Tour 4: Cultural Lesson – How deep to Bow!

Posted on Apr 28, 2013 in Hiroko's Blog

During our tour every minute in Japan was a learning opportunity for my dear tour attendees. Here is Rick perfecting the bowing in Asakusa. He is in front of a large stone Buddha. His inclination is about 45 degree. This is the degree which we use when we go to the shrine and temple, and to offer a prayer to Shinto god or Buddha. Rick’s eye is perfectly looking down the ground. He learned this just a couple of days stay in Tokyo.

Here is a little bit more about “bow” in Japanese culture. Knowing how to make a proper “bow” is very important in Japan. How you do it properly in varied situation tells where you are from.

In Japan April 1st signals the beginning of new employees’ long and committed corporate life at a company where they are employed. Each company spends about 3 weeks to 1 month to offer a special company education seminar, Shin’nyu Shain Kenshu, to the new employees. The purpose of this education is to teach young employees the company culture and its products, thus motivating them to work hard and make a big contribution to the company in the coming years.

The subjects covered during the session;
Company’s mission and goal/ Company’s products appeal/ How to survive the competition/ Whey customers are important/ How to become a successful businessman/ Importance of taking care of clients/ How do you get a promotion/ What the company and the boss expect from you/ Why quality comes first/ Cost down/ Company colleagues are different from your college friends/ How to win the trust of your boss and clients/…..the list goes on and on.

As a part of the education, the new employees is given a class how to bow properly. There are variations, but here is one example.

70 degree bow: used when greeting someone – mostly higher in hierarchy – with deep respect; used also when making a big apology to people.

45 degree bow: used when making a formal greeting to someone higher in hierarchy, customers, teachers and clients; also used when welcoming people at home.

15 degree bow: used when making a casual greeting; also used as passing by greeting.

In addition to the above there is a exceptional greeting. It is 90 degree greeting. This is used only to greet the Emperor.

Today is April 25th, new employees in Japan will be finishing their seminar very soon.
If you plan a trip to Japan soon, please practice the bowing rules. Your visit will become more successful and pleasurable.