To Tip or Not to Tip at a Ryokan: Navigating Japanese Etiquette


Do I tip at a Japanese ryokan?

This is a common question asked by foreign tourists who are staying at a ryokan in Japan for the first time.
In Japan, the custom of tipping or giving gratuities is not common. However, a “service charge" may be included in the bill at ryokans, hotels, restaurants, etc., and this varies by establishment.

When you see staff providing detailed services like laying out and packing up futons, preparing and delivering a plethora of meals, you might feel like tipping them.

Need to Tip in Japan?

But you don’t need to.
The staff at a ryokan are doing their job as part of the services provided by the ryokan, and they do not expect additional compensation. They are already receiving a salary for their labor. So, as a guest, it is enough to simply express your gratitude verbally.

Leaving a tip in Japan

However, there are exceptions.

If you receive special consideration at the ryokan or service above and beyond the usual, a tip can sometimes serve as a way to express your gratitude.

For instance, if you fall ill during your stay and the ryokan staff take you to the hospital or buy you medicine, or provide services such as transportation or meals outside of normal hours, or if you or your family mess up the room and the staff clean up for you, or if they provide outstanding service in terms of travel assistance and advice, etc. In such cases, it would be appropriate to give a tip as a token of your appreciation.

When giving a tip, it is customary to put the money in a small envelope, but it is not good manners in Japan to take the cash directly out of your wallet and hand it over as is because there is no envelope available when you suddenly decide you want to do it. In such a case, you can wrap it in paper or tissue (I mean Kleenex).

However, even in these cases, not all ryokans accept tips. It is thus advisable to check the ryokan’s policy or ask the staff before giving a tip.

When staying in a group

When staying with a large group, if there are goods to be rented for serving the banquet or for entertainment, a gratuity may be given to the person in charge of the banquet (about 2,000 to 3,000 yen), since this may place a greater burden on the facility than individual stays. In such case, it is said that it is best to give it when you are shown to the banquet room.

However, your service will not decrease if you do not tip. Japan’s service industry prides itself on providing consistently high-quality service even without tips. Your enjoyment of your stay at a Japanese ryokan is the greatest reward for the staff.