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Basic Etiquette When Visiting Japanese Homes, Including What to Wear and What to Expect

This article gives a deep dive into etiquette to keep in mind when visiting a Japanese home. It covers the process from start to end, with reference to time, clothing, and the basic flow from arrival to departure. By knowing the etiquette ahead of time, both you and your host can enjoy a pleasant visit.

Time and Clothing

〇 Time
When visiting a Japanese house, be sure to let the host know the time and date you are visiting in advance. It is considered rude to turn up unannounced. Also, avoid showing up before the agreed-upon time, as the host may not be ready. If you are running late, be sure to let them know.

〇 Clothing
Regardless of if you know the host well or if you're on more formal terms, take care to dress in clean and tidy clothing so the host is not disconcerted. Wearing clothes with a material and color that reflect the season tends to make a good impression. In case you are shown to a Japanese-style room, wear clothing that you can comfortably sit on the floor in. Shoes are left at the door in Japanese houses, so be sure to wear socks or stockings.

Doorfront Etiquette

It is customary to take jackets off outside the entrance. Exchange greetings once you are invited into the entrance area. Take your shoes off after the host says "agatte-kudasai" ("please come up"). When taking off your shoes or closing the door, make sure not to show your back to the host; instead, close the door while standing at an angle. Be sure to neatly line up your shoes against an edge.

Gift-Giving Etiquette

It is customary to bring a gift when visiting someone. Wagashi (Japanese sweets) and fruits are common gifts, but if you know the host's preferences, bring something they like. If the gift needs refrigeration or freezing, pass it to the host at the entrance. Otherwise, give the gift after entering a room.

What to Do When Invited Into a Room

〇Japanese-style room
If you are shown to a Japanese-style room, don't sit on a zabuton (floor cushion) before the host arrives, and take a seat near the entrance in a spot where you will not get in the way. Exchange greetings once the host enters the room, and give your gift to the host at the same time. When giving the gift, be sure to take it out of its bag and to present it so that it is facing the recipient. Sit down when the host asks you to sit on a zabuton. Be careful not to step on the zabuton.

〇Western-style room
If you are shown to a Western-style room and asked to wait in a seat, take a seat closest to the entrance. When the host enters, stand up and bow while exchanging greetings. Give the gift after the greetings are exchanged.

When Offered Snacks and Tea

You may be offered tea and snacks as a gesture of hospitality. If so, don't hesitate to accept. You may even be asked what your preference is—in that case, you can let them know your general preference, but don't make any specific requests. Don't forget to say "itadakimasu" when starting, and once you've touched something, be sure to finish it.

Etiquette When Leaving

Although it would depend on your relationship with the host and purpose of the visit, the appropriate time to stay would be about one hour. As the guest, you should be the one to announce that you are leaving. In a Japanese-style room, say your farewells off the zabuton mat, and in a Western-style room, stand up before saying your farewells. Walk to the entrance carrying your jacket and other belongings, and exchange simple greetings again at the entrance. If you have used slippers, leave them neatly aligned on the floor. It is customary to put your jacket on outside. Also, you will give a good impression if you send a thank-you email afterwards.

Be sure to refer to this article if you are invited to a Japanese house, so you know what to do and both you and your host can enjoy a pleasant visit!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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