NILS Fukuoka Times

Today's Phrase

Japanese Customs #2: Greetings


How to Bow

Even though bowing as a form of greetings is used in cultures around the world, many people seem to think bowing is “very Japanese.” Japanese people do bow frequently to just about anyone and few shake hands. Books on manners often give advice on the angle of bowing. In general, you are supposed to bow at a 45-degree angle to someone that you would like to show the upmost respect. For those you meet for the first time, you should bow at about 30 degrees. For acquaintances and friends, 10 degrees is sufficient. Showing respect is still formalized this way in Japan.


New Year’s Cards

Sending New Year’s Cards is a very common way of greeting for the holiday season. This custom dates back to the Edo Period, when Hikyaku (express messenger) delivered messages. During the Meiji Period, the Postal Service took place of Hikyaku, and in 1935, begun selling New Year’s postage stamps. In 1949, the Postal Service started selling Otoshidama Nenga Hagaki (New Year’s Postcards with lottery), and this service is still available today. In 1996, more than 4 billion such cards were sold, 4.46 billion in 2003. With the spread of email and cell phones, this number has declined somewhat, but the Postal Service still sold 3.2 billion cards in 2014. That’s about 27 cards for each Japanese person. You don’t need to go to a post office to purchase New Year’s cards. Any convenience store will carry them, and many have unique illustrations.



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