Why Do Japanese Sit On The Floor?

When visiting Japan, you may have noticed that many people will opt to sit on the floor, but why?

There are many reasons that the Japanese sit on the floor, but here in the west, it’s difficult for us to comprehend how the Japanese can sit on the floor for as long as they do. 

Why Do Japanese Sit On The Floor?

In this post, we’ll be taking a closer look at why Japanese people sit on the floor and why it’s so normal to forego chairs and go straight to the floor.

Why Do Japanese People Sit On The Floor?

If you’ve been to Japan or watched anime, you may have noticed that Japanese people traditionally sit on the floor. Chairs are a more recent innovation for people in Japan, as they did not need them.

This is because traditional Japanese homes were created with the belief in the concept of ‘ma,’ otherwise referred to as negative space.

They believed in simplicity, as this space would encourage creativity.

Of course, the lack of chairs and spaced out furniture doesn’t mean that Japanese people didn’t have furniture.

You could still find different types of furniture in Japanese homes, but generally, their homes were designed to maximize their space. 

Instead of having beds and chairs, they could sleep and sit on the floor. Many homes were designed with floors covered in tatami, a type of thick straw mat.

Over the years, the Japanese people would consider this their way of sitting. Generally, you’ll still find many Japanese people who sit on the floor to read or enjoy a drink or meal.

This is why you will still find plenty of restaurants and bars where you can sit on the floor.

However, you may wonder if there are specific ways to sit on the floor. Everyone sits on the floor in different positions in Japan, with all of these positions having different meanings.

We’ll be taking a closer look at how to sit on the floor correctly in Japan.

How Do You Sit On The Floor In Japan?

When visiting Japan, you may be concerned about how to sit on the floor correctly. When you’re in Japan, you’ll notice that there are different ways to sit on the floor.

In Japan, you’ll find plenty of people sitting on the floor, whether they’re at home or in a restaurant.

In fact, it is due to how often people sit on the floor that it’s considered rude to walk around wearing shoes inside. Now, let’s take a closer look at how the Japanese sit. 

Seiza

The most polite and formal way to sit on the floor is by using the seiza position. In this position, you kneel with your legs together, and the tops of your feet remain flat on the ground.

This position can be difficult for many people who aren’t accustomed to sitting in this way. In formal situations, or when you’re doing martial arts or a tea ceremony, you may sit in this position while waiting. 

Many people find the seiza position uncomfortable, so many use a miniature folding stool to help keep the weight off their feet. If you don’t enjoy sitting like this, there are other ways you can sit while out.

Why Do Japanese Sit On The Floor?

Agura

One of the most popular alternatives for everyone to sit is the agura position. Many people sit this way around the world, and while it may be written as “barbarian sitting,” it is simply sitting with your legs crossed.

Traditionally, it was only accepted for men to sit like this, but nowadays, many women don’t care about worrying whether a position is ladylike, so long as it’s a comfortable position.

Many people will sit this way in informal situations, and it’s easy to shift from agura to other positions.

Tatehiza

When you’re uncomfortable in the agura position, you can easily shift into the tatehiza position. In this position, you simply put one knee up.

Ideally, this position is more suitable for casual situations, as you can stretch one leg out a little bit more to regain some feeling. However, sitting in this position in formal situations is not generally polite.

Yoko-Zuwari

Not all women are expected to sit in the seiza position, and there is a female variation known as yoko-zuwari. In this position, you sit with your legs to one side while folding back on yourself.

Men can also sit in this position, but this is still widely regarded as feminine, so many men can get teased for sitting like this.

Obachan-Suwari

Another feminine sitting position is obachan-suwari, literally translated as “grandma sitting,” as many older women sit like this. In this position, you kneel with your bum on the floor while your legs go out to the sides.

While many older women sit like this, plenty of kids sit in this position as it’s more comfortable. However, much like with yoko-zuwari, not many men sit like this.

Tai-Iku-Suwari

Finally, our last position that is commonly found in Japan is tai-iku-suwari. Many children sit like this while in physical education lessons, which is even named for this reason.

As children are not allowed to sit in the agura position as it would be considered rude, they instead sit, so their knees are up in front of them.

This allows kids to remain comfortable even on hard floors; however, many people sit like this outside of physical education lessons too.

Final Thoughts

There are many different positions for someone to sit in Japan. These are the most common ways to sit in Japan, but there are many other positions too.

Generally, sitting on a chair in Japan is more unusual, but if you’re uncomfortable on the floor, you can ask for one.

Many Japanese people are accommodating to visitors, so they won’t be offended if you find seiza too uncomfortable, especially if you’re not accustomed to it.

However, if you visit Japan, you may want to prepare yourself by getting used to sitting on the floor. 

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