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Customs & Traditions in Japan

Updated: May 5, 2021

Home> Countries> Asia> Japan> Customs & Traditions

General Etiquette

  • In Japan, it is impolite to yawn or chew gum in public.

  • It is polite to give a soft refusal or show slight hesitation before accepting an invitation or offer, such behavior shows modesty.

  • It is inappropriate for women to cross their legs, and men should only do so by crossing their knees or ankles.

  • It is impolite to sit casually with the ankle resting on the other knee.

  • People who are sick are expected to wear a face mask to prevent the spread of germs in public places.

  • Blowing one’s nose in public is also considered unhygienic.

  • The Japanese often smile and nod throughout the conversation.

  • Avoid being frank about sensitive topics, also avoid discussing sensitive historical and political topics such as World War II.

  • Avoid being openly critical or pointing out mistakes, the Japanese may take criticism quite personally. For example, if they have taken you to a restaurant and you do not like a dish served, commenting on its quality may be taken as a comment on their skills as a host even though they did not prepare the dish.

  • Do not raise your voice or lose your temper. Losing control is a sign of poor upbringing.

  • Do not tell third parties about a conversation you’ve had with another Japanese person unless they have made it clear that it is okay to do so.


  • Some families may have an elderly parent or relative residing with them.

  • During the second half of the 20th century, new laws were introduced reducing patriarchal authority and awarding greater legal rights for women.

  • Marriage is based upon mutual attraction rather than the once traditional ‘arranged marriage’.

  • Family patterns have changed over the decades from multi-generational households to the typical nuclear family’ with two parents and their children (particularly in the more urban areas).

  • Children are the center of the family in Japan and raising kids is seen as an extremely important role.


  • People have two names, the surname, and the given name. The surname comes before the given name and is inherited from the father, accordingly, people are generally addressed by their surname.