Is it Rude to Stare in Japan?

Is it rude to stare in Japan

In western culture, you can expect a swift dart of the eyes from your mother if you stare at a stranger. Staring is considered impolite and is frowned upon in our society. But is this a universal principle we share? Well, the western world certainly aren’t the only ones who think so.

Staring is one of the gestures that is considered rude in Japan.  Japan is a traditional, formal country, and it is not only rude to stare, but it can be seen a form of disrespect. It is ok to glance and make eye contact upon meeting someone, but it is best to avoid staring.

Most cultures have different thoughts and morals, but we can all agree that it is rude to stare.  What other things are considered rude?  Overall, manners are a large part of the culture of Japan.  There are a lot of different things that are considered rude or disrespectful in Japan that are normal in other countries.  Just as well, there are a lot of things in Japan that are normal practices that people in other countries may find rude or disrespectful.

Why is it Rude to Stare?

There are many different reasons it can be considered rude to stare, and they include but are not limited to:

  • Makes people feel self-conscious.  When someone is staring at you, you can’t help but to think if something is wrong, typically something with their appearance.
  • May come off as threatening – depending on the culture, it can come off as being intimidating and can be threatening to the subject being started at

Ultimately, it all comes down to the psychological feeling it gives someone.  Essentially it messed with someone’s head and makes them uneasy. It is ok to look at people, and sometimes people are very different than we are, but we must remember that staring, in general, is frowned upon.

Is it Rude for Japanese Nationals Staring at Tourist or Foreigners?

It may seem a little odd, but when you are in Japan, it is disrespectful to stare at others in Japan. However, Japanese locals will stare at tourists.  Usually, what it comes down to is the difference.  Japan is a very uniform country, so when tourists come in, they are very different, and sometimes people can’t help to stare – not necessarily to be rude.

This is a misconception about nationals staring at foreigners.  It is simply not to be rude, because they feel it is rude within their own culture.  It is typically that they are trying to maybe figure something out about someone – why are they so different. What is the reason they decided to choose this specific shirt or hairstyle, etc.  The list can go on and on, but we need to remember there are countless reasons that someone may stare – general difference or even admiration at times.

When we seem something different, and out of the ordinary, it is hard not to stare.  We are curious creatures by nature. On top of tourists just being different, there is a sense of acceptance – they are worrying if the tourist will understand them in a larger sense.  Can they speak Japanese?  Can they understand their broken English is they don’t speak Japanese?  And so forth.  It is more of a sense of uncertainty that will cause a lot of national to stare at foreigners of tourists.

What other Gestures are Considered Rude to Do in Japan?

Depending on the place and audience, there is a wide array of things that are considered rude. 

Things that people is other countries believe to be a sign or respect, Japan and several other countries believe to be rude and not acceptable behavior.

  • Pointing at someone – this goes hand in hand with staring at someone.  While staring can make the subject uncomfortable, pointing at someone is a whole other level.  At this point, you know there is something off that someone is noting, and you can’t help but to think what is wrong with you at that point in time.  This is something that is not acceptable in most places, not just Japan.
  • Whispering while looking at someone – again, this plays really hard into making someone feel uneasy because they don’t know what is being said about them.  Whether it is good or bad, there is still an uneasy feeling.
  • Giving or receiving objects with one hand.  In Japan, it is extremely rude to use only one hand.  Two hands are always used when there is any type of transaction between two people.  More or less, it is a sign of respect to use both hands when giving or receiving objects form another person.
  • Tipping – as odd as this is to people outside of Japan, there ae quite a few other countries where it is considered extremely rude to tip.  It looked at as disrespectful. They believe that they already paid for service included in the price of the meal.  They don’t believe that we any extra money is needed. As odd and rude as it seems, do not tip!
  • Maintaining eye contact – In Japan, it is common to glance at someone upon meeting them, but maintain eye contact and staring can be disrespectful.  Children in Japan are taught to look at someone’s neck; that way, they can keep their faces in their peripheral vision.

What are Some Gestures or Customs you Should Do in Japan?

As each country is different, Japan also had its own customs that we should make sure we abide by, or we will be considered rude. 

  • Bowing when greeting someone- in leu of shaking hands or hugging, in the Japanese culture, they bow towards each other.  The deeper the bow, the more respect you have towards the other person.
  • Removing shoes upon entering a building – and this includes certain types of restaurants as well.  Zashiki restaurants have tables that are very low to the ground, and you sit on the floor typically when seated at these tables.
  • Presenting gifts to hosts – in many cultures, it is a sign of respect to present a gift to your host.  It is a simple gesture that conveys your gratitude for hosting or serving you.
  • Accepting gifts from hosts or others – this sounds simple, you graciously accept a gift from another.  A plus to this, though, is that it is best to try and use the gift in front of them, if possible—another sign of huge respect in doing so.
  • Slurping your noodles – as funny as this sounds, it is showing that the meal was great, and you enjoyed it.  Not slurping your noodles would be rude!

While some of these things might seem out of the ordinary, they are common practice for residents of Japan.  Some may be a little lax, but Japanese culture is very traditional, and they hold to their customs and traditions. 


No matter what country you are in, there is always certain gestures or customs that are just unacceptable.  It is almost always considered rude to stare in most places, and it can even be disrespectful at times.  It is ok to glance at someone, and even offer a smile, but avoid prolonged and continuous glances.  It not only makes the subject uneasy but can make the person staring uneasy as well.

If you do plan to visit the great country of Japan soon, make sure to take in to account all of the polite gestures you can use to help others feel welcomed by you!

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