Oshigoto rules: Seating Arrangement
When Japanese gather around, there is a basic rule about sitting in the correct seat orders, and it is called the sekiji (席次) . In sekiji, people of a higher status always sit on kamiza, whereas people of a lower status will sit on shimoza. However, do we exactly know what kamiza and shimoza are? Today, we shall discuss these sekiji rules as well as what to be followed for various business occasions.
Seniority is a very important concept in the Japanese culture. Thus, the difference between a person of a higher status and a person of a lower status could be quite significant. Kamiza (上座) is the name of the seats specially prepared for people who are to be highly respected. They are usually the company’s higher management or top executives. Other than that, kamiza is also usually prepared for guests visiting a company. Shimoza (下座) is the opposite of kamiza; seats are prepared for people with lower ranks or positions. For examples, the younger or newer employees of a company. These seats are usually nearest to the entrance of a room.
However, someone who is seated in a kamiza or a shimoza position in a particular situation, may not hold the same status in a different situation. For example, in the below situation, seats are numbered according to the order of their status.
① ② ③
When we look at only seats 1 and 2, seat 1 is the kamiza whereas seat 2 is the shimoza. However, when we look at only seats 2 and 3, seat 2 now becomes the kamiza and seat 3 is the shimoza.
Reception Room and Reception Area
In a reception room or at a reception area, the furthest seat away from the entrance is considered as the kamiza. These seats are usually long sofas rather than individual arm chairs, reason being it is more comfortable to sit on sofas.
In a meeting, guests are always invited to have their seats on kamiza first. After that, employers from the hosting company will fill the seats in the order of their ranks.
In the Elevator
The space right in front of the elevator fixtures is the shimoza. The person who stands at this area usually holds the door from outside of the elevator. After everybody else has entered the elevator, he will be the last one to enter and he will be in charge of the elevator fixtures.
On the Shinkansen
The window seat that is facing the way the Shinkansen is travelling is the kamiza.
The seat right behind the driver is the kamiza, whereas the seat next to the driver is the shimoza. The person sitting on the shimoza is usually in charge of giving instructions or directions to the driver, as well as paying taxi fees.
Seat order indicates the status of a person. It can, therefore, be considered as an act of rudeness if one made a mistake in finding seats for himself. Since sekiji rules vary for different spaces, it is important for us to practice sekiji regularly and plant it as a habit into ourselves.
Learn Japanese words!
順序 (junban) – order
基本 (kihon) – basic
社員 (shain) – employee
お客様 (okyakusama) – guest/customer
出入り口 (deiriguchi) – entrance/exit
応接室(oosetsushitsu) – reception room
会議室 (kaigishitsu) – meeting room
エレベーター (erebeetaa) – elevator
運転手 (untenshuu) – driver