Why do the Japanese take off their shoes

Rules of Conduct & Correct Behavior in Japan

How do I behave properly in Japan? You can find answers to this question here. You will learn more about proper behavior in Japan, no-gos, etiquette, taboos, social behavior in Japan and the like.

Because of the large population that lives together in a relatively small area in Japan, many rules of conduct have become established in Japan. If you travel to Japan (whether for private or business purposes), you should at least know the most important rules of conduct, even if the Japanese forgive foreigners for mistakes. But with correct behavior, you can certainly make friends.

While bathing

Even foreigners will not be forgiven for taking shampoo or soap with them into the bathtub. In Japan you first clean yourself in the shower before you step into the bathtub. This rule can be important for you, for example, if you are staying in a Roykan (traditional Japanese accommodation). There is usually a shared bathtub here. This rule of conduct is just as important in Japanese public baths.

The thing with the shoes

You probably know, or at least have heard of, this Japanese shoe thing. In Japan it is still the case that you take off your shoes in the apartment and either walk around with slippers or socks. Even in traditional Japanese restaurants you have to take off your shoes before stepping on the raised floor. If slippers are offered, you can wear them inside the rooms.

The same behavior applies in some temples and shrines. And always when the temple or shrine has no stone floor. The best thing to do is to see whether there are already removed shoes in the entrance area or just watch what the Japanese are doing themselves.

There is a special rule again in toilets. You always use the special toilet slippers here. But never run around outside of the toilets with them, because the Japanese resent foreigners too and you don't want to attract attention in Japan with bad behavior ;-).


Another no-go in Japan is to touch something with the chopsticks when eating from a common pot and then leave it or put it directly in your mouth.

In addition, it is against etiquette (especially for older Japanese people) to eat while walking on the street. This also counts as bad behavior according to the Japanese code of conduct.


Smoking is prohibited in non-smoking areas. In the event of a violation, you face a fine. There are non-smoking areas in public areas within cities.

For snotty noses - blowing your nose

Another taboo in the Japanese code of conduct is blowing your nose in a handkerchief in public. It is better to pull the whole thing up - in contrast to our western etiquette.

In addition, in Japan you wear a face mask when you have a cold. This is to prevent you from infecting others.

Respect for age

It has always been an important pillar in Japanese culture to have respect for older people. This not only affects 'old' people, but also people who are a few years older.


The depth of the bow depends on the status of the people. The one with the lower rank must bow more deeply than his counterpart. Foreigners don't have to bow, a simple handshake is fine.

Bows from service staff can be ignored or answered with a simple smile, they are simply part of the service.

Body language

Body language is not that important in Japan, but it is a no-go to point your feet at people.

Everything about gifts and gifts in Japan can be found here.

In temples and shrines

The atmosphere in temples and shrines is relaxed, there are hardly any (extraordinary) taboos here. Just keep quiet and not make any noise. In temples or shrines that do not have a stone floor, you usually have to take off your shoes. Before you take a photo inside a temple, check whether it is allowed to take photos (with / without flash?).

No no'

The Japanese do not or reluctantly say 'no'. It is simply frowned upon. You should do the same to them and talk about a problem. The Japanese often say "this is difficult" instead of a straight line "no", or they draw air through their teeth or put a hand on the back of their necks.

A request should always be made indirectly, e.g. as a problem, so as not to force the other person to say a 'no' and thus avoid losing face (the Japanese cannot refuse requests out of politeness)

Tip for proper behavior in Japan: Make it easy for yourself and imitate the Japanese in front of you ;-).