Occasions when you should bow in Japan

Lowering the body is Japan's most traditional form of greeting since the 8th century. It may seem simple, but the act of bowing in awe, called ojigi [お辞儀] which literally means arc. Such a custom is full of meaning.

This show of respect is so important that Japanese people bow even when they are talking on the phone without anyone seeing. In today's article we will see several occasions where people should bow.

Depending on how it is done, it can indicate the degree of importance of both who is greeted and who greets. There are situations where some prostrate themselves on the floor in another length called sweetness.

See a list of situations where the Japanese tend to bow, then we'll talk a little about each one.

When apologizing During Greetings Acknowledgments Introductions As a way of Respecting Customers In Sports In Performances In Religious Situations

Bowing when apologizing

As the picture at the beginning of the article shows, if you make a mistake, you must apologize and bow. A light apology requires you to lower your head slightly by 10 degrees.

Let's say you are a waiter and you spill hot coffee on a customer. You can make a 45 degree turn and say:  Moushiwake Gozaimasen which literally means "I'm sorry".

Now let's say that you have committed a crime, and you want to apologize to the victim. You must bow in a kneeling position and say: Makoto ni Moushiwake Gozaimasen deshita which means "I sincerely apologize for what I did".

Bowing during Greetings

The most common greeting is to slightly lower the head and shoulders by up to 10 degrees. For the Japanese, such a movement is kind of automatic and sometimes it goes unnoticed because of how fast and short the tilt of the head is.

This gesture of respect is used both to greet and to say goodbye. In extremely formal circumstances a complete arc can be performed. There are times when the classic handshake can be performed.

Occasions when you should bow in japan

Bow when doing Thanks

If someone gives you a place in the queue, it is common to bow your head superficially in thanks. It is also very common for drivers to bow their heads in thanks for small courtesies.

Any time you feel the need to thank someone, it can be a time to bow. It is very likely that the person who also did the favor will bow his head slightly as a sign of nothing.

Bowing in Introductions

In casual and formal presentations, the upper body should be bent at an angle of up to 30 degrees. If the person is extremely important, you can bend up to 45 degrees. It is important to keep your head and shoulders straight and your arms aligned. There is no reason to maintain eye contact during a turn (it is considered rude).

In business, after exchanging the “meishi” (business card), those involved must bow and remain in that position for a moment before returning to the vertical position. Keep your distance to avoid hitting your heads (this happens).

Occasions when you should bow in japan

Bow as a way of respect

The act of bowing is an expression of humility and always indicates respect. Some tend to bow to animals or even objects. Even the animals have gotten used to it, and in Nara you can see some deer bowing. In the photo we have a caretaker bowing to a whale.

Occasions when you should bow in japan

Bowing to customers

In Japan, customers are considered very important. It is very common for employees to bow to customers. Some stores and companies instruct their employees how to properly bow to a customer.

Bowing in Sports

Other occasions when Japanese people bow is before or after sports games, martial arts, sumo, and even card games like Karuta. On these occasions it is customary to bend up to 20 degrees.

At the beginning of a sport, the curved person is saying “yoroshiku onegai shimasu” and at the end when curving she says “arigatou gozaimashita”. In some sports such as martial arts, and karuta, you must bow not only to your opponent but to the coach or whoever is running the game.

Occasions when you should bow in japan

Bowing in Performances

As in the West, it is common for artists to bow in response to applause. In the presentation of a theater, geisha, events where actors, voice actors are present performing some performance, even music shows.

In the case of geisha or traditional performances, artists tend to bend completely on their knees.

Bowing in religious situations

It is also common to bow down a little to the gods in a Shinto shrine. Shinto ceremonies almost always require a full bow from a kneeling position.

Occasions when you should bow in japan

Of course, there are several other occasions when you should bow down. If you know one that was not mentioned, comment here.

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