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Behavior & Customs

Your behavior will reflect back to the people who have recommended you as uchi deshi. You should take great care in behaving properly at all times. There are rules in the dojo which will be explained to you. You must abide by them, even if you do not agree with them. Keep a humble attitude at all times. Remember that you are a guest in a foreign country and culture, so behave with respect.

Every Sensei should always be called by their family name plus "Sensei."  Also when talking to someone else, be sure to always refer to them by the aforementioned names. In Japan it is rude to refer to people without using a suffix after their name.

Giving gifts when meeting is an important custom in Japan. Bring gifts to give to the Sensei. Make sure to have several small gifts to give if invited to someone’s home or to special friends made during your stay. Dojo T shirts are a good present for Aikido friends you may make in Japan.

Personal names

Use the prefix ¨-san¨ when addressing people, for instance: you should call Nakamura ¨Nakamura-san.¨ Usually Japanese people use their family names in daily life and will introduce themselves as for instance ¨Nakamura Ichiro,¨ with the family name first and given name last. In general, you call Japanese people by their last names + san. In cases where you are about the same age and have a close friendly relationship with the person, then the Japanese first name + san can be used. Also use ¨-san¨ after names when talking about a person to another person. You never use “...san” or any other title (Sensei for instance) when talking about yourself.

Drinking customs
The usual custom when drinking in Japan is to fill other people’s glasses before filling your own. Usually when you start to fill your own, someone will take the bottle from you and offer to pour for you. One always lifts ones glass to receive a drink, and should always drink a little bit to make room for more in your glass. It is most polite to hold the glass with your right hand and put your left hand flat under the glass when someone is pouring for you. When pouring for others, hold the bottle with your right hand and place your left hand under the bottle to stabilize it. This is also the most polite way to hold the bottle when pouring for others.

General customs in Japan
Japanese people will often invite you home, or out. This is not always what it seems. Often it is the idea that they would like to do something for you, the gesture of wanting to do it, that is important. When invited, wait to see if the person makes a step to actually realize the plans, for instance in asking when would be a good time etc. Do not push to make an invitation happen. Always bring a little something to give as a token when invited to someone’s home.
Fuji-san - photo by Ethan Weisgard

Japanese society and Budo training
Japan is a society based on teacher - student relationships. The role of hierarchy must be understood and respected. The sempai - kohai order must be respected. No matter what your rank or how long you have been studying Budo, you will start as a kohai. The sempai should be consulted in all matters concerning the training and daily life. By doing this you will gain their respect and acceptance. Be aware that whatever you do will have an effect on the way other foreigners will be treated. A humble attitude will get you the farthest. Japan is a vertical society. This means that in schools, workplaces and basically any situation where there is a group of people who are together for a certain purpose, sempai or sensei can at times talk roughly to kohai. Especially in situations where tasks are to be performed or in teaching situations you will find that this is often the case. Japanese people do not consider being ordered in a very abrupt fashion to do things by their sempai or sensei to be demeaning. It will help to keep this in mind during your stay.

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