Japanese Manners – Rei and Archery

~January 2017

One common comment about the Japanese is that they are rigid. They have so many rules. Want a taste? Here’s are the ones I’ve been told during my stay here (as part of conversation, not because they are correcting me. I’m a foreigner, after all)

  • Where you sit matters. If you are in a high position, you have to stay farthest from the door. If you are in the lower position, then you should be closer to the door (this has Japan samurai ages origin. The one closest to the door gets killed first, right? :p)
  • When doing a toast, the lid of your cup should be lower. (I think the Chinese also has this).
  • Talking about lower – when giving your business card, yours has to be lower too, as a form of humility. If you clearly have a higher position, then you can have the higher one (but come on, how arrogant is that? :p)
  • Continuing on the lower part – when taking the escalator, your head has to be lower. So if going up, your boss should go first. When going down, you should go first. (go on, think about it!)
  • You cannot pour your own drinks, and people around you should not have empty cups (the opposite for Koreans, they said. For Koreans, the cup should be emptied before pouring more alcohol)
  • No loud talking on the train! and no phone calls!
  • Backpacks should not be worn on a crowded train as they take up space. So if you have a backpack, take it off your back and hold it in your hand (or put it down) if the train is crowded

These are just off the top of my head.

For one of our classes, we actually went to Ogasawara-ryu, one of the oldest samurai training clans. Basically, they used to teach the samurai (and other high class people) the right way to do things.

They even have a booklet of proper etiquette! Let me share some items:

  • The right way to bow – your fingers should be close together (not spread out).
  • When receiving a drink or food, put it down first before taking a drink/eating. Meaning if you receive a beer, put it down the table first, then lift it up to drink. Why? Because you are overly eager if you don’t put it down first.


We were taught the right way to bow. There are different bows – we were taught the standing up and kneeling ones. 



A lot of the “correct” ways to do things depend on where the main area is – like this, er, altar (?)
We were also taught how to do the traditional Japanese archery! That one was pretty cool. 
Then we leveled up! We got to try the wooden “horse”. Take note, he is squatting, not sitting. It seems that when they do archery, they don’t sit. They squat. Ouchie.

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