Things to Know Before Coming to Tokyo

by Kenzia - TripleLights travel specialist

Are you planning a trip to Tokyo? If so, there are some things you need to know before going. Japan has its own culture and norms, and even though you’re a tourist, they still need to be respected. Learning a few things about the culture in Japan before your trip can really go a long way for your Tokyo trip.

 

So, what are the things you need to know before your trip? Look no further. Read on and find out some of what they are.

 

Find out the things you need to know before your Tokyo trip and more recommendations through this article.

Things to Know Before Coming to Tokyo

Things you should know before your Tokyo Trip

There are many unwritten customs and rules in Tokyo, here are some to prepare you for your Tokyo trip:

 

1. Don't tip

Tipping is not part of the culture in Japan. Maybe you’d like to thank them for their service (whether it’s at a restaurant, at hair salons, in taxis, for doormen or bartenders) by leaving a tip, don’t. Attentive service is part of the Japanese omotenashi (hospitality) and service charge is included in the price.

 

Leaving a tip can be considered rude, they could feel offended because they would think that they did not do a good job, and you tip them to encourage them to a do better. Don’t be surprised if your server chases you down the street to return the money you leave behind as a tip.

 

2. Follow train and train station rules

Things to Know Before Coming to Tokyo

There are some rules and etiquettes you need to follow regarding train (and subway), and train station rules. Here are some:

  • Don’t talk on the phone while you’re on the train. If you really can’t avoid it, whisper, so it won’t bother other passengers.
  • If you’re having a conversation with someone on the train, speak quietly.
  • When the train arrives, and the train door opens, don’t go in directly. Stay on the left or right first to wait for the passengers on the train to get off (if any).
  • Some train cars are designated for women only during certain times. You will be able to know from the pink sticker pasted on the windows of the train or waiting platform.
  • There are priority seatings in the train cars, usually marked as “priority seating” and sometimes in a different color. Priority seatings should be given up to elders, pregnant women, those with disabilities, and young children. You can sit there when it’s not too busy, but give up your seat to those more in need of them.

 

3. Chopsticks rules

Chopsticks are widely used in Japan, and there are etiquettes regarding it, so you need to be careful about it. Some things you should know about are:

  • Don’t stick your chopsticks vertically on your bowl. This is done at Japanese funerals, a bowl of rice is left with two chopsticks standing vertically in the center.
  • Don’t pass on food from chopsticks to chopsticks, this is also funeral-related.
  • Don’t point to people with chopsticks.

 

4. Cash, cash, cash

Things to Know Before Coming to Tokyo

It’s incredibly important to take enough cash with you. Most places don’t accept credit cards. Yes, you can use credit cards in most hotels, big departments stores, and some restaurants, but for most cases, you will need to pay by cash.

 

If you ever ran out of money, go to the nearest 7-11 (seven-eleven) and take out cash from the ATM machine there. While not all ATM machines accept international debit cards, the ATM machines in 7-11 do.

 

5. Don’t eat/drink while walking

You won’t get jailed for eating/drinking while walking at the same time. But, people just don’t do it. You can get away because you’re a tourist, but it’s respectful to not do it. Not only that you shouldn’t do it just in case it spills and dirties the street, Japanese people usually have high respect for food. So, if you eat while walking, you are considered taking the food too casually.

 

6. Purchase a prepaid card

Things to Know Before Coming to Tokyo

Oh, I can’t emphasize this enough.

 

Purchasing a prepaid card saves a whole lot of time. You don’t have to take the time to buy tickets everytime you want to take the train (and having to figure out which ticket to buy). The types of prepaid cards you can get in Tokyo are Pasmo or Suica. To purchase them, you need to pay ¥500, but it's refundable when you return the card.

 

7. Take your passport everywhere you go

Well, not only it’s important to carry your passport just in case anything happens. Carrying your passport can come really handy in tax-free shops. In some shops, you can show them your passport so you won’t have to pay the 8% tax fee.

 

8. Basic phrases

Although this isn’t necessary, you can learn the basic phrases so you don’t totally feel clueless, and Japanese would appreciate knowing that you had learned some of the phrases when talking to them. You can learn a few basic words like yes, which is hai in Japanese; no, which is is iie; and thank you, which is arigatou.  For more, you can see the image below.

Things to Know Before Coming to Tokyo

 

9. Trash bins are hard to find

Japan is a very clean city, so is Tokyo. It’s very rare to find trash scattered on the street, so you might think that there are plenty of trash bins everywhere. Wrong. Trash bins in Tokyo are actually really hard to find. Mostly, people keep their trash until they reach they home, or find them somewhere. So keep your trash with you until you find trash bins or if you can't find one, keep it until you reach your hotel. Some places you can find trash bins are convenience stores and train stations.

 

Also, separate your trash. Tokyo (all of Japan) is big with separating trash and recycling, so put your trash in the right bin (usually differentiated with pictures)!

 

10. Stay on the left

Tokyo is organized and practical. People usually walk on the left, so walk on the left as well. On escalators in Tokyo, stay on the left as well. The right side is for people to walk on, so if you’re just going to wait, stay on the left.

 

A tip for your Tokyo trip!

Things to Know Before Coming to Tokyo

There are still many more of unwritten rules and customs in Japan. If you’re nervous about being unintentionally rude or disrespect the customs, there is a way! Hire a private guide.

 

They can guide you not only for the places to go, things to do, but also give you local insights into the culture and tradition in Tokyo. They can tell you about more of the customs and take care of you so you won’t disrespect the customs.

 

There are still many more advantages in hiring a guide, including a free custom-made itinerary, enhancing your trip and making your trip more convenient!

 

Where to hire a guide?

Things to Know Before Coming to Tokyo

The thing is…

There are many places where you can hire private guides in Tokyo, but are they good and trustworthy? It’s difficult to determine. That’s why I’m recommending you TripleLights website. The website offers many local tour guides and also private tour options in Tokyo, from which you can choose according to your needs and preferences.

 

Here is a list of great tour guides in Tokyo, you can watch the guides’ personalized videos, read the reviews about each guide, see their availability and service cost to help you find the right guide.

 

Wait, there's more:

There are also so many great private tours available from the website, here are some of my recommendations Personalized Tokyo Journey tour, or Tokyo One Day Customized Tour tour. From these tours, you can travel around Tokyo with a great private guide without any trouble, and even making it a better experience.

 

 

I hope this article helps prepare you for your Tokyo trip by telling you things you should know before going to Tokyo. Hope you have a fun time in Tokyo!

Need help planning your trip to Tokyo ?

If you are interested to know more and save your time during your trip to Tokyo, You can send a message to our local guides to get a customized itinerary and quotation for an unforgettable experience.

In the TripleLights website you can find the best professional guides all over Japan to help you plan your trip. Check our local guides for Tokyo


12 Mar 2018

Plan your trip to Tokyo

Chat with a local tour guide who can help organize your trip.
Get Started

Recent Tour Reviews in Tokyo

“ Wonderful experience ”

Excellent
2 hours ago Traveler: Huong -   Tour Guide: Dai

Mr. Dai is very professional, knowledgeable, friendly and flexible. My family was very thankful for his service.
read more

“ Great English , Great Guide ”

Excellent
3 hours ago Traveler: Kris -   Tour Guide: Atsuko

Atsuko is very patient and knowledgeable. She adapted to our group throughout the day. We had two kids and two seniors so we were slower than some groups. Highly recommended. I would hire her again without hesitation. Great guide!
read more

“ Excellent Tokyo highlights tour ”

Excellent
4 hours ago Traveler: Stacy -   Tour Guide: Yumi

Yumi is a wonderful and knowledgeable guide! It was my family’s first time to Tokyo. Without Yumi’s help , navigating Tokyo with children would have been difficult . She catered the tour to the varying ages in our group (from 7-81 yrs) with ease and was still able to cover quite a lot of sites ! Thank you Yumi and hope to meet with you again soon! P.S Thanks for making me try the horse sash...
read more

“ A fantastic, information-filled day of fun with Yuo ”

Excellent
5 hours ago Traveler: Sarah -   Tour Guide: Yuko

Yuko is an exceptional guide. Her planning and care are meticulous. She came to our hotel a day early to drop off information and instructions for meeting her in our hotel lobby the next day. The sights seen and the tastes enjoyed with Yuko will become long-time memories. They included: the skilled preparation of a giant tuna for sushi; the many delicious seafood stalls with giant oysters, crabs a...
read more

“ Yanesen area, Nij?bashi, Nezu Shrine ”

Excellent
20 hours ago Traveler: Patricia -   Tour Guide: Dai

Dai was great! He's an excellent guide who knows a lot about Tokyo (and the Metro system at the back of his hand). He worked with our group to combine a day that combined the VERY different interests of its members. I especially liked how he introduced Nezu Shrine as an historical place, but also as a living place of worship.
read more

“ Amazing guide for our family ”

Excellent
21 hours ago Traveler: Nick -   Tour Guide: Eiko

Please book Eiko as a guide. She is warm, friendly and very knowledgeable. She comes prepared with a full itinerary and hits all the things you want to do. We highly recommend Eiko, would book her again for our next trip and will miss her. Thank you Eiko!!
read more

“ Unique and totally customized tour for our anime obsessed granddaughter ”

Excellent
22 hours ago Traveler: Betty -   Tour Guide: MAYUMI

Mayumi is the best private guide we have ever met. She went overboard to accommodate all the wishes of our granddaughter, Sarah, who choose the trip to Japan as her high school graduation gift from us. Sarah had a long list of places she wanted to see and do, which for the most part are all related to historical related places and shrines, etc. She is obsessed with amine and all the samurai charac...
read more

“ 1/2 Tokyo highlights tour ”

Excellent
1 day ago Traveler: Cindy -   Tour Guide: Nobu

Had a great afternoon with Nobu at a very last minute booking. He took us to the most popular Tokyo attractions and was very helpful showing us how the trains worked and with our Shinkansen bookings. Very informative about the city and easy to get on with.
read more

“ Great Tour ”

Excellent
1 day ago Traveler: Indah -   Tour Guide: Toshihiro

We hired Toshihiro-san for one day tour. He showed us the highlights of Tokyo and how to get around Tokyo. He was very informative and helpful and we managed to fit everything we wanted to do in to our day! It was a lot of fun and we would highly recommend him to anyone travelling to Tokyo.
read more

“ We had a wonderful day discovering Tokyo with Tomoko. ”

Excellent
1 day ago Traveler: Lynnsey -   Tour Guide: Tomoko

Tomoko was just so friendly and willing to take us to all the places we wanted to see and do in Tokyo. Nothing was an effort. We certainly crammed in a full day and were thoroughly exhausted but that was our choice to try and get to see as much as we could. We would recommend Tomoko to anyone considering hiring a guide which is really a great idea if you have never been to Japan before because...
read more

Related cities

Plan your trip to Tokyo

Chat with a local tour guide who can help organize your trip.
Get Started