Seating Protocol in Japan - Seating Arrangements

Post date: Friday, December 18, 2020

In Japan there is an unspoken rule about where to sit when you are in the company of your elders, co-workers, and customers etc. There are seats known as “Kamiza” and a ranking of seats for “Shimoza”. This is a unique part of Japanese and its purpose is to show respect and hospitality to superiors and customers by being considerate about where you sit.

What are Kamiza and Shimoza?

Kamiza is the safest and most comfortable place to sit. Shimoza is opposite the Kamiza and is the place where the person welcoming a customer, or a person with a lower position will sit. 

Kamiza is the name of a seat specially prepared for highly respected people. They are usually for senior executives or executives in a company. Besides that, Kamiza is also reserved for guests visiting a company or a house.

Shimoza is reserved for people with lower ranks and positions (younger / newer employees in a company). These seats are usually near the entrance of a room.

Kamiza and Shimoza apply not only to seating arrangements in a room, but also positions and seats in elevators and cars. Additionally there is a hierarchy for the left and right sides to help one determine the property seating etiquette according to the situation.

How to Find Where to Sit

Generally speaking, the seat furthest from the entrance will be the upper seat.

For seating within a room, the seat furthest from the entrance will be the upper seat and as the seats are positioned nearer and nearer to the door they will descend in order as lower seats. This can be however changed depending on the layout of the room.

In a Japanese-style room with an alcove, the seat positioned directly behind the alcove will be the upper seat and the seat nearest the doorway will be the lower seat.

Seating Order

In a customer service situation, we recommend directing customers to the upper seat.

In company meeting rooms and such, seats will be ordered following people’s positions in descending order starting with the chairman and president of the company.

In other situations, we suggest the order starts from the boss and elders.

Kamiza when there are two entrances

The upper seat will be the one that is the least noisy and furthest away from the foot traffic in the room.

Inside a taxi, the seat directly behind the driver's seat is the upper seat. The lower seat is the passenger seat, where the person giving directions and in charge of payment will sit.

Seating Arrangement Examples

Meeting Room1

① → ④  Kamiza → Shimoza


Meeting Room2

① → ⑤  Kamiza → Shimoza


① → ④  Kamiza → Shimoza



① → ④  Kamiza → Shimoza