Things that are difficult for foreigners to understand: 10 examples of Japanese customs, manners, and culture that are unique to Japan.

Mayumi Folio
Mayumi Folio

We hear from foreign visitors to Japan that they are impressed by the good manners and beautiful customs of Japan.

Japanese people have a high level of ethics and manners. Japanese customs and manners are the reason why people say, “The Japanese people are very friendly!

As a Japanese, it makes me very proud to be called that.

However, for foreigners who did not grow up in Japan, there are some situations that can be very troublesome.

When we Japanese invite foreign guests, we pay attention to manners and customs so as not to be rude to them.

At the same time, however, foreign guests themselves are also expected to behave in a manner that is not disrespectful in Japan.

For this reason, it is very important for us, as Japanese, to know what kind of situations foreigners are puzzled by.

If there are any Japanese customs or practices that may cause particular difficulties for foreign guests, we will do what we can to remove them in advance or provide substitutions.

Such care will make your partner feel comfortable.

What kind of Japanese customs and manners do foreigners have trouble with?

In this issue, we will thoroughly analyze the customs and manners of foreigners in Japan to resolve such questions!

Let’s take a look at 10 specific examples.

What is it about Japanese culture that bothers foreigners?


Reference video:

Bowing is a unique Japanese expression of “bowing.

A heartfelt and natural bow is very pleasant for both parties.

Japanese bowing is used from different angles and at different times: greeting, thank you, gratitude, apology, request, worship, and respect.

Bowing is also impressed upon foreigners as a symbol of Japanese politeness.

However, even foreigners who have lived in Japan for a long time take time to learn how to use different bowing styles.

If this is the case, it is difficult for foreigners staying in Japan for a short period of time to understand the meaning of bowing, and it is a very difficult Japanese custom to master in a short period of time.

And maybe some of our customers are wondering why they are bowing everywhere, too.

In such a case, how about gently telling them about the meaning of bowing?

What are the different meanings from different angles, and when and in what situations. etc., and it can be a very enjoyable conversation with the addition of gestures and movements.

If you know the meaning of bowing, you may be able to help make your foreign guests’ stay in Japan more comfortable.

[Recommended past articles]

How to communicate Japanese customs and manners in English.

Tsutsumu Culture Packaging

Reference video:

Japanese “tsutsumu” culture is attracting a lot of attention from overseas.

The packaging technology of department stores is one of the things that impresses foreigners when they come to Japan.

From the smallest pouch to offerings at weddings, funerals, and temples, the Japanese “tsutsumu” culture has a deep history and meaning.

Japanese “wrapping” also includes the function of expressing consideration for the recipient and the sender’s sense of taste and care.

Against this backdrop, all manner of products in Japan are marketed with the greatest possible convenience and consideration for the consumer.

On the other hand, however, excessive packaging in Japan, which has somehow taken root in our current lifestyle, has been pointed out in various countries.

In fact, I would like to share with you some questions that I have encountered in Japan from foreigners around me.

  • “I just went to a convenience store in Japan and bought some snacks and juice, but the hotel trash can got full in no time!”
  • “Why are the little cookies individually packaged, in a box with compartments, and then put in a plastic bag when the box is coated in plastic?”
  • “When I bought bread at a bakery, each loaf was put in a plastic bag and then in a plastic handbag. On top of that, they put the cold drinks in a different bag and even gave me a straw even though they were plastic bottles.”

Some are puzzled by resources that are over-packaged and immediately disposed of, such as

European countries where the use of plastic plastic shopping bags is now restricted by law.

Bringing your own eco-bag is a must, and in-store bags are either paper bags or plant-derived, water-resistant bags that can be used for composting.

And if not, everyone borrows a piece of cardboard from the store.

Gift wrapping overseas is also surprisingly simple “to put it nicely,” considering Japan’s excellent packaging techniques.

Currently, individuals and entire countries around the world are searching for ways and means to make their daily lives as waste-free as possible.

Because of this, an increasing number of foreigners are confused by Japan’s excessive packaging.

On the contrary, however, there is one thing that is attracting a great deal of attention in Japan’s packaging situation.

An environmentally friendly wrapping technique that has been used since the Edo period, using furoshiki, bamboo, straw, and other plants.

In France, it has recently become fashionable to wrap Christmas gifts in furoshiki.

The wrapping paper doesn’t have to be thrown away and can be used for other purposes and still be beautiful. This is the key point.

This will be a traditional Japanese culture that the whole world will pay more and more attention to in the future.

Ichigen-san, no thanks.

Reference video:

Only those with an introduction can enter the store in Kyoto’s Hanamachi and other areas.

“Ichigen-san, no thanks” Culture.

Of course, this system provides the ultimate in hospitality in the hanamachi.

Even if it is not as strict as the Hanamachi, there are many spaces in Japan that can only be reached by people who know each other.


  • Dojo of Budo where only students and pupils are allowed.
  • I want to drink Japanese whiskey in a cozy-looking old bar where only regulars are allowed.
  • I want to have a good time at a ryotei with geisha.
  • I would like to have a cup of green tea at a tea party.
  • I would like to talk directly with Kabuki actors and wrestlers.

and others may come to mind.

Of course, these days, there are many services available for foreign visitors to Japan that can be easily experienced by tourists.

However, there are many foreigners who want to experience Japanese culture with a quality that is not strange to Japanese people! There are many foreigners who want to experience Japanese culture with a quality that is not too much for Japanese people.

There are many traditional barriers such as language, culture, customs, and manners, and it is not easy for foreigners to reach the world of “Ichigen-san, no!

Motenas Japan is ready to provide you with such an in-depth Japanese cultural experience. Please feel free to contact us anytime.

Reference Article:

Popular Sumo wrestling experience! How to explain to foreigners and hospitality entertainment

Explaining Geisha in English] How to Enjoy Japanese-Style Entertainment

What Japanese customs annoy foreigners?

Always take off your shoes when entering a building.

For those from countries where it is not customary to take off shoes, it is difficult to get used to the idea of taking them off inside a Japanese room.

In some countries, shoes are not taken off except for sleeping,

I am embarrassed to be a sock in public. Some people say.

However, even though most countries have dirt floors, there are still many people who change into slippers or other indoor footwear.

If you prepare indoor shoes in advance, we may be able to eliminate the anxiety of “I’m not wearing shoes!” If you prepare indoor shoes in advance, we may be able to relieve you of the anxiety of “I’m not wearing shoes!

Reference video:

When sightseeing at shrines and temples, you always take off your shoes when entering the building.

A cold winter day. Moving between boards with only socks can be very painful.

And on hot days, such as in mid-summer, they really don’t want to wear slippers for communal use! Some people do not want to wear slippers on hot days such as in mid-summer.

If the person you are meeting is sensitive to the shoe situation, one option is to tell them to carry their personal slippers.

There are quite a few people who have them used and carried them on board airplanes.

Or you could give a pair of foldable, portable slippers as a small gift.

Hot springs and public bathhouses

Relax your body and mind after a long day in plenty of hot water.

It is no exaggeration to say that the bath culture is one of the great things about Japan.

For foreigners, however, it is a very difficult Japanese custom to bathe naked with strangers in Japanese hot springs or public bathhouses.

Besides, it is not common outside of Japan to be completely naked in front of others.

And, it is absolutely unthinkable to take a bath naked with people at work or acquaintances on a company trip, for example! Some people say, “I can’t do that.

Reference video:

Even if you love Japanese baths and have no qualms about entering a public bathhouse, there are manners and rules to follow when entering a sento. Even if you say you love Japanese baths, there are manners and rules when entering a public bathhouse.

Of course, there are many homes in the West that have bathtubs as well as showers.

However, the bathing method is to wash your body in the hot water in the bathtub and discard the hot water after you leave the bath. Some people do not know how to take a bath in Japan, such as washing their bodies before entering the bathtub.

There are also many foreigners who have tattoos as a fashion statement.

There are also people who wanted to go to a public bath because they had come to Japan, but could not because their tattoos were banned.

For such people, instead of public baths, you can use a private bath or a guest room with an open-air bath at a hot spring hotel or

If the tattoo is a small object, you may want to offer suggestions such as providing a bandage to blindfold it.

Since your stay in Japan is so special, we hope you will unwind from the fatigue of your trip by soaking in plenty of hot water.

Cash payments are frequent Can’t pay by card anywhere

One of the top problems that foreigners in Japan often encounter is that “credit cards are not accepted everywhere in Japan. This is often cited as one of the top problems for foreigners staying in Japan.

The Omotenashi Japan Project and the inbound effect of the Olympics on the foreign visitors to Japan have encouraged the use of credit card payments in Japan.

In other countries, cashless systems have advanced considerably, and conversely, cash payments are often refused.

In Europe and the United States, most stores accept cards, so people usually carry only small change.

In addition, even though credit cards are accepted in Japan, only the card designated by the store can be used. This is inconvenient for foreign visitors.

Reference video:

However, the situation has changed considerably over the past few years.

For example, Suica, the IC card used by JR East, is now available for foreign visitors to Japan.

The card can be used for 28 days without digipot. You can use it to pay at tourist attractions, stores, and even cabs.

JR East News:

However, when purchasing, please note that in some locations, vending machines require cash payment, so we recommend that you purchase at the Midori-no-madoguchi (Midori-no-madoguchi).

In the future, it would be convenient if credit cards can be charged anywhere.

Reference Site

Credit Card Research Lab “Can I buy train tickets with a credit card? Each railroad company handles it differently!” :.

Apple Pay and Google pay are being used in an increasing number of places these days.

It is used worldwide for smartphone payments, but some sensors and other standards differ between overseas countries and Japan, and there are some situations where payments cannot be made in Japan depending on the model of the smartphone.

There are also many applications that cannot be installed without a Japanese Apple ID.

Reference site Geekroid “A big problem for the tourism nation! Foreign visitors to Japan cannot use “Apple Pay” or “Google Pay”!”

Most of the entrance fees to shrines and temples that foreign tourists always visit are also paid in cash.

If you are going to visit several shrines and temples in Kyoto, etc., you will need to carry a lot of cash, as the amount of money will be much larger than expected.

So, if you are a foreigner visiting Japan and there are people nearby who are touring tourist attractions, you may want to advise them that Japanese yen is required even for entrance fees.

What are the Japanese manners that annoy foreigners?

person pouring alcohol for guests or customers (typically a woman)

Reference video:

Sake with your Japanese counterpart to deepen your friendship.

It is Japanese etiquette to serve a glass of sake to a superior or a guest.

However, the act and timing of pouring is one of the manners that are difficult for foreigners to understand.

For example, it is a Japanese custom to pour a glass of sake for someone whose glass is empty.

In some cases, a person may offer a glass of sake along with his or her greeting as a sign of closeness.

You can’t drink any more, but they keep on pouring, and you feel bad about leaving some behind, so you do your best to drink some more…. Many foreigners get drunk.

If the foreigner is already quite drunk, there is no need to pour alcohol into an empty glass.

And since it is considered very offensive by many feminists in the West for women to be in the natural position of pouring drinks, men should also be willing to pour drinks.

It is an opportunity to deepen friendships, and it would be nice to have a mutually pleasant drinking occasion.

Japanese Business Manners

Reference video:

Japanese business etiquette is always at the top of the list in surveys asking “What bothers you about Japanese manners? Japanese business etiquette is always at the top of the list in surveys asking “What bothers you about Japanese manners?

Some of the most common examples of uniquely Japanese business etiquette include “how to give a business card,” “report, contact, and consult,” and “always carry a memo with you,

It is said that “reading the air” and “paying attention” are the two areas where foreigners struggle the most to master Japanese business etiquette.

Reading the atmosphere and the atmosphere of the place is a uniquely Japanese idea, and observing and reading the situation and acting accordingly is an important point in Japanese society.

This is not often seen in other cultures; if there is a problem, the person with the problem speaks up.

Or, it can be a Japanese custom that is quite painful for those from cultures where discussion is required and the team’s actions are consistent.

It is also important business etiquette to always assess the situation and use one’s “mind” to help those around one to proceed smoothly.

  • Requesting an extended leave of absence when your supervisor is busy.
  • When reporting, he only talks about his own behavior, which sounds like an excuse.
  • When you are ushered into a meeting place, you do not sit down until the other person says, “Please come in.
  • Quickly have the materials you need when you go out on a sales trip.

and other skills that are quite difficult even for new Japanese employees, it is a Japanese manner that is quite difficult for foreigners who grew up outside of Japan.

Japan is an island nation with a single ethnic group.

Manners and rules do not vary greatly from region to region.

In contrast, the United States, India, China, and Europe are countries where many different ethnic groups, multiculturalism, and multiple customs come together within a single country.

Therefore, from an early age, it is necessary to always speak up and act out, and to appeal to others.

In these multinational countries, society is structured by culture and custom values.

The act of “reading the air” in Japan.

In other words, this skill can only be achieved if we have the same common sense and conceptual standards, such as “less direct phrasing and perception of the other person’s behavior and needs.

It becomes very difficult for people from different cultures to read the atmosphere only from the perspective of their own personal cultural background and mannerisms.

Therefore, there may be times when a foreigner visiting Japan on a business trip feels that his or her mannerisms are not quite Japanese.

Is that common sense, such as “in Japan”?

Or is it “human” common sense?

Manners and customs may differ, but the other party is a human being. Perhaps what we need to look at is human nature.

Respect others as Japanese do, but in important situations, communicate in a way that others can understand, even if they are from different cultures.

This kind of mindfulness creates a bond that transcends manners and customs.

Manners at mealtime

One part of Japanese dining etiquette that often surprises people is that “when eating noodles or drinking hot food, you should make noise. This is a part of Japanese dining etiquette that often comes as a surprise.

In the West, it is very bad manners to make noises with your mouth while eating, so we are told strictly from a young age to do so.

And drink with your mouth on the bowl. This is also a surprising Japanese manner.

Often, soup or broth is said to be [drink] in Japanese, but in most countries [eat] is used.

Miso soup, for example, is served directly from the bowl with your mouth, which is quite a surprise.

For Westerners, the only other utensil they use to put their mouths on other than a spoon or fork is a cup.

So it is no wonder that some foreigners ask for a spoon when drinking miso soup.

The manner in which the bowls and chopsticks are used, which are also part of the colorful Asian landscape, is also “different from place to place.

In Korea, it is against manners to lift up a dish, so some people are surprised to see Japanese people holding a bowl in one hand.

It would be nice if we could inform them of the Japanese way of eating and still be able to provide them with a meal that is acceptable in their manner of eating.

Implicit in the public transportation space

Reference video:

The tranquility of Japan’s public transportation system and,

No matter how many people there are, they always line up properly.

Walking speed is different on the left and right side of the elevator.

Manners on public transportation in Japan are a hot topic of conversation among foreign visitors to Japan.

However, on the other hand

  • Where do you want to be?
  • How can they all be moving at the same speed and in the same direction?
  • The person next to me fell fast asleep!
  • I have trouble understanding the implication of the train!

It is a public transportation system that is difficult to integrate into Japanese society, such as

However, it is a Japanese custom that is difficult to perform naturally when you suddenly find yourself in the middle of the landscape.

In addition, public transportation transfers are complicated, and the foreign language text on the signage is often incorrect, so it is common to see foreigners confused at train stations.

The ticket buying process is also complicated, and no matter how many instructions are provided, some people have trouble keeping up with the speed of the people around them.

If you see a foreigner in trouble at a station or on a train, it would be kind to gently help him or her out.


Japanese culture, customs and manners.

What is normal for us may not be normal in other countries.

However, we must not forget that the beauty and charm of Japan are hidden there.

Of course, every country has its own important culture and customs, and experiencing them is one of the best parts of visiting a foreign country.

However, it would be somewhat disappointing if the differences in customs and culture clouded the enjoyment of your stay in Japan.

So, if the inviting party takes this into consideration in advance, it will be possible to avoid the situation from escalating into trouble.

Nevertheless, such inconveniences are a part of Japan that can only be experienced by actually coming to Japan.

We hope that you will enjoy the experience and realize how interesting the country of Japan is!

Reference Article:

Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Japan Tourism Agency:.

Reference video: