Hand Gestures and Body Languages Only Japanese Do | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan
Hand Gestures and Body Languages That Only Japanese Do

Hand Gestures and Body Languages Only Japanese Do

By Guidable Writers Jul 11, 2017

Sign language and body language can be a bit tricky to anyone. If you happen to travel abroad and come to a place where people really talk less and could not understand the local language, I’m sure you have tried to speak with them using sign language. Here in Japan, body language and hand gestures are really important when we communicate with each other. Japanese really talk less, but you have to pay attention to their body language and hand gestures. In that way, misunderstandings during the conversation can be avoided.


Hand Gestures and Body Languages That Only Japanese Do


Japanese always show good posture when they are talking or while conversing with others. It is important to them because it shows great respect and that to let you feel that they are attentive during the conversation.

Body language or hand gestures that are custom to a country is something that cannot be learned in an hour or overnight. It’s going to be a long run learning those. Are you ready to know the meaning and learn some body languages and hand gestures that only Japanese do? Here they are!


Peace Sign

This is done by having the index and middle fingers open while the rest of the fingers are closed, or making a letter V using the index and middle fingers. Sometimes use to say sorry or to express an apology to someone that was offended. Sometimes use to greet foreigners visiting Japan or a common expression when taking selfies to look cute.

Hand Gestures and Body Languages That Only Japanese Do


Let’s Eat

Index finger and middle finger are extended in front of the mouth like the chopsticks to remind someone to eat or tell someone that it is time to eat.


Let’s Have a Drink

One hand showing as if you are holding a cup and tilted on the mouth as if you are drinking. This is usually done by businessmen to invite their colleague for a drink.


Come here (Chotto oide)

Or beckoning, is most likely the western-style of waving goodbye but it’s the opposite meaning to locals of Japan. Japanese use this when calling someone to come to them. This is done by flapping the four fingers towards the person they are calling.



Referring to One’s Self

This is normally used when a non-native or a foreigner is talking to a local. This simply means that a local is referring to himself. This is done by pointing the nose with the index finger.


Excuse me (Sumimasen)

This is done by having the hand flat, with the thumb near the nose, the head and the back are slightly bent down, with the eyes looking downward. This is used as a common apology to someone.



Hand Gestures and Body Languages That Only Japanese Do


As opposed to the chotto oide, the hand with fingers fully extended is moving left and right repeatedly while saying the words “goodbye” or “bye bye”. They also bow to express gratitude when bidding goodbye especially after meeting clients or important individuals.




In Japan, counting is different from that of the western countries. All fingers are extended and then folded one by one by starting with the thumb and ending with the little finger. And then the little finger extends to continue counting and ends with the thumb and so on.


Smelly (Kusai!)

This is done by waving the hand like fanning away the bad smell in front of the face or by pinching the nose using index finger and thumb. This means that something’s really smell bad.



Where both index fingers are extended upward and slightly forward and placed on the sides of the head like horns. This means that someone is angry or in bad mode.



To make a promise to someone, both pinky fingers are locked together.



Not Available or Feel Embarrassed

This is commonly used when dining in a restaurant or in a shopping mall if someone is looking for something and the staff could not say “No” to their customer. A staff  would place their open hand on their head acting embarrassed.


There are lot of hand gestures that Japanese use in their everyday living. Those illustrated above are just a few of many. Have you tried doing these hand gestures and body language? Remember, you do not need to force yourself to do this when you are in Japan. Japanese are really friendly and that they can understand if you’re new to the place and could not somehow understand their language but basic body language and hand gestures will do. Enjoy practicing!


A Friendly Reminder:

Please try to have a short eye-contact when talking with Japanese. Staring at them or looking at their eyes the whole conversation will make them feel uncomfortable, and will consider you being aggressive or rude. I’m sure you don’t want to be left alone while talking with them, so avoid doing this.