April 14, 2020

How To Meet-and-Greet In The Age Of Social Distancing – A Japanese Way

My first experience with the emerging new etiquette of eliminating physical contact was at a friend’s house about two months ago. “We aren’t supposed to hug anymore. Air hug,” she said as soon as she opened the door for me. We air-hugged then air-kissed.

bow illustration 1

Within a few weeks, no-touch greetings became a rapidly growing movement around the world. People are getting creative about saying “hi” with bumping elbows and tapping feet, or adopting one of those many other unique suggestions that are popping up online, such as secret dancing and giving finger guns & a wink.

creative greetingsLeft image by mariedera    Right image  by William Kriege via Flickrr

Japanese culture has always greeted each other warmly, without touching each other, with a bow. Bowing is not only a basic formality in Japan, it is a very expressive body language that is a big part of communication and sometimes speaks more than words. We think now is the good time to introduce the idea to the world!

bow 8

A bow can take on many meanings. It is used to say hello and goodbye, express gratitude and apology, ask for a favor and convey sympathy. It is seen in the office, in class, in shops, in the street, even from people on their phones. There is a study that shows a Japanese person bows more than twenty times in a typical day!

ceremonyFamily members bowing to the guardian god to purify the building site of their house at Jichin-sai. 


weddingBride and groom bowing to their guests

Though a bow is so commonly used and its motion looks simple, there are unwritten manners and hidden nuances that quite a few people in Japan feel they are not bowing properly. (I am one of them. I tried to improve my bow in front of a mirror after my manners teacher had described my bow as “an odd-shaped cucumber.” After twenty years I still do not feel right about my bow.)

But here in the U.S. and outside of Japanese culture, we can only implement the practical and favorable aspect of bowing. We are sharing four basic rules that make your bow natural and appropriate.

bow illustration

- Don’t multitask. (Put your phone down.)
- Do it with good posture. (Arms on the side or in front.)
- Look at your shoes. (No eye contact with the other person(s) while bowing.)
- Longer, deeper bow means more respect. (But don’t overdo it!)

Knowing there basic rules, you can give and receive bows when you have a chance to visit Japan. Because most Japanese do not expect foreigners to know proper bowing rules, showing you have made that effort will earn you considerable goodwill from the locals!


Meet Anne, a Former Chigiri-e Course Student of Ours, Now a Chigiri-e Expert

May 26, 2020

On February 15, I was at a charming little house/production studio bathing under the Southern California sun. We had been wanting to do this project for a long time.


Japanese Healthy Salad Dressing Recipes You Should Make at Home: PART 1

May 18, 2020

One Japanese habit that would surprise visitors is how we love eating salads. In Japan, most meals, regardless of traditional or new cuisine, are served with a salad on the side to keep things in balance. We eat salads for breakfast as well!


Japanese Cleaning Tips for Keeping Home Impeccable: Part 1

May 11, 2020

Cleaning in Japan may differ a bit from western societies, particularly in cleaning habits and cultural expectations that are ingrained into us. The culture that values cleanness is even reflected in Japanese vocabulary. “Clean/hygienic” is translated to kirei (きれい) in Japanese which also means “beautiful/good-looking.”


Masks with Creative Designs Lighten Mood Amid COVID-19 in Japan

May 4, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic has led to a shortage of medical-grade face masks and people were advised to leave those limited supplies for health care workers, Japanese people started making their own face masks in response.


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