The habit of making a bow can be seen not only in Japan but also in other asian countries like China, Korea and Thai, and western countries as well.
In Asian countries, Making a bow takes root in everyday life and this habit is done on a daily basis.
In contrast, in western country, a bow is mostly made in a ritual situation. In Japan, the number of types of bow motion and related words is way more plentiful than any other countries and Japanese people use various types of bows depending on the situation properly.
Especially, Japanese people tend to have a strong awareness of courtesy and appreciation towards the behavior of a bow.
In Japanese history, adopting Chinese style courtesy into a Japanese society from the year 500 to 800 is said to be the origin of establishing Japanese style bow. Until then, Japanese people kneel down on the ground for greeting.
Especially, ancient Japanese people show their respect to a person with a high position by kneeling down on the ground when they come across each other on their way.
A standing style bow that we easily make nowadays in Japan originates from the fact that Emperor Tenmu (?~686) prohibited people from kneeling down on the ground and encouraged people to make a bow while standing.
In this article, I am going to introduce you 4 types of Japanese representative bows.
“Eshaku” is the most casual standing bow that we make on a diary basis. This is well used among people who are relatively familiar with each other like your co-workers, your friend and your relatives. You just lean your body to the front at an angle of 15 degrees
“Senrei” literally means shallow bow. This is a sitting style bow that shows your respect not exaggeratedly but casually. You just lean your body to the front gradually over 1 second at an angle of 30 degrees and both of your hands slide from your thighs to the front of your knees and your middle and indicate figures slightly touch the floor and you keep the posture over 1 second and get up your body slowly over 2 seconds.
“Keirei” is formal standing bow. You lean your body to the front at an angle of 30 degrees. This is often used to a client and a customer or a person you meet for the first time with the feeling of deep appreciation and welcome.
Sai-Keirei is the most formal standing bow that you learn your body at an angle of 45 degrees.
This is basically used to important customers, executives with high position. The amount of time that you lower your heads down is basically as long as you take 3 breaths.
If you want to express deeper appreciation and apology, you adjust the time you lower your heads down to last a little bit longer for about 4 or 5 seconds.
There are a lot of types of bowing beside these 4 basic bows. Most of them are only used in a religious ceremony. If you are confused what type of bow is used in what situation from 4 basic bows , you just remember two points.
- The more formal the event becomes and the higher position the person whom you talk to is in, the more deeply and for longer you lower your head down when you greet
- Joining your hands together in front of your chest when you make a bow is not correct way of greeting in Japan. we only do this at shrine to pray something.