Home Japanese Language 16+ Important Japanese Gestures, Plus Physique Language to Keep away from

16+ Important Japanese Gestures, Plus Physique Language to Keep away from

16+ Important Japanese Gestures, Plus Physique Language to Keep away from



We rely rather more on facial expressions and physique language to speak than we frequently understand.

So figuring out frequent and culturally-appropriate gestures can actually enable you to talk in Japan, particularly when your restricted vocabulary fails!

Listed here are 16 Japanese gestures that may enable you to make new buddies and acquaintances, plus those that you simply shouldn’t make in case you offend somebody. 

Let’s get began!




Bowing is totally integral to Japanese language and tradition.

You bow to say hi there, excuse me, thanks, sorry, please and absolutely anything else. When assembly somebody for the primary time and even when greeting an previous buddy, Japanese folks normally bow slightly than shaking fingers or hugging.

Bowing is such an unlimited a part of Japanese communication that I’ve bother talking Japanese with out bowing or at the very least ducking my head—even when it’s to a different non-native speaker.

Bowing in itself doesn’t want numerous rationalization, however there’s a “proper” option to bow in Japan.

1. Find out how to bow in Japan

Males place their fingers on the sides of their legs and bow from the waist, whereas ladies ought to place fingers flat on the entrance of their thighs or clasp their fingers in entrance of their legs.

Have a look at the bottom and bend from the waist, pause for a second, then arise straight.

The size of time and depth of your bow is dictated by social context and stature; for instance, a gross sales clerk will probably bow a full 90º to you as you exit their retailer, and gained’t arise straight till you’re out the door. That is additionally the standard bow that staff at an organization would use when the CEO passes by.

In common social interplay—say with a buddy, trainer or an older one that smiles at you on the prepare platform—a slight duck of the pinnacle might be wonderful.

2. Giving and receiving presents

It’s best to at all times bow when giving or receiving a present in Japan, and it’s best to maintain the merchandise in each fingers as you move it over or settle for it.

Indicating Sure, No and Not Certain


Nodding and shaking your head are pretty common gestures, they usually’ll serve you effectively with Japanese audio system. There are, nonetheless, Japanese equivalents of those gestures, and it’s value at the very least recognizing what they imply.

3. Sure/okay

Make a giant O form above your head together with your arms to point “okay!” in a lot the identical method as we would use a thumbs-up or put our first finger and thumb collectively (each of that are thought-about pretty crass gestures in Japan!).

4. No

To point “no” in Japanese, usually folks will cross their arms in an X form entrance of themselves. 

This was one gesture that I discovered somewhat disconcerting at first, as a result of it appeared form of sturdy and I believed I used to be doing one thing very incorrect. Nonetheless, I’ve since realized that it isn’t meant in a impolite method and is a “no” gesture utilized in a lot the identical method as shaking your head.

If somebody crosses their fingers collectively, nonetheless, meaning battle and is meant as an insult!

Above you possibly can see the implausible vloggers from Texan in Tokyo demonstrating each the “sure/okay” and “no” gestures right here, in a picture taken from this video.

5. I don’t know/excuse me

If somebody is waving one hand in entrance of their face, it signifies that they don’t know the reply to your query or they’re attempting to inform you that they’ll’t communicate English. Usually they’ll additionally shake their head, together with a glance of terror on their face!

In the event that they’re holding up one hand in entrance of their face however not shifting it, meaning “excuse me” they usually in all probability wish to get previous you. 

The “I don’t know” gesture is rather like this, solely the individual may even wave their hand in entrance of their face (somewhat like if there was a nasty odor!) and possibly duck their head in a small bow.

Gesturing to Folks


6. Referring to your self

Check with your self by pointing in the direction of and even touching the tip of your nostril.

7. Referring to others

Gesture in the direction of others with an open palm, and transfer your hand slowly and gently—you possibly can level in the direction of your self, however don’t level at others.

8. Beckoning somebody

Have you ever ever seen a 招き猫 (まねきねこ), the fortunate cat in shops?

To Westerners it appears to be like prefer it’s waving goodbye, when actually it’s beckoning you in! The Japanese method of gesturing so that you can “come right here” is to attain ahead and let your hand go limp, then flap your fingers backwards and forwards.

At first it might look to you want a gesture to go away, however actually it’s an invite to affix—simply don’t use it together with your seniors or superiors.



9. Counting in your fingers in Japanese

The way in which Japanese native audio system depend on their fingers may be maddeningly complicated for English audio system, as a result of it’s principally utterly backwards from our model.

You maintain out your open palm first and the progressively decrease your fingers as you depend. There will likely be some variation relying on the individual, however that is the commonest method. 

It’s value watching this YouTube video for a transparent rationalization and demonstration of find out how to depend in your fingers in Japanese—which may be very helpful if in case you have bother remembering the right counters to make use of for various objects!

Expressing Emotions


Moreover fundamental physique language like smiling or frowning, there are particular gestures that Japanese folks use to speak specific feelings.

10. Anger

The Japanese gesture to specific anger is to maintain your fists beside your head with the fingers pointing in the direction of the sky, and is used to symbolize “satan horns.”

Above is an instance of the gesture (although she doesn’t look so offended, does she!).

11. Embarrassment

If a Japanese individual brings a hand to the again of their head, it signifies that they’re feeling embarrassed, or awkward, and it’s in all probability a good suggestion to alter the topic!

12. Gratitude

On the finish of a meal, Japanese folks clap their fingers as soon as in entrance of their face whereas saying “ごちそうさま” or “ごちそうさまでした” to specific gratitude.

This gesture (with out the phrase) can be used to make an apology.

13. Willpower

If a Japanese individual desires to indicate that they’re prepared to just accept a problem or work exhausting at one thing, they’ll place one hand on the other bicep and flex their arm.

This gesture expresses power and resilience, exhibiting that the individual is ready for no matter could also be in retailer.

Extra Japanese Gestures!


14. Calling dibs

I wouldn’t do that too usually lest you seem grasping, however if you happen to lick your finger and contact an individual or object, it’s all yours.

15. Indicating let’s eat/let’s drink

To counsel to a buddy that you simply exit for a drink collectively, place your thumb and index finger collectively such as you’re holding a small cup, then movement in the direction of your mouth such as you’re taking a giant swig of sake.

In case you would slightly go for a meal, form one hand like a bowl in entrance of you, then make “chopsticks” with the primary two fingers of your different hand. Movement the “chopsticks” in the direction of your mouth such as you’re shoveling in some scrumptious noodles!

16. Making the peace signal

The ubiquitous peace signal is used in fact as an ordinary pose for pictures in Japan, however it’s additionally usually used as a greeting gesture, notably for foreigners.

It expresses a way of success, in addition to being a gesture of peace and goodwill. 

Gestures and Physique Language to Keep away from in Japan


In the case of your individual non-verbal communication, figuring out what not to do may be simply as necessary as what to do. So listed here are some gestures and physique language that will trigger offense.

Trying folks within the eye an excessive amount of

Whereas in English-speaking international locations trying folks within the eye is taken into account respectful as a result of it reveals that you simply’re paying shut consideration to what they should say, in Japan it may be thought-about too shut for consolation, and even aggressive and intimidating.

In case you’re talking with somebody they usually preserve watching their footwear or trying away, maybe they’re feeling somewhat overwhelmed by your stare. Attempt trying to the facet somewhat, or at the very least glancing down or to the facet somewhat extra incessantly.

Spreading out legs and arms

Anybody who has ever missed out on a seat on the prepare as a result of somebody has unfold out huge sufficient to take up area for 2 understands how irritating that habits may be.

Drunk, sleeping salarymen apart, in Japan it’s thought-about actually dangerous type to take up more room than you want, particularly on public transport.

And whereas we’re on the subject of public transport, the folks of Tokyo request that you simply communicate quietly and keep away from speaking on the telephone, and at all times stand as much as give seating room to the aged and other people with youngsters!

Slouching and fingers in pockets

It might be probably the most comfy option to stand, however in Japan leaning languorously in opposition to a wall together with your fingers in your pockets is taken into account to look lazy and messy.

Simply because it does within the English-speaking world, good posture reveals that you simply’re alert and paying consideration.

Crossing your arms

That is thought-about a hostile place, and it’s unlikely that anyone will strategy you for a chat if you happen to’re standing together with your arms crossed.

In case you cross your arms throughout a dialog with a Japanese individual you don’t know very effectively, they might take that as a sign that you simply don’t wish to discuss.

Nonetheless, crossing arms with eyes closed reveals that you simply’re pondering deeply about one thing, which in some conversations is good!


Don’t do it. Like staring somebody within the eyes, it comes throughout as too sturdy, and doubtlessly aggressive. Even if you happen to’re giving instructions or gesturing in the direction of an object, it’s best to gently point out course with an open palm.

Assets to Follow Japanese Gestures

  • For a enjoyable option to take a look at your data of the gestures, try the quiz-style video from JapanesePod101 under.


At first it may really feel somewhat unusual to make use of unfamiliar gestures, however speaking in such a culturally-appropriate method is assured to win you buddies in a short time in Japan.

Particularly in case your language stage continues to be pretty low, studying one of the best gestures to specific your that means will will let you talk on a deeper stage with Japanese audio system, whereas letting silence be golden.

Quickly you’ll be speaking with ease—with or with out phrases!