Japan and Its Customs
General Information on Japan
Japan has a population of approximately 125 million people packed tightly into a rather small geographic area. The official language in Japan is Japanese. Japanese is spoken only in Japan. The literacy rate in Japan is very close to 100 percent and 95 percent of the Japanese population has a high school education.
Japan’s form of government is parliamentarian democracy under the rule of a constitutional monarch. The dominant religion is Shinto, which is exclusive to Japan. However, the Japanese have no official religion.
1) Make appointments before you arrive in the country
Japanese don’t like newcomers. Make appointments before you arrive in the country. The best way is to be introduced personally by a Japanese agent, or better, by a Japanese business partner. Before you make an appointment send detailed information about your company. Your Japanese partners expect you to ask for the same.
2) Be on time
As a general rule, the Japanese are always on time. There are no such things as being "fashionably late" or making a "grand entrance". If an event is to begin at 09:00, then it is best to arrive a few minutes early to get yourself organized and be prepared to begin right at 09:00 (not 09:05).
3) Dress conservatively
In general, the Japanese are much more conscious of their appearance in public than we are in the West. Some Japanese would rather spend money on clothing than on food. In the large cities your clothing is a sign of your background, social status, or wealth. In general, women do not wear sleeveless tops, shorts, or revealing styles. To conform to the typical businessman's style, men wear dark two piece suits with plain white shirts and conservative ties.
The Japanese do not wear excessive amounts of jewellery that are
obvious signs of wealth. Although a piece of jewellery might be expensive, it is worn with a sense of quality, not quantity.
1) Greet with a long and low bow
Bowing represents humility. You elevate, honor, and respect the other person by humbling yourself or lowering yourself. The lower you bow, the more you are honoring or respecting the other party. As a Westerner, you are not expected to initiate a bow, but a bow should always be returned (except from personnel at department stores and restaurants who bow to welcome you, and to whom you can nod in return if you like). To not bow in return is similar to refusing a hand shake.
The person of lower status usually initiates the bow, bows the lowest, and is the last one to rise. Men usually leave their hands at their sides while bowing, but women usually place them together on their thighs with their fingertips overlapping or touching. On most occasions, especially when saying good-bye, there are several bows by all parties. Bowing is used for greetings and partings, for sincerity, humility, for ceremony, to acknowledge or show agreement.
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