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Strange? or Mysterious? 9 Distinctive Japanese Gestures and Styles

Strange? or Mysterious? 9 Distinctive Japanese Gestures and Styles

Translated by UCHACA

Written by Misaki Tachibana

2014.06.09 Bookmark

When many Japanese people go abroad and say, "I'm from Japan", many foreigners say "Konichiwa" and put their hands together. But actually, most Japanese people don't do that kind of gesture when greeting people. In this article, We'll teach you the most common gestures you'll see in Japan.

I hope this article will help answering some questions you have about Japanese gestures.

How many distinctive Japanese gestures do you know?

(1) Politely bowing when talking on the phone


Many Japanese people are so naturally inclined to bow that they often bow on the telephone, even though nobody can see them. Usually telephone bows won’t go beyond the “nod-bow”, but there are some who are really hardcore. The meaning of a bow totally depends on the situation, depth, and the length of time you hold your bow. Bowing in Japan shows respect for the person or thing you’re bowing to. Societal ranking in Japanese is really important.

(2) Politely bowing when leaving a place


Often, when Japanese people bow when leaving a place or or saying good-bye, the bows will start off deeper, then gradually get smaller and shorter with the times they bow. It’s kind of a “Oh, you bowed, I 'd better bow again,” which is responded to with a “Oh no, she bowed again, I'd better bow,too.” And this continues until the bows get small enough where both sides can stop. They just don’t want to get out-bowed by the other person if they’re trying to show respect to another .

(3) Making a peace sign when posing for a picture


It's one of the best known aspects of Japanese culture; that they like to give a two fingered peace sign (V-sign) in photos. They have various peace signs. For example, many junior and high school girls like to make a peace sign on their lips.

(4) Putting their hands together when apologizing


Japanese people often put their hands together (sometimes with a bow) when they apologize to their friends. But they use this gesture with only close acquaintances.

(5) Waving when leaving


Japanese people only use this gesture only with close acquaintances. They use this gesture while saying "Bye-bye"( Japanese people don't say "Good-bye"). And they sometimes wave their hands to express a feeling of denial or while rejecting something.

(6) Touching their hair


Many Japanese people touch their hair subconsciously when they talk or when they have nothing to do. You may think this gesture is a little strange. It's said that they touch their hair to mask their confusion. As you know, many Japanese people are shy, so they might be looking for a way to calm their nervousness by touching their hair.

(7) Covering their mouths with their hands when laughing


They cover their mouths when laughing because laughing with a wide mouth wide open is considered vulgar in Japanese culture. Some people cover their mouths when eating. It is considered that Japanese beauty comes from not making facial expressions clear.

(8) Keep smiling


Many Japanese people smile for various reasons, including when they are embarrassed, apologetic, and mentioning unfortunate events. Someone who knows Japanese culture well can distinguish between these “types” of smiles and recognize the emotions they are really express.But many tourists from other countries cannot understand the reason why they are laughing, so they are likely to misinterpret the reasons for the smile. You need to understand the differences between the smiles in Japan. Then, you can enjoy and understand Japanese culture more deeply.

(9) Wearing a mask


You may be surprised with the many people wearing masks in Japan. As a courtesy to others they wear a mask to prevent transmission of germs and airborne allergy inducing pollen. Moreover, in these days, many women wear mask because they can cover their face with no make-up, so in many drugstores, you can find a colored masks and even scented masks for women.

What do you think about these 9 gestures and styles in Japan? But of course, there are more distinctive gestures and styles in Japan. Each of them has a deep meaning and history. How about finding and learning Japanese gestures during your stay in Japan?

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