【TRAVEL Q&A】Why do Japanese people bow so often? Q&A RE: Greetings in Japan

11.October.2017 | FEATURES / SPOT

It is important to communicate with other people in a polite way in Japan. Below are some Q&A’s regarding manners and greetings in Japan.


1: What does “moshi moshi” mean?


“Moshi moshi” is a greeting phrase used when using a phone. Try greeting the person you are talking to with a “moshi moshi.” This is a true sign that you have acquired Japanese style!


2:Why do Japanese people bow so often?


If you’ve ever been in the busy city of Tokyo, you have surely spotted the typical scene of “salarymen” at stations bowing to the person they are talking to on the phone. This may seem quite strange at first, but bowing is a common sight in Japan. Think of bowing – or “ojigi” – as a Japanese alternative to a handshake. It can be used as a greeting, a sign of respect, gratitude or even an apology depending on the context. The most casual and perhaps the most commonly used bow is the “eshaku” where you do a light bow by lightly dipping your head forward. Bow at a 15-degree angle if you want to keep things technical.


3:So, when do you use “eshaku?”

Common examples would be when you are saying thank you to the restaurant / store staff, or when you bump into someone while walking the crowded streets of Tokyo and you want to say, “sumimasen,” (lit. “sorry” or “excuse me”) or when you pass by a coworker at work who is around the same age as you. Keep in mind that “eshaku” is the most casual form of “ojigi” so it may come off to be disrespectful if you choose to do this to someone who is significantly older or of a higher status than you.


4:Tell me about “ojigis” other than “eshaku.”


“Keirei” and “saikeirei” are other types of ogijis. “Keirei” is usually said to be bowing at a 30-degree angle bending from your waist. Both are usually used in work situations – the “keirei” bow can be used when greeting customers, so you may see shop or restaurant staff doing this to you when you leave the store as they say “arigato gozaimasu (thank you),” while the “saikeirei” bow is a more polite version of this and it is used to express sincere gratitude or apologies.


5:Can you tell me the rules when I want to call somebody’s name?

People in English-speaking countries use the word “you” when they want to speak to somebody else but it is not polite to use the word “you” in Japan. When you talk to somebody else who is not familiar to you, use “san” after calling his/her name.


6:I often hear the word “Irasshaimase” in restaurants or shops. What does it mean?


You will hear the word “Irasshaimase!” spoken by restaurant / shop staff when they greet their customers. You will hear this in practically every establishment you walk into – sometimes you might not even pick up on it because they are saying it too quickly. “Irasshaimase” is simply a greeting to welcome you into the restaurant / shop. No need to say anything in return – if you meet eyes with the staff, just offer a smile.


7:I have heard that Japanese people are very punctual.


When a Japanese person says, “Let’s meet at 5:00pm!,” he or she means it. It can also mean that the person will probably be there around 5~10 minutes early, just in case. Punctuality is a way of life in Japan – if only everyone was the same!


Was our Q&A helpful? MMN will continue answering your questions, so if you have anything you want to ask or need more information on something then just drop us a message on the MOSHI MOSHI NIPPON Facebook page and we wil be happy to help!