Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Visiting the Japanese Home

Pictured: A Japanese Castle

by: Tom Takihi

So, you plan to visit a Japanese home? Well, before you do such you must first learn the etiquette in Japanese homes. The Japanese home culture revolves around three values: courtesy, cleanliness, and graciousness. Learning to apply these values whether in the Japanese context or not benefits you not only as you deal with the Japanese - it will allow you better dealings and communications with other people as well.

Courtesy. The first thing you have to do is greet the family. Bowing slightly as you greet them would be the best move, for shaking hands is still an awkward formality in Japan. The lower you bow the more respect you give.

If you could bring a small present, do so, especially a food souvenir called “omiyage” in Japan to delight your hosts and immediately create a warm atmosphere. It is preferable to bring local culinary specialties from your home town or country.

During conversations, remember to be more subtle than usual with your thoughts and emotions. Compared to people in the Western culture, the Japanese are more reserved during talks. In Japanese discussions there is what they call the honne (real opinion) and the tatemae (public opinion). In most situations it is the tatemae that is expressed to not disturb group harmony or cause any offense. This is why the Japanese are considered bad at public debates. Do avoid interrupting people when they are speaking or are in the middle of thinking. The Japanese don’t mind short periods of silence during discussions.

Cleanliness. Leave your shoes outside the door, on the spot where others have left theirs. Wearing shoes inside a Japanese home is considered unclean. If you are not immediately provided slippers, you can wear your socks inside the house. So make sure you are wearing nice and socks without holes! If you are wearing slippers, remember to remove them as you enter a room with tatami mats on the floor, for slippers could damage these mats. There are special slippers especially designated for the toilet area, so remember to take off your slippers when entering such.

As in most Asian countries, it is rude to blow your nose in front of other people. It is especially rude to blow your nose in a handkerchief and then stuff the handkerchief in your pocket afterwards. The Japanese use paper tissue when doing such. Excuse yourself if you feel the urge to do this deed to avoid offending anyone.

Graciousness. During mealtimes, the Japanese will offer you to try everything served on the table. Make sure to amiably try even just a bite of each of the food. Place your chopsticks on a special holder and do not stick them up in your rice. As opposed to Western manners, Japanese slurp noodles. It is actually preferred that bowls or plates be brought up the mouth when slurping rather than bending your head towards it.

Of course the Japanese will know and understand that you are from another culture, but knowing their traditions before you set foot on their door helps your visit to go more smoothly. Most Japanese families that host visitors of other races are “spoilers”, meaning they want to give you everything you need in all efforts to please. Hence, always remember to be gracious and please them in return.

About The Author
Tom Takihi is the proud owner of Japan Discovery, the largest portal of information of Japan on the web. To learn more about the Japanese home etiquette, please visit-: http://www.japandiscovery.com/home_living/Etiquette/

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