Tipping in Japan
Generally speaking, tipping is not an accepted custom in Japan. This might feel odd coming from the United States, but workers in Japan do not rely on tip income for their salary. In fact, handing cash to someone is considered a pity and you might actually offend that person. Another reason is that Japan is a nation of hospitality and people do not put a cash value on providing hospitality to one’s guests. Instead, people will exchange gifts, show appreciation by bowing and saying thank you..
Before your trip, it’s helpful to gain an understanding the practices of tipping in Japan. Below are a few guidelines to help you know when it’s ok to leave a tip and how to show your appreciation for a job well done.
Here are places tipping is NOT accepted or in some cases consider rude:
- Restaurants (servers, host, bussers, etc)
- Taxi drivers
- Hair stylists
Here are places (very few) where you might want to tip:
- Ryokan-where you have a server (nakai) assigned to your room who goes extra miles or do personal favors to help you enjoy your stay.
- Personal guide, interpreter and translators. Again, if he or she goes beyond his or her means to assure you a great experience, then you might consider tipping them.
How to tip:
As mentioned above, it is considered rude to hand someone cash. If you decide to tip someone, money should be placed in an envelope then hand it to them.
I really want to show my appreciation, what should I do?
Japan is a country of gift-giving. It is always a good idea to bring some small souvenirs from your home country. From where I live in Midwest, I always take small bottles of maple syrup, locally made crafts such as dream catchers or silver jewelry by Native Americans (keep it light!). People in Japan love to exchange gifts and your locally made or sourced gifts will be greatly appreciated.
Also, bowing and showing appreciation in kind words are a great way in Japan. Learn a few phrases such as “Arigato gozaimasu” or “Oishikatta desu” and this will go a long way.