing (O-jigi)

It is customary for people in Japan to bow when saying hello, apologizing, saying good-bye and apologizing. Although shaking hands has become more accepted, the old world tradition of bowing is still a practice that shows respect for the culture. Men are supposed to bow with their hands at their sides, while women bow with their hands crossed in front of them. It is always best to let the person you are with take the lead to let you know what is appropriate.


Taking off your shoes when entering into anyone’s home is a sign of respect and one that is common in Japan. If you are going to visit someone’s home make sure to take your shoes off at the door. There will be designated areas to place them once you take them off. When taking off your shoes you have to point them in the direction that they were pointing when you entered the home. You may want to bring along house slippers to wear once your shoes are removed.


Bathing in Japan is done in individual homes and at bath house located around the city. Bathhouses have the dual purpose of cleaning, relaxing and socializing. Bath houses have been around for centuries and although changing over the centuries, they are still a place where residents go for social time and relaxation. Not only having baths available, it is about the entire experience. Going to a traditional bathhouse is something that you should do when visiting just for the overall experience.

Public Bath

There are places where people go to bath that are public bathhouses. They are socially established places that are seeded in tradition. More like common day “spas” they are a place to find a little company and to relax and unwind. Located in the facility are public bathing areas to sit down, relax and unwind. Most of them have membership requirements, but there are some which you can pay to frequent. Either way, they are a cultural experience that you should definitely try when visiting.


If you are looking for restrooms there are public bathrooms around the city to use. There are two different types of toilets that you can use in Japan, the squat toilet, and the more Western style toilet. If you should come upon a squat toilet, you may be a little confused. They sit closer to the ground and they are somewhat less advanced and primitive. They operate just like the other toilet counterparts, both work in the same way and do the same thing.

Kan-kon-so-sai(Ceremonial occasions)

Kan-kon-so-sai are ceremonies which are held in the Japanese culture. The Japanese people are highly traditional and each life stage is normally marked by a ceremony to welcome it in. These ceremonies are held with family and friends in attendance. If you are asked to participate, it is customary to show offering a gift out of respect. Whatever the ceremony is for, there is something that you should bring as a sign of curtesy.


A traditional Japanese funeral consists of a wake and then a cremation of the body which is then followed by a burial at a family grave. Most commonly there is a memorial service that follows. It is customary in Japan, unlike other places in the world, where the majority of individuals are cremated prior to burial. The cremated remains are usually placed in a family plot, but over recent years, spreading the ashes has become more popular.

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