Previously I wrote about Japanese Table Manners in hopes that it’ll help some of you, expatriates, out there. Now I’m going to round it off with the daily etiquettes that you should know. I think with this, you will be more than safe from the hazards of looking like an uncultured buffoon in another culture. Well it’s just nice to know, that’s all, and no you won’t look like a buffoon the first time around if you didn’t know any better but it’s better if you know :D
In a Japanese house
Upon entering a house, you should always take off your shoes at the doorway and slide into the slippers provided by your host. To which, you will wear those slippers to walk around the house except in tatami rooms, which in this case are mostly dining areas, living rooms, guest rooms, etc etc, you will need to take your slippers off and walk barefoot or with only your socks. And if you need to go to the toilet, take your slippers off and change into a special toilet slippers that is provided.
Many westerners are not used to sitting on the floor; so I can imagine your shock when you are to have your meals close to the floor. Anyway, there is a universal sitting position for both men and woman, which is the formal way called the Seiza. See the picture below:
The casual sitting position for men is usually crosslegged and for women, with both legs on the side. Look at the pictures below:
The most important guest sits on the honored seat (kamiza) which is located farthest from the entrance. If there is a tokonoma, or a decorated alcove, in the room, the guest should be seated in front of it. The host or least important person is supposed to sit next to the entrance (shimoza). Of course, there are more factors to be considered in every specific case.
There are two types of toilet in Japan; the Japanese style and the Western Style. Public washrooms are usually equipped with Japanese style toilets; which is basically a hole in the ground. Look at the picture below:-
But worry not, more and more western style toilets are popping up in touristic areas. However, since toilet paper may not be provided, it’sadvisable to carry a pack of tissue yourself. In cases of emergencies, a tissue pack can save lives…*nods* I am speaking from experience.
So how do you use the Japanese toilet?
1) Face the hood of the toilet.
2) Pull down your trousers completely below your knees.
3) Squat down as closely to the hood as possible. In case of elevated toilets (see picture), you need to stand on the raised platform while squatting.
Japanese toilets and bathrooms are almost always separated. And the bathroom, aside from cleaning yourself is also used to relax yourself. The typical Japanese bathrooms usually consist of an entrance room where you take your off your clothes and the actual bathroom where the showerhead and bathtub is.
When bathing Japanese style, you should rinse your body outside of the bathtub first with water from the bath using a washbowl. Afterwards, you enter the bathtub, which is used for soaking only. THe water tend to be hotter than what you usually might be accustom to, so what you do is just try to not move so much while you’re soaking. the more you move the hotter it seems you see…some scientific thing about exposure to a larger surface area. Anyway, you won’t be scalded, that’s for sure. After you have soaked yourself in for a while, leave the tub and soap your body. Make sure no soap gets into the bathtub. Rinse yourself clean with the shower head and soak yourself in the tub again. Once you’re done, do not drain the water as other members will be using the bath water.
Yes, I cannot fathom using the same bath water like that too. I’ll take a shower any day.