When you travel in Japan, you wonder if you should tip or not.
You don’t have to tip in Japan. It’s totally your option.
However, I see a lot of wrong exlanation and misunderstanding in articles and guide books.
Here is my explanation of tipping culture as local Japanese guide.
- Is tipping rude in Japan?
- Japan has traditional tipping culture “Kokoroduke”
- Situations people look upset for receiving tips
- How to give tips in Japan
- What if I don’t tip them?
- My tipping experiences in other countries
Is tipping rude in Japan?
As a tourist guide, I have asked this question many times.
It’s kind of mistery why foreign visiotrs think it’s ruide.
It’s probably because some travel guide books and articles say so.
Their explanations say “Japanese prople are paid enough and not depending on tipping. Also, Japanese people are so proud of their works and that giving money could be insulting for them.”
It’s true that their lifves are not depening on tipping, however, saralis in service industries are usually low.
Tipping is actually not rude at all. In tourism industly it is very common to tip, so they know how to recieve it.
However, in other industries such as reasonable restaurants, it’s not common to tip in Japan, so they may look upset since they don’t know how to deal with the cash.
I would say this is a secret of “the rude mythology”.
Japan has traditional tipping culture “Kokoroduke”
We even have a Japanese word of tipping. It is called “Kokoroduke“. So, yes, Japanese people do have tipping culture.
You may want to remember the situations and manner.
Japanese people give Kokoroduke when they recieve private services. Mostly they are related to tourism.
Hiring a van or bus
Hiring a guide
Staying in Ryokan
When you hire somone privately, it’s good to tip them.
Mostly they know how to recive it and just say “thank you very much” and smile.
Some expensive hotels and restaurants charges “Service Charge” in the bill. However, that goes to the owner of the business and not to the person in front of you directly.
Situations people look upset for receiving tips
If you give tips to a person who is not used to recive it, they may be confused.
They don’t know how to deal with the money and try to return it to you. For example, if you just put coins on the table and leave a restaurant, they think you might have forgotten the coins.
You may want to say “Honno Kimochi desu ” in Japanese. It means “this is my little sign of appreciation”, then they will probably undersatnd what that is.
However, in some cases, the employers says to the employees to refuse tips. In that case, you don’t want to push and just say thank you for your service and leave.
Tipping format is sometimes important.
When we give Kokoroduke, we put bank notes in an envelope.
So if you give some small coins directly without an envelope, some poeple may think it is rude.
However, in hotels and taxis it’s OK to give them some small changes because their services are based on western culture.
How to give tips in Japan
They are used to recieving tips. Don’t worry about them. Please tip as you wish. You even don’t have to use an envelope.
Some people may refuse to recive a tip. It doesn’t mean they are paid good or offended. Japanese lisenced guides usually recieve high educations and a lot of them already are rertired or has a spouse that has stable income.
They are also used to recieving tips. You can give a tip directly or ask the guide to give driver a tip. Buying a meal is also a good way.
Hotels and Ryokans
In western style hotels, you could tip bell persons and bed makes as you do in your culture.
In Japanese style hotels, called Ryokan, there is a person, “Nakai” who is responsible for your room. They prepaire meals and make beds for you. You may want to tip that person. Usually Japanese customes put some bills in an enverope.
Some hotels and Ryokans tell their employees to politely refuse it or even buy some gift to the guest with the money.
In that case, you may want to express your gratitude with a word.
When you have an activity with Geisha, you are supposed to tip.
It’s actuallt rude not to tip them since Geisha only works for rich people.
However, I don’t think you always have someone that arranges activity for you. You can ask them how it works. The guide or company probably tip them on behalf of you.
Uber Eats and other food deliverly services
Since Uber Eats use same system in other part of world, you can tip them through the app.
If you don’t find any tipping option in the app, you can give them cash.
What if I don’t tip them?
Don’t worry. Japanese people don’t change attitude even if you don’t tip them.
They are not expecting getting tips always, so they won’t be disapointed.
However, if you want to show your gratitude and make them happy, please go ahead.
Off course they love to recieve extra payment, and more over, they know tipping means clients are satisfied with their services. In other word, they may think no tips implies in-satisfaction of their services.
My tipping experiences in other countries
I traveled to Thailand when I was not working in tourism industry. Accoring to my guide book we don’t have to tip and I trused that. I booked Thai boxing though the guide of the day. Probably he got some commisons from the company and he was happy. That’s OK.
At that time, there was a Japanese Champion fighing in Thailand.
There was a gril maybe around 12 years old helping us in the stadium.
She came to us after the bout of the Japanese boxer and took us to the champion so that we can talk to him and take a picture together.
I thought it was an excellent service.
The girl came to me and said she was going home. I thought she was friendly and nice. So, I said thank you very much many times.
I remember she wore shoes and shirts with some holes.
Now I know “I’m going home” is the sign of tipping.
Much later I went to Tahiti. I was already an experienced traveler and worked as a guide.
My travel guide book said tipping is not common there and it’s nice to give them souvenirs from Japan.
So first, I gave a guide a box of chocolate from Japan. He said thank you but I was not sure he was happy, so I also gave him some cash. Then, he was pleased obviously.
I would say travelers tip all over the world now, so it’s never rude to tip them.