This Is the Reason Why the Japanese Have Such Strict Rules About Manners and Etiquette

It will help you understand and follow them when you're traveling to Japan.

Each country has certain manners and etiquette reflecting its culture and values. Japan is no exception. Everyone knows that the Japanese are very keen and strict about manners. You may have noticed all the posters listing the dos and don'ts at places such as restaurants and even inside restrooms. Here we briefly explain the reason why they do so.

Concept of Harmony

Japanese people have a strong sense for protecting harmony. Historically speaking, it is deeply rooted in their culture because of many factors including geography, location, and work. As islanders surrounded by oceans and a long range of mountains, the Japanese people found it difficult to address work and life issues through confrontation. In short, working together in harmony proved the best way to live a productive life.

This only touches the surface as to why there are so many rules in Japan. However, it is safe to say that because of their innate desire to protect harmony, it, most of the time, reflects in the things they do. These rules, most of which are unspoken, are done for the benefit of the other person and are placed ultimately to protect harmony. Here are common examples:

Gift giving

When you give a gift, the occasion or purpose of giving should be taken in utmost consideration. For example, it is a bad omen to give a candle or anything that burns to a friend who recently bought a new house. Or, if you’re visiting a friend in the hospital, it is okay to bring them flowers, but not if it's placed inside a pot where it can grows roots. It might deliver a wrong message that you want them to stay in the hospital bed. Your message needs to be delivered correctly and at the right time. You do not want to spoil one’s feeling nor put a strain on others.

Using chopsticks correctly

By simply using your chopsticks in a proper manner, your character may be judged or seen if you are trustworthy or not. By acting politely, it is a way for people to show that not only are they respectful, but they also have common sense as well.

Keeping silence in trains

Japanese people respect each other’s personal space, which is why it is taboo to talk on the phone or speak loudly on the train. This is a way for people to show how they respect each other, and in a way keep harmony in check.


If you find out the reasons and backgrounds of each manner and etiquette, you are not only more likely to be persuaded to follow them, but also be able to have a deeper understanding of Japan’s culture. It’ll be easier to adapt to the culture, especially if you feel the need to keep the harmony as well.

 (3 June 2019)

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