There are many things foreigners coming to live in Japan need to get used to, including eating rice 2-3 times a day, washing your body before getting into the bathtub and putting the equivalent of a $100 bill in a vending machine, which then bows to you in thanks. You also find yourself sitting on the floor a lot, whether it’s watching TV at a kotatsu table or relaxing on the tatami mats. The “proper” way to sit on the floor is on your knees, a position called 正座 seiza, which literally means “correct sitting.” It’s the first thing you learn when you study Japanese martial arts or tea ceremony, and somehow the act of sitting in this way seems to prepare your kokoro (heart) in ways that other sitting positions can’t do. Unfortunately for gaijin as well as younger Japanese, it can be quite difficult to sit in this way for more than a few minutes without your legs falling asleep. Whenever foreigners are in a formal situation in which we’re called to sit seiza style, Japanese expect us to be unable to do it, and will offer us little chairs to sit on instead.
Sitting seiza style is not easy for gaijin.