Japanese Style Affection vs. Western Style Affection

In my last article about the differences between a Japanese Mansion and a Japanese Apartment I was reminded of my initial lodgings here in Japan. Thinking back to my arrival at Narita Airport, I also remembered one of my first observations. While I was sitting there, waiting for the rest of my training group, I was just looking around and taking it all in. I remember seeing many of the Japanese families bowing to each other to say goodbye. What I didn’t see were the hugs, kisses, and embraces that I had become so accustomed to. It was bad that they were bowing instead, just different.

I think it’s definitely something I’ve noticed here in Japan. People aren’t as big on public displays of affection here, unless maybe you’re walking around in Kabukicho (I’ll save that for another post). Back home if a family is saying goodbye, or two lovers are about to part ways, they hold hands, hug, kiss, etc. I just thought it was a normal thing everywhere, but no two cultures will do things the same way. In Japan I am FAR less touchy, huggy, or feely than I ever was in the United States. I think in Japan (maybe most cultures for that matter), if an six-foot-two, 200+ pound man came rushing at you for a hug, I guess it would be a bit off-putting. I have come to terms with it, though. Japan is just not a super-affectionate society, at least openly, anyway. I’m sure it’s quite a different story when families get together, at weddings, etc., but I don’t know for sure…I’m learning as I go.

Which do you prefer? The open, public displays of affection that are characteristic of the West? Or the more subtle public displays of Japan? (I must admit, I fall into the former group).

Donald Ash

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  • Ryan McGuinness

    I agree with you quite strongly; if I’m in love with a woman,
    I shouldn’t be afraid to show it and I’d want people to know how much I love her! =)

    Is it the same case if couples go out on a date and the male walks her home. Is it not common he would hug her or even kiss her?

    I have to admit, this is the one time I do find Japan strange.

    • Donald Ash

      I do see couples holding hands quite a bit, and I’m sure they do hug and kiss each other, but it’s just the public displays that aren’t as common. Public displays just aren’t as blatant.

      • Donald Ash

        I actually remember visiting a Japanese friend in Kamakura, and she showed me around for the whole day. When we were on the train, she had to get off earlier than me, so I thought I would say a simple goodbye and send an email (I figured she’d feel weird if I hugged her on the train). I was still sitting, she stood up, got really close to me gave me one of the biggest hugs I’ve ever received in Japan. If I had been standing, I probably would have gone weak in the knees…that hug really felt that nice. I didn’t care that people on the train were staring…it also didn’t hurt that I thought she was really cute. ;)

        • Ryan McGuinness

          Aww, nice to know you’re trying to spread a good message that there really is nothing wrong with sharing your feelings for someone. I must admit out of everything I have found out about Japanese culture this is the only thing that has really come as a shock to me. :)

          • Donald Ash

            Hey Ryan, I know it’s been a long time coming, but I finally sent your the email about the interview…just now.

  • Kayla

    I actually prefer the more reserved mannerisms of the Japanese. I honestly find it a bit tacky and disturbing to watch people kiss and whatnot in a public setting. I personally don’t want to see it. At all.

    I guess it’s different for everyone, but because I’m the way I am, I think I would like Japan for this.

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What’s the Difference Between a Japanese Mansion and a Japanese Apartment?

I remember getting to Japan in early January, arriving at Narita Airport and being greeted by Ian Sensei, one of...