9 Japanese Traditions | Japanese Culture (2023)

The Land of the Rising Sun is a country with historic and contempory traditions abound. While there may be plenty of Japanese traditions which come to mind, there are also many customs, pastimes and habits which are still brand new to many of us in the Western world. Whether you’re testing your knowledge of Japanese culture, or curious to learn more, we’ve got 9 Japanese traditions for you to check out!

  1. Do People Tip in Japan?
  2. Onsen Etiquette
  3. Shugi Bukuro
  4. Is Eating on the go in Japan Allowed?
  5. What to wear to Japanese Summer Festivals
  6. Zabuton Throwing
  7. New Years Bean-Throwing
  8. Dondo Yaki
  9. The Japanese Art of Gift-Giving

1. No Tipping in Japan

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In Japan, there is no tipping! Depending on the country you hail from, this could be tricky to fathom. If you add a tip to your bill, it will be returned to you like change you’re due back. However well-meaning your guesture, in Japan tipping is considered insulting. They believe that a price is a price so why would they want more than asked of? In layman’s terms, just don’t do it!

2. Onsen Etiquette

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Onsen (hot spring public baths) are something of an institution in Japan. An abundance of active volcanoes makes the country a prime spot for hot springs of all types. The majority of Japanese onsen are nude-only and you will not be allowed to enter the baths in swimwear. A little privacy can be found in the modesty towels provided by the onsen. Modesty towels allow you to cover yourself between the changing room and the hot springs. However, you are not allowed to put the towels in the water for risk of contamination, hence the reason that many people bathe with towels atop their head. Learn more about Japanese Onsen etiquette.

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3. Shugi Bukuro

Shugi Bukuro are a common way of sharing gifts such as money, gift vouchers, tickets and even wedding invitiations in Japan. Although they can be given to anyone for any special occasion, Shugi Bukuro are traditionally given to newly-weds.

Unmarried guests (friends and company colleagues) are expected to give between ¥20,000 and ¥30,000, while married couples commonly give ¥50,000. Members of the bridal and groom parties often give between ¥30,000-¥50,000, whilst family members are likely to give anything between ¥50,000 and ¥100,000!

Amounts beginning with an even number are typically avoided, as this would suggest the couple may soon split and can easily divide their monetary gifts evenly.

What’s more, the number 4 in Japanese (shi) isn’t dissimilar to their word for death, and the number 9 (ku) sounds like the word for suffering. Therefore, it is offensive to gift someone a Shugi Bukuro containing an amount of money beginning with 4 or 9!

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4. Eating on the go in Japan…

is a huuuge no-no! It is very disrespectful to walk and eat in Japan, and often simply in public spaces. Here, the idea of ‘ikkai ichi dōsa‘ or ‘one thing at a time’ is very important. If you buy something at the supermarket, it is best to take it home to eat. If you buy food from a stall in the street, there is often seating provided to eat at. Eating on the sacred grounds of temples and shrines is extremely disrespectful! It is only acceptable during a festival when food stalls are set up – even then, there may be seating to use! I also wouldn’t recommend eating in a station, and definitely not on the train! Luckily, many convenience stores (konbini) provide a seating area where you can enjoy your melon-pan or kare-man! If you’re looking for a snazzy new way to do lunch-on-the-go, why not check out this traditional Japanese bentō box?

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5. Summer Matsuri Clothes

The Japanese have cultural festivals abound, and they don’t stop when the temperature ramps up! Luckily Japanese summer clothing exists, including Yukata and Jinbei! It is tradition to dress in Yukata to attend cultural festivals such as Gion Matsuri in Kyoto!

Yukata are similar to kimono in design and silhouette. The slim-fitting garment gives the wearer a filiform silhouette associated with elegance. However, Yukata are made from cotton for a lightweight style perfect for humid Japanese summers. The popular Japanese summer clothing is considered perhaps a little more casual than its kimono cousin. Because of their bright and colourful patterns, a Yukata makes the perfect outfit for Summer Matsuri. Click here to learn more about Yukata and Jinbei!

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6. Zabuton Throwing

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Sumo Wrestling is widely popular among the Japanese. In many Sumo stadiums there will be a tatami area for people to sit. Tatami is an area of soft woven straw mats, common in traditional buildings and homes for seating and even sleeping on. That said, at Sumo matches no one will be sleeping! On the Tatami area, revellers will be given Zabuton pillows to sit on. However, a common Japanese tradition sees frustrated spectators throwing their Zabuton into the ring!

7. Setsubun

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Another Japanese tradition is observing Setsubun. Setsubun is a Japanese holiday which takes place the day before Spring in Japan (the next one will be the 2nd of Feburary 2021). On this holiday, the Japanese believe that the spirit world is closest to our world. One activity during the holiday is called mamemaki, this is where the children are given the opportunity to scare the demons out of their house. During mamemaki, a parent will put on an oni mask to represent the demons and they scare their children. The children then fend of the demons by throwing soy beans (mame)! This is still a popular Japanese tradition in the household, but many people attend a shrine or temple where mamemaki takes place as part of their spring festival.

8. Dondo Yaki

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In Japan, it’s considered unlucky to keep lucky items for more than a year. Instead of putting items in the bin, the lucky objects are traditionally burned and this is known as Dondo Yaki. Things that should be burned include omamori and items with that year’s zodiac sign. This year’s zodiac sign is the mouse. Dondo Yaki takes place in January, so if you’re still hanging onto last year’s lucky charm, it may be time for a bonfire and to purchase a new one!

9. Gift-giving

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Gift-giving is a major type of Japanese traditions – it’s not reserved for birthdays and other celebrations. Omiyage and temiyage are two prevalent types of gift-giving. Omiyage is the giving of souvenirs. I’m sure you’re thinking ‘but that’s just as common in the UK?’. Japanese tourists regularly buy souvenirs for friends, family and colleagues so there are souvenir shops are everywhere in Japan. Unlike many souvenir stalls in the UK, they’re not (just) filled with tat, but thoughtful and eloquent gifts, often specific to the local area’s specialities and culture.

Temiyage are ‘thank-you’ gifts you take when you are visiting someone, such as a host family. While it’s not compulsory to bring such gifts, it’s always well appreciated, and it’s simply part of the culture! However, make sure you spend no more or less than ¥1000 and ¥5000 – it would be insulting to give a particularly cheap item, or to boast your wealth with something flashy! Keep it simple – the souvenir shops make it very easy!

5 quick tips on giving and accepting gifts in Japan:

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  • When either giving or receiving a gift, you must give/take the item with both hands – it’s a sign of respect!
  • Modesty is a major part of Japanese culture and etiquette: you should humbly refuse the gift up to 3 times before accepting
  • It is rude to open a gift in front of a large group of people
  • It is also rude to give a gift to only one person in a large group
  • Exchanging gifts in a meeting should be left until the end. Otherwise, you appear to be rushing the meeting!

If you’re searching for a unique gift, we’ve got you covered! Here at The Japanese Shop, we have an extensive range of authentic Japanese gifts, from intricate kimono to cute kokeshi dolls, classic Japanese tableware to calligraphy sets and much more. Discover your next perfect gift with free gift-wrapping here at The Japanese Shop!

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FAQs

What are the traditions of Japanese culture? ›

1) The new year's day. Japanese people visit a shrine after the midnight on Dec 31 to make a wish. 2) Cherry blossom celebrations in April. It is a custom to have a picnic under the cherry trees. 3) The Obon Holiday in August. Japanese people visit their hometown to commemorate the spirits of those who passed away.

What are the values and traditions of Japanese? ›

Shared Cultural Values of Japan

In Japan, some of the core values are thinking of others, doing your best, not giving up, respecting your elders, knowing your role, and working in a group. These concepts are taught explicitly and implicitly from nursery school into the working world.

What is one Japanese tradition? ›

It is traditional for Japanese people to say "itadaki-masu" (meaning “I humbly receive” or “let's eat”) before a meal and "gochisou-sama" after a meal. These phrases not only mean thanks for the food, but also indicate the beginning and the ending of a meal.

What is the tradition and culture? ›

The main difference between culture and tradition is that traditions describe a group's beliefs and behaviors that are passed down from one generation to another. Culture describes the shared characteristics of the entire group, which has been amassed throughout its history.

What are 20 facts about Japan? ›

20 Unusual Facts About Japan No Other Country Can Rival
  • Late-night dancing was illegal until 2015. ...
  • Nearly all smartphones sold are waterproof because people use them even in the bath. ...
  • The world's oldest company was from Japan. ...
  • Japan consists of 6852 islands. ...
  • Japan has a festival dedicated to the phallus.
11 Jun 2020

What are 10 interesting facts about Japan? ›

Some Interesting Facts About Japan
  • Japan is Extremely Clean. ...
  • Tokyo is the World's Most Populated City. ...
  • Japan's population is 98.5 percent Japanese. ...
  • Japan Has Canned Foods Restaurants. ...
  • Japan Has a High Life Expectancy. ...
  • Japan Has Many Active Volcanoes. ...
  • Each Year There Are Over 1,500 Earthquakes. ...
  • Forests Cover 67 % of Japan.
30 Aug 2022

What's Japan's traditional food? ›

The traditional cuisine of Japan (Japanese: washoku) is based on rice with miso soup and other dishes; there is an emphasis on seasonal ingredients. Side dishes often consist of fish, pickled vegetables, and vegetables cooked in broth. Seafood is common, often grilled, but also served raw as sashimi or in sushi.

What was Japan's first culture? ›

From around the middle of the 11th century B.C.E. to 300 B.C.E., Japan was populated by a Neolithic civilization called the Jômon (rope pattern) culture. This group of hunters and gatherers decorated their pottery by twisting rope around the wet clay, to produce a distinctive pattern.

What is Japanese family culture? ›

Japanese Family Structure

The traditional family unit in Japan consists of a mother, father, and their children. This type of family group is called Kazoku. Traditionally, three-generation households were the norm, with adult children living with their parents and their own husband and kids.

What are some types of Japanese popular culture? ›

Japanese popular culture includes Japanese cinema, cuisine, television programs, anime, manga, video games, music, and doujinshi, all of which retain older artistic and literary traditions; many of their themes and styles of presentation can be traced to traditional art forms.

How many cultures are in Japan? ›

138 Types of Japanese Culture - Japan Talk.

Why is family important in Japanese culture? ›

Family (kazoku) is a foundational part of Japanese society. An individual's identity, reputation, obligations and responsibilities are deeply connected to their family. Japanese family structures have been influenced by Confucian ideas of filial piety and defined hierarchical social relationships over the centuries.

What are 10 examples of culture? ›

The following are illustrative examples of traditional culture.
  • Norms. Norms are informal, unwritten rules that govern social behaviors. ...
  • Languages. ...
  • Festivals. ...
  • Rituals & Ceremony. ...
  • Holidays. ...
  • Pastimes. ...
  • Food. ...
  • Architecture.
10 May 2018

What are 5 examples of traditions? ›

20 family tradition examples
  • Swim on the first day of spring. ...
  • Make homemade gifts for Christmas, Hanukkah (or birthdays) ...
  • Go hiking in the same place or at the same time. ...
  • Have a movie night. ...
  • Visit the same restaurant. ...
  • Do a family digital detox. ...
  • Take up a new activity as a family. ...
  • Start a gratitude jar.
17 Dec 2021

What are the 10 cultural values? ›

This feedback report includes information on ten cultural value dimensions.
  • Individualism.
  • Collectivism.
  • Low Power Distance.
  • High Power Distance.
  • Low Uncertainty Avoidance.
  • High Uncertainty Avoidance Emphasis on planning and predictability.
  • Cooperative.
  • Competitive.

What is Japan famous for? ›

Japan is famous for natural sights like cherry blossoms and Mount Fuji, cutting-edge technology like Japanese cars and bullet trains, wacky inventions like karaoke and vending machines, cultural values like politeness and punctuality, popular anime and manga, and mouth-watering food like ramen and sushi.

How old is Japan? ›

6. Japan: 15 Million Years Old. Japan's first emperor, Jimmu, is reportedly the founder of this country. Japan came into existence in 660 B.C. Buddhism impacted Japanese culture to a large extent, if we go by historical records.

What are the top 10 Japanese foods? ›

The Top 10 Japanese Foods
  • Ramen. Closely tied with instant noodles for the most popular dish among college students in Japan, ramen has been around since 1910 according to some records. ...
  • Sukiyaki. ...
  • Curry rice. ...
  • Basashi. ...
  • Gyūdon. ...
  • Sushi. ...
  • Yakitori. ...
  • Sashimi.

What is a traditional Japanese dinner? ›

A typical Japanese dinner includes rice, soup, pickles, salad, and protein and vegetable dishes. Beverages, such as tea, beer, and sake, are served alongside, and the meal may be followed by dessert. The dishes include classic Japanese foods, and other Asian and Western cuisines influence many modern recipes.

What are 5 facts about ancient Japan? ›

In this context, the following historical facts are mostly random but perhaps interesting nonetheless.
  • Kamakura was the 4th biggest city in the world in 1250. ...
  • Japan was closed to the world for 217 years. ...
  • Samurai Visited New York City in 1860. ...
  • Japan Once Had 5000 Castles. ...
  • Japan developed color printing in 1765.
19 Apr 2015

How did Japan get its name? ›

The origin of the name Japan is not certain, but researchers say it probably came from the Malayan ″Japung″ or the Chinese ″Riben,″ meaning roughly land of the rising sun. Historians say the Japanese called their country Yamato in its early history, and they began using Nippon around the seventh century.

What makes Japanese culture unique? ›

Japan has a rich, colorful culture dating back to the country's prehistoric period known as the Jōmon period between 14,000 and 300 BCE. The culture and traditions of Japan are unique because of its island-nation geography as well as its isolation from the outside world during the Tokugawa shogunate regime.

What was Japan's first culture? ›

From around the middle of the 11th century B.C.E. to 300 B.C.E., Japan was populated by a Neolithic civilization called the Jômon (rope pattern) culture. This group of hunters and gatherers decorated their pottery by twisting rope around the wet clay, to produce a distinctive pattern.

What are some traditions in Tokyo? ›

Tokyo's unique culture is reflected in its traditional arts – ikebana (flower arranging), origami (making objects by folding paper), and ukiyo-e (woodblock printing); crafts – dolls, lacquer ware, and pottery; performances – kabuki (complex dramas performed in elaborate costumes), noh (restrained and highly stylized ...

Why do people love Japanese culture? ›

Culture. Japanese traditional culture is very special and original, and it's to present the beauty of the country. Also, Japan has developed different culture of futuristic and modern which is totally different from the former. Japan is the great example where historical/traditional and high-tech/modern can coexist.

How do Japanese show respect? ›

In Japan, people greet each other by bowing. A bow can ranges from a small nod of the head to a deep bend at the waist. A deeper, longer bow indicates respect and conversely a small nod with the head is casual and informal. If the greeting takes place on tatami floor, people get on their knees to bow.

What is Japan's best known for? ›

Japan is famous for natural sights like cherry blossoms and Mount Fuji, cutting-edge technology like Japanese cars and bullet trains, wacky inventions like karaoke and vending machines, cultural values like politeness and punctuality, popular anime and manga, and mouth-watering food like ramen and sushi.

How many cultures are in Japan? ›

138 Types of Japanese Culture - Japan Talk.

How old is Japan? ›

6. Japan: 15 Million Years Old. Japan's first emperor, Jimmu, is reportedly the founder of this country. Japan came into existence in 660 B.C. Buddhism impacted Japanese culture to a large extent, if we go by historical records.

What do Japanese people wear? ›

The traditional dress of Japan is the kimono. Kimonos, which are generally made of silk, have large sleeves and reach from the shoulders all the way down to the heels. They are tied with a wide belt called an obi.

What are the top 10 Japanese foods? ›

The Top 10 Japanese Foods
  • Ramen. Closely tied with instant noodles for the most popular dish among college students in Japan, ramen has been around since 1910 according to some records. ...
  • Sukiyaki. ...
  • Curry rice. ...
  • Basashi. ...
  • Gyūdon. ...
  • Sushi. ...
  • Yakitori. ...
  • Sashimi.

What is traditional Japanese art? ›

The highly refined traditional arts of Japan include such forms as the tea ceremony, calligraphy, and ikebana (flower arranging) and gardening, as well as architecture, painting, and sculpture. The performing arts are distinguished by their blending of music, dance, and drama, rooted in different eras of the past.

Why is food important to Japanese culture? ›

A meal in Japanese society goes beyond food, because through a meal people can socialize, build stronger bonds, cooperate, work in teams and help society to develop. It is also a way to thank gods in rituals. Traditional food in modern society is very important to keep the culture.

What are some types of Japanese popular culture? ›

Japanese popular culture includes Japanese cinema, cuisine, television programs, anime, manga, video games, music, and doujinshi, all of which retain older artistic and literary traditions; many of their themes and styles of presentation can be traced to traditional art forms.

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