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Do Japanese like to shake hands?


Handshaking is a common gesture in many cultures around the world. However, customs and traditions can vary from one country to another. In Japan, cultural norms and etiquette are highly valued, and it is important to understand the appropriate customs when visiting or doing business in Japan. This article will explore whether or not Japanese people like to shake hands, and if not, what alternatives they use.

The history of handshaking in Japan

The tradition of handshaking is not native to Japan. It was introduced in the 19th century by Westerners who came to Japan for trade and other purposes. At first, the Japanese saw the act of shaking hands as a foreign custom and did not embrace it.

Japanese Snack Box

Japanese greetings

In Japan, people greet each other with a bow, which is a sign of respect and humility. The depth and duration of the bow depend on the social status of the person being greeted. Handshaking is generally reserved for more formal occasions such as business meetings with foreigners.

The importance of harmony

Japanese culture values harmony and avoiding conflict. The act of shaking hands can be seen as too direct and confrontational, which goes against the Japanese philosophy of maintaining peaceful relationships.

Cultural differences in physical contact

In Japan, physical contact between strangers or acquaintances is generally avoided. Japanese people are not used to hugging or kissing as a form of greeting or farewell. Therefore, shaking hands can be seen as too intimate and uncomfortable.

The role of gender

In Japan, gender is an important aspect of social interaction. Men often greet each other with a bow or a nod while women may use a slight nod or small wave. Handshaking between men and women can be seen as inappropriate or uncomfortable.

Alternatives to handshaking

While handshaking is not common in Japan, there are other ways to show respect and greet others. Bowing is the most common form of greeting in Japan. There are different types of bows depending on the situation and level of respect being shown.

Bowing etiquette

When bowing, it’s important to keep your back straight and your eyes down. The depth and duration of the bow depend on the social status of the person being greeted. If you are unsure how to bow correctly, observe others or ask for guidance from a Japanese colleague or friend.

The meaning behind the bow

Bowing in Japan is not just a form of greeting; it also shows respect and humility. The act of bowing is considered an expression of gratitude and appreciation towards others.

Body language in Japan

In Japan, body language is an important aspect of communication. Eye contact is seen as a sign of sincerity, but prolonged eye contact can be seen as aggressive or confrontational. It’s important to be aware of your body language when communicating with Japanese people.

Cultural awareness in business

When doing business in Japan, it’s essential to understand the cultural norms and etiquette to avoid any misunderstandings or offending anyone unintentionally. Taking the time to learn about Japanese culture shows respect and can help build stronger business relationships.


In conclusion, while handshaking is not part of traditional Japanese culture, it has become more common in recent years due to increased internationalization. However, it’s still important to understand that bowing is the preferred way of greeting in Japan and that shaking hands may be uncomfortable for some people. By showing respect and understanding cultural differences, you can build stronger relationships with Japanese people both personally and professionally.

What is considered rude in Japanese culture?

In Japan, it is considered impolite to point at people or objects. Instead, the Japanese opt for a gentle wave with their hand to indicate something. Additionally, when referring to themselves, they will touch their nose with their forefinger instead of pointing directly at themselves. This cultural practice has been observed since at least 2017.

Which cultures don t shake hands?

Cultural customs for greeting vary depending on the country. In Vietnam, it’s customary to shake hands only with those who are equal in age or rank. In Thailand, people often bow with their hands together and up to their chest instead of shaking hands. In France and other places, it’s common to greet each other with a double cheek kiss.

What are signs of respect in Japan?

In Japan, bowing is a common way of greeting others. The depth of the bow indicates the level of respect or formality you want to convey. A small bow of the head and neck is sufficient for friends and acquaintances in casual settings.

What do Japanese respect more?

The culture of Japan places significant emphasis on respecting privacy and maintaining hierarchy within the family. In daily interactions, individuals exhibit such high levels of respect towards strangers that it may seem difficult to form friendships with them.

What not to say to a Japanese person?

It is not considered polite in Japan to address other people by their first names, which is common in the Western world. This is especially important when speaking to a superior, an elder, or someone you have just met.

Are Americans welcome in Japan?

At present, individuals holding U.S. passports are not required to obtain visas for visits lasting up to three months. Starting from October 11, 2022, fully vaccinated travelers who have received vaccinations approved by the Japanese government and are arriving in Japan will not need to take a COVID-19 test before traveling.

Modern Japan and Handshaking

As Japan becomes more globalized, the younger generation is becoming more accustomed to shaking hands. It’s becoming more common to see handshaking in informal situations, especially among friends and acquaintances who have been influenced by Western culture. However, it’s still important to be aware of cultural differences and to respect the traditional Japanese way of greeting.

Handshaking with Foreigners

When meeting foreigners in Japan, Japanese people may feel uncomfortable or uncertain about whether or not to shake hands. In this case, it’s best to follow the lead of the foreigner. If the foreigner extends their hand for a handshake, it’s appropriate to reciprocate. However, if the foreigner bows instead, it’s best to bow in return.

The Future of Handshaking in Japan

The future of handshaking in Japan is uncertain. While it’s becoming more common among younger generations, traditional Japanese customs are still deeply ingrained in society. It’s possible that handshaking will become more widespread as Japan continues to globalize, but it’s important to always be respectful of cultural differences and traditions.

Other Forms of Physical Contact in Japan

While hugging and kissing are not common forms of greeting or farewell in Japan, there are other forms of physical contact that are acceptable. For example, patting someone on the back or gently touching their arm can be a sign of encouragement or support.

Closing Thoughts

Understanding cultural differences is essential when interacting with people from different countries and backgrounds. In Japan, bowing is the preferred form of greeting, and while handshaking is becoming more accepted, it’s important to be respectful of traditional customs. By showing respect and understanding cultural differences, you can build stronger relationships with Japanese people and create a more harmonious global community.

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