Depending who you ask and what part of Japan you are staying in, tipping may or may not be an acceptable practice.
Many Japanese believe that good service should be the standard and therefore, tipping is not necessary. However, some staff that work for Japanese tourist companies are accustomed to receiving tips and may be grateful to receive a small gratuity.
If you ever do decide to tip in Japan, do not give cash directly from your pocket or purse. Always place the money in an envelope before you hand it over. The following are some “tips” for tipping in Japan.
If you live in the States, you probably cannot imagine going out to eat and not leaving a tip. Well, in Japan, tipping is a custom many are not in favor of, and if you attempt to leave a tip, it may well be refused.
The general consensus in Japan is: you’re paying for good service, so why should you pay extra? A good rule of thumb in Japan is not to tip in a restaurant, no matter how odd it may seem to you. Just be polite and thank your waiter or waitress for their service.
Public transportation in Japan is excellent, but sometimes a taxi ride is necessary. In America, tipping one’s taxi driver is considered a standard practice. In Japan, it is not. Do not tip your driver, and if you’re unsure where you’re going or don’t speak Japanese, simply point to your destination on a map and politely thank your driver upon exiting.
Tipping tour guides in Japan can go either way. Many guides are accustomed to receiving tips because tourists that are visiting from areas such as America are so used to tipping. It isn’t mandatory, or even considered rude, not to leave a tip for your tour guide, but if you feel obligated a few dollars is perfectly acceptable.
Hotels & Spas
Hotel staff in Japan do not expect a tip, especially in high-end Ryokans (traditional Japanese Inns). If you should decide to leave a tip, it may, or may not, be refused. Do not be offended if it is rejected. If you are leaving a tip, place the money in an envelope and leave it behind in your room. Do not give the tip to any one in-person as that is considered rude.
When in a spa or at the hotel spa, do not leave a tip. Just be respectful and grateful for the masseuse’s service and that should be plenty. Remember to incline your head when greeting the masseuse, take off your shoes and always be polite.
Overall, tipping in Japan is not customary. Respect and politeness is expected at all times, and if your tip is refused, do not to be offended. If you insist on leaving a tip in your hotel and are unsure what the appropriate method is, check with your concierge or hotel receptionist.