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What is considered respectful in Japanese culture?


Japanese culture is rich in tradition and customs that have been passed down through generations. Respect is a core value in Japanese society, and it is reflected in the way people interact with each other. Understanding what is considered respectful in Japanese culture can help foreigners navigate social situations and avoid unintentionally offending someone. In this article, we will explore the different ways Japanese people show respect.


Bowing is a common way of showing respect in Japan. The deeper the bow, the more respect is being shown. Bowing is used to greet someone, to show gratitude, or to apologize. When greeting someone for the first time, a slight bow is appropriate. When apologizing, a deep bow is expected. It is important to note that women tend to bow with their hands at their sides, while men place their hands on their thighs.

Japanese Snack Box

Using honorifics

Honorifics are suffixes added to a person’s name or title to show respect. In Japan, honorifics are used extensively in everyday language. The most common honorifics are –san, -sama, and –sensei. -san is used for acquaintances and colleagues, while -sama is reserved for people of higher status or authority. -Sensei is used to address teachers, doctors, and other professionals.

Avoiding direct confrontation

In Japanese culture, confrontation is seen as rude and disrespectful. Instead of directly criticizing someone, Japanese people use indirect language and non-verbal cues to express their feelings. This can be difficult for foreigners to understand, but it is important to be aware of this cultural difference when communicating with Japanese people.

Taking off shoes indoors

In Japanese homes and many public places, it is customary to remove one’s shoes before entering. This practice is rooted in the belief that shoes carry dirt and impurities from the outside world into the home. Visitors should look for a designated area where shoes are placed before entering a home or other indoor space.

Not wasting food

In Japan, wasting food is considered disrespectful because it shows a lack of appreciation for the effort that went into preparing it. It is customary to finish everything on your plate and to take only what you can eat. Leaving food uneaten or throwing it away can be seen as an insult to the chef or host.

Using chopsticks properly

Chopsticks are a common utensil in Japan, but using them incorrectly can be considered rude or disrespectful. It is important to hold chopsticks correctly and not use them to point or gesture while speaking. In addition, passing food from one set of chopsticks to another is considered bad luck because it resembles a funeral ritual.

Giving gifts

Gift-giving is an important part of Japanese culture and a way of showing respect and gratitude. Gifts should be wrapped neatly and presented with both hands as a sign of respect. It is also customary to refuse a gift once or twice before accepting it.

Respecting personal space

Japanese people value personal space and may feel uncomfortable if someone stands too close or touches them without permission. It is important to give others plenty of space and not invade their personal bubble.

Keeping quiet on public transportation

In Japan, talking loudly on public transportation is considered rude because it disturbs others who may be trying to rest or work. It is customary to keep quiet on buses, trains, and subways unless absolutely necessary.

Dressing appropriately

Dressing appropriately for different occasions shows respect for the event and the people attending it. For example, wearing formal attire to a wedding or business meeting shows respect for the occasion and the people involved.

Being punctual

In Japan, being on time is considered an important aspect of showing respect for others’ time and schedules. Arriving late without a good reason can be seen as disrespectful.


Respect plays an important role in Japanese culture, and understanding how it is communicated can help foreigners navigate social situations more effectively. Whether it’s bowing, using honorifics, or avoiding direct confrontation, there are many ways that Japanese people show respect for others. By following these customs and traditions, visitors can show their own respect for Japanese culture and its values.

What are examples of respect in Japanese culture?

In Japan, the common way to greet someone is with a bow. The level of respect or formality is reflected in the depth of the bow, with a small inclination of the head being suitable for friends and acquaintances.

What are signs of respect in Japanese culture?

Bowing, or ojigi, is a routine practice in Japan, with a set of protocols that consider factors such as age, social status and context. The practice is generally seen as a sign of respect that reflects social standings between people.

What are 3 main cultural values in Japan?

Japanese social interaction is based on several key values, including harmony, order, and self-development. These values are influenced by various religious and philosophical traditions and shape basic beliefs about the nature of human society and the individual.

What is seen as disrespectful in Japan?

In Japan, it is considered impolite to use one’s finger to point at people or objects. Instead, the Japanese method of indicating something involves a gentle waving motion with the hand. When referring to oneself, individuals will touch their nose with their forefinger instead of pointing directly at themselves.

How do you express respect in Japanese?

The honorific “san” is commonly used in Japanese and can be used with anyone regardless of their age, gender, or social status. It is similar to using “Mr.” or “Mrs.” in English and can be added to someone’s name or job title. When unsure of which honorific to use, “san” is a safe choice.

What is proper Japanese etiquette?

It is customary etiquette in Japan to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home, as well as some temples and restaurants. Guests are usually provided with slippers to wear instead, so as not to dirty their socks.

Respecting elders

In Japanese culture, respecting elders is a fundamental value. It is customary to address older people with honorifics and to show deference to their opinions and experiences. It is also common for younger people to take care of their elderly relatives and to prioritize their needs over their own.

Keeping public spaces clean

Japanese people take pride in keeping their public spaces clean and tidy. Littering or leaving trash behind is considered disrespectful to others who use the same space. Visitors should be mindful of this cultural norm and dispose of their trash properly.

Acknowledging hierarchy

Hierarchy is an important aspect of Japanese culture, and respecting it is essential. People in positions of authority are treated with deference, and lower-ranking individuals are expected to follow their instructions without question. This applies not only in the workplace but also in social situations.

Respecting privacy

Privacy is highly valued in Japanese culture, and people are generally reserved when it comes to sharing personal information. It is considered rude to ask personal questions or pry into someone’s private life without a good reason. Visitors should be respectful of this cultural norm and avoid intrusive questions.

Expressing gratitude

Expressing gratitude is an important way of showing respect in Japan. It is customary to say thank you frequently, even for small favors or gestures. In addition, sending thank-you notes or gifts after receiving a kindness is a common practice.

Respecting traditions

Japan has a rich cultural heritage that is deeply respected by its people. Traditional customs, such as tea ceremonies, flower arranging, and calligraphy, are still practiced today and are considered important parts of Japanese culture. Visitors should show respect for these traditions and learn about them whenever possible.

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