Japanese Faux Pas: 8 Things One Should NEVER Do In Japan


Japanese Faux Pas

-One should not put one’s hands in one’s pockets; to do so is regarded as a sign of boredom or a lack of interest.

-One should not say “chin-chin” as a drinking salute in Japan, for in the Japanese language that expression is a slang for describing the male genitals.

-A person should not blow his nose in public. (He should do it in the bathroom or outside).  Sniffling, however, is acceptable.  (Chinese culture allows for the blowing of one’s nose in public).

-Pointing at people is considered impolite.

-Shoes must be removed upon entering a person’s home.  (Socks, however, should be kept on since being barefoot in someone’s home is not acceptable). House slippers will be provided by the host/hostess.  But the house slippers should not be worn into the toilet. (Special toilet slippers are provided).

-All slippers should be removed when sitting on tatami mats.  A gentleman visiting a Japanese home should be sure to wear clean, hole-free socks.

-Tattoos (“irezami” is the Japanese word for tattoo) are taboo in most of Japan.  Persons (even foreigners) with visible tattoos are typically banned from certain public places, especially swimming pools, gymnasiums, hot springs, resorts, etc. People with visible tattoos are also banned from or may be asked to leave places such as restaurants and retail establishments. In Japan, tattoos are associated with “yakuza”:  hoodlums and the criminal underworld. The negative connotations associated with tattoos in Japanese culture seem to date from around 300-600 CE (the Kofun period), when tattoos were placed upon criminals as a means of punishment. However, prior to the Kofun period, for example in the Yayoi period (ca. 300 BCE-300 CE), tattoos were acquired for ritual or status purposes.

-Food should never be passed from one set of chopsticks to another. (The only time an item or object is passed from one set of chopsticks to another is when family members use ceremonial chopsticks to pick up the bones of the deceased after the cremation, passing the bones from one family member to another until the bones are placed into the urn).