Tipping in Japan

Following on from last week’s blog in the country most renowned for tipping, America, we thought it appropriate to cover a country where tipping isn’t expected. In fact, in Japan there are instances when it is considered rude to even imply a tip.

As a whole tipping is not a custom in Japan. Instead, they request guests of their establishment or service to be polite and respectful throughout their stay and, if you do decide to tip, do not be offended if they do not accept your gesture. If you’re unsure whether to tip for a service in Japan, or you insist on leaving a tip, a good rule of thumb is to check with the owner of the establishment if it is permitted for you to do so.

Whist the general rule of tipping in Japan is that you shouldn’t, there are instances when it can be considered acceptable, should you wish to do so. It’s expected that good service in Japan comes as standard and that you shouldn’t have to show your appreciation to someone performing their job correctly by tipping them. This is especially the case when receiving a service from a local company, be it a restaurant, taxi or independent guesthouse.

However, if you utilise a service connected to tourism, such as a hotel or tour guide then tips can be gratefully accepted.

Tipping in a hotel or guesthouse in Japan 

As mentioned, tipping in a hotel or guesthouse in Japan is not customary, nor would necessarily it be accepted. If, however, you are staying in a Ryokan, which is a traditional Japanese Inn, a small tip is often appreciated.

Staff of most hotels are often trained to refuse tips if offered to them so, rather than cause an awkward moment, it is best to not tip at all.

Leaving a tip in a Japanese restaurant 

At restaurants the same applies. Waiting staff will not expect, nor likely accept, the offer of a tip. With the general concept being that it’s their job to serve you to the best of their abilities so you shouldn’t be expected to pay more than what the bill is. 

How much gratuity do you give to taxi drivers in Japan?

Taxi drivers also will not accept tips, nor will a beautician at a Japanese spa or a hairdresser at a barber or hair salon.

Tipping for tourism services in Japan

If you’re utilising a tourism related service, such as a local tour guide, you can tip them at the end of the tour. This isn’t compulsory though or expected.

Top tip: For those instances when you feel a tip is necessary, or if you’re so insistent you have to leave a tip despite the high likelihood of it being rejected, do not hand money over in notes. Always put it in a decorative envelope and hand it to them personally, whilst performing a slight bow. And, if they do reject your offer of a gratuity, do not make a fuss or be offended.