Photo by Sorasak / Unsplash

Navigating Japanese Customs and Etiquette as a Muslim Traveler

May 22, 2023

Traveling to a new country is an exciting adventure, filled with opportunities to immerse oneself in a new culture, explore new landscapes, and taste new flavors. However, it can also bring its fair share of challenges, particularly when it comes to navigating unfamiliar customs and etiquette. For Muslim travelers visiting Japan, these challenges can seem even more pronounced. But don't let this deter you from exploring the Land of the Rising Sun! This article will guide you through Japanese customs and etiquette, helping you enjoy a respectful and enriching travel experience.

1. Greeting Etiquette

In Japan, the traditional way to greet is by bowing, not shaking hands. The depth of your bow depends on the formality of the situation, but a small nod is often sufficient in casual settings. This respectful act demonstrates acknowledgment and understanding of Japanese customs.

2. Dining Etiquette

Sushi Chef, Tokyo Japan
Photo by Thomas Marban / Unsplash

Japanese dining etiquette is an art form in itself. Remember to say "itadakimasu" before eating and "gochisosama deshita" after finishing your meal. These phrases express gratitude for the food. Also, it's crucial never to stick chopsticks vertically into your rice, as this is a practice reserved for funeral rites.

3. Visiting Shrines and Temples

Old ways in new days
Photo by Redd F / Unsplash

While visiting Japan's beautiful shrines and temples, remember to observe the rules. They will have a purification fountain to cleanse your hands and mouth (think of of it like wudhu) but you can skip that . Since the shrine is a place for prayers, avoid making noises and disturbing those coming to make prayers.

4. Onsen Etiquette

A private onsen in Japan, in Kinosaki at Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei.
Photo by Roméo A. / Unsplash

Onsens, or hot springs, are a significant part of Japanese culture. However, they typically require full nudity, separated by gender. While this might not align with the modesty requirements of some Muslim travelers, private family or rental onsens (貸し切り温泉) could be a suitable alternative. You can also find onsen hotels that have a private onsen (温泉付き部屋) in the room. Once you're in the onsen observe the rules like washing before and after going in.

5. Respectful Attire

Photo by Bruno Aguirre / Unsplash

Japan values modesty and respect, so dressing appropriately is key. While there's no strict dress code in most public places, modest attire aligns well with Japanese values. Your hijab, abaya, or other modest clothing will be respected, reflecting the country's appreciation for diversity.

6. Alcohol in Japanese Culture

Photo by Zaji Kanamajina / Unsplash

Sake, a type of rice wine, is a significant part of Japanese culture. As a Muslim traveler, it's essential to know that it can often be included in traditional ceremonies or offered as a welcome gesture. Politely declining won't be considered rude, and in many cases, a non-alcoholic alternative will be available.

Remember, the goal of understanding and respecting these customs isn't just about avoiding faux pas—it's about enhancing your connection with the local culture, making your journey more meaningful. By navigating Japanese customs and etiquette as a Muslim traveler, you can fully immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of experiences Japan has to offer.

Don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more tips and insights on traveling as a Muslim in Japan and beyond. At Halal Gaijin, we're committed to helping you explore the world while staying true to your faith. Let's continue this journey together, one respectful step at a time.