Tipping In Japan? One Company Aims To Spread It Throughout The Country

Tipping In Japan? One Company Aims To Spread It Throughout The Country

In Japan, tipping is basically not a thing. There are a few occasions where one does tip, such as at a ryokan, or a traditional Japanese inn. But generally, good service is expected minus tips. So if you go to a restaurant, the price on your bill is what you pay. One Japanese company is trying to change that.

“If you are from a country where tipping is routinely practiced, it may come as a surprise that there is no such culture in Japan,” writes the Japan National Tourism Organisation. “This might be especially shocking as the standard of customer service in Japan is often regarded as the best in the world.” The practice of Japan not having a widespread tipping country has been lauded internationally. It’s something that has been used to promote Japanese excellence and contrast with other countries.

Enter the Tip Project. This is a new Japanese enterprise aiming to introduce a tipping system into the country. The official homepage has photos of business exec and best-selling author Takafumi Horie, whom I once profiled for Wired Magazine, comedian Akihiro Nishino, and YouTuber Yoshihito Kamogashira. They seem to be the ones spearheading this effort, with the goal of it spreading throughout Japan.

The Tip Project claims that introducing the practice into restaurants will increase staff motivation and help service industries that has been hit hard by covid-19.

But online in Japan, at least, the reaction has not been good. Below are a selection of comments from 5ch:

“Why import something bad?”

“Outside Japan, it seems that tips are given on the assumption that the base pay is low, so if that culture is copied, won’t salaries then go down?”

“Do we really think this is a good culture?”

“If tipping is introduced, then discount everything by 20 per cent.”

“No thanks — this is a pain in the arse. It’ll be a pain for workers, too.”

“Guarantee standard wages. Take tips from rich people.”

“We already have something like this. Isn’t the consumption tax a tip to the government?”

“I’m glad Japan doesn’t have this culture. I don’t want this pain-in-the-arse tradition.”

“Since I don’t understand why anyone would want this culture, if rich people in Japan want to tip, it’s fine if they want to.”

“If people want to pay [a tip], that’s fine, but why are these unrelated folks [at the Tip Project] getting in the middle of that?”

“I don’t understand this at all.”

“This doesn’t suit Japan.”

The Tip Project website has a dramatization — albeit an overwrought one — of the benefits of a restaurant introducing tipping.

In the video, a restaurant server isn’t exactly living up to his boss’s high standards and doing things like checking his phone while cleaning up. A young businesswoman comes to the restaurant with senior co-workers and, in a voice-over, talks about how she has difficulty putting her feelings into words. The server notices she’s cool and offers her a blanket. The woman is moved but doesn’t say thank you. Instead, she decides the best way to express her gratitude is with a tip. There is a long schedule at the cash register, where the server is extremely happy to get the equivalent of a seven dollar tip. The clip ends with the server being more motivated at work and the woman better able to express herself.

Unlike tipping in the U.S., where customers leave cash or add an amount to their credit card, the Tip Project has customers fill out a Premium Japan Tip ticket with their name, their server’s name, and an amount — which seems way more complicated than just leaving money on the table. But that simplicity, I guess, goes against the Tip Project’s business model, which is to selling those tip tickets to restaurants. This isn’t just an effort to promote tipping–it’s a busines venture. Paper documents are still widely used in Japan, so I’m guessing this company’s assumption is that restaurants will want some sort of paper trail to track tips?

The Tip Project’s official site lists over ten restaurants in Japan that have introduced this system, which, considering how many restaurants there are in Tokyo, let alone Japan, isn’t a bunch. And while the people involved, especially Horie and Nishino, are quite famous in the country, there’s already a lot of resistance to the idea of tipping being imported.

Comments

  • Yeah, this wont work, Knowing the working culture over there and how they perceive tipping this is gonna fail.

    Tipping exists thanks to the USA and their obnoxiously low wages and shitty working conditions for hospitality.

    US tourists should adapt to the country they visit, not the other way around.

    • There should be a wikipedia page of American cultural concepts that are considered cancerous. It could be broken down by which country hates it and have an ongoing geo-segregated user poll of just how far they can fuck off with it.

    • To be fair, minimum wage in the US is not considered a livable wage, so tips are vitally important for people in these jobs. In other places, though, not so much.

      • Thats not the problem though. The problem is they see tipping as a normal thing that other countries should do and cant see that their tipping culture is only there because the minimum wage is criminally low.

        Like so many other things in the US, they have manage to find a bizarre way to solve the problem. Rather than forcing the business owner to pay the staff more, and adjust prices accordingly, they go the roundabout way and expect the customer to do it for them. Their tax laws assume certain industries get a certain percentage of their income as tips; thats how weird it all is.

        If they put the minimum wage up though, so it was a livable amount, they wouldnt get rid of tipping. It would still be there, only the owner would pocket it to offset the rise in wages. It would be a major cultural shift for tipping to be as relaxed as it is here in Aus, where its mostly for convenience.

  • Pay people properly, so that a tip can be a true “you did an exceptionally great job, have a monetary gold star”.

    • in japan, tipping is seen as if you are assessing the staff’s performance which while not seen as rude, its awkward for them. They are already paid well and put in loads of effort. When you are at a restaurant/ bar they want you to be there to enjoy yourself, Not to be assessing their performance as a worker.

  • I am all for restaurant workers being paid a living wage – but why rely on tipping? Tipping is erratic, depends on social rules that are largely unwritten and are often used by bosses to reduce wages (“as the tips will make up for it!”). It places undue burden on staff to be “nice” and frantically attend to customers in order to obtain a good tip.

    Better for the price of food to be raised enough to allow proper wages. For that matter, raise the minimum wage so that workers can earn a decent living. If I have to pay a bit more, then so be it. It isn’t fair to workers to have to work “extra” to get a living wage, and it isn’t fair for other customers to effectively subsidise the meals of others by paying tips (what I mean by that is, the restaurant can keep the cost of food low, because they depend on well off customers giving enough tips so that their workers can make minimum wage).

    It’s a terrible practice. Tips are a US thing, and should remain a US thing. Take your terrible system and keep it where it belongs – in your home nation. Stop infecting the rest of the world with it.

  • Disgusting, what a dumb idea, tipping is one of the worst most illogical and exploitative aspects of a broken second world country, why on Earth would Japan or anywhere else want that? lol

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