12 Things That Are Considered Rude in Japan

Today, we are answering the question, “What are 12 things that are considered rude in Japan?”


What is Considered Rude in Japan?

In today’s video, we are going to talk about common mistakes to avoid while traveling in Japan, and introduce things that are considered rude in Japan. We’ll be talking about noise, trash, eating and drinking, smoking, feet, slippers, reclining seats, luggage, priority seats, cash, sitting areas, and red lights.

1. Noise

As westerners, we use loud voices. In Japan, it’s not so common to speak loudly, especially on public transportation. It’s better to use a softer voice, and not shout across the train or the aisle.

Never talk on your phone while riding public transportation. There are signs everywhere, but if you’re new to Japan, you may not notice them.

You need to put your phone on silent mode, so that it doesn’t make any kind of noise. Not even the texting, ticking noise. Also, wear headphones if you’re watching videos or listening to music.

2. Trash

There aren’t a lot of trash cans in Japan, so you need to carry your trash with you until you find an appropriate trash can. Keep in mind that only recyclables go into the recycling bins. Starbucks cups go into regular garbage cans.

It’s considered rude in Japan to throw away your (non-toilet) trash in the restrooms. Only restroom-related trash should be disposed of in the restrooms.

Trash on Trains

You should always take your trash with you when you get off a train. There are trash cans on the platforms of the stations and near the doors on express trains.

When getting off express trains, don’t leave your trash in the seat pocket in front of your seat. There is no cleaning service between stops. Another person will likely sit in your seat, and nobody wants to sit down and see another person’s trash.

3. Eating and Drinking

You’ve probably already heard this, but eating while walking is considered rude in Japan.

Yes, street foods are delicious and plentiful in Japan. Definitely give it a try! Just remember that it’s best to eat and drink near the place where you bought it. Then, you can throw away your wrappers and trash at the food stall.

If you walk away from the food stall, then you’ll be stuck with the trash for the rest of the day, or until you can find an appropriate trash can.

It’s also inappropriate to eat and drink on local trains and subways. Basically, if there’s a tray, then it’s okay to eat and drink. On express trains and bullet trains, it’s fine to eat and drink because there’s a tray.

4. Smoking

Smoking on the street is almost always prohibited in Japan. You’ll often see signs on the sidewalk that say, “No Smoking”. Smoking is only permitted in designated smoking areas. You’ll find these designated areas at train stations, hotels, and restaurants. It is considered very rude in Japan, and a violation, to light up and walk down the street.

5. Feet

Footwear etiquette is also significant in Japanese culture. It’s considered impolite to put your shoes where others may sit. Your shoes are dirty, so you shouldn’t put your feet up on benches, chairs, or anywhere that someone might sit.

This also extends to tying your shoes. Never put your shoes on a bench or chair to tie your shoes.

If you’d like to prop your feet up, you need to take off your shoes first. On some trains, you’ll find a footrest that has two sides. One side of the footrest is for shoes, and the other side is for socked feet. The side that matches the carpet on the floor is for your shoes, and the side that matches the upholstery on the chair is for your socked feet.

6. Slippers

You shouldn’t wear slippers on tatami mat flooring. Only socked feet go on tatami flooring. It’s not a good idea to go barefoot on tatami, so bring socks if you’re wearing sandals or flip-flops.

7. Reclining Seats

The seats on the bullet trains, and some express trains, are comfortable and have a reclining function. You can recline your seat, but be cautious of the person seated behind you.

If someone is seated behind you, it’s considered courteous to not recline your seat all the way. Reclining your seat as far back as it goes will obstruct the activities of the person behind you.

Before getting off the train, remember to put your seat back in the upright position. There is usually an announcement in Japanese, but not so often in English.

8. Luggage

When traveling with luggage, be considerate with the amount of space you occupy. Try to take up as little space as possible and don’t block the doors.

Try to refrain from placing your luggage on the seats. The wheels, just like your shoes, are considered dirty. Also, other passengers can’t sit down if your luggage taking the space on a seat.

Don’t travel with suitcases on city buses. Buses are crowded, and there is no space for luggage. If you are traveling with luggage, opt for a taxi over a city bus.


If you are wearing a backpack and the train is crowded, you need to flip it around to the front or take it off and hold it down by your legs. When the backpacks on your back, it takes up a lot of room and may hit people when you move around.

9. Priority Seats

At the far ends of the train and subway cars are priority seats. These seats are designated for people who are elderly, disabled, pregnant, or carrying a baby.

There’s been some controversy lately about whether it’s okay to sit in these seats. The reality is that people who need the seats are not going to ask you to get up. We believe it’s best to leave these seats open, so that people who need them can sit down.

10. Cash

When you’re paying for something in Japan, you’ll often find a tray next to the register. This is where you are supposed to put your money. Don’t hand cash directly to the cashier. Put your cash in the tray, and the cashier will take it out.

11. Sitting Areas

There aren’t many places to sit in public in Japan. Even parks don’t have a lot of benches. It’s considered rude in Japan to sit on the floor of stations, trains, subways, stairs of temples and shrines, or anywhere where there isn’t a chair or a bench.

If there’s nowhere to sit, it’s best to go to a café. There are cafés all over the country. You can order something small, and sit for as long as you like.

12. Red Lights

There are a lot of crosswalks in Japan. Just follow the locals, and don’t cross the street when the crosswalk is red. Wait patiently, have a Zen moment, and think about all the reasons you love Japan. Even if there’s not a car in sight, still wait.

See other Tips for Responsible Travel in Japan.


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