One of Japanese Manners: Bows

I would like to write about a Japanese style bow today. In general, instead of hugging or shaking hands, we bow. It is our greeting way because Japanese summers are humid; it is called we wanted to avoid shaking wet hands.

When I chatted with my Texan friend over Skype a couple of weeks ago, he showed me some very funny video clips. So, I would like to share them first.



Actually, he asked some very interesting questions to me. That’s why I thought I wanted to write about this blog entry.

He asked me about a bow degree. Before I heard his question and watched the video clips, I never thought about it. We have several bow degrees. However, I have never heard, ” a shit bow ” in Japan. I think all bows are bows. I searched about bows. According to the Japanese Wikipedia, a 15 degree bow is called, 会釈 ( esyaku ): we used the bow when we walk pass someone , a 30 degree bow is used for a business scene; it is called 敬礼 ( keirei ), a 45 degree bow is the most polite bow; when we show our respect, appreciate or apologise, we do it. It is called 最敬礼 ( saikeirei ) in Japanese. Before we bow with the 45 degree bow, if we carry our bags, we put them somewhere and bow. It is our manner. We also have a 90 degree bow. It is used for some very important people. When the American president Obama came to Japan, he bowed our Emperor and Empress with the bow. When we looked at the scene, we were very admired by his attitude.

Actually, the video clips reminded me of my bitter experiences. When I was a middle school student, I have some bitter experiences that relates to bows. I had belonged to a tennis club at that time.( I had been playing tennis from middle school to university for 10 years at school.) When I was in a first grade of middle school, some senior students who also belonged to the same club were very bully. They ordered us we had to show our respect them with 90 degree bows. They were so-called freaks. Since if we didn’t accept it, we already knew what happened to us, we followed it. So, every time we walked pass them on the hallways at school, we had to do it many times until they passed through us. We sometimes felt dizzy; some of us felt down. Once one of our parents who was a president of our PTA committee complained about it to our teacher. After the teacher scolded the senior students, the situation became worst. They started to be mean more. We were called in a room that we had been using for our club one by one, they made us stand in front of them, they ordered to bow many times until they were satisfied with it. While seeing, they were laughing out. They were crazy. I thought I really wanted to become smarter than them; got good grades and wanted to go to the higher leveled high school where they never ever could go.

After they graduated from our school, I became a captain. I quite such a very silly custom that there had been in our club for a long time.

I appreciate my bitter experiences at my middle school days. I learned a lot in the club. I especially learned the guts through my experiences.

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. toni acock
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 17:20:59

    This is a very interesting subject and you are a very wise person in how you handled this difficulty. I thank you for teaching us about the bow protocol and I too very proud of our president for being astute and sensitive to other cultures.


    • yumi
      Sep 13, 2011 @ 13:54:55

      Hi, Toni. Thanks for visiting my blog and reading my blog entry. I didn’t know that the picture that your president is bowing to our Enpreror and Enpress is kind of contravertial picture after I heard the story from my American friend. I am glad that you accept our culture and understand our culture.


  2. Marisol
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 19:38:17

    I found this entry very interesting.I neve thought in this before.Thank you.


  3. Matthew
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 23:42:18

    i remember when President Obama bowed to the Emperor of Japan. Many conservative people in America were angry at President Obama for bowing. They felt he showed weakness by bowing. There are a lot of dumb people in America that don’t understand Japanese culture. I think the bow is the greatest greeting in the world. It shows even if you have the most powerful job in the world, like the U.S. president, you can still show great humility to others by bowing.


    • yumi
      Sep 13, 2011 @ 13:58:24

      Hi, Matt. Thanks for the comment. Thank you so much for teaching me not only English but also American culture every time we chat.
      I also appreciate you gave me a chance to write about it on my blog.

      Did you check out my voice message? I am sorry it isn’t a good one to choose as a tpic, but I am very interested in the article. So, I would love to discuss it tomorrow. I hope you get it and check it out. I am really looking forward to talking to you tomorrow about it!



  4. Daisy
    Nov 12, 2011 @ 13:39:45

    this is a very interesting entry ^^
    I enjoyed reading it =)


  5. niasunset
    Dec 09, 2011 @ 12:18:51

    Do you know dear Yumi, I didn’t know that there were differences between bows… Thank you for sharing with us, I learned something today, this is a wonderful blog, you should write more, Blessing and Happiness, with my love, nia


    • yumi
      Dec 23, 2011 @ 10:12:54

      Hi, nia. Thanks for the comment. Yeah, most of Western people don’t know about bows’ degrees. Actually, the topic was very interesting. I have a good American friend. He always gives me good ideas and hints for my blog. I’m happy you learned something from my this blog entry!


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