Is Tipping Expected in Japan? A Guide for Aussie Tourists!

For most places in Australia, tipping is not expected so it can feel strange to add another sum of money to your bill. There’s nothing worse than heading on holiday, only to be caught out as to whether you’re supposed to be tipping your servers or not. Some countries expect tips and rely on them, while others don’t accept tipping. But where does Japan land on this spectrum? 

Is Tipping Expected in Japan? A Guide for Aussie Tourists!

There’s plenty to think about before embarking on your trip to Japan, and you might be wondering about including tipping in your spending money before converting AUD to JPY

Tipping in Japan

When you attempt to tip a Japanese establishment, your tip will most likely not be accepted. Your money will be given back to you and the server will most likely be confused about what you’re trying to do because tips are not the norm in Japan. This is because society believes that when paying for a meal or service, you’re already paying for the impressive experience. So tips on top of your bill are not required. 

While you might worry that the lack of tips removes some of the incentive to offer excellent service to customers, the truth is much different. Rather than the servers only offering good service to customers in the hopes of getting a handsome tip, Japanese servers aim to offer premium service to all of their customers. This means that there’s no prejudice or treating certain customers better than others based on their appearance. 

This is just one of the reasons why Japan is often considered the customer service capital of the world, with the majority of establishments offering incredible service culture to all of its guests. 

You might like our Japan Itinerary visiting Torii Gates, Temples, Ninja Lessons & Playing in the Snow

But Wait – There Are Exceptions

While tipping is not required in the majority of establishments around Japan, there are a few that will accept them as a token of your appreciation. 

Is Tipping Expected in Japan? A Guide for Aussie Tourists

Tipping Private Interpreters and Guides

Plenty of guides and interpreters in most countries rely on their tips as the largest source of income. However, Japanese interpreters are actually often paid quite handsomely, so they don’t need to rely on tips like this. 

Even so, guides and interpreters have started accepting tips in recent years thanks to Japan’s tourist scene ramping up in popularity. Depending on where in the world you come from, you might choose to tip your guide. The good news is that you shouldn’t be awkwardly declined, and there’s no expected minimum tipping requirement. 

Tipping at Ryokans

A ryokan is a traditional Japanese-style inn that is becoming more popular among tourists to enjoy a more authentic cultural experience. When you’re staying at a ryokan, it might be acceptable to tip your servers. The higher-end ryokans often come with personalised experiences tailored specifically to you, so you might feel like you want to tip your room attendant (Nakai-san) or the owner (Okami). 

Again, the amount you want to tip is solely dependent on your stay and what you think the service deserves. There’s no expectation for guests to tip, so you’re in control of everything regarding your monetary appreciation. This takes a lot of pressure off of guests and tourists. 

How to Tip Properly in Japan

After reading this article, if you’re still hoping to tip some of your Japanese servers, you should brush up on the proper etiquette to make sure your tip is met with appreciation rather than confusion or offence. 

Most people tip by taking out their wallets and handing money over straight away. While generally accepted in most countries, this would seem improper and uncultured in Japan.

Instead, slip your clean, crisp bills into a new envelope before handing it over to the recipient of the tip. Always use both hands to deliver the tip, as they will also receive it with both hands. 

Envelopes should be accessible from the majority of convenience stores dotted around Japan, but you can also use a clean piece of paper folded in half if you can’t find one. Just make sure the money is covered by something clean to make sure your server understands the tip is clean and respected. 

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