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Japanese Etiquette

Some Interesting Facts about Japanese Etiquette

Because the Japanese are much more concerned with tradition and correct behavior than Westerners, it is necessary to learn about Japanese etiquette when dealing with people of this culture and especially before taking a trip to Japan. The last thing you would want to do is to offend someone simply because you didn’t take the time to learn about cultural differences.

While the Japanese usually greet each other by bowing, it is not a breach of Japanese etiquette to offer to shake hands. All Japanese people who deal with foreigners on a regular basis are used to this behavior. When talking to one another, it is customary to stand further apart than Americans or Europeans do, and to use a very quiet tone. There may be many pauses in a conversation, which are normal for the Japanese, but which can make people from other cultures, such as the United States, feel ill at ease.

Today Japan has many offices and restaurants that are Western in style. When visiting one of these, it is not necessary to remove your shoes. However, if you are visiting the home of a Japanese family, a temple, a traditional restaurant or other type of business, it is expected that you will remove your shoes before going inside. Another Japanese etiquette rule that must be observed is one seems quite odd to most Americans. Whether you are in a private home or at a hot spring at one of Japan’s communal baths, it is necessary to wash yourself before getting into the tub or spa.

In Japan as in many other Asian countries, tips are not given. You don’t need to tip at restaurants, hotels, or with taxis or others who do you a service. Most of the time if a tip is offered, it is refused. Japanese hotels and eating establishments usually charge a fifteen percent surcharge on your bill.

Japanese etiquette includes many different traditions when it comes to dining out or going to a private dinner party. There is a place of honor at the table, and this spot is marked with an elevated alcove that usually has a scroll on the wall and flowers or some kind of special ornament on the floor. Dinner has not begun until the host has raised his glass to begin a toast to all who are present.

Chop sticks are the most accepted tools for eating and are the only choice in most traditional Japanese restaurants. Still, if you are having a hard time eating with chop sticks, it will not offend anyone if you ask for a fork and knife. If you are eating in any of the Western-style restaurants, silverware is always available. Restaurants in Japan also provide a hot towel on which you are to clean your hands before starting to eat.

The quiet public manner of  the Japanese is very different from what you find in the United States and other Western countries. The Japanese people separate “honne” and “tatemae” which are words that mean “true or real feelings” and “your worldly face” respectively. It is because of this emphasis on “face” that voices are not raised in anger nor do arguments take place in public. It is better to hold in feelings and not act on them than to be disrespectful to another person.




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