Hi! Japanese Illustartor Mom, Koko here!
Today we’re going to talk about “Tipping Custom in Japan”.
Simply saying, In Japan, we don’t tip.
There are some common questions about Japanese Tipping system. I am going to answer them from personal aspect. I’m pretty sure that I have normal common sense; I believe my answer is what majority of Japanese agree with.
Tipping in Japan – Basic Questions
Is it RUDE to tip in Japan?
No, it’s not rude.
But it can be uncomfortable and weird. Simply because we don’t have tipping culture, some people will get confused or they can feel disrespected.
I had this experience once in America.
I was in college. One day I was in a car with a few classmates. My classmate (I didn’t know him well) was a driver. We got lost, we were in a low-income area…. driver classmate had to ask for some direction. (that was before smartphone era.) There was a person walking by, so he rolled down the window and askedfor a help.
The guy was nice, and gave him detailed direction.
Then what did the classmate do?
” Thank you for your help!” – he gave him $5 cash.
…. Really? I thought. I don’t know, I just felt awkward by looking at it.
The guy, who gave a direction, he wasn’t homeless, maybe just a working class guy,
I don’t remember his reaction but I think he accepted the $5.
I don’t know how to explain. but I felt like the classmate had this attitude “you are lower than me”. or “I am richer than you.” I just didn’t like it. And it’s true, he actually comes from a wealthy family.
How would you feel if someone ask you a direction and you helped. And he hands you cash from his car?
Will you feel awkward?
Is it OKAY to tip in Japan?
Nobody gets angry with extra money. To answer directly to this question, yes it’s okay. But we don’t tip.
So don’t bother tipping.
There are a few occasions we may “tip” – please continue this article, I am talking about it later on.
Is Japan a tipping country?
Nope. Pizza Delivery boy, Waitress, Hairdresser — you – don’t- pay- tips.
Do you tip bellman in Japan?
Nope. Japanese hotels include 10% service fee when you pay. I think Bellman will feel weird getting a tip….
Do you tip at Restaurants in Japan?
No, you don’t pay tips. My friend, who used to work at a restaurant had to run after foreign tourists because they “make mistakes and leave extra money”.
So she had to run after the customers to return money.
“Helloooooo! You forgot your money!!!!!”
” I was getting a good work out.” she says. 😉
You don’t need to tip at restaurants in Japan. Though, if you enjoy their meals, please say Thank you and show your appreciation… they will really like that! 👌
One Exception. We do pay tips….different way.
We have this word : KOKORO-ZUKE. If you write in Japanese, it goes like this: 心付け
If I directly translate, it means, “attaching a heart”. This can be close to Tipping custom, but we usually give money BEFORE service.
This one is tricky.
I remember when I was a small child, we stayed at Ryokan with grandfather. I saw him giving a room service person 1000yen (about $10) , saying Yoroshiku Onegai Shimasu. Meaning, in that situation,
“We’re counting on you. We’re glad to be here.” something like that…
She humbly accepted the money.
I may give room service person small money IF ONLY,
- you are in a big group and you know that room service person will need to work extra hard
- there are small children or handicap or elders, that may need extra help
- when you broke small things or made a mess, (ex, kids leaked pee on Futon) that cause extra work for Ryokan to clean up
Give Kokoro-zuke after you are guided to a room and she showed you around. It’s smart, if you wrap money in a white envelope instead of giving cash itself, directly.
But other than that, you don’t really need to give Kokoro-Zuke.
As I told you before, Japan is a huuuuuuge cash country. Everybody brings cash, everybody pays cash.
The custom is becoming less and less, and more people pay to a taxi driver digitally.
It happens often, when Japanese passengers pay cash to a driver, they may say:
“Please keep the change”.
if the change is small amount, like, 10~200,300yen.
Moving Helpers, Hostess Bars…
If you are just traveling to Japan, you won’t have this situations…. but some families pay “tips” like, $10 per person for moving helpers as lunch fees. Many times Japanese present workers water bottles, order food, instead of just giving money.
When men go to a hostess bar, sure they do pay (a lot of) tips for hostess women! 😶
Why I struggle with Western Tipping System
This is going to be my personal opinion about tipping systm, and this is what common Japanese things.
We’re against tipping system, especially those “mandatory” tipping in the West.
I’ve read that it’s because wage is low, then hiring owners should take care of payment to their employees. I think it’s strange that owners rely on customers to adjust employees salary…
Why pay more than what I am charged?
Why do we have to pay extra more than what we are charged?
I’d much rather have a bill includes everything, service charge as well, and just show me the total price. It’s more straight forward!
When Japanese travels abroad, we always have struggle of tips. We are simply not used to it….
When we pay bills, we always have to have a discussion how much to pay tips 😅
Tipping can be ugly
I never know if the amount I tip is enough.
I also don’t like that when I see a bill, they have this “TIP” section that I am forced to pay tips.
I’ve heard some waitresses running after you, out of a restaurant, on a street, saying
“you tipped me too little”.
Doesn’t it give a bit ugly feeling for both of them….
Why pay for So-So service
I’m not saying my country is the best in the world. Japan have so many problems, I admit.
That’s something, I have to say clearly, it is the BEST in the WORLD.
In Japan people working in the service industry go extra miles to make customers happy.
(in another words, I am always surprised at how bad customer service is, outside of Japan…)
So after I experienced Japanese service, it’s unusual that I am satisfied with customer service outside of Japan. Why do I have to pay for so-so service?
Enjoy the Tip-Free vacation in Japan! 🙂 You will get BEST customer support, too!
If you received a good service, please always say Thank you, (Everybody understands “Thank you” so you can just say in English. ) . Customers’ smile will make staff very happy.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions about Japan, feel free to contact me!
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