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10 Things Not to Do in Japan as a Foreigner

Learn about Japanese culture and customs. Knowing what things not to do in Japan is crucial to a conformable and safe trip.

Manuel M.

October 28, 2023

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We all love to travel, and there are many things to do in other places, but what about the things we should avoid? There are laws and social customs that we should not bypass when visiting another country. Japan is a very traditional and old society where many things that maybe normal in other places are frowned upon. But one of the most important things you can’t do is travel without your Japanese eSIM with unlimited data.

Japan. Source: Pexels

Japan, a country known for its rich history, lively traditions, and unique cultural heritage, takes pride in its customs and etiquette. While Japan welcomes visitors worldwide, some traditions and standards must be followed to ensure a respectful and enjoyable trip. We want to give you more insight essay about some of the most important parts of Japanese etiquette and highlight the behaviors and activities to avoid or approach with caution.

Find out more about how to connect to the internet in the country with and discover the ease of using eSIM in Japan! Just Scan the QR code.

Behavior in Public Places

Understanding cultural norms and societal expectations about public behavior is critical when visiting or residing in Japan. Being aware of specific actions or behaviors might help ensure a nice and harmonious experience in Japan, which is recognized for its strong emphasis on etiquette and respect for others. You can navigate public venues with cultural sensitivity and contribute to a pleasant ambiance for yourself and people around you by becoming familiar with these recommendations.

Eating and Drinking

It is considered impolite in Japan to eat or drink on public transit, especially on crowded trains or buses. Consuming food or beverages in these areas can cause discomfort to other passengers and make an unwanted mess. For example, if you’re eating a snack or drinking something during rush hour. With everyone trying to cram inside, it can become uncomfortable and you can end up spilling something on someone else.

It is preferable to consume food and beverages in approved areas, such as restaurants or designated picnic spaces, where proper facilities are available.

Clean and orderly streets in Japan. Source:

Talking loudly on public transportation

The efficiency and punctuality of Japanese public transportation are frequently praised. Another feature that distinguishes these means of transportation is the peace and quiet they provide. Do your best to speak softly or do not talk at all, this results in a peaceful environment. Excessive noise or loud conversations might be seen as disruptive and insulting to fellow passengers. Besides, you wouldn’t for everyone to find out about your private life.

Respecting Personal Space

Personal boundaries are extremely important in Japanese society. It is critical to respect others’ personal space and prevent needless physical touch. For example, touching or hugging someone without their permission, especially if they are unfamiliar with you, is considered disrespectful. Personal boundaries must be respected to develop pleasant connections and demonstrate cultural awareness. Accidental contact is possible in busy places, but intentionally touching or bumping into someone without apologizing is considered impolite. Giving others personal space and demonstrating awareness contributes to a safe and courteous environment.

Japanese shop. Source: Unsplash

Cultural Étiquette

Japan’s rich cultural legacy is inextricably linked to its conventions and etiquette, which play an important part in everyday life. Understanding and respecting Japanese customs and etiquette is vital when engaging with Japanese culture to build healthy interactions and display cultural sensitivity. This section focuses on cultural etiquette mistakes to avoid in Japan. Visitors who are familiar with these standards will be able to navigate social situations with elegance, develop meaningful friendships, and increase their respect for Japanese traditions.

Public Displays of Affection

While romantic gestures are natural demonstrations of love, public shows of affection are more subdued in Japanese society. Excessive shows of affection, such as kissing or embracing, may make others uncomfortable or appear improper. Maintaining discretion and humility in public contexts is a strategy to conform to Japanese cultural norms.

Speaking of sharing your experience in Japan, you might also want to know how to connect abroad. There are many options of which we have:

These are all viable options to stay connected in Japan, but overall the eSIM is the easiest one to get and use. We’ll talk more about this alternative later on.

Photography and Privacy

We know that you want to take pictures of everything and share with friends and family back home. However, it’s important to respect the privacy and personal boundaries of people in Japan and almost anywhere else in the world. Taking someone’s photograph without permission is considered intrusive, especially in private settings or sacred areas. It is always best to obtain permission before photographing someone and to obey any “no photography” signs or requests.

Pedestrians crossing the street. Source: Unsplash.

Pointing and Gestures

If someone points at you, you wouldn’t really like it, would you? Even though in many places, being pointed at may not be a huge deal, in Japan, pointing directly at people or objects with your index finger is considered impolite. It’s best to use an open hand or gesture with your whole hand to indicate or direct attention.

Social Interactions

The way you interact with locals demonstrates your respect for their culture and beliefs. None of this is written down or in the law. These customs have been developing over the centuries and are now established as expected, mainly for those who already live in Japan, but for you as a visitor, minimal courtesies and values are also expected. It’s best for you to get familiarized with the way things are done in Japan before you take your flight.


Tipping is not as common in Japan as it is in many other Western countries. In fact, leaving a tip after a meal or for services given might be perplexing, if not downright unpleasant. Japanese establishments take pride in offering outstanding service, and quality service is expected to be included in the price. Instead of tipping, give genuine verbal gratitude to the establishment or provide favorable feedback.


Being on time for an appointment or even a date is something that not many of us may be used to, generally we know that traffic is unpredictable, and many things can happen on the way. Nonetheless, in Japanese society, punctuality is vital. It is considered impolite to arrive late for meetings or social events. It is best to plan ahead of time and aim to appear on time, if not a few minutes early, to show respect for others’ schedules and commitments. Fun fact, the Japanese transportation system is among the most punctual in the world and whenever you are late, even by a few minutes, you may receive an apology from the driver and a voucher.

Japanese transportation system. Source wikimedia.

Adhering to Rules and Regulations


In Japan, crossing the street outside of marked pedestrian crossings is widely discouraged. To be safe and to follow local rules, obey traffic lights and cross at marked crosswalks. For example, crossing a busy street in the middle, even if traffic is still or if there are no vehicles in sight.

Smoking in restricted areas

Smoking is strictly regulated in Japan due to rising health concerns and a desire to preserve clean and pleasant public spaces. Many public places, including most streets, parks, and indoor facilities, forbid smoking. To have a cigarette, one must look for approved smoking places or smoking rooms within specific establishments. Following these rules indicates concern for the health and comfort of others.

Staying Connected

As we mentioned previously, you want to share everything during your trip and for that, you’ll need to rely on a data connection in Japan. The new eSIM is the best way to connect to the internet easily and quickly. With the Holafly eSIM card Japan you’ll be able to connect in now time and with additional perks and advantages.

  • Keep your contacts and WhatsApp
  • Instant Delivery
  • Unlimited data plans
  • Speed: 3G/4G/LTE/5G
  • Hotspot: enjoy 500 MB per day to share with others.
  • One flat rate. No surprise fees
  • Connection to the best local cellular network in Japan

Just go to the Holafly website, select Japan as your destination and complete the purchase! You’ll receive a QR code to scan in minutes on your email. Easily set up your new eSIM and activate it on your cellphone. You’ll be good to go in no time!