Japanese Bowing Etiquette 101: CRASH COURSE

Bowing 101 in JapanLearn Japanese Bowing Techniques and When to Use Them!

If you’re totally confused about when to bow in Japan, this quick crash course guide and videos will give you an idea of when and how to use these bowing methods.

The more I researched into this field of etiquette the more I found that it’s not as easy to really completely master and understand. But, it’s good to note that the Japanese do not expect foreigners to bow and really understand the nuances of this social custom, so for those who are visiting don’t sweat it, but I still suggest do as the Japanese do and learn these three basic bowing customs. This video here though is good to take note of as it will show you several examples of other types of bowing body language that you may see while in Japan.

While you’re in Japan or if you are watching movies about Japan or Japanese people or their culture you will notice that when watching the Japanese bow, the person initiating the bow is expressing appreciation and respect to the other person which is being bowed to. When a person bows, they bow from the hips, not the chest. But it can be used to say hello, good bye, thank you, I’m sorry or, I’m EXTREMELY sorry and many other types of expressions.

There are three different types of bowing in general in every day use in Japan and it really all depends on how deep one bows from the waist/hips when it is performed. The first is the most casual bow, it’s called ‘eshaku’. Eshaku is when the bow extends from the waist at about 15 degrees, it is also common to dip the head slightly and your gaze is straight out from the level of the head. This eshaku is preformed in casual greetings or if you happen to pass by someone of a higher social status then you.

It’s also proper to speak when passing or meeting, but if you add eshaku while saying thank you it will further the expression of how you feel towards being grateful towards the person. It’s said that %7 of our words convey what we really say to another, but our body language is what is really speaking, and the Japanese truly want to express themselves through the act of body language instead of just language, which is quite interesting, being that some western body language is barely seen at times when someone is conveying gratitude or appreciation, yet feels it!

The second most common situation with bowing is called ‘keirei’ bow. This is generally used for business interactions. The bow comes from the waist, and the torso of the body reaches down to about 30 degrees. It’s used when leaving or entering reception and meeting rooms as well as when meeting or greeting a customer.

Diagram of Degrees of Bowing in JapanThe third is called ‘saikeirei’ and it is the most polite bow. It’s extends down to 45 degrees and is used for express extreme feelings of thankfulness ‘Domo arigatou gozaimashita’ or if it needs to be a very sincere apology. ‘Gomenasi!!!’.

Hand gesture in Japan before and after eatingThere is another custom that can be noted here as well. There is a gesture called ‘gassho’ which is clasping of the hands. It’s a gesture of putting the palms of both of your hands together in front of your chest. This gesture originally comes from Buddhism, and being that most of Japan is Buddhist it’s fair to say that this custom is common. It’s custom to ‘gassho’ before and after when it eating.

‘Itadakimasu’!

Which is a word that means ‘to receive’ or ‘accept’, it’s a way to express thankfulness towards the food and who prepared it. But at times could also come off like ‘LETS EAT!’.

Here is a great video with a bit more bowing etiquette within it! It’s great to actually hear stories from an actual Japanese person about bowing, you really can start to understand it a bit more by seeing it through their eyes.

Read More

Izakaya Food, Drinks, Atmosphere and Etiquette

The How to and Dos and Donts of Izakaya Etiquette Foods Drink and MoreThe Japanese Izakaya

All you really need to know about Izakaya in Japan

It’s said that the infamous izakaya of Japan are basically small (sometimes large) restaurant/bars. This is where a lot of Japan goes before they end up going home for the night. Many will either visit a izakaya before or after their last train home. This is what makes Japan so alcohol friendly, there’s no need for designated drivers as long as you jump on the last train for the night (Usually between midnight and 1am).. but if you’re drunk as hell, you might want to remember your manners on the train.

Want to impress the local Japanese with your izakaya etiquette elite skills?

Try this one: Open the door to the izakaya, enter slightly inside (mostly with just your head), and say the following “haitte mo ii desuka?” which means, “may I come in?”. Now since you’ve totally just impressed everyone, lets move on!

When you arrive at a izakaya you may hear “otsukaresama deshita!!” (You look tired and deserve a drink!) and Kanpai (cheers)! This is a great place to unwind, relax, get wasted if you so choose and enjoy a great variety of izakaya foods. It’s not solely about the drink! During the weekdays you’ll notice a lot of coworkers sitting together talking and laughing to end their day before going home, and on the weekends izakayas are a popular location for get togethers, parties and the like.

First Snack and First Drink at Izakaya in Japan
“First Snack and First Drink” – o-tooshi tsuki-dashi

But it’s good to know when you first get there you will most likely be brought what they call a “o-tooshi tsuki-dashi” it means, “first snack, with the first drink”, and they can range from a basic cabbage mix to a bowl full of recently frozen edamame from China to a delicious seared tuna. But be sure to say something immediately if you do not want these appetizer/hors d’ourve then say “o-tooshi katto shite kudasai/お通しカットして下さい!” It means please remove or cut the appetizer. You can learn more about how to say Japanese hor d’ourves and Appetizer by reading this post.

But lets get to the good of an izakaya. What kind of foods are usually available at a izakaya in Japan?

Yakitori Food at a Japanese Bar
Yakitori at a Izakaya

The Top 7 Foods from Izakaya in Japan

#1: Okonomiyaki It’s usually a build your own pancake if you will, and it’s one of Japans more popular dishes believe it or not on street corners and izakaya. The Japanese meaning behind it is “as you like it”. So you can throw anything and basically everything you want into it!

Many times you’ll have cabbage, pork, fish, squid, or shrimp on the inside. The crispy and gooey meal is usually then drizzled with Kewpie mayo, blasted with some bonito flakes and layered with a bit of tonaktsu sauce!

#2: Korokke is a famous drinking appetizer in Japan at izakaya’s, it’s a fried croquette with potatoes and crabmeat.

#3: Yakitori of course is also a famous Japanese choice of appetizer and many times full meal. Yakitori is basically a skewered piece of chicken meat that it served with dipping sauce and a side of vegetables which are also skewered. You can also expect to see the skin, liver and heart of the tori (chicken) to be served as well

#4: Ikayaki is a basic type of o-tooshi (appetizer) that is a soy marinated squid (Ika) which is then grilled and sliced into pieces. It’s also a favorite street food in Japan and many street vendors will sell Ikayaki

#5: Omusubi and Onigiri are similar foods to sushi. These are basically rice, salmon, pickled plums, code or teriyaki spam or bacon wrapped in a nori (seaweed) wrap and severed with a blast of vinegar on the top.

#6: Karaage is Japanese fried chicken which is coated in potato starch which is called katakuriko. It’s a much lighter fried chicken then what most westerns are use to.

#7: Gyoza is a traditional Japanese food which is stuffed with vegetables and ground up pork meat. Gyoza is actually a potsticker, it’s a crispy meal that is covered in a sauce which is based around rice vinegar, soy and rayu which is a chile oil, this can be found in many real Chinese restaurants.

You might do well to learn basic chopstick etiquette while you are visiting izakaya in Japan.

It’s great to know these izakaya will pair their food nicely with the alcohol they serve.

Best Practices and Etiquette in a Izakaya in Japan
Drinking Etiquette in Japan and while at Izakaya

Izakaya Basic Etiquette

Izakayas are most of the time casual in their atmosphere, which overly means you leave the formality at the door!

#1: If you are with a group of people, it’s best to order the same drink as everyone else for the first round. Many times this will be a ‘nama biiru’ (which is a draft beer), this is normal and it’s something you will order before looking at the menu. You can ask for draft by saying ‘ Toriaezu, biiru’ (just beer for now).

#2: Using the phrase ‘Kanpi’ (cheers) before drinking and the phrase ‘itadakimasu’ (time to eat/thank you for the food) before you eat is a great way to be apart of the energy of the izakaya and to politely express that you are ready to eat.

#3: It’s considered polite to pour for others while in a group if you are drinking from bottles of sake or beer when they finish their cup, of course you can use this as a reminder for others to pour for you by pouring for them. If you are done drinking, just leave your cup full to avoid anyone else pouring for you.

#4: If you happen to be at a traditional izakaya, they may have bathrooms with bathroom only slippers. You’ll take off your shoes and use the slippers while in the bathroom, then you will take off the slippers when coming back out. It’s said that wearing the bathroom slippers out of the bathroom is one of the most embarrassing etiquette slip ups that you can make in Japan. I suppose it would be similar to have a piece of toilet paper sticking out of your shoe or pants.

You should be able to make your way around Japan and enjoy all the Izakaya you can possibly find!

Read More

Japanese Schools VS American Schools

What are the Differences of Japanese Schools and American Schools?What Differences to Expect When Going to School in Japan

Good Japanese Students are Seen Not Heard, American Students are Loud and Opinionated

There are a few things to understand about Japanese Schools and how they relate to American standard schools, and it comes down to the way you are taught, what the teacher expects from you and how you are graded.

In American schools, there is a lot of freedom to expression opinions and to ask questions. In fact, it’s said to be that those who take advantage of this idea are the ones who get the most of out classes in America and get the best grades. Whereas those who go to school in Japan will notice that it’s not as appropriate to ask questions in class, it’s more appropriate to ask questions after class or to ask your friends and classmates instead. It’s more of a virtue to be quiet during class, and by being ‘quiet’ you are seen as a good student in Japan, and with that, your grades can and many times will improve simply based off of that fact alone.

There is no eating or drinking in the class room or sitting on desks in Japan classrooms, whereas in America this custom is beginning to be the normality of going to school. When it comes to studying in Japan be it from 1st grade to University, the teacher will simply write down notes on the blackboard, and you will be responsible for taking down those notes and remembering them. Whereas in America the teachers do not use the blackboard as often and ask questions of the students while teaching. In Japan, it’s not very often you will see a teacher asking questions to their classroom.

When it comes to examinations, American classes rooms will expect you to be able to write down facts, names and history, but not only that but to form your opinion based around it as well. In Japan the notes you took while in class are simply the answers for many examinations, and you simply must just remember the facts. Although these two systems seem very opposite, the formulation of the illegal standards of Common Core in America is quickly leaving American school children behind. At this point although the Japanese system is a bit odd to us westerns, Japan is ranked #2 in schools in education in the world (from 2014) just under South Korea, whereas America was ranked #14.

So either way you want to look at it, Japanese students and the way they teach seem to be working much better then the American standards. No matter what the cultural shock may be, this remains to be a fact. But I often wonder with so much freedom overall given to American students if it creates a different kind of education, more of an opinionated one that could very well be the American spirit of freedom to do what one wishes. If one wishes to become more educated the platforms of doing so are there, as I’m sure it is in Japan if one wishes as well.

If you are interested in going to school in Japan I’d recommend checking out a non profit organization called Go Go Nihon, they will help you find a school in the area you’d like to study in for free (of course you still have to pay to go to school). I’d also suggest checking out my free Japanese learning resources here that will help you become more proficient in speaking, reading, writing and understanding Japanese.

So now you know the differences between Japanese Schools and American Schools!

Read More