21 Dec 2018 in Discover Japan
Like to master the seiza? Read all in our guide to sitting!
Ever tried kneeling with your legs tucked under your thighs, your buttocks on your heels and your feet flat on the floor? It may not sound comfortable, but this is the formal seiza position for sitting on tatami mats in Japan.
What’s more, there are well-defined codes about how to settle into the position. If you’re in a traditional restaurant with tatami mats and a low table, at someone’s home or participating in a tea ceremony, you’ll probably be offered a zabuton, a special cushion for sitting seiza-style.
You should approach the zabuton from the left side and never stand on it. This involves squatting down and then sliding onto the cushion using your hands.
For most Westerners, seiza (literally “proper sitting”) starts getting painful after a few minutes. But, don’t worry, there are accepted alternatives – especially if you’re not Japanese.
For men, the conventional alternative is to sit cross-legged (agaru), while women are meant to sit with both legs out to the same side (yoko-zuwari).
With a little luck, you’ll be offered a zaisu, a chair with support for your back.
You may even have the luxury of a separate armrest (kyōsoku).
For the ultimate sitting comfort, head to HOSHINOYA Karuizawa, where the restaurant features traditional low tables – but with a pit dug out under the table.
Which means you get to eat in the classic Japanese style, but with your legs dangling freely and pain-free below you!