Hello, this is TORA.

Every Japanese person knows about the Japanese etiquette of ”bowing” by the time they can think on their own.
It is also taught in school, in lower elementary grades.
Why do we bow?

Do you know what it means to bow?


The origin of bowing

The Japanese word to bow (Ojigi) comes from the word, ”Jigi,” which refers to a perfect time to do things.
The current form of the word is said to have been adopted in the Edo period.
The word was used in its original meaning during the Heian period, however, by Kamakura/Muromachi periods, it came to be used in a variety of ways.

From the meaning, ”a perfect time,” the notion of ”time” was gradually eliminated, and ”Ojigi”eventually settled to mean ”a perfect condition/circumstance to accomplish things.”

The meaning of a bow

It means ”I value you.”
The act of bowing is said to show that you have no hostility toward the other person, since by bowing, you are essentially exposing your weakness, the head and neck, to that person.

Difference between Ojigi and Eshaku

Eshaku is one way of taking a bow (Ojigi).
There are different ways of bowing, Eshaku, Keirei, and Saikeirei, and the way you bow differs by the level of formality.

What about a handshake?

There are several stories behind the origin of handshaking, but it is said to have started as a way to show that you have no weapons in your hands.
Since majority of the people are right-handed, and thus hold a weapon in that hand, it has become customary to shake hands with your right hand.

How to take a bow

    • Eshaku [15-degree bend at the hips]
    • This form is used when you encounter your acquaintance, or your boss or client at work place. Rather than just lowering your head, you bend your body forward from the hips.

    • Keirei [30 degrees]
    • This is a form of bowing that is most frequently used. You use this form, when you greet your clients or visit someone. It is important that you do not keep your head up, when doing this.

    • Saikeirei [45 degrees]
    • This is a formal bow to show respect or apology. It is used when making an important request or sincere apology, and also at ceremonial occasions. Make sure that you are not carrying anything in your hands, when doing this bow.

When you are bowing to an extremely high ranking individual, such as the emperor, you might bend your body 90 degrees.

    Hands should be placed to the sides of your body, or for women, cross them in front of the body.


You have learned a bit more about taking a bow.
Nowadays, the Japanese practice of bowing is highly praised, and well received around the world.

President Obama was seen bowing as well.
Let’s pass on this amazing Japanese cultural practice to the future generations.

That’s all for today.

Otsukaresama deshita.