Tofugu, in addition to being one of the greatest sources of Japanese culture and tradition on the interwebs, has really awesome articles about daily life in Japan. They offer a great range of tips for tourists and foreigners visiting the land of the rising sun, and this one, more specifically, is a must-share/must-see.
In modern Japanese society, bowing serves a variety of functions that go beyond this original intent. Generally speaking, you will bow when doing the following:
- Saying hello or goodbye to someone
- Starting or ending a class, meeting, or ceremony
- Thanking someone
- Apologizing to someone
- Congratulating someone
- Asking someone for a favor or their goodwill
- Worshipping someone or something
There are two main positions from which you can begin a bow in the first place:
The first is a seated position called seiza (正座). Seiza is the way you will be expected to sit in almost all formal situations, ranging from participating in a tea ceremony to mourning at a funeral. To get into seiza from a standing position, start by kneeling. Men should kneel one leg at a time, while women should put both knees on the ground at the same time, if possible. With the tops of your feet flat on the floor and your toes pointed straight back behind you, rest your hindquarters on your calves or heels. Keep your arms at your sides and put your hands palm-down on top of your thighs. Try to sit up as straight as possible. If you’ve never sat this way for any significant length of time, I would strongly recommend practicing at home, as it takes some getting used to.
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