The Unexpected Food And Drink Custom In Japan That Locals Side-Eye Tourists For Breaking

In many places around the world, it's very common to see someone rushing down the street drinking a coffee and taking a bite from a sandwich on their way to work or somewhere more exciting. However, that would be pretty unusual behavior in some parts of the world. For example, people don't really eat or drink while walking around on the street in Japan. If you want to fit in and respect the culture, you probably shouldn't be doing it either.


Eating a snack or having some soda while walking isn't against the law or even really taboo (unlike going to an onsen with tattoos). However, in 2019, the city of Kamakura actually put up official street signs that requested tourists not to eat while walking. There weren't any actual penalties for ignoring the request, but you can get an idea of how it is perceived from the reaction. Essentially, eating or drinking while walking violates a cultural norm, so you'll probably get some glares and out yourself as a tourist if you do decide to snack while you stroll.

How serious is eating while walking in Japan?

Walking around public places in Japan while eating and drinking is generally considered unusual or a little off-putting, primarily because almost nobody does it. However, most agree that it isn't a major violation of a strict social rule, just a weird thing to do. Many visitors to Japan violate this norm without meaning to, and while some may get a dirty look or snarky comment, in general, nobody will be too offended. Still, while you are a visitor, it's polite to do your best to adhere to unspoken social rules like not yelling in the streets, not talking on the phone while riding the train and remembering not to tip your waiter while you're in Japan. Following social norms is important to show respect for the people around you.


"People heavily overstate the importance of this norm," one user explained on Reddit's r/JapanTravel. "My advice would simply be to be considerate and reasonable about it. Munching a snack on some backstreet is not a problem. Eating a cup noodle whilst making your way across the scramble crossing is ... People go on about rules this rules that for Japan all the time, but the way people live on the ground is much more free."

Where can you eat in public in Japan?

You might get some dirty looks if you walk around in Japan eating on the streets, but that doesn't mean that you always have to eat in a sit-down restaurant or take the subway all the way back to your hotel room every time you want a snack. Japan is known for its many fascinating vending machines, offering everything from hot bottled teas and fresh squeezed orange juice to noodles and pizza. It's totally normal to stop and stand next to one while eating the snacks you just bought. Fortunately, they're just about everywhere. Similarly, you can usually stand around a street vendor or convenience store and eat the food you just bought.


If you happen to be near a public park, it might be okay to sit in the grass and have a picnic. If there's a temple there, it's definitely not okay to eat next to it, although this should be common sense. If you are in a casual hangout spot with lots of people relaxing and sitting on the ground, it should be totally fine for you to do the same while eating the food you picked up at 7/11. Use your common see, take the lead from those around you, and get ready to enjoy the many magnificent destinations waiting in Japan.