Photo: YouTube/kankocho

Japanese manners videos show how to be a 'really cool' traveller in Japan

By Oona McGee, SoraNews24

Japan is currently in the midst of a tourism boom at the moment, with 31.9 million foreign tourists travelling to the country in 2019, breaking the previous record for the seventh year running.

Now with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics roughly half a year away, tourist numbers are set to swell even further, prompting the Japan Tourism Agency to create a number of etiquette videos to educate travellers on some of the finer points of everyday Japanese life.

Ten videos in total have been released, covering everything from communal bathing to how to ride the trains, with the central theme based around the fact that tourists can be “really cool” by taking care to consider others during their travels.

While the new awareness campaign recalls the “Cool Japan” marketing concept promoted by the government in recent years, it also contains a wealth of useful information for visitors. So how should foreign travellers escape the ire of Japanese locals by being considerate to those around them? Let’s take a look at the videos below.

Taking Pictures Part 1

This is one of the most common aspects of travel that can get on the nerves of locals and tourists alike. Use selfie sticks with care and avoid taking photos in big groups in crowded places. As the video says: “Please be aware of those around you. That is really cool.”

Taking Pictures Part 2

This video reminds tourists to respect signs prohibiting photography, and asks them to refrain from taking photos of people without their permission. While these points should be respected at all places around Japan, they’ve become a particular concern in Kyoto, where foreign travellers have been spotted chasing maiko and geisha on the street for photos.

Walking on the Streets

This isn’t the first time ninja have been used to warn people of the dangers of using smartphones while walking before. It’s an act that’s been known to cause accidents and incite angry attacks so “Why not put your smartphone away and enjoy the scenery of Japan?”

Public Transportation

This clip is dedicated to minding your manners on public transport, covering issues like: waiting for passengers to get off before boarding; arriving early to avoid missing your train; storing suitcases out of the way; giving up your seat to pregnant women and senior citizens, and wearing your backpack on the front. Bulky backpacks on backs topped a survey of inconsiderate train behaviors in 2018.

Traditional Buildings

Here we’re taught to keep our grubby fingers off old buildings as they are works of art that can be easily damaged. Also, behave appropriately in sacred places and don’t disturb people visiting a shrine to pray. That type of behavior results in shrines like this one placing a blanket ban on all foreign tourists.

Public Baths and Hotels

Wash yourself before getting into a communal bath in Japan, and don’t drop your towel in the water! Don’t take things other than amenities home with you after a stay at a hotel or ryokan, and instead of giving tips in Japan, just say arigato to thank people for their service.

Restaurants Part 1

We all know people in Japan love to line up for things, but there are rules to doing so – don’t cut into the queue, and if your friend is already in it, both of you should go to the back of the line. Another thing to be aware of is that Japanese people are taught to be thankful for food so only take as much as you are going to eat at a buffet. Eat everything — as every grain of rice contains seven fortune gods — and say gochisosama to show your appreciation after a meal.

Restaurants Part 2

Here we learn about the culture of being served otoshi at small Japanese bars as a kind of table charge. Also, don’t bring your own food and drinks into a restaurant, and if you’re not going to be able to honor your restaurant reservation, call to let them know.

Public Spaces

In Japan, smokers should only smoke in designated smoking spaces. Don’t forget to flush nothing but toilet paper down the toilet, and throw trash in trash cans, unless the American president is visiting, in which case you won’t be able to find one.

Public Spaces Part 2

Make phone calls after getting off the train or leaving a building, and if you’re on the train, avoid sitting on the floor and, as many manners posters continue to promote, refrain from talking loudly. Saying arigato to others around you who show you kindness and consideration will keep everyone from hating on foreign tourists who may find themselves blundering about on trains.

Well, there you have it – ten videos jam-packed with a whole lot of Japanese etiquette! Have you had any experiences with any of the scenarios mentioned during your own travels?

Source: YouTube/kankocho via Japaaan

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Iwate Prefecture uses samurai pictograms to help educate and inform foreign tourists

-- Survey reveals Japan as the top travel destination for Southeast Asians, but not for Westerners

-- Why is Japan such an unpopular tourist destination?

© SoraNews24

©2023 GPlusMedia Inc.

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I just checked out the first few. Very cringeworthy. Not sure who funds the JTA (our taxes??), on the other hand, I’d rather not want to know.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

I'm not quite sure why these would be aimed at tourists in particular.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Wayyyyyyy too many videos, I doubt anyone is going to watch more than two

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I'm not quite sure why these would be aimed at tourists in particular.

EXACTLY. Japanese people do these things too.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I doubt anyone is going to watch more than two

I think you'd be surprised.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

japan, don’t invite the world to your country and impose a million rules and expectations of how foreigners should act. They’re not choosing to live here, they just want to see the Olympics.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

The need more of these manners videos for Japanese people. All the behavior of tourists I’ve seen here, excluding Chinese, have been impeccable. Japanese people need more manners I think

7 ( +7 / -0 )

"Japanese people need more manners I think"


7 ( +7 / -0 )

I am so damn sick of this 'holier than thou' attitude. Just before first coming to Japan, I was told it was rude to blow your nose in public, etc. Boy, was I shocked when I actually arrived! People say the mainland Chinese are rude, but do we really have to set the bar that low?

Where I come from, it's actually impolite to ignore shopkeepers if they say hello to you.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

"I was told it was rude to blow your nose in public, etc."

Better than snorting and sniffing on the train

8 ( +8 / -0 )


I am so damn sick of this 'holier than thou' attitude.

I'll second that comment wholeheartedly.

10 ( +10 / -0 )


Better than snorting and sniffing on the train

I'm sure it is, but if Japanese people do that, please don't tell foreigners they shouldn't do it. And by the way, where I come from (sorry to use the phrase again), even if you're an old man, it is rude to take a slash in public.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Insufferably patronizing as usual. I hear that video no. 11, 'How to be a cool driver in Japan' was canned because even the people who made it felt it was an embarrassment too far.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

So NHK made new video to learn english. They are not specifically bad but the identical sound pattern is tiring, they should have made variation or perhaps it is considering that english learner are not supposed to match to many video in one go to avoid the too much information.

Because if they really had the objective use it for foreigners, they just totally missed it. Travellers adjust their behavior by regarding the native around them. The "responsible traveller" and "you are really cool" sound like material for backlash. Advice should be based on feasability : do not say to people to throw trash in trash bin when there is none, tell them to take their trash with them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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