Hugs and Kisses ハグとキス

Updated: Oct 12


Japan is known for having fewer public displays of affection compared to its Western counterparts. Physical touching among friends and lovers certainly are less noticeable in the public space in Japan. I believe there are cultural reasons for this behavioral difference. Japanese separate greetings from affections of love. In the Western culture, hugs and kisses are used for both. For greetings, Japanese traditionally bow to express different emotions depending on the occasion. A bow could mean a simple daily greeting (good morning, good afternoon, good evening, good-bye, thank you, beginning and ending of meal), or business greeting in a professional scene where Westerners would use a handshake, and for expressions of sympathy, or offering of an apology. For the most part, Japanese save hugs and kisses for expressing affection or love in a private space. So, not seeing much physical affection in public doesn’t mean that we don’t hug or kiss.

There is a belief in Japan that parents hug children to encourage dependency. This belief has not been proven but is a part of their culture, so parents tend to force themselves not to hug their children when they reach a certain age. What age is appropriate to stop hugging children is not standardized and is up to the parents to decide. At some point, public displays of affection between parents and children end, and such intimacy only occurs in private between adults. In general, hugging and kissing as a method of greeting in public is uncomfortable to traditional Japanese people. The first time I returned from the US, my mother came to pick me up at a local airport. While I was retrieving my luggage, I could see my mother’s face filled with joy and anticipation to see her son after a long separation. When I was coming out of the baggage claim area, I was ready to hug her extending my arms, but to my surprise, my mother pushed me away and exclaimed: “What are you doing in public?” It was a long time ago, and my mother was a woman of old culture, so you shouldn’t expect the same behavior from every Japanese person, but you get my point as to the separation of greetings in the public space and expression of love in the private space.

hug, kiss, handshake, greeting, Japanese
bow for greeting


A: あっ、鈴木(すずき)部長(ぶちょう)。おはようございます。先日(せんじつ)のグローバルミーティングお疲れ様(おつかれさま)でした。

B: どうもどうも。 井上(いのうえ)くんも海外支社(かいがいししゃ)のお客(きゃく)さん相手(あいて)疲(つか)れただろう

A: はい、オンラインミーティングで面識(めんしき)はあったんですが、直接(ちょくせつ)会(あ)うのは初(はじ)めてだったので色々(いろいろ)と大変(たいへん)でした。

B: そうですか。何(なに)が一番(いちばん)大変(たいへん)でしたか?

A: そうですね。私(わたし)はどうも挨拶(あいさつ)で頬(ほお)にキスされるのが苦手(にがて)で

B: ははは、そうだね。 僕(ぼく)もあれにはなかなか慣(な)れないよ。握手(あくしゅ)なら大丈夫(だいじょうぶ)なんだけどね。 

A: 私は、オンラインの会議(かいぎ)が一番(いちばん)楽(らく)です。


部長 n. a director, literally (department head). Compare with 係長(かかりちょう)、課長(かちょう)、社長(しゃちょう)

先日 n. the other day. Compare with 昨日(きのう)、この間(あいだ)、この前(まえ)

グローバルミーティング n. global meeting practice pronunciation

お疲れ様 n. literally (Sir/Madam. Tired one). This expression can be used to comfort someone’s hard work. です/でしたshould be attached when the expression is used toward one of higher pecking order.

海外支社 n. overseas branch office

お客さん相手 n. dealing with customers 相手=dealing with, i.e. 子供相手(dealing with children)

疲れた v. た-form of 疲れる. to get tired

だろう aux.v adds a tone of assumption. Here, “(I assume) you must be exhausted.” だろう is a casual tone of でしょう。

面識 n. literal meaning is “identifiable by face”=”have seen the face” 面識がある=会ったことがある。面識がない=会ったことがない。

のは  の(particle to normalize verb. Here “seeing in person”+は(p. topic maker)

初めて n. first time compare with 始(はじ)める

色々と 色々 n. various/many things + と p. reference. Here, “it was troublesome because of various issues”. 色々な is ナ-adj. 色々な国、色々な食べ物

大変 ナ-adj.  大変な=troublesome

どうも somewhat. どうも is a versatile word. It could mean “thank you”, “hello”, or “sorry”, depending on the context. Here, it means “somewhat”.

挨拶で  挨拶 n. greeting+で p. means By means of greeting

頬 n. cheek

される passive voice of する Here, being kissed. Discuss why there is an unwelcoming tone in this sentence.

苦手 ナ-adj. 苦手な not good at

には particles に+は brings out a comparison nature of は 〜に慣れる/慣れない = I get used to / I don’t get used to. By adding は、it adds a nuance of (I could get used to other things, but) I can’t get used to being kissed on the cheek.

なかなか adv. Rather, kinda

なら p. This ならcan be replace by は. Discuss the other usages of なら

楽 n. easy / comfortable