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Things to Know Before Coming to Tokyo


by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Kenzia V.

Last updated : Apr 28, 20228 min read


Are you planning a trip to Tokyo? If so, there are some things you need to know before going. Japan has its own culture and norms, and even though you’re a tourist, they still need to be respected. Learning a few things about the culture in Japan before your trip can really go a long way for your Tokyo trip.


So, what are the things you need to know before your trip? Look no further. Read on and find out some of what they are.


Find out the things you need to know before your Tokyo trip and more recommendations through this article.

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Things you should know before your Tokyo Trip

There are many unwritten customs and rules in Tokyo, here are some to prepare you for your Tokyo trip:


1. Don't tip

Tipping is not part of the culture in Japan. Maybe you’d like to thank them for their service (whether it’s at a restaurant, at hair salons, in taxis, for doormen or bartenders) by leaving a tip, don’t. Attentive service is part of the Japanese omotenashi (hospitality) and service charge is included in the price.


Leaving a tip can be considered rude, they could feel offended because they would think that they did not do a good job, and you tip them to encourage them to a do better. Don’t be surprised if your server chases you down the street to return the money you leave behind as a tip.


2. Follow train and train station rules

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There are some rules and etiquettes you need to follow regarding train (and subway), and train station rules. Here are some:

  • Don’t talk on the phone while you’re on the train. If you really can’t avoid it, whisper, so it won’t bother other passengers.
  • If you’re having a conversation with someone on the train, speak quietly.
  • When the train arrives, and the train door opens, don’t go in directly. Stay on the left or right first to wait for the passengers on the train to get off (if any).
  • Some train cars are designated for women only during certain times. You will be able to know from the pink sticker pasted on the windows of the train or waiting platform.
  • There are priority seatings in the train cars, usually marked as “priority seating” and sometimes in a different color. Priority seatings should be given up to elders, pregnant women, those with disabilities, and young children. You can sit there when it’s not too busy, but give up your seat to those more in need of them.


3. Chopsticks rules

Chopsticks are widely used in Japan, and there are etiquettes regarding it, so you need to be careful about it. Some things you should know about are:

  • Don’t stick your chopsticks vertically on your bowl. This is done at Japanese funerals, a bowl of rice is left with two chopsticks standing vertically in the center.
  • Don’t pass on food from chopsticks to chopsticks, this is also funeral-related.
  • Don’t point to people with chopsticks.


4. Cash, cash, cash

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It’s incredibly important to take enough cash with you. Most places don’t accept credit cards. Yes, you can use credit cards in most hotels, big departments stores, and some restaurants, but for most cases, you will need to pay by cash.


If you ever ran out of money, go to the nearest 7-11 (seven-eleven) and take out cash from the ATM machine there. While not all ATM machines accept international debit cards, the ATM machines in 7-11 do.


5. Don’t eat/drink while walking

You won’t get jailed for eating/drinking while walking at the same time. But, people just don’t do it. You can get away because you’re a tourist, but it’s respectful to not do it. Not only that you shouldn’t do it just in case it spills and dirties the street, Japanese people usually have high respect for food. So, if you eat while walking, you are considered taking the food too casually.


6. Purchase a prepaid card

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Oh, I can’t emphasize this enough.


Purchasing a prepaid card saves a whole lot of time. You don’t have to take the time to buy tickets everytime you want to take the train (and having to figure out which ticket to buy). The types of prepaid cards you can get in Tokyo are Pasmo or Suica. To purchase them, you need to pay ¥500, but it's refundable when you return the card.


7. Take your passport everywhere you go

Well, not only it’s important to carry your passport just in case anything happens. Carrying your passport can come really handy in tax-free shops. In some shops, you can show them your passport so you won’t have to pay the 8% tax fee.


8. Basic phrases

Although this isn’t necessary, you can learn the basic phrases so you don’t totally feel clueless, and Japanese would appreciate knowing that you had learned some of the phrases when talking to them. You can learn a few basic words like yes, which is hai in Japanese; no, which is is iie; and thank you, which is arigatou.  For more, you can see the image below.

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9. Trash bins are hard to find

Japan is a very clean city, so is Tokyo. It’s very rare to find trash scattered on the street, so you might think that there are plenty of trash bins everywhere. Wrong. Trash bins in Tokyo are actually really hard to find. Mostly, people keep their trash until they reach they home, or find them somewhere. So keep your trash with you until you find trash bins or if you can't find one, keep it until you reach your hotel. Some places you can find trash bins are convenience stores and train stations.


Also, separate your trash. Tokyo (all of Japan) is big with separating trash and recycling, so put your trash in the right bin (usually differentiated with pictures)!


10. Stay on the left

Tokyo is organized and practical. People usually walk on the left, so walk on the left as well. On escalators in Tokyo, stay on the left as well. The right side is for people to walk on, so if you’re just going to wait, stay on the left.


A tip for your Tokyo trip!

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There are still many more of unwritten rules and customs in Japan. If you’re nervous about being unintentionally rude or disrespect the customs, there is a way! Hire a private guide.


They can guide you not only for the places to go, things to do, but also give you local insights into the culture and tradition in Tokyo. They can tell you about more of the customs and take care of you so you won’t disrespect the customs.


There are still many more advantages in hiring a guide, including a free custom-made itinerary, enhancing your trip and making your trip more convenient!


Where to hire a guide?

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The thing is…

There are many places where you can hire private guides in Tokyo, but are they good and trustworthy? It’s difficult to determine. That’s why I’m recommending you GoWithGuide website. The website offers many local tour guides and also private tour options in Tokyo, from which you can choose according to your needs and preferences.


Here is a list of great tour guides in Tokyo, you can watch the guides’ personalized videos, read the reviews about each guide, see their availability and service cost to help you find the right guide.


Wait, there's more:

There are also so many great private tours available from the website, here are some of my recommendations Personalized Tokyo Journey tour, or Tokyo One Day Customized Tour tour. From these tours, you can travel around Tokyo with a great private guide without any trouble, and even making it a better experience.



I hope this article helps prepare you for your Tokyo trip by telling you things you should know before going to Tokyo. Hope you have a fun time in Tokyo!

Tokyo Tour Guide - Yasuro C.

Yasuro C.

4.80 / 5
(64 reviews)

Hello, my name is Yasuro (Mr). I was born and brought up in Kansai, graduated from a univ in Kobe city, after moved into Kanto, 30 years in Tokyo, 2.5 years in Nagoya city, 7.5 years abroad (KL & S'pore) as a rep of a construction company and I got the National Guide Certificate in 2011. My hobbies are making Haiku poems, singing various songs (voice-training for 18 years), playing the folk-guitar, trekking in mountains like Takao and Okutama in the West of Tokyo, visiting museums like in Ueno Park and travelling around Japan to make Haiku poems. Thank you for your attention.                                                                                                                                 

Yokohama Tour Guide - Haruo T.

Haruo T.

4.90 / 5
(10 reviews)

I live in Yokohama, Kanagawa prefecture. I have a license to teach in high schools and was admitted to the degree of Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language in the University of Birmingham. Until 2015 I had been teaching English at public high schools in Kanagawa for 37 years. During that time, I had some experience of guiding students from overseas through sister-school relationship around Tokyo and Kanagawa. Therefore, I had good command of English with the TOEIC score of 935. As for a tour guide experience I earned the certificate of National Government Licensed Guide-Interpreter in English and since then I have guided tourists to the popular sites around Tokyo, Yokohama, Kamakura and Yokosuka. My guiding focuses on introducing not only Japanese historical and cultural backgrounds but also giving tourists some tips to travel Japan only by themselves, such as how to use trains and subways, find good restaurants, reserve tickets, buy survenier, and speak basic Japanese. In addition, my tour includes opportunities to experience Japanese culture like Zen meditation, ninja performance, visiting anime's location sites based on tourists' request. Besides, by means of my hobbies of writing English Haiku and Waka (traditional Japanese poems) and performing Rakugo (traditional Japanese funny story telling) in English, I can surely entertain tourists during the tour. My moto as a tour guide is let the tourists have a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Japan with my profound, intelligible and interestiog guiding.                                                                                                                                 

Tokyo Tour Guide - Grant A.

Grant A.

5.00 / 5
(14 reviews)

My name is Grant I lived more than 10 years in Japan. I graduated University and translation school in Tokyo. I am fluent in Japanese. I have a degree in Asian studies and have expert-level knowledge of Japanese culture and history. I have memorized the JR rail system across all of Japan, I use the same train timetable calculators as the station staff, and I have experience using bullet train passes that are exclusive to foreign visitors. I can optimally navigate the Tokyo underground and maximize value from a Tokyo metro pass and also understand Tokyo above ground which will allow for seamless transitions between different metro stations and landmarks with minimal backtracking. *There will be a price revision at the end of June* My tour fee is Half-Day Tour: 30,000yen for 1-5hours Full-Day Tour: 50,000yen for 5-12hours The time transiting to and from your hotel for pick up or drop off within Tokyo 23wards does not count towards the time. I am also able to guide historical sites and cities such as Kyoto, Kanazawa, Nikko, and Kamakura on request if you pay my rail fare. If your group is not a tour company and you simply ask me kindly for a 10,000yen discount and I will reduce the price of your tour until the end of June.                                                                                                                                 

Kanagawa Tour Guide - Kaneo U.

Kaneo U.

4.98 / 5
(43 reviews)

I’m so excited to have a chance to show you around my favorite spots in Kanagawa prefecture. I was born in Kanagawa. I spent my whole school life, including university, here in Kanagawa. I worked as a high school English teacher here for 40 years. I love Kanagawa so much. We have many interesting tourist spots, like Hakone, Kamakura, Enoshima and Yokohama. I got my tour guide license in English in 2009. I am still an English teacher. To give an interesting and impressive lesson to young high school students, I’ve learnt and gathered many kinds of information. I also have a license to teach social studies, so I have a wide range of knowledge about Japanese culture and history. I’m sure to provide you an interesting tour.                                                                                                                                 

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