It may surprise you to know there are close to 100 different gestures regularly used by Japanese people to communicate with friends, colleagues and the general public. While most of those used by Western countries are crude or considered a novelty, the Japanese rely on hand gestures to communicate everything from basic requests to expressing emotion and personal preferences.
Those visiting who don’t speak Japanese often rely on the use of hand gestures to get around which can be bemusing, considering some mean the total opposite to what has been learnt back home. Some common gestures have spread globally, making them more identifiable, and are even mimicked by foreigners; however, in many cases their significance has been lost or misinterpreted.
Here are seven gestures with their proper meanings that I can almost guarantee you’ll come across during your time in Japan. Who knows, stay here for long enough and soon you might find yourself doing them as well.
1. Beckoning someone forward
When you’re called over by somebody, or standing in a line and asked to move forward, you’ll see this beckoning movement. The hand gesture used looks more like the person is trying to shoo you away than motion you towards them.
What to look for
The person’s hand will be palm down with fingers out front. They will drag their fingers inwards to their palm, then flick them back out straight again. The flick outwards seems more prominent, making it look like they are telling you to move away.
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