Etiquette and Manners Cheat Sheet

The following is a basic Japanese etiquette and manners cheat sheet. By learn these you should avoid causing any minor diplomatic incidents!

Useful phrases and tips


  • Ohayou gozaimasu – Good Morning
  • Konnichiwa – Good Day
  • Konbanwa – Good Evening


  •  Arigatou gozaimasu – Thank you
  • Gomen nasai – I am sorry
  • Sumimasen – Excuse me
  • Shitsurei shimasu/shimashita – I’m very sorry, please excuse me
  • Oyasumi nasai – Good Night


  • Itadakimasu – Said before a meal “I receive this food”
  • Gochisousama deshita – Said after a meal “Thank you for the meal”

Visiting Someones House

  • Ojama shimasu – Said when entering someones house “May I come in?”
  • Ojama shimashita – Said when leaving “Thank you for having me”


  • Otsukare sama desu – Good job, We just did a tough thing
  • Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu – Excuse me for leaving first


  • Straight back, don’t look at the person
  • Longer, and deeper is more polite
  • Ladies hands clasped in front, Men hands at sides


  • Don’t stick chopsticks upright in rice
  • Slurp Asian noodles but not western noodles
  • Don’t pass food with chopsticks


  • Wash before entering onsen
  • Don’t dip your towel

Gift Giving

  • Bring a small gift (omiyage) to the people in your office when you go on a trip.


  • Take them off when entering a house/building

Business Cards

  • Don’t stuff into your pocket when you get them
  • Give/receive with both hands

Drinking Parties

  • Bring a good amount of cash
  • Wait to be seated
  • Wait until the toast to drink
  • Pour for other people, not yourself
  • If you don’t drink, be firm. Let people know, order oolong tea.
  • What happens at the drinking party stays at the drinking party

When in doubt

When in doubt wait to be directed and remember there is no such thing as too much apologizing, bowing or thanking.