Useful Hints


I am definitely NOT the right person to tell people how to behave in this country or reveal the “most treasured secrets of this culture”. Nevertheless, a few words / hints / advises might prove to be helpful. These “hints” are meant for people wishing to observe acupuncture treatments. This is an ongoing process during which the list of instructions will (hopefully) grow in length …..

Do’s and Don’ts

Do not cause or create any trouble (in whatever form).
Please consider, that each and every person eventually letting you observe/study etc. does so out of the desire to help foreigners showing their willingness to learn. For that purpose they go out of their way / daily routine and possibly even place a certain strain on their patients. NONE of these people has ANY obligation towards you and to the best of my knowledge, while writing this, ALL are working as volunteers. 
Any trouble, when word spreads, could jeopardize the whole endeavor! So, please, try to be sensible enough to avoid trouble and if something should happen, do your best to save the situation (with the person involved). Thank you.
Please learn some phrases of Japanese
Trust me: it will be immensely smoothing the way, if you can say something like “Thank you / please / show me / I really appreciate your effort” etc. in Japanese (I will try to set up a little list later …)
Please DO NOT enter a Japanese house, clinic etc. with your shoes on ・unless explicitly specified otherwise (meaning: all other people also keep their shoes on). It is considered unclean (and impolite). Remove your shoes, place them neatly alongside each other with the tips facing the door.
This is a matter of course, but greet everybody you meet / are introduced to! A slight bow would be appropriate for most people (try to smile ever so faintly = make a friendly impression). Shaking hands is not really a Japanese custom.
Don’t talk loudly.
In particular not in a clinical setting. Some people seem to have the urge to make their presence known (like Mr. Carter in “Rush hour”). There may be a time and place for that, but visiting or observing Japanese practitioners is NOT the appropriate occasion. 
Please note, that Japanese people (even the practitioners) may feel intimidated just by the mere presence of a (mostly tall) foreigner. And I assume, that intimidating people would NOT be the purpose of your visit.
Thank people
Say “thank you” to the people, who go out of THEIR way in order to help YOU. Also try to say “thank you” a little more often than what you would probably be considered “normal” at home. A few times too many will conceivably still be short of what Japanese people would consider appropriate among themselves. Yet, babbling “thank you” all the time and all over the place could possibly be considered annoying, although nobody would ever tell you so. Yet, it is still better to be annoying by thanking people, than by let’s say complaining …
“Shut up and listen” (if you will pardon my “French”)
This goes together with the preceding section. If you yourself keep talking, or shower the practitioner with an endless stream of questions etc. you deprive the practitioner of the chance to tell you something. There is little enough the Japanese can eloquently put into words (at least not English words). (I have heard from a researcher in this field: the Japanese people are considered to be the people with the worst communication capabilities worldwide!) So, try to be quite, listen to what they try to tell you — AND watch them. There is probably more to be learned through observation than through words.
If I introduce you to someone, or you are introduced by someone else to someone and you get into contact with that person, please use a formally acceptable style. “Actual received inquiries” show, that people address me (for me that may be acceptable, but not for Japanese practitioners) with phrases like “Hi, …” or “Hi, there …” 
Appointments  –> Before you go and visit someone, please make sure to make an “appointment” -> make sure the pepole know you are coming.Once you made an “appointment”, do NOT be late. If for any unforeseeable circumstance you cannot keep your appointment, ALWAYS make sure to notify the people and apologize for your not being able to meet them as agreed. 
You don’t have to wear anything “fancy”, but keep it neat and clean (does not necessarily have to be a suit. 
White coat: well, that is something, you need to ask the people you are visiting about. I don’t use white coats in MY clinic, but most people in Japan probably do. So, having one ready would be helpful.

Some helpful Japanese phrases

“Breaking the ice”

Japanese people may often be afraid of and/or reluctant to meet / communicate with foreigners. I will not discuss this situation and possible background factors here (that is for people who are smarter than I am), but upon initial contact, you may sense the presence of some major obstacle between you and the Japanese people – like an invisible glass wall.

This could be conveniently visualized as “ice” instead of glass. Being able to address the Japanese people even with a single Japanese word or phrase – you do not have to be able to make conversation – will greatly help to what the English idiom “breaking the ice” to eloquently describes. Trust me: being able to say one or two of the following phrases will be immensely helpful.

The list is NOT in any particular order. Just as the individual terms/phrases came to my mind.

Thank youArigato gozaimasu
“Please”. But this “please” is different from the ordinary word please in English. It is an expression applied to almost EVERYTHING when you are asking people for a favor / request things. And since it is used for almost everything, the expression is also very frequent. Still, you cannot render its meaning/color in a single English term. It is used in situations like: “Please call me”; please make time for me on …; I leave this to you …; Could you please ….; 
When the situation is clear, this expression ALONE will most often convey, what you want to say – without any other words/phrases. This may, however, be suitable only for the more advanced users. BUT: please remember this phrase; it is very important = Yoroshiku onegai shimasu …  
Yoroshiku onegai shimasu
Good day / good afternoonKon-nichi wa (with a little break between the two “n”)
Good morningOhayo gozaimasu
Good nightO Yasumi nasai
Good byeSayonara
Thank you for all you did for me. (idiom)Osewa ni narimashita.
May I come in? (like into the space behind a curtain)Haitte mo yoroshii desu ka.
May I have a look?Mite mo yoroshii desu ka.
Could you show me (that) please?Misete itadakemasu ka.
I do not understand. 
This is usually preceded by an apology (for not understanding) = Sorry, I do not understand. On the right = “gomen nasai”
Wakarimasen .. or .. Gomen nasai. Wakarimasen
I do not know this.Shirimasen
Not knowing is different from not understanding.
(Ah,) I have seen this before.(kore wa) Mita koto arimasu
“Thank you”Itadakimasu 
If you receive a gift, anything you may keep, or before starting to eat a meal (which you also receive), then you say “thank you”, but with the nuance of “thank you for what has been bestowed upon me”. In case of material things you receive, try to receive them “serenely” and with BOTH hands, slightly bowing at the same time.
Please accept this little present.Dooka, (kore o) uketotte kudasai.

That would be the reverse of “itadakimasu”, where YOU receive something. Here you try to GIVE something and ask the other party to accept it. The Japanese have many little “ornametal phrases” to elaborate this request, but I assume introducing them all here would be too much.
* If you offer people presents, preferably have them nicely wrapped.
** IF for one reason or other you decide to give/offer money to a person, try to use clean, unwrinkled bills put in a clean envelop. I think most Japanese people would consider it bad taste (more likely rude) if anybody would try to hand over money directly.
“Is this a good time for you?”, “Is is now OK?” Ima yoroshii deshou ka.
Depending on what the practitioner does, it is not always “OK”.
Where may I put my luggage?Nimotsu wa doko ni okeba yoroshii desho ka.
(May I ask) Where is the bathroom (toilet) please.O-te-arai wa dochira desho ka.
Everybody will need this at some time.
Where should I be?
If you sense, your presence at a particular point of time could compromise the treatment etc. you could ask on your own initiative, whether you should step outside / retreat:
Shibaraku hazushita hou ga ii deshou ka.
Doko ni ireba yoroshii desho ka.
This again is something that will depend largely on the practitioner. Some people may ask you stand beside them, others behind them. Or may even ask you to step out of the curtain for a particular patient. Please do not argue with these instructions.
May I ask you a question?Shitsumon shite mo yoroshii desho ka.

If the practitioner is comfortable with answering questions during treatments, please go ahead and ask your questions – in a quiet, controlled manner.
Thank you. This has been very educating.Taihen benkyou ni narimashita.
Could you show me (that) please?
Here the Japanese does NOT include the “that”, since the expression would change depending on the thing/techique etc. you would like to see, but don’t worry, you will be understood. (you could additionally point)
Misete itadakemasu ka.
How do you use this?
This is for asking how to use certain tools, devices, items etc. you may not be familiar with.
Dono yoo ni tsukau deshou ka.
Thank you for pointing (that) out.
When you are visiting practitioners, it is likely that they will show you / teach you something, or maybe correct something, like an aspect of your technique. In that case, this little phrase may be helpful.
Go shiteki arigato gozaimashita.

** Please let me know, if you as potential visitor would like to know how to express something in particular, that is not included in the above list. (I am still working on it anyway)