Home > Japanese Culture > The boughs that bear most, hang lowest

The boughs that bear most, hang lowest

At first, please watch two footages. I would like you to pay much attention to their bow at a specific time.

Around 1:30

Around 2:30

‘Never take your eyes off your opponent’, Bruce Lee said. However, I think it’s a bit extraordinal case. You can, I mean, you should, look away if you want to bow in a Japanese formal way.

Let me explain how to bow to you. Broadly speaking, there are three types of how to bow, which are called ‘eshaku‘, ‘keirei‘, saikeirei‘.

The most casual bowing. You can do it when you run across someone. Saying ‘kon nichi wa(hello)’, etc., you shold bow lightly. It would be better if you dropped your eyes modestly from the person at the moment you’re bowing. It would be no problem for you to stop walking if the person were your friends, your neighbors, or colleagues.

It is probably the most common way you see at the beginning and the end of meetings. You also have to glance down, not keep looking at the person’s eyes. I’m not sure, but it would be better for you to look at the person’s toes when you’re bowing. One more thing, you should stop moving, stand upright, and look at the person’s eyes right before bowing. Stop moving, standing upright, looking at the eyes, and bowing.

keirei is often used when you bow before your seniors, superiors, customers, clients, and interviewers.

The most formal bowing to show your respect. At ceremonial scenes such as at funerals or weddings, saikeirei is used. You would have to bow to the emperors if you were Japanese. Don’t hold anything in your hands when bowing. Men should have your both hands straight along both sides of your body and women should lay your hand on another hand around below your navel. saikeirei is also used when you want to apologize seriously. I often do saikeirei because I make a lot of mistakes on my work.(just kidding)

Tilted angles are the big difference between the three types of bowing. I just found a good example. Please take a look at this image. If you were an interviewee, I think you would have to learn keirei at first.

Some people might think it was controversial, though, it was a good example of saikeirei for non-Japanese. I just thought the President would have learned Japanese cultures in advance and tried to show his politeness. Look at the Empress. Her hands are being put on around her below navel.

Anyway, forget what Bruce Lee and Miyagi-san are saying in the footages. Just glance down your eyes while bowing. That’s what matters most.

Categories: Japanese Culture
  1. February 1, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    A great lesson. Love this. 🙂

    So it’s very disrespectful to keep constant eye contact?

    • honeypotter
      February 2, 2011 at 4:22 am

      >it’s very disrespectful…?

      No. It’s a bit unnatural or awkward. In the footages, it’s said that keeping one’s eyes on opposites is to protect oneself from attacks. However, I’m not sure, looking away downward might imply that I’m not your enemy, like holding up.

  2. February 2, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    I was also thinking that not looking down was a way of protecting yourself from your opponent, that is, keeping your eye on them.

    Hmm, looking downward implying that you’re not my enemy. I guess you’re right.

    We were taught that making eye contact is a good thing. It shows that you’re not afraid, that by not turning or looking away you’re showing the person or people that you’re speaking to respect. Giving them your full attention.

    Write about Japanese mannerism.

    • honeypotter
      February 2, 2011 at 6:24 pm

      Hi, girlgeum 🙂

      >We were taught that making eye contact is a good thing.

      Exactly. Once we start talking, it is also said in Japan that looking at your conversation partners’ eyes softly is pretty polite while talking. Only when we bow, we’ve got to do like I wrote above. As you said, looking away frequently while talking shows that he/she is squirming, and it means that he/she loses their confidence.

      However, girlgeum, I couldn’t help looking away if someone special was gazing at me with affection. I’m sure you could do, too. Just imagine, girlgeum, you can see your own figure in someone’s eyes like a mirror. Ummm, such a romantic situation! 😆

      Japanese mannerism. Okay, I’ll try it. 🙂

  3. February 3, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Yes, looking lovingly in your lover’s eye can be nerve-racking, well not that much. Let’s just say that looking casually away is a good thing. Why am I smiling to myself? Well I’m imagining it.

    I’ve never been in love.

    • honeypotter
      February 4, 2011 at 5:44 pm

      Hi, girlgeum. 🙂

      Oh…you’ve not been in love. Being in love is like a drug. Sometimes annyoing, sometimes fascinating. 😉

      Oh, girlgeum, I’ll write an article tonight, which is regarding auspicious numbers and inauspicious numbers in Japan.

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