This remarkable flash presentation not only teaches you how to bow correctly, it takes you through the entire complicated ritual of visiting a Japanese company, being introduced, presenting business cards, &c., accompanied by appropriate spoken dialog (with subtitles) and sidebars containing all sorts of relevant information (for instance, you should never write with red ink, since it was used for death sentences in ancient China and is considered highly inauspicious). Via plep.

For more information on various types of bows, including the extreme saikeirei, rarely seen since Imperial days, and appropriate contexts (“[A] bow accompanies all greetings and is a response to all offers, compliments, and a number of other behavioral patterns. To say Arigatogozaimashita ‘Thank you’ and not to bow is strange”), read the excellent little essay “Bowing, the Japanese Custom” by Tomoko, a student in Francis Britto’s English Composition class. I hope she got an A.


  1. You actually are allowed to use red ink sometimes. When you use your personal stamp (hanko) on a document, most of the time you use a red inkpad called a “shuniku” — literally “bloody meat”!
    Business cards in particular are probably not red-ink-OK because they’re considered an extension of the face you present to the world. (So if you write on someone’s card in their presence it’s like scribbling on them; conversely if you hand out a slightly scuffed or dog-eared card, it’s like turning up to a meeting in similarly half-assed clothing.)
    I didn’t realise that everyone in the average Japanese workplace was on quaaludes, either..

  2. Yes, I used red ink for my “chop” in Taiwan — but I did say “write with red ink”… I probably shouldn’t have been so sweeping, though.
    That sedated aspect was pretty funny. It makes it especially disconcerting when Big Boss picks up the phone and suddenly barks a long, fluent, untranslated stream of Japanese!

  3. True, you did say write. All of the marking at my school gets done in red ink, though, and although the results don’t make the students very happy it’s not for lack of ancient-Chinese-style auspiciousness. (Auspicity?)
    What are the rules like in Taiwan re bowing and introductions?

  4. Nothing like Japan. It’s funny, the Japanese occupation permanently altered some things (like the education system and rules for taking off footgear) but didn’t make a dent in things like personal relations. Bowing didn’t take hold.

  5. Hi! I enjoyed reading some of your comments.
    thanks for praising my essay on bowing. I am a little embarrassed to know somebody has read my essay. I find too many quatation in it myself. I wrote this more than three years ago. Anyway, I’d love to come to this site to read people’s comments on languages and cultual things??

  6. Hi, Tomoko! Welcome to Languagehat; I’m delighted to have you visit!

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