Seiza: Japan's traditional sitting style

Seiza is more than just a way of sitting; it is a reflection of Japanese culture, etiquette, and mindfulness. This guide will explain what Seiza is, its importance, and tips for sitting comfortably in this traditional position.

Jul 4, 2024 - 14:18
Seiza: Japan's traditional sitting style
Photo source: Internet

Seiza (正座) is a traditional Japanese sitting posture that holds cultural and historical significance. For foreigners living in or visiting Japan, understanding the practice of Seiza provides valuable insight into Japanese customs and etiquette. 

Seiza, which literally means "proper sitting," is a formal way of sitting in Japan. It involves kneeling on the floor, folding one's legs under the thighs, and resting the buttocks on the heels. The tops of the feet should be flat on the floor, with the big toes sometimes overlapping.

Seiza is often used in formal settings, such as tea ceremonies, traditional martial arts, and during formal gatherings. It is a sign of respect and politeness.

The practice of Seiza dates back to the Edo period, where it became standardized in samurai culture and later adopted by the general populace.

In Zen Buddhism, Seiza is used during meditation as a way to promote focus and mindfulness.

When to Use Seiza

  • Tea Ceremonies: Seiza is the standard sitting posture during Japanese tea ceremonies, symbolizing respect for the host and the ritual.
  • Traditional Meals: When dining in a tatami room, Seiza may be used at low tables.
  • Martial Arts: Practitioners of martial arts like kendo, aikido, and judo often begin and end training sessions in Seiza.
  • Formal Gatherings: Seiza is used in formal meetings and ceremonies to show politeness and humility.

How to Sit in Seiza

  • Kneel on the Floor: Start by kneeling on the floor with your knees together and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Fold Your Legs: Gently sit back on your heels, ensuring that the tops of your feet are flat against the floor.
  • Maintain Good Posture: Keep your back straight, shoulders relaxed, and hands resting on your thighs.
  • Adjust as Needed: If you are new to Seiza, you may find it uncomfortable. Adjust your position to alleviate pressure and take breaks as needed.

Seiza is more than just a way of sitting; it is a reflection of Japanese culture, etiquette, and mindfulness. By understanding and practicing Seiza, foreigners can deepen their appreciation of Japanese traditions and engage more fully in cultural activities.

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