A Guide to Tipping in Japan

Leaving a gratuity in Japan could actually be insulting.

Woman in japanese restaurant
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In Japan, leaving a tip inappropriately is almost like saying: "This business probably isn't doing well enough to pay you a proper salary, so here's a little something extra." Although there are exceptions, tipping generally isn't a part of cultures throughout Asia and in Japan, it's the most taboo.

In some circumstances, the staff will accept your tip with a nervous smile in order to save face and avoid confrontation or an uncomfortable interaction while returning your money. It's also possible they may not be able to speak enough English to explain why they are returning your money.

Tipping in Japan without a good reason, or doing it the wrong way, could come across as crass or rude and there are only a few times when a tip might be appropriate.

Hotels

Although tipping is sometimes acceptable in upscale Western hotels, most of the hotel staff that you encounter are trained to politely refuse tips and tokens of gratuity. Never insist that someone accept your tip, because it may be forbidden as a condition of employment.

Restaurants

When in Japan, you can check the bill to see if a service charge has been added, which will usually be between 10-15 percent. If there's no charge, it's still not recommended you try to tip in Japan since giving someone additional money can insinuate that you don't believe they earn a fair wage. Sometimes the staff will panic and run down the street to catch you and return the money, thinking perhaps you absentmindedly left it on the table.

Transportation

Rounding up fares a small amount for drivers may be commonplace throughout Asia, but in Japan, your driver will give you back exact change. If you insist they keep the change, they will probably refuse.

Tours

Your tour guide will not be expecting a tip, but it's likely they will accept it. Still, some may refuse.

Spas and Salons

Whether you're getting a treatment at a spa or your hair styled at a salon, you won't be expected to tip extra in Japan. You can instead show your satisfaction to your stylist or spa attendant with a thank you and a small bow.

How To Leave a Tip

On the rare occasion that you actually need to give a tip or give money in Japan, do so by putting the money inside of a tasteful, decorative envelope and seal it. Pulling cash out of your pocket in full view of the recipient is the worst way to handle the transaction, as it is seen as arrogant as flashy. The tip should be presented as more of a gift than simply additional cash or payment for services. Hand it to the recipient using both hands and with a slight bow. Do not expect them to open your gift right away; chances are, they'll put it aside and then contact you later to thank you.

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