If you are ever planning to book vacation rentals in Japan, you need to know the vacation rental rules of etiquette before you stay.
While private lodging, better known as AirBnB or minpaku (民泊), is getting more and more popular throughout the world, there are many troubles between the hosts and guests because of some misunderstandings and cultural differences.
There are many unwritten rules of etiquette in Japanese vacation rentals, so I’m going to introduce some of those. I hope they are helpful for those who are planning to use private lodging in Japan!
Don’t make noises after 9pm. The Japanese are extremely quiet
Japanese people hate noises. If you stay in a vacation rental in Japan and want to keep the local rules of etiquette, don’t make loud noises after 9pm.
The definition of “being noisy” differs from culture to culture (or person to person), but let me give some quantitative criteria: According to Japan Ministry of the Environment, you should be no louder than 55db in the evening (refer to Environmental quality standards for noise for more information).
For those who have no idea how to measure decibels (db), here are some examples:
- 50-75db: Washing machine
- 60-85db: Vacuum cleaner
- 40db: Library
(Common environmental noise levels by Center for Hearing and Communication)
Looking at this, you shouldn’t use a vacuum cleaner or washing machine in the evening.
You can find more examples in the above page.
Don’t have parties
Having parties in Japanese private lodging isn’t a nice idea according to the noise level guidelines. Let’s look at the noise level of people’s conversations first:
- 40db: Quiet conversations
- 60db: Normal conversations
- 90db: Shouted conversations
Remember that Japan’s noise level acceptance for evenings is 55db? Considering this, even normal conversations of 60db could be loud enough in the evening.
Imagine a group of 5 happy people having a party in a private lodging. Excited tourists can be louder than normal and their voice can be something between 80-90db. 90db multiplied by 5 people would be even louder. If you played music in addition to the happy people’s conversation, it would be a nightmare to your neighbors. Want to dance? FORGET ABOUT IT.
Having some friends at your lodging would be no different. If you see friends while on the road, you will most probably get excited and this will make it difficult to keep yourself as quiet as 55db. If you want to drink or have a good conversation with more than a 3-4 people, find a bar or restaurant.
For those who are wondering if the Japanese don’t have house parties at all, here’s the answers:
- Yes, the Japanese sometimes have house parties too, but they know what the Japanese threshold is. They don’t be louder than allowed.
- There is a huge difference between normal apartments only with residents and apartments that put up tourists (private lodging). Even things that are allowed at normal apartments are sometimes not allowed in private lodging because the neighbors of private lodgings are nervous about tourists. They are disturbed by tourists from time to time and everything tourists do can irritate them.
Don’t talk too much in the public space
If your private lodging is located in a residential area, don’t talk too much in the public spaces as it may disturb the neighbors. Even during the day, always remember the 55db rule. 55db is slightly quieter than normal conversation.
If you are excited about visiting an unknown country’s residential area, your voice gets louder without yourself knowing. If there are more than two excited tourists, the group will be even louder. 60db or 70db multiplied by 3 or even 4 will be loud enough to disturb the Japanese neighbors.
In the public spaces, try to behave as if you are in a library. I have seen many tourists, but most of them are excited and louder than the locals.
Quiet. That’s on top of everything
I hope you have learned this by now, but the Japanese people are extremely quiet. Even if you think you are quiet enough, the Japanese might not feel the same way. To many Japanese people, even normal conversations by foreigners sound like loud conversations in general. I’m not saying that you–provided that you are non-Japanese–are loud, but the Japanese are just quieter. Even I sometimes feel living in Japan is a bit too suffocating because I have to be quiet everywhere I go, even at home.
I know, strict huh? But that’s the rental vacation etiquette in Japan.
Keep the check-in and check-out times. If you will be more than 10 minutes late, make sure to call your host. Unlike hotels, the host of many private lodgings have other jobs and they adjust their schedule to check you in/out. If you are a few hours late, their day might be destroyed because of you.
I hear that many guests don’t care no matter how late they are and don’t even apologize, but if you are late, say sorry as a minimal manner.
Follow the local garbage disposal rules
Unfortunately, it’s not written in proper English even in most areas in Tokyo, the capital of Japan, but each local government has garbage disposal rules.
If your lodging requires you to throw garbage for yourself, check the local garbage disposal rules in advance and separate garbages properly. The rules are usually complicated, so if you don’t understand how it works, just remember to separate combustible garbage, incombustible garbage, cans and plastic/glass bottles.
Some private lodging don’t let you dump garbage at the dump site because tourists don’t know local garbage disposal rules (they check the trash you left, separate and dump them on behalf of you), but the garbage disposal rules differ from lodging to lodging, so make sure to check with your lodging in advance.
Don’t throw garbages everywhere
Some guests just leave garbages on the floor of the room they stayed in, but that’s a big no-no. If you leave tissue paper, plastic bags, packages of food or bottles here and there, the host of the lodging might get disgusted and might not want to put you up again.
Remember that the concept of vacation rentals is putting up complete strangers at their private properties like homestay. If their guests dirty their private area, they feel disgusted. You might think that you can dirty your room because the host will clean it up anyway, but the disgust the Japanese host would feel from a dirty room is unimaginable.
As well as Japanese people are quiet, they are very clean at the same time.
If you want to give a good impression to the host of the lodging, put garbages in the trash bin and put all other larger garbages that don’t fit in the trash bin in a plastic bag. This is not a rule, but rather good vacation rental etiquette in Japan.
If you are not sure what makes your room look dirty, try to return everything back to its original state
I know that the vacation rental rules of etiquette in Japan are strict. But if you are not sure what makes your host feel that you got his/her room dirty, just try to return everything to its original state.
If you spilled something on the floor or a table/furniture/walls got dirts, try to remove the dirts to make them look how they did before you arrived. If you moved books or dishes from a shelf, return them to their original positions. You should also wash used dishes.
Don’t smoke in non-smoking rooms
If your lodging is non-smoking, don’t smoke. If you want to smoke on the balcony, ask if you are allowed to because some non-smoking lodgings prohibit their guests from smoking even on the balcony.
Smoking rules differ from lodging to lodging, so make sure you follow your lodging’s rules.
Don’t break any equipment
I didn’t expect that I would have to explain this, but some tourists break the room equipment and don’t even mention or apologize about that upon checkout.
I guess that the most tourists have a common sense and do know that they shouldn’t break any objects, decorations, furniture, window glasses, electronic devices or curtains in their room, but some people just break them and don’t apologize.
It’s sad that I have to even mention this, but please don’t break any equipment as the host has to buy them again spending money. I think most private lodging platforms like AirBnB oblige guests to compensate any damaged items, but insurances can’t cover everything.
Don’t take home any equipment
As well as you shouldn’t break any equipment, you shouldn’t take home any of those unless otherwise explicitly stated. Any objects, furniture, electronic devices, toilet paper, soap or shampoo are for you to use and NOT for you to take home. Taking home these equipment is called theft and hosts can submit an offense report to the police if you steal any of them.
For those who have a common sense, it’s hard to believe this, but believe me, certain guests take home equipment such as electric kettle and rice cooker.
Maybe it’s allowed in some countries, but stealing someone else’s belongings is a crime in Japan as well as in many other countries.
Some of the rules in this post are self-explanatory, but others are peculiar to Japan and you might break them without knowing.
Also, as for the level of quietness, sorry if I sounded as if I’m saying that all non-Japanese are loud. I was not trying to say so, but the Japanese are so quiet that all the rest sound louder than them in most cases. Also, because the Japanese are very quiet, they are sensitive to noises too.
In either case, I know that the Japanese should be more explicit and directly let guests know their local rules, but they can’t always do so because of the cultural and language barriers.
I hope this post was helpful and you now understand the vacation rental etiquette in Japan. Enjoy your stay!
Learn more etiquette in Japan:
- Driving rules in Japan
- Bicycle rules in Japan
- Unwritten Japanese private lodging rules and etiquette
- Japanese table etiquette
- Western don’ts that are widely accepted in Japan