How To Tip in Japan (Hint: You Rarely Should)

Journy's expert Japan trip designer, Sarah, weighs in...

By Tess Falotico

16 January 2020

Japan is a country known for generous service, hard work, and impeccable etiquette. As such, it’s understandable that people visiting Japan might be compelled to tip wait staff, concierges, taxi drivers, and other service workers. But gratuity is not common practice, and in some cases, it’s considered insulting.

“Good service, regardless of whether you’re being compensated for it, is part of Japanese culture,” says Sarah Corsa, Journy’s resident Japan expert and trip designer. Tipping, however, is not.

That said, there are a few things to keep in mind if it's your first time in Tokyo, Kyoto, and beyond—consider this your tipping etiquette cheat sheet.

When in doubt, leave no tip at all

A good rule of thumb when it comes to tipping in Japan is: Don’t.

“More than anything, trying to tip in instances in which it's not accepted will just be awkward,” says Corsa. “Think about how awkward it would be if someone just tried to hand you money for no reason—you'd likely try to refuse it.”

The rare exceptions to the rule

The very few instances in which it would be acceptable—though not expected of you—to tip are specific to the tourism industry.

“It’s acceptable to tip tour guides or interpreters after a tour,” she says. And when it comes to hotel staff, “tipping isn’t really expected, but if you receive exceptional service you can leave a small tip behind in the room after your stay.”

READ MORE: Ultimate Guide To Ryokans In Japan (Including 6 Of The Best Spots To Stay)

So, how much should you tip?

“Because there isn’t a tipping culture in Japan, there isn't a standard amount that's expected,” says Corsa. Essentially, it’s up to you to decide what you want to leave, based on how much you enjoyed an experience or service.

And how should you do it?

“In some sense, how you deliver the tip is more important than the tip itself,” Corsa explains. Tips should be placed in clean envelopes—you would never hand someone loose cash. It’s also customary to give a very slight bow (a small nod) to show your appreciation for hotel door men, taxi drivers, and other service workers.

In general, it’s best to show your gratitude for great service another way. “When in doubt, it's best to forgo a tip altogether,” says Corsa.

For more info on cultural etiquette in Japan, refer to our list of 15 essential travel tips to help you plan the perfect trip.