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Japanese Greeting & Bowing Customs: The Ultimate Guide

In Japan, manners, etiquette, and formality are signs of a cultivated and polite person and are highly appreciated from foreign guests and visitors. Though non-Japanese will get lots of leeway, knowing a thing or two about how to properly greet Japanese people following their own customs will win you lots of acceptance and praise. 

Bowing in Japan

The main form of greeting in Japan is of course bowing. Bowing is practiced elsewhere in Asia and each country has a little bit of a different spin on this formal and polite gesture. Japanese bowing is usually separated into a few different styles based on how formal or how respectful the situation or person you are greeting is. 

A Casual Nod, Irasshaimase

It’s important to know that bowing is not always needed in Japan. Often times a casual nod wil be adequite. For example, a simple nod from the head can be used to greet someone when entering a shop. When guests enter restaurants or shops, the staff may greet them with “Irasshaimase”.

chinese tea

3 Types of Japanese Bows: Saikeirei, Keirei & Eshaku

As for more formal bows, they are usually separated into two main categories, Saikeirei and Keirei. Knowing the difference between the two is extremely important as they’re applied in a different setting.

The first variety, the Saikeirei bow is performed to show gratitude or to show apology and is performed by bowing at the waist at a 45-degree angle.

The next category is the Keirei which is done at about 30 degrees at the waist and is often used in formal business settings. At last, the Eshaku bow is a bow at about a 15-degree angle and is a less formal method of bowing. 

Japanese Greetings

As for verbal greetings, “Konnichiwa” along with one of the above-mentioned bows depending on the situation and context is sufficient to greet another person.

Another greeting is “ohayō gozaimasu” which means “good morning” and is only used till about noon. To say “good evening” the proper greeting is “konbanwa”.

When in doubt, just smile, and bow or opt for “konnichiwa”! Once you have mastered these greetings, your stay in Japan will get easier and easier each time!

Sources:

  • “Etiquette in Japan.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Jan. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etiquette_in_Japan.
  • “Japanese Greeting.” Etiquette, www.japan-guide.com/e/e2000.html#:~:text=In%20Japan%2C%20people%20greet%20each,on%20their%20knees%20to%20bow.
  • Takkhis. “Japanese Greetings Etiquette.” Kyuhoshi, 19 Feb. 2020, www.kyuhoshi.com/japanese-greetings-etiquette/. 
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Active traveller with a love for Asian food and Japanese anime.