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What does hand holding of both hands mean? 2016/9/13 11:36
I met a young Japanese woman last week during a cultural exchange event in the USA. She was traveling with a tour group of 100 or so people from many different countries; only about 5 or so were from Japan. As I passed a booth that gave information about it, she ran after me to tell me about it. I took the brochure from her with two hands, unaware of the Japanese custom of accepting things with both hands. I held the brochure against my chest with both hands as we talked. I'm 6'8" (203cm) tall, so I lowered my head a bit to listen better. She spoke English quite well, and would pause to try to find the right word at times. She mentioned that her English wasn't very good, but I told her that her English is much better than my Japanese. She responded by saying that konnichiwa means hello, and I may have taken her by surprise by immediately saying arigato. I asked her a bit about Japan and mentioned that I had always wanted to ride on one of the trains. She lives close to Tokyo, and rides them every day.

Fast forward to the actual event: It was the last night of it, and she stopped by to visit with me as I sat while everyone was leaving. We talked a bit about the event, and she asked why I decided to come to it. I mentioned I came to it because she let me know about it and that I enjoyed talking with her that day. Anyway, we talked more, and then she held both of my hands. My hands were palms up, and I held her hands in return. We talked more, she held my hands again; then she hugged me and I hugged her back; then she held both of my hands again before we parted company. There was lots of eye contact throughout our conversations as well.

How should I interpret that? The event was for cultural exchange, so she was there to experience other cultures. She was also leaving two days later, probably never to return to where I live. The situation would definitely fall outside the norms for her to follow traditional Japanese customs. In any case, I'm hoping someone can offer some insight. I did really enjoy speaking with her and miss her, and she probably felt the same way.
by Culturally Confused (guest)  

Re: What does hand holding of both hands mean? 2016/9/13 23:14
It means she's in love with you and wants to have your babies. Hand touching in Japan is akin to 3rd base. Did she play patty cake with you? That's the Japanese version of a home run. You should sell everything and move to Japan immediately.

I've missed the love and relationships category.
by . (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: What does hand holding of both hands mean? 2016/9/13 23:31
Thanks for the laugh! That was actually pretty hilarious!

Your point is that I'm overthinking all of this. I met a wonderful person, and will likely never have a chance to see or speak with her ever again. She probably felt the same way, and realized that before I did.
by Culturally Confused (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: What does hand holding of both hands mean? 2016/9/13 23:53
Hello again. You need to read about honne and tatamae. There's some cultural learning for you.
by . (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: What does hand holding of both hands mean? 2016/9/14 00:22
It sounds like a typical behavior seen among people who became excited, enthusiastic and happy during a huge cultural exchange event, which is typical among most humans I've seen around the world including Japan, moreover in international events, moreover when the person thinks that it's easier to communicate with gesture rather than words. Very recent examples happened and still is happening in Rio as the world witnessed them on television.

the Japanese custom of accepting things with both hands.

The situation would definitely fall outside the norms for her to follow traditional Japanese customs.

Being Japanese for fifty odd years, I don't know what you're talking about. But the fact that you felt this way already shows that the event was successful. I'm sure you went home with positive feelings, and I hope that your feelings will contribute to world peace in one way or another. I'm really happy for you.

By the way, I don't think it's a "honne and tatemae" thing. People honestly tend to feel this way in a big event.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: What does hand holding of both hands mean? 2016/9/14 01:05
Thanks for the enlightenment! In addition to that, I read about giri and wa, and I plan to continue learning more about Japanese culture.

Reading about honne and tatemae really opened my eyes. My first interaction with her was in public with her colleagues, and she was doing her job of letting people such as me know about the cultural exchange event. My last interaction was in a semi-dark theatre after most of the people, including her colleagues, had left the area. The hand holding and hug took me by complete surprise, which is what left me confused.

I went to that event because I highly value all cultures, and wanted to learn more. I've always greatly respected and held Japanese culture in high esteem, and I'm grateful to have the opportunity to learn more about it. She had a profound impact on me to pursue this knowledge.

There's a chance that I might be able to get my email address to her. If she gets it and chooses to write to me, then fate will have chosen that the friendship is meant to be. The bottom line is that I feel regret that I may have missed an opportunity to have a great friendship with a wonderful person.

by Culturally Confused (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: What does hand holding of both hands mean? 2016/9/14 02:26
Uco - Thank you for your kind words and advice.

The cultural event was amazing, and she may have simply felt overjoyed that someone she spoke with attended and enjoyed the event because of her.

I believe my confusion arose from the fact that I was searching for a cultural meaning to her actions, when it was probably in all actuality driven by her feelings as an individual. Actually, if I learned correctly, that's what honne is. Since honne is generally reserved for friends, I would interpret the hand holding as an expression of friendship. (Which would be pretty obvious in most cultures, but I completely over-analyzed this entire thing. However, over-analyzing helped me learn more about a beautiful culture.)
by Culturally Confused (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: What does hand holding of both hands mean? 2016/9/15 17:21
Holding 2 hands together after a strongly made connection is very universal across the globe. Happy times. :)
by hakata14 (guest) rate this post as useful

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