Most people around the world are comfortably using chairs to sit down. This is a common custom for foreign people which the Japanese people have accepted wholeheartedly. However, if you’re in Japan, chairs are not always that important for daily use. There are many instances where the Japanese sit on the floor, which tends to surprise first-time visitors.
Due to the fact that most people sit on the floor, it is a common courtesy not to bring your shoes inside the house. The reason why can be a bit vague, but mostly, shoes are often dirty and to keep the inside of the house clean, they should be removed. This is a cardinal rule in Japanese houses. Doing so would be an equivalent to walking on sofas and chairs in the Western sense.
However, nearly all Japanese modern houses nowadays have chairs inside the house. Still, many houses have a Japanese traditional room with tatami flooring. In this case, the traditional style of sitting is very important. Despite having chairs inside the house, many people in Japan still feel more relaxed and comfortable sitting on the floor. It is said that your manner in sitting tells a lot about your personality. Thus, proper etiquette is followed regarding this.
The seiza style is one of the most formal ways of sitting in Japan where you have to first kneel on the floor, fold one leg underneath your thigh while the buttocks rest on the heels. But don’t worry if this sounds hard for you to do. There are some alternative styles of sitting such as agura and tatehiza.
Agura is also called “barbarian sitting” or sitting with legs crossed. This is only acceptable for men to do as is considered unfeminine for women due to the position. If you get uncomfortable, you can change to tatehiza, a posture which lets you squat down with one knee up. This is informal as well and not recommended for formal ceremonies or banquets.
Living in Japan also means adapting to the local culture so next time when you visit a traditional Japanese home, take off your shoes and be careful of how you sit on the floor.