As a rule, there are no tips in Japan, just pay the price on the bill! There are many stories of foreigners who unintentionally tip on the table and are then chased down the street as they leave the restaurant where the staff frantically try to return the “forgotten” money. In a high-end restaurant this will not happen, but it is certainly not necessary and tipping is not expected in Japan.
The same goes for taxis. There is no need to pay the driver more than the measured rate. However, if you want to leave the change with the driver, most will accept it. Some, however, will not, and will give you your money back.
In hotels there is no need to tip the bellboy for helping you with your luggage. This is part of the service and does not require tipping.
If you use the services of a guide during your stay in Japan, you are not expected to leave a tip at the end of the day. However, a small gift from your home country will be greatly appreciated. This should be nothing more than a token gift, such as a box of candy or cookies, or perhaps a tea towel. Anything from your local town or city will be very welcome.
There are a couple of times when tipping is appropriate. The first is when you stay in a high-end ryokan. This only applies when meals are served in your room, and the tip should be only a small amount for the maids who will serve your meals and lay / store your futons. Unlike in the West, where tips are provided after service is provided, you must tip your maid at the beginning of your stay. A proper tip would be 1,000 yen per night of your stay and this should be left inside an envelope on your room table.
Never tip cash to anyone in Japan as it is considered quite rude. Money should always be hidden in an envelope. Fortunately, every convenience store sells a range of envelopes suitable for this purpose. Just don’t go for the fancy envelopes with gold or black ribbons – they’re for weddings and funerals, respectively!
The second time rewarding is appropriate is if you use a driver for a day. Again, the tip must be given at the beginning of the day. A suitable figure would be 1,000 yen for half a day and 2,000 yen for a full day. This should be given to the driver in an envelope. When handing over the envelope with the money, it should say “yo-ro-shi-ku one-gai-shi-masu”, which literally means “please, please”, exactly what you are waiting for!