This section is designed to provide information on various social situations that exercise participants are likely to encounter and to educate and guide them in relationships with their Japanese counterparts. This is intended as a guide only and its application must be tempered to the circumstances and use of common sense.
- As Americans in Japan, we are not expected to act exactly as the Japanese. Accordingly, it is neither necessary nor appropriate to emulate each and every custom and mannerism of your hosts.
- The good manners and etiquette of our American culture can serve us well in Japan. Proper behavior in accordance with contemporary American standards, together with a touch of modesty, is perfectly appropriate in Japanese business and social settings.
- In Japan, while the hand-shake greeting is common between Japanese and Americans, saluting and bowing are common and highly respected practices within the respective military and civilian sectors. Japanese military personnel render the hand salute on all occasions when greeting another military service member or counterpart, regardless of rank. As in the U.S. Armed services, it is customary for Japanese enlisted personnel to salute officers, but unlike the U.S. military, Japanese enlisted members also render salutes to each other. Therefore, it is appropriate for U.S. military members to greet their Japanese military counterparts of all ranks with a proper military hand salute. As in the U.S. Army, saluting is usually restricted to out of doors.
- Bowing within the military ranks is commonly practiced in addition to the hand salute to extend courtesy and respect from subordinate to superior. Although bowing by Americans to their Japanese counterparts is not absolutely required, it is highly recommended as a gesture of goodwill and respect. If sincerely executed, the American will be held in high esteem. As Americans, we are not expected to bow as deeply from the waist as would a Japanese. We should execute our bow by lowering our head and shoulders slightly forward in a sincere manner. This gesture may be rendered as many times as required during a meeting, and is appropriate within both the Japanese military and civilian communities. Bowing is proper both indoors and outdoors.
- Business cards or "Meishi" are a universal part of Japanese business, governmental, and military interactions. Business cards are commonly exchanged during introductions. The giving of a business card is a serious gesture in Japan; it is a type of commitment, for it automatically opens the door to direct contact at any time. U.S. officers, senior noncommissioned officers, and staff level U.S. civilian employees are encouraged to use business cards.
- When receiving a Meishi, take a few moments to examine the card. Take note of the person's name, duty position, and any special qualifications indicated on the card. Because the Meishi symbolically represents the person who gave it to you, do not write on it, fold it, etc., in the presence of its owner. Treating the Meishi with disregard implies a lack of respect for the person from whom you received it.
- Normally, both parties exchange Meishi. When you present your card, present it with the Japanese translation side, if you have bilingual cards. If your Meishis are only in English, present the card so that the other person can read it.
- Gifts are exchanged between U.S. Armed Forces members and their Japanese hosts on both official and personal occasions such as welcome or sayonara parties. Gifts may range in price and simplicity according to one's economic status. Gift giving is an established Japanese tradition and accordingly is a very sensitive issue. For example, to refuse a gift under normal circumstances could be construed by the Japanese as offensive.
- In some instances, acceptance of a gift from a Japanese by a service member could range from being illegal to being completely harmless such as in the case of the acceptance of a non-duty related gift of nominal cost from a personal Japanese friend. Any gift that you receive and are in doubt as to its legality should be reported to your Commander for advice concerning the gifts disposition.
- Also, remember if we accept a gift from our Japanese hosts, we should find a suitable way of reciprocating. Commonly used gifts are American chocolates/candies, unit patches, tie pins or coins, and/or other inexpensive memorabilia such as items that are unique or representative of the United States or your hometown. The gifts should be simply wrapped. It is not the Japanese custom to open a gift in front of the person who gave it; however, they are usually familiar with American customs and will probably open the gift while you are there.
- Most Japanese can speak some English as English is taught quite extensively in Japan beginning with junior high school through college or university. However, their English speaking ability is more limited than their reading and writing skills.
- It should be remembered that no matter how well our Japanese counterparts and friends may speak English, it is their second language. We must not assume that their comprehension and response levels are the same as an American English speaker. We should speak slowly and clearly, and avoid using baby talk, excessive slang, and "pidgin English". Misunderstandings could create many problems. When in doubt, or when it becomes apparent that what is being said may not be understood at all, it is best to request the assistance of an interpreter or translator, especially during business discussions. Most Japanese not only enjoy speaking English with Americans, but enthusiastically welcome every opportunity to practice. Remember, it is best to use short, concise phrases in well structured, simple sentences to obtain the best results. Take advantage of the opportunities to learn and use new Japanese skills; it will enhance your performance and interest, both professionally and personally.
- For language basics, click here.
SIGHTSEEING AND PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
Maps of Japan Rail (JR) and Tokyo subway lines are available at the Army Community Service (ACS) Bldg 402. These systems are efficient and can get you everywhere and anywhere you want to go in-country. The Army Community Service (ACS, 263-3166) has published a compendium of train use information by the various rail lines which serve Camp Zama; ask for a copy before using the trains without an experienced guide. You need to be aware that signage in all rail stations is in Japanese, with only a few stations using Romanji (phonetic english of the Japanese destinations).
Military operator assistance in English for the Kanto Plain is available 24-hours per day from 0462-51-1520. Calling commercially from the US to Camp Zama dial 011-81-3117 plus the last six digits of the phone you want. Calling from Camp Zama to the US dial 99-001-1 plus area code and seven digit number.
Informal business wear (suits and dresses) is rarely needed in Japan. Casual clothing of conservative taste is acceptable almost everywhere. Dress warmly for winter and cooly for the heat and humidity of summer, but avoid wearing revealing clothing (e.g., shorts or tank tops) off post. Never mix military clothing with casual clothing.