Seating in a business setting in Japan is crucial. There are many rules that are learned but they are not verbalized. In Japan seating arrangements are very important at meetings, at dinners or in cars, and how people stand in elevators etc. The relationships can be the one of is most superior, guest-host, the position of the door, and decoration in the room etc. Most foreigners might find these rules strange but if done correctly, they can make a big impression on the client.
What is Kamiza (上座) and Shimmoza (下座)
The best seat in the room is Kamiza, so the oldest or most important person sits there, this is the highest ranked person. Shimoza is opposite of Kamiza, so the youngest person sits there, this is the lowest ranked person. Normally, the farthest seat from the entrance is Kamiza and nearest to the entrance is Shimoza.
Basic Seating Positions
This is the basic style of seating positions for a meeting. Number four is the Shimoza and number one is the Kamiza. The number relate to how important the seat it is and number one is most the important seat.
Meeting with Another Company
The guests sit away from the door and to the back and the hosts sit closes to the door. Both bosses sit in the middle, the next most important person sits the farthest from the door, and the last person sits next to the door.
Seating in Meeting Chambers
Some Japanese companies have meetings chambers for people who have more seniority. If there are sofas, then the person with the most seniority sits to the very back of the room, but not in the middle of the sofa. There are other of chairs that can change the seating positions, such as a lounge chair, a chair for one person, and a chair with no back. Before the main person arrives, everyone else should be standing. Then everyone should sit in their designated seats.
Where to Sit with the Chairman
Seating is even stricter when the chairman or CEO is present. There should be no one sitting across the table from the chairman, everyone should be off to the side. The next most important person sits to the right then it alternates left and right. The person with the lowest rank sits closes to the door.
Seating at a Circular Table
The person with the most seniority sits to the very back of the room, and the person with the lowest rank sits near the door. Chinese food restaurants tend to have round tables like the picture above, so be careful with seating positions. Everyone is expected to be standing before the highest rank person sits down.
Seating in a Japanese-style Room with a Tatami Mat
Usually is a Japanese-style room, there is bookcases to the left and art on the right side. The person with the highest rank sits closest to the art. If there is a garden connected to the room, then the highest rank sits in a position to see the garden.
Standing in the Elevator
The highest rank person is behind the panel, and the lowest rank is in front of the panel. During the elevator ride, people come on and off so the lowest rank is expected to be polite to other people as well. The two people closest to the door hold the doors open an allow everyone off the elevator first, then they can walk out.
Riding in a Taxi
The highest ranked person sits behind the driver and the lowest ranked person sits next to the driver. Sometimes the seat behind the driver can be difficult to get in and out of, so it is important to ask the highest ranked person if would like to ride in the front instead. This can leave a good impression on the client or guest.
Riding in a Car with a Driver
When riding in a private car, the highest ranked person is siting up front with the driver. Where there is more than three people, the lowest rank sits in the back seat in the middle. If there is only three people including the driver, then the lower rank should ask if his boss would like to sit in the back, this comes off as very polite. The highest rank sits in the back by themselves and the other person sits up front with the driver.