Japanese Etiquette : Invitation to visit a Japanese friend’s home

Japanese are renowned for being hospitable and courteous. For a foreigner, being invited to your Japanese friend’s home is a privilege. Japanese are really inclined to their privacy and for them to open their home to you is a massive step towards embracing you as a part of their lives. As a guest, you make sure to put your best foot forward and leave a lasting impression to your host.

Here are some helpful tips on the basic etiquette when you are invited over to a Japanese home.

1st tip
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Be considerate with your host and arrive at an appropriate time. Arriving early may inconvenience the host as final preparations may not be completed. Therefore, it is recommended that you arrive five minutes before your expected time of arrival. This will enable your host to perform last minute finishing touches before entertaining guests.

2nd tip
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Upon your arrival, do take off your coat before ringing the doorbell. As a sign of respect, join your host in bowing to express gratitude. Right after the greetings, take off your shoes at the house’s ‘genkan’ (entryway). It is very rude to bring your shoes or slippers inside the house. Once inside, your host would oftentimes offer you a slipper to be worn while you are there. Do remember that a separate slipper is provided inside the restroom, therefore, you have to change slippers when using the toilet.

3rd tip
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As a lovely way of saying ‘thank you for the invitation, bring a small present to your host. You could bring anything you would like to offer to your host such as wine, sake, chocolates, preserves or even a souvenir from your native country. If your host offers you a present in return, never open them right away as it will turn out to be slightly rude.

4th tip
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In Japanese homes, every member of the family has a designated seating arrangement. Therefore, as a guest, where should you be seated? Unless your host shows you where to sit, you should opt to choose the seat closest to the door.

5th tip
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Table manners are very important to Japanese. Therefore, it is imperative that you learn the basic table decorum to impress your host. Normally, Japanese prepare a lot of small dishes at the table. If you have no idea on which dish to start, you could ask your host for advice. The proper way when eating from a bowl, is to pick up the bowl gently with your hand and hold it close to your mouth. Emptying your plate is also one of the table manners you should remember. This act shows a silent gratitude towards the host that you have enjoyed the meal they have lovingly prepared. Finally, complete the meal with a phrase ‘Gochisosama deshita’, which means thank you for the meal.

6th tip
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Offering to help clean up the dishes after the meal is considered to be a good etiquette. However, hosts will never allow you to help with the chores. To be respectful, offer a few times to help. If your host insists on not allowing you, it is best to respect them and just say thank you.

7th tip
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Technology has ruled over our daily lives, mobile phones have become such a necessity that we could not spare a second not looking at it. However, your host would consider it quite rude if you are so keen on your mobile phone rather than engaging with them. Join in chats if your host sits down and tell you stories about their home or their family. While being comfortable in your host’s abode is good, you should also keep in mind not to overstay your welcome. It is not appropriate to leave right after finishing your meal. Look for signs when you can stand up and bid farewell to your host.

We hope these tips will help you in gaining more confidence in accepting invitations for a home visit from your Japanese friends. It is a best practice to be up close and personal with the Japanese culture when you are at their home and family.

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