Rules and Manners

Customary Rules and Manners in Japan

As you start living in Sendai, here are some basic rules and manners that you are likely to encounter in your day to day life:

In Japan, the the general legal age is 20. You are underage until then, with respect to drinking alcoholic beverages and smoking tobacco products.

Those below 20 may also require a legal guardian in order to make a contract, such as for a credit card.

NB: Regardless of your age, smoking is prohibited throughout the Tohoku University Campuses.


You are required by law to wear a helmet when riding a scooter or motorbike, and to fasten your seatbelt when seated in a moving vehicle.

Using a mobile phone while driving is prohibited.

Refrain from using mobile phones on public transport such as trains, subways and buses, and keep the ringer off, or set to “manner mode”.

Waiting in Line

At places like cashier counters at stores, bus stops and ticket offices, you have to wait in line for your turn.

At bank teller windows, post offices, Japan Post Bank, places where many people are constantly waiting for their turn, there is often a machine dispensing numbered tickets, from which you take your number and wait until it is called.


Tipping or gratuity is not common and is not expected in Japan. It may even be considered rude and insulting in many situations.

Where it is UNACCEPTABLE to tip:
At restaurants, Taxi rides, at hotels and spas.

Where it may be ACCEPTABLE to tip:
Tipping tourist companies, private guides, ryokans.

If you decide to tip, be sure to place the money into an envelope. Either leave the money in your ryokan room or hand it to a person using both hands.

At Restaurants

It is most common for the waiter to lead your party to your table. It is rare for customers to seat themselves.

It is quite common for restaurants to expect each diner to order at least one item each.

In most restaurants you are supposed to make the payment at the cashier before leaving, and it is uncommon to make the payment at the table. Please take note that although the number of establishments that accept cashless payment is increasing, there are still some restaurants that only accept cash.

Some foodcourt shops / cafes require their guests to bring the used dishes to a designated location.

At Home

If you live in a rented property, do not wear shoes indoor as it will damage the flooring of the house, and you will be liable to pay for the damages.

For rented property, only those registered on the lease can live in the house. You are not to sub-let the house without permission from the owner.

Be mindful of any loud noises that comes out of your house. It is often unacceptable to make any loud noises at night or early in the morning as your neighbor will view it as a nuisance.

Do not store your personal item in common areas (corridors, stairwells, entrance lobby etc).


Be mindful of others and smoke only in designated smoking areas to contain second-hand smoke.

Do not smoke while walking on the streets, and never throw the cigarette butts on the ground.

In April 2020, a new smoking law prohibiting indoor smoking came into effect fully. The exceptions are private homes, hotel rooms, cigar bars and some small-sized restaurants and bars that were opened before April 2020.

Smoking is prohibited throughout the Tohoku University Campuses.


Although walking on escalators in train stations is discouraged, it is still quite commonly seen during peak hours.

Get in line to board the train, and let passengers from inside the train to alight completely before boarding the train yourself.

Keep your voice down in the train, be mindful of your baggages, and leave priority seats to those who need them.

In Public Spaces

Be considerate of others in public spaces and try to follow the below points:

  • Do not be too loud in public, especially in confined areas.
  • Keep public spaces clean.
  • Do not spit or litter.
  • Do not block way for others on the streets.
  • Do not damage public properties.

Garbage Disposal

The rule for garbage disposal in Sendai is very specific and can get confusing for those who are not used to it.

Refer to this page for details on how to properly dispose your garbage.