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Game of Thrones

For many foreign professionals, conducting business in Japan can be an absolute minefield. From uber polite keigo to exchanging business cards and getting drunk with your colleagues, most of us have a hard time figuring out what’s proper from the NG (no good).

So it may come as some consolation that even Japanese people themselves struggle to understand the ins-and-outs of work etiquette.

 

上座下座が一瞬で分かる部屋 = Use this model room to remember where the seat of honor is

More than 63k likes later, we bet @meikyu_106 hit a sore spot with this resourceful hack to keep in mind the proper seating protocol in a business setting.

No design could have made a better impact than this montage masterpiece. With the seat of honor (上座 かみざ) as a king’s throne and the lowest seat (下座げざ) as a tire, you can see at a glance the order in which very important senior persons to the lowest, most junior employees shall sit.

Japanese business hierarchy is built on seniority and title. The most important person should always sit as far away as possible from the door in any circumstances where you find yourself in a room. This also applies to when you’re in the elevator — the lowest ranking person pushes the button — while in a taxi, the seat behind the driver is for the highest ranking person.

We’re hoping @meikyu_106 will provide us with illustrations for these situations as well.

Hierarchy of everybody’s needs

If everyone clearly struggles with these unspoken rules — why bother?

Well, Japanese people have the influence of confucianism to thank for the much talked about group-oriented culture and top-down social hierarchy.

Ostensibly preserving hierarchical relationships at work is crucial for harmony and good business. Translation: From the company’s president down to the newly hired employee, we’ve all got to act according to our role on the giant chessboard that is doing business in Japan.

Forming longer sentences in Japanese using verbs as adjectives

Progressing with Japanese can sometimes feels like playing with lego. Once you’ve learned the basic grammar and particles, you can easily assemble very simple sentences and then use these simple structures to build more complex sentences.

One way to aid your sentence building ability in Japanese is by ditching the adjectives and opting for verbs instead. The short form of verbs can be used just like i-adjectives to qualify nouns. This is called the subordinate verb clause.

Just keep in mind that the qualifier comes before the object it qualifies:

上座下座が一瞬 いっしゅんで + かる + 部屋 へや

A great way to boost your understanding of the local manners and set yourself up for a career in Japan could be to sign-up for an intensive business course. Knowing the proper interview etiquette can go a long way into helping you build a successful life in Japan.

Vocabulary

Japanese Romaji English
上座 かみざ kamiza seat of honor
下座 げざ geza lower seat (for lowest rank)
ga Japanese particle
一瞬 いっしゅん isshun de instantly, in the blink of an eye
かる wakaru understand
部屋 へや heya room

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