Japan is a fast-paced country, known not only for its technological advancement but also for its exceptional hospitality. And, with outstanding service, people are stuck with the question, “Do you tip in Japan?”
Giving tips at restaurants, bars, hotels, service workers or any other place is common in many countries, but when talking about tipping etiquette in Japan, it is more rude than being customary.
So, to help you out with Japanese tipping etiquette, we have brought you a complete guide to Japan’s perspective towards tipping.
Here, you will explore not only the tipping customs of Japan and reasons why Japanese don’t expect tips but also some notable exceptions for tipping.
So, are you ready to explore Japanese tipping etiquette? Let’s dive in.
1. Do You Tip in Japan: Understanding Tipping Culture in Japan
Before we start with some tips and tricks for tipping in Japan, let’s get an insight into Japan’s tipping etiquette first.
In most parts of the world, especially in Western countries, people have a habit of leaving tips at restaurants, for waiters, chefs, taxi drivers and a bunch of other services.
And, in most cases, the service workers rely on tips to meet their day ends.
While tipping is common in many countries, but, in Japan, it is a big no-no. Moreover, unlike other countries, tipping in Japan is rude.
So, what makes one thing common in other countries, but rude to do it in Japan? Let’s dive into Japan’s tipping culture and learn more about their tipping etiquette.
In terms of tipping, in Western culture, leaving a tip is pretty common. It can either be a fixed 10-15% of total pay or whatever you feel like.
But, coming to Japan, the Japanese culture and tradition have no strings attached to tipping. Instead of charging extra for their services, the services are a part of your payment for a meal, hotel, ride etc.
Japan gives immense importance to hospitality and makes sure that visitors get the best possible services.
So, rather than giving extra money for their hospitality services, a simple thank you, small gift box or any thoughtful gesture are better choices.
2. Exceptional Situations
While it is not customary in the Japanese culture to give a tip after service, however, you may want to leave a tip because of their top-notch service.
Here are a few exceptions where you can give a tip for good service in Japan.
2.1 Giving a Tip During Hotel Stay
When you visit Japan, you have options where you can either stay at a Western-style hotel or a traditional ryokan.
In Western hotels or non-traditional hotels, giving a tip is not necessary, as all the services are already included in your stay fees.
And, since a personal room attendant takes care of everything, it is usually appropriate to give a tip for an exceptional stay experience.
But, make sure, while tipping, you are not leaving crumbled money bills on the tray. Rather, you should properly place the money in an envelope and give it to the front register.
Also, you must avoid giving it to any hotel staff in person.
2.2 Tipping in a Private Dinner
Having dinner with friends or colleagues is quite a norm in Japan. And, you will often find restaurants or food stalls filled with people, especially during Friday nights.
Even during a meal in restaurants or small food stalls, tipping is not customary. However, if you are having a private meal with a Geisha, then you can consider tipping.
Geisha are not only great hostesses but also performance artists. During your time with Geisha, you will get to learn about Japanese games, dance, play music and many more.
Now, when a Geisha is cheering and accompanying you during a dinner party, you may consider leaving a tip for them.
There is no fixed amount for it, you can give whatever you feel like. But, keep in mind to always put it in an envelope before you hand it to Geisha.
2.3 Tipping Private Tour Guides
Another situation where tipping is appreciated in Japan is your private tour guide for their special service. Though it is not customary or expected, it doesn’t mean you can’t go ahead with tipping private guides.
Additionally, along with tour guides, if you also have an interpreter accompanying you, you can give a tip to them as well.
Also, if you want to show extra love for their exceptional service, you can give them a box of snacks as a small appetizer, even better if it is from your hometown.
3. Is Tipping Taxi Drivers Accepted?
When you are visiting Japan, you will often take a taxi to explore various attractions. And with their top-notch service, you will want to pay extra.
But, avoid doing it. Tipping to a taxi driver is neither customary nor accepted in Japanese etiquette. In contrast, your taxi driver will try to give you back that extra money.
4. Proper Way of Tipping in Japan
Now, you have come to know that it is not common to accept tips or even expect tips, rather, tipping is rude in Japan.
But, like every other thing, there are some exceptions where tips are appreciated.
Additionally, unlike in many countries, especially in the West, you can’t just put tip money on trays or directly hand them over.
In Japan, where respect is a top priority, tipping must also be respectful. Here are the things that you should remember while tipping in Japan.
4.1 Using Envelopes
Considering tipping is rude in Japan, giving crumpled bills will add oil to the fire. And, of course, you don’t want your thoughtful gestures to be misunderstood as insulting. Therefore, you must show respect even while tipping.
However, rather than handing over money directly, you can put the tip inside envelopes.
Furthermore, when you put the money in an envelope, you not only give a tip but also show respect at the same time.
Bowing in Japan is one of the symbols that represents respect towards other people.
Whether it is a child showing respect to elders or a junior being respectful towards seniors at the workplace, you will notice people bowing to show respect.
You can also use this respectful gesture while giving a tip. So, next time you hand over tip envelopes on your Japan trip, don’t forget to give a slight bow too as a small gratuity towards their exceptional service.
4.3 Being Thankful
Since receiving tips is not prominent in Japanese culture, you will be fine even without giving tips. Also, when you are on a tight budget, tipping is not even a choice.
But, that doesn’t mean you can’t be thoughtful and show appreciation. A simple thank you is as much appreciated as leaving a tip, and sometimes even more than tip money.
You can say thank you or even better when you say in Japanese “Arigatou Gozaimasu”. And, don’t forget to give a slight bow while you say it.
When you have a habit of tipping for mediocre service, seeing exceptional hospitality in Japan will lead you to leave a tip.
However, you must respect the local customs of Japan. After all, giving tips is not the only way to appreciate the services.
In conclusion, a tipping culture is not prominent in Japan, however, there are some ways and thoughtful gestures to show your appreciation.
Rather than leaving bills as a tip, appreciating the service is preferred; a simple thank you is the perfect way to do that. You can also prepare small gift boxes if you want.
So, next time you are confused with tipping rules, just go with the simple rule of either no tipping or a small tip in the form of a present.
Now that you are aware of the tipping culture in Japan, are you ready to plan your visit? But, before you make preparations for your trip, do check out how to style traditional kimono so that you can explore Japan in Japanese style.