Japanese bowing as manner
Hi. I’m Yukako who lives in the northern part of Europe, and teaches and tells people about Japanese traditional culture such as tea ceremony, kimono, etc. offline and online.
Japanese specific manner
If you have ever communicated with Japanese, you may notice that they have their original manner. For example, we often say, “Sorry” to tell “Thank you.” It is also more common to bow instead of shaking hands, or sometimes you may see Japanese shaking hands with a bow.
Before the western style of lifestyle was introduced to Japan, we sit on floor called tatami. When we greet on the floor, we sit and bend the upper part of body with hands on the floor. However, after we were integrated to the western style, this custom was succeeded and transformed as a fusion of the western and Japanese style. So, even though we wear suits and sit on the chair, we can’t help bowing when greeting. But for foreigners the view that Japanese frequently bow a lot may seem strange. Japan has been influenced with Confucianism, and bowing is a greeting way which is usually from the younger to the older. This is because we are also taught to do so since childhood to show respect to others. For example, bowing is an integral part of traditional martial arts such as Kendo and Karate.
There are mainly two types of bowing, a deep bowing and light one. When you greet your boss or customer, you usually bow deeply. You bend your upper body from your waist and hands are in front or sides of your body. If you want casually greet, the light bowing is fine. You just bow only your head, like you move your head up and down. You may even add one hand up in front of your face. You can see the difference between these two styles, can’t you?
I hope this manner helps you to understand Japanese custom more!