Until I actually started living in Japan I always thought that the Japanese use very little body language. I have never seem any other culture of people who can keep a straight face in almost any situation. Sometimes it may be easy to think that Japanese people are way too serious. Even when they are really upset, a lot of Japanese, do not change the expression on their face. I have come to understand that the Japanese do use a lot of body language; just in a very different way.
Japanese body language seems to be much more slight and passive than in America. A lot of Japanese have told me that it is so easy to tell how an American is feeling and what they are thinking. They say we over express ourselves. We wear our emotions on our face. Their comments are more true than I ever realized. I have noticed myself giving away my thoughts and emotions just by the expression on my face. I have never really tried to control my facial expressions until I made Japan my home. Living in Tokyo has taught me the value of being aware of my facial expressions.
From what I have observed the two most common use of body language is the eyes and mouth; the movement of the hips and feet can also be very telling. Eyes say a million words in Tokyo. Making eye contact is a big deal in the land of the raising sun. I has raised that it is just good manners to look someone in the eyes when you are talking to them or get their attention. It appears that eye contact can take on a whole different meaning in Japan. When wondering around the streets of Tokyo never brush off a quick glance or direct eye contact. If you do you might just pass up someone who is `very` interesting in you or might even offer you something that you are really gonna want. The easist way to get someones attention in Japan, I have found, is to make direct eye contact and smile. It also helps to slightly lower my head as to show I mean to danger. I have been able to get a lot of people to open up and talk to me on the street just by looking them in the eyes, smiling, and lower my head just a little bit. Making a quick deep glare and motioning with my head to follow me ro come near me has also worked magic.
The power of a smile in Tokyo is almost endless. A smile is an invite. It says; `Come here I like you` or `I want you to come over here and talk to me.` I have experienced many times in Tokyo that a smile ended up getting me into interesting situations. If someone smiles at you on the streets it is usually a good idea to find out what they want. There is also the universal factor of if you smile at somone they will usually smile back. I have discovered that a smile is a great way to find out what someone is looking to do; what is their agenda for the day. If you are the kind of person that fits into their plans a smile can get you a piece of the action if you know what I mean. So, don`t be afraid to smile at someone who looks interesting to you on the streets of Tokyo. Just remember to stay relaxed or you might mess up the whole deal.
I should also mention the use of feet and hips. It is very aggressive to show the botton of your shoes or foot when setting down. There are a lot of people who will be set off my this action. The body language of the hips are still kind of confusing for me. Although, I have noticed that the movement of their hips to communiate is different from Americans;this is more true for women. The movements of a Japanese gals hips can say a lot about her mood. If a gal in Tokyo is talking to you and she is moving her hips a lot there is a good chance she is enjoying your company. I don`t know if this is true of all Japanese gals from in my experience hip movement is a tell tell sign.
As a spend more time in Japan I will learn more about Japanese body language. Japanese tend to not say what they are thinking or feeling. They show you though body language more often than not. This might very well become a life long study project for me.