Tipping in Japan: A Simple & Painless Guide

Japan is a fascinating place, and a hugely popular destination among travellers from around the world.

People head to Japan for both business and pleasure.

There are many exciting attractions and cities to explore in Japan. This includes cities such as Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, and Nagoya among others.

For those heading to Japan, it is important to know what the tipping etiquette is.

If you are visiting this wonderful country, the advice below can help you to learn about tipping in Japan.

Do You Tip in Japan?

Tipping is not customary in Japan, and in some cases, tips may even be refused.

Many people will be used to tipping service and hospitality workers in different countries. However, in Japan, tipping is not customary, and it can even come across as being insulting.

Having said that, workers in certain industries and jobs have become accustomed to tips. However, tipping in Japan is largely considered inappropriate. If you do decide to tip, you need to do it in the right way.

Tipping Customs to Keep in Mind

Tipping should generally be avoided. If you do tip, you need to do it in the right way.

It is important to remember that tipping is not customary in Japan, and if you do tip you need to ensure you do it in the right way.

Here are some tipping customs to keep in mind: 

  • If you try to tip, it can cause offence. It insinuates you do not feel workers are receiving a decent wage 
  • Workers in Japan pride themselves on dedication and hard work. They do not require additional reward for the service they provide 
  • In cases where you really want to tip, the money should be given in a sealed envelope and presented like a gift. You should present the envelope with both hands while bowing your head slightly. Never pull cash from your pocket, as this is seen as being arrogant

Useful Phrases to Know

Learning some key phrases will make your trip to Japan much easier.

To show your respect, it is important to learn at least a few basic phrases when visiting Japan. Here are some of the key ones you will find useful: 

  • Thank you: arigatou gozaimasu 
  • Please: onegaishimasu 
  • Excuse me: sumimasen 
  • Yes: Hai 
  • I’m sorry: gomen nasai

Tipping Restaurants in Japan

Tippin in Japan: Restaurants

Check if any service charge has been added to the bill before attempting to tip.

When you visit a restaurant in Japan, there may be cases where a 15-20% service charge has been added. However, this is often not the case, and in many places, you will be required to pay upfront and not at the table.

Some key points to keep in mind are:

  • Always check the bill to see if a service charge has been added 
  • If no service charge is added, it is advisable not to add a tip 
  • If you do tip, staff may return the tip to you 
  • You may be asked to pay upfront before your meal 
  • Tipping restaurant staff may be misconstrued as being an insult and insinuating they do not earn enough money to live on

Tipping Tour Guides in Japan

You may feel your tour guide deserves a tip, but not all of them will accept.

There are many exciting and wonderful tours you can take while in Japan. No matter which part of the country you visit, you will find plenty to explore. A guided tour is an excellent way of doing this.

Naturally, if your tour is exceptional and the guide did a great job, you will feel as though you should tip them. Here are some key points to remember:

  • Your tour guide will not expect any sort of tip, as it is not customary in Japan 
  • Some tour guides will refuse if you do try to tip them 
  • Often, tour guides will accept tips because it is something that they have become accustomed to. However, do not be offended or surprised if they refuse

Tipping in Hotels or Guesthouses in Japan

Tipping in Hotels in Japan

Tipping at hotels in Japan can depend on the type of hotel you stay in.

Many people are used to tipping various members of staff at hotels. This includes the doorman, the luggage porter, bar and restaurant staff, and chambermaids among others.

However, in Japan, tipping etiquette depends on whether you are staying at a high-end Western hotel or a traditional Japanese one.

Here are some pointers regarding tipping at hotels and guesthouses in Japan:

  • Tipping may be accepted in high-end Western hotels in Japan, but this is not always the case
  • Hotel employees will generally not accept tips and will politely refuse
  • Some hotels do not allow employees to accept tips, so you should never try to force the issue

Tipping Taxis, Shuttles and Coaches in Japan

In Japan, drivers will generally give you back your exact change and refuse any tip offered. 

In many countries, tipping coach and shuttle drivers or telling taxi drivers to keep the change is commonplace. However, this is not the case in Japan. Some tips to keep in mind are: 

  • Tips are not expected on ground transportation of any kind in Japan 
  • Taxi drivers will generally give you back the exact change due when you pay them 
  • If you tell drivers to keep the change, they will usually politely refuse and return the change that is due to you

Tipping in Bars and Pubs in Japan

Upmarket bars may apply a service charge to your tab, but this is not always the case.

If you plan to enjoy the nightlife in Japan, there are plenty of fabulous bars you can choose from. You will find something suit all tastes and preferences, whether you want fancy cocktails or a quiet drink.

Sometimes, with upmarket bars, a service charge may be added to the bill for food and drinks. However, this is not always the case. If there is no service charge, you do not need to leave any tip. 

  • Make sure you check your bill to see if any service charge has been added 
  • If there is no service charge, it is best not to leave any tip 
  • In the event you do try to tip, it will often be politely turned down

Tipping Barbers, Spas and Hair Salons in Japan

In spas and salons, you can simply thank staff to show your gratitude instead of tipping.

As with other places in Japan, no tip is expected in spas and salons, and any attempt to tip may be turned down. So, do not be offended if the masseuse or hairdresser refuses to accept any gratuity. Some things to bear in mind are: 

  • No tip is expected when you visit a spa or hair salon 
  • You can show your gratitude by being polite and thanking the staff