Learn The Most Common Japanese Gestures

japanese body language

Japanese body language and gestures are certainly no exception and in fact there are an incredible number of different body movements in Japan that you d more than likely expect! However, the most popular form of Japanese body language is called “bowing”. This may not be your first reaction but actually it isn’t even very hard to understand.


A man holding his hand up

“Bowing” in Japanese body language means to bow or stand with both arms at your side. Usually when seen from afar this means to extend one’s thank you or bow from the heart. It has a subtle meaning that doesn’t mean you’re giving yourself a hug, it just means you’re extending your gratefulness. This can also mean thanking someone for something, whether it’s someone’s help or simply a smile.

The most common form of “bowing” in Japanese body language is with the arms crossed over the chest. When the arms are crossed it indicates a form of appreciation or respect. When the arms are extended straight in a straight line, it means “I don’t need any help”. In general it’s used to show that you’re thinking of someone.

Another common form of Japanese body language is the “waving of the hands”. This gesture is most commonly done by a male when giving or receiving something such as a gift or on meeting a new person. It is meant to show a sense of appreciation without ulterior motives. There are two different types of waving: the open and closed palm.

Open Palm

A woman posing for a picture

In this form of Japanese body language, the hands are slightly opened in a gesture of welcome or polite greeting. A lot of men in Japan use this as a sign of affection. A closed palm means “I don’t need any of your help/ please”

Close-Grip: This type of Japanese body language has a very unique appearance. In this form, both the hands are interlocked, forming an “O” shape. It is often used when making light or casual conversation. A male will often hold his fist tightly at his side as if saying “please”. In more formal settings, the close-grip is used when asking for directions or asking someone to help with something. In informal settings, however, it is not used as often.

Some other popular gestures in Japanese body language include the chopping hand and the flat chop. The meaning behind these gestures is unclear. Most likely, they are gestures that originated from Okinawa, Japan, where the two main islands of Japan lie. The meaning of a chopping hand gesture, according to one source, is “loud and clear”. The meaning of the flat chop, according to another source, is “maintaining a straight posture”. In other words, the intent behind a chopping hand gesture may be to display strength, but the meaning is unclear.

Physical Signs In Japanese Body Language

A lot of physical signs in Japanese body language can also be combined with verbal expression to give greater meaning. For instance, a man will sometimes wave. If you interpret this as a sign of approval or invitation, you get the correct meaning. However, if you interpret it as a sign of fear or repulsion, you miss the point and the communication are broken. One should always remember that communication is an interactive process, and you should never lose your cool or expressiveness in any way.

Another common gesture hand gestures in Japanese body language is the palm wave or thumb clap. In this gesture, the thumb of one’s left hand is raised slightly while the rest of the fingers are kept flat on the table or floor. In some cases, a raised pinky finger signals a raised palm as well. While raising both hands, a palm wave is made by lightly slapping one’s palm on the shoulder of the receiver. When making the palm wave, it is best to be firm and non-angry.

 Last Words 

There are also some standard Japanese gestures that are commonly used without any interpretation. Some examples are the eating chop, the raised chin, the up and down movement of the eyebrows, the flicking of the finger tips and the touching of the chest or the head. It is better to use your non-verbal communication such as facial expressions to get across these messages. By learning the common Japanese body language, you will be able to have a smooth conversation with a lot of people and it will also make you look less intimidating to your friends. You will be able to develop a good sense of how to read their body language so that you will be able to tell what they are trying to say.

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