Learning to bow – Ojigi

Incidentally, this is also the name of the book that I am reading right now. But what I write here is not about the book It is about the “art of bowing”, which is an integral part of the Japanese society. Believe me, it is not easy. Anybody would think, what is so difficult about bowing…you are in for a surprise.

Bowing, in the Japanese custom, is used to apologize and is also a gesture of gratitude. People perform some form of ojigi to apologize, to bid guests farewell, to express gratitude, to greet others, or even to introduce themselves.Untitled-1

I have learned through experience that the longer and deeper the bow, the more the emotion or the greater the difference in social standing between the two parties. I did not realize this initially and ended up bowing usually shorter than needed, more often with just a slight tilt of my head.
Now I understand how rude I must have seemed back then.

After almost 11 years in Japan, I “think” that Ii fairly understand what kind of a situation/person asks for what “degree” and “length” of bow.
But believe me, it took quite some struggle to reach here. It isn’t easy, especially when it is associated with respect/gratitude towards the other person/party. You cannot take a risk, can you? Not in Japan, at least, although I have heard through friends that Japanese usually do not expect foreigners to bow and don’t mind a handshake either.

Well, after all those years of working at it, I better do it – bow appropriately and appear polite and well aware of the Japanese culture…and not just another “gaijin”(foreigner)

Note the difference between how men and women bow.


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