Is it Rude to Cross Your Legs in Japan?

In Japan, the traditional and “proper” way to sit is called “seiza”, a style of sitting on your knees.

So, what if you are visiting as a foreigner? Is it rude to cross your legs, for example?

Read on below and learn what Japanese culture thinks of sitting with your legs crossed!

Is it Rude to Cross Your Legs in Japan?

Traditionally speaking, it is considered beyond rude to cross your legs in Japan. Instead, while sitting, you should strive for the brutal “seiza” stance (where you sit/kneel on your knees rather than sitting like in western cultures).

Today, it is seen just as offensive as ever to cross your legs, even if you are a foreigner.

How Rude Is it?

rudemeter-rating-10

If you are aware of the basics of Japanese culture, crossing your legs while sitting In Japan rates 10 out of 10 on the rude meter (and will be seen as such by most Japanese people).

In the case you are a first-time visitor and don’t know about the tradition of the seiza stance, it still rates 5 out of 10 on the rude meter (and you will promptly be educated by a local as to how offensive it is)

Why is it Rude?

When you are visiting a foreign country such as Japan, it is expected of travelers to have at least some valid knowledge of the culture.

Thus, if one is visiting Japan, and has done their proper research, they would without a doubt be aware of something so widely known (as the perceived rudeness of crossing your legs).

Other Options to Do Instead

As crazy as it sounds, there aren’t too many alternatives to sitting seiza style in Japan. That means you’d better practice sitting on your knees for two to three weeks before taking your trip to the Island nation (a method called “hardening” which prepares your body for the physical aspect of seiza). 

Other options to do instead of crossing your legs include standing, seeing yourself out while others are seated, and avoiding scenarios/environments where you will more than likely be expected to sit (because it will be seiza-style sitting that is expected of you).

Common Questions

How offensive is crossing your legs in Japan?

While visiting Japan, you will find yourself in numerous situations where you are expected to sit. For example, at meals, in people’s homes, for religious purposes, and for other types of small or intimate gatherings are just a few of the scenarios/environments where you’ll need to sit (on the ground).  

What is seiza?

Seiza is the traditional Japanese form of sitting “properly” for almost every occasion (and it is quite a disciplined one at that). This practice involves sitting on one’s knees, directly on the floor (typically on a rug or some similar to a yoga mat).

How should I sit in Japan?

When you are traveling around Japan and experiencing the amazing culture of this beautiful and unique nation, you should practice the seiza form of traditional Japanese sitting (to avoid being unintentionally rude). In other words, you should sit on your knees, not on your rear end.