Good Relationships with Senior in Japan

It is important for Japanese people to behave politely to seniors. If you have a good relationship with your seniors, you can spend enjoyable school life, so we introduce the good way to behave politely to make a good relationship with seniors. Also, manners we introduced are useful when you graduated from universities and go out into the society.  


1.When you praised from your seniors, you should say “no, not at all” instead of “Thank you” if you want to be like Japanese. 

2.When your senior gives you a treat, at first you should refuse it two times before accepting 

3.When you invite your senior’s house, you should bring gift (snack, drink) 

4.When you want to use bathroom in senior’s house, you should say “Can I use bath room?” and wear the toilet slippers 

5.When you eat with seniors, you should serve into the small plate from large plate  



When you praised from your seniors, you should say “no, not at all” instead of “Thank you” if you want to be like Japanese.  


-Why Japanese to do like that? 

In Japan, we always do not accept the praise and it said a Japanese manner. Maybe in other country it seems strange because many Japanese people seems negative to saying like that. For example, if we said by someone “You’re so beautiful”, we always deny about that because if we accept it, we regard as a person who is lacking in common sense. For Japanese people it is one of expression to hide our shyness so sometimes the understanding of this word is different from other countries. 

-Why Japanese people cannot say thanks? 

Most of Japanese people are not good at to say their opinion and it caused by Japanese custom maybe. In Japanese school, we don’t have enough situations to say the opinion so we are not accustomed to do like that. However it is normal to do like that in Japan and we also not good at to say something like joke. So we always say something from denying, and after two or three times we accept it. It is our good point but also bad point because it makes some different thoughts. To denying permanently is also not good because the communication seems not to finish so to accept in good time is very important. Japanese people are shy so they do not frankly accept when you were praised, and most Japanese people think that it will hurt you to show a bit of humility when people well of you. However, it is a little difficult to behave humility, because too much humility gives a bad impression to the others.   

When your senior gives you a treat, at first you should refuse it two times before accepting 

-What is a treat culture? 

In Japan, elder people often treat their younger men to lunch or dinner. When your senior treats you, it is good manner to refuse your senior’s treat before accepting because if you do not refuse his treat, he thinks that you do not feel like paying money at all.     

Your senior may say that “I treat you, so you do not need to pay money”, but you should not say, “OK” immediately. This flow and pauses are very difficult.  This is the most important point that after going out the restaurant, you should say words of appreciation. In addition, the words of “I would like to have a dinner (lunch) with you” can give a good impression on your senior.  

-How to accept a treat? 

You may have a question what should you do in these situations so I introduce what is a good manner to do. The situation is little bit change from the age or gender or something personal point. If you go to the dinner with the man many apart in age, you could accept two or three times after denying so you don’t need to pay anymore. However if you go to with someone little bit younger, you need to pay little bit so if the cost of dinner is totally 5,000 yen, you should pay 1,000 yen. 

It is like one of manner in Japan and you may think you are really good person. Or if you payed all of the cost at dinner by your senior, it is also good to pay the cost of cafe after the dinner. The cost of café is cheaper than dinner, but the feeling of thanks is really expressed.   

When you invite your senior’s house, you should bring gift (snack, drink) 

-What is a culture of bringing gifts? 

Even if your senior said to you that you do not need to bring anything, you should bring some snacks or drinks. It is one of unique Japanese culture and this culture is seen in business. For instance, when people visit client’s companies, they usually bring a small present, and children go to play in their friend house, they bring snacks. This culture into Japanese people, and it is rerated with habit buying present when Japanese people go trip. There is a data that sales in Tokyo Disney Resort of souvenir are much higher than foreign countries. 

-Why Japanese people have this culture? 

It is a one of the communication for Japanese people to bring a present or some foods. You can have a topic that you talk with your seniors to bring a present, for example, where did you buy it? Why did you choose it?  Like that. Also, bringing a present means that you want to make a good relationship with the other.  

When you want to use bathroom in senior’s house, you should say “Can I use bath room?” and wear the toilet slippers 


-Why it is need to say? 

In Japan, we always say “May I use the bathroom?” and we have to wear the slippers separately from the one when we use in a house. Most of Japanese people think the bathroom is not a clean room so we change our slippers naturally. In other country like US entering their house without changing their shoes but we always take off our shoes so we wearing slippers. So mostly we have three times to changing our shoes, when we go out, when we go back our house, and when we use the bathroom. And it is also important to say something when we use bathroom. Japanese people always say something when we do something for example when we eat something, we always say “Itadakimasu” and if we finished eating, we say “Gochisosamadeshita”. So in Japan we have many kinds of manner and it is one of it. Maybe no one say “No” when we asked, but it just a manner so you should say something like that. 

-What is the manner in bathroom? 

In bathroom, we have to use it really clean and we must not use it dirty. In other country, sometimes people have to throw used paper for the dust box but in Japan we could throw it in toilet. We have dust box only in woman’s bathroom so some people may think it is set up for the paper, but it is used for sanitary goods. Also the button is very complex and the type of it is very variety. Some bathroom has only one button so we just need to push but some difficult one let us to think the way of use. Mainly we need to understand what button is used to wash the toilets and which is used for dump or flash. In Japan, sometimes foreigners confuse the way of using bathroom so you should think about these things. 

When you eat with seniors, you should serve into the small plate from large plate  


-What is the manner in the restaurant? 

In Japan, we have drinking party many times and sometimes mostly woman have to think about which woman should distribute the dishes. University students always do this kind of party so we have to think many kinds of manners. Firstly, we have to deliver it from senior to junior because Japanese people care about seniority like we use honorific. When we distribute the dishes, we must not use our own chopsticks or some tool to eat. The tool specialized for distribution is the best to use for distribution. To use our own tool is also dangerous for our health so you don’t use for yourself and others. Secondly, as I said mostly woman thought to distribute but we also think about seniority so if most junior person is man, he need to distribute the dishes. It is no answer clearly so it depends on the time and situation. Thirdly, we need to ask what food is good or not. Some people are picky eater so we must not give the dishes without asking. In drinking party, we also have many kinds of manners.  

-What is a good manner in drinking? 

Like food, we also need to care about the drink. First time to drink, you must not pour your own grass and you also need to pour others drink. After the first drinking you have to care about other people’s grass. If some grass is empty, you have to ask what they want to drink and pour it. And you must not pour your own drink by yourself all the time. It seemed like rude so you should not do that. When you pour the drink, you should take the bottle by both hands. However if it is not these types of drink, you need to order when the grass is empty. These kinds of manners seem little bit hard but this is the good mind in Japan. 


This article introduced about what behaviors are polite to seniors, and how to make a good relationship with them in Japan.  Japanese has one of the most highly developed systems of honorific, so people must be careful when you behave to seniors. However, the correct use of honorific language and, behave politely are difficult even for Japanese, so these manners must be really difficult for exchange students. We hope that this article will be a good your reference!