Japanese Etiquette

It would pleasantly surprise our guests if we show that we had given some attention to Japanese language and culture. Therefore we offer these simple suggestions:

Basic Japanese Phrases

こんにちは。 Konnichiwa. (kon-nee-chee-WAH)

How are you?
お元気ですか。 O-genki desu ka? (oh-GEN-kee dess-KAH?)

Fine, thank you.
元気です。 Genki desu. (GEN-kee dess)

What is your name?
お名前は何ですか。 O-namae wa nan desu ka? (oh-NAH-mah-eh wah NAHN dess-KAH?)

My name is ____ .
私の名前は ____ です。 Watashi no namae wa ____ desu. (wah-TAH-shee no nah-mah-eh wa ____ dess)

Nice to meet you.
始めまして。 Hajimemashite. (hah-jee-meh-MOSH-teh)

Please. (request)
お願いします。 Onegai shimasu. (oh-neh-gigh shee-moss)

Please. (offer)
どうぞ。 Dōzo. (DOH-zo)

Thank you.
どうもありがとう。 Dōmo arigatō. (doh-moh ah-ree-GAH-toh)

You’re welcome.
どういたしまして。 Dō itashi mashite. (doh EE-tah-shee mosh-teh)

はい。 Hai. (HIGH)

いいえ。 Iie. (EE-eh)

Excuse me.
すみません。 Sumimasen. (soo-mee-mah-sen)

I’m sorry.
御免なさい。 Gomen-nasai. (goh-men-nah-sigh)


Standing Bow

bowBows are the traditional greeting in East Asia, particularly in Korea and Japan. However, bowing is not reserved only for greetings. Bowing is a gesture of respect. Different bows are used for apologies and gratitude; to express humility, sincerity, remorse or deference; and in various traditional arts and religious ceremonies.

One must stand correctly in order to make a proper bow: the back should be straight and the shoulders relaxed; men should hold their hands at their sides, fingers together and slightly cupped so that the thumb and the index finger touch; women’s hands are positioned slightly higher and toward the front, fingers held together and the whole hand flattened on the thigh. Eyes should be cast slightly downward. Women should keep their feet together, while men spread theirs slightly.

There are three levels of formality for the standing bow: shin, gyo and so.

A formal shin bow is made by bending from the hips, keeping the back and head in a straight line. As the bow is made, the hands move to the knees; once they reach the knees, the bow is complete. This bow is used between the host and the guests.

The semi-formal gyo bow is made the same way, although the bow is now not so deep, the hands touching the leg approximately one-third up the thigh from the knee. This bow is used between guests.

The informal so bow, also used between guests, is made by tilting the body forward slightly and resting the hands on the upper part of the thigh.

Adapted from Chado: The Japanese Way of Tea by Sioshitsu Sen