Should I tip in Japan?

Japanese woman serving at Japanese restaurant

Should I tip in Japan? The answer is easy. Yes, we should. It would be great if more travelers started giving gratuities. Why? Well, many visitors to this country don’t realize how little money some workers make here. The minimum hourly rate in Tokyo is 1072 yen. In other prefectures, that amount is lower. It’s not much money to live on.

You can’t imagine how hard it is for some people working in the hospitality industry. Hours can be long, and wages and appreciation, are low. How do they prepare for retirement? They must live in constant fear of it. And they have few chances to supplement their income.

Take my wife, a temp office worker (okay, not the hospitality industry). She has only once gotten a wage increase this century (i.e., since 2000). It was 10 yen an hour. That makes one pay increase in twenty-five years. Both of us had a good laugh about it. Many people are in a similar situation, though.

I became a tour guide recently, and it has been a real eye-opener. My clients have employed me for up to eight hours a day. And many times, I have worked in blazing hot summer weather. I’m on the go for the entire time.

Without a tip, my salary isn’t large. It makes me sympathize with people in the same situation. You aren’t living on a fixed salary. My income varies from month to month. So I work two jobs because it is a necessity.

There’s talk in the media about wage rises. But I don’t see it. My friends don’t see it either. I don’t know anyone who has received one. My wife is the same (unless you count 10 yen/hour reasonable). We all work at the bottom end of the scale, at small and medium-sized companies.

Some companies try to avoid giving pay raises. They hire women, students, retirees, or foreigners. Those people will be on lower-paying contracts. They also lack the benefits that regular employees have.

And there is also a labor shortage. Companies need to deal with that too. But it is the people at the bottom paying for it (either as a part of the cost solution or long hours). Inflation is another killer.

This is why we should tip. The hospitality industry is competitive. Profit margins are small. So wouldn’t it be great if people could bridge that gap? Especially if they are offering outstanding service. There is one more reason too.

Tips show appreciation

Do you believe in rewarding people for a hard day’s work? Well, in the tour guide business, guests buy themselves drinks and food. That’s normal, of course. But they often fail to notice the guide who has had no nourishment themselves for several hours.

It must be the same in coffee shops, cafes, and restaurants all over Japan. Someone is working long, hard hours for their guests’ enjoyment. It would be nice to show them some appreciation. Please remember most of them will be on minimal wages.

Furthermore, these workers show great respect to the customers. They are endlessly bowing and have to use very polite Japanese. But, they often get little back. Sometimes, all they get is a grunt. Other times, nothing at all. We need to show some appreciation.

Wrapping up

So if you read one of those articles about not tipping in Japan, please think about it. The hospitality industry here isn’t known for high wages. Appreciation for its workers is often missing. Many people here are doing it tough. Rising consumer prices and inflation are only making the situation worse. A tip would be the perfect way to rectify the problem. I hope you agree.

Sources for this article

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