Is a few minutes early still considered late in Japan?

”Juppunmae koudou (Be there 10 minutes before)” is a common phrase in Japan. Being late is a very rude. In many situations, being right on time is still considered “Late”.

I’ve read an article about a Japanese mom who used to live outside of Japan. After she came backed to Japan, her child attended elementary school. It is mandatory walk to school with other students who live in the same area. She was told that the children meet every morning at 7:30am and they all walk to school together. She and her child arrived a few minutes earlier than 7:30am, however the other parents looked at them with “smiling-concerned” glances. Finally, one mother said “You should have arrived 10 minutes earlier.” (It may have been 15 minutes earlier) The “late-mom” was so confused why the “15 minute early moms” didn’t tell her the earlier “expected” meeting time. In Japan, especially business situations, meeting with high ranking person or older person, people should be there before 10-15 minutes.

My friend said to me “You are always late”, even though I’m late by 1-3 minutes. Yes. It’s literally late even after one minute in Japan. You’d be better ready to apologies.  I’ve been to a few countries, but it seems like this happens only in Japan. We were educated that we shouldn’t be late, even if something out of your control happened. We have to plan for additional time in case something might happen. The Train maybe delayed because of snow, I might get lost or I might slip on the street. Including additional time, means we shouldn’t be late, so we tend to leave home so much earlier than non-Japanese people. If you are late a few times, people will lose trust in you.

In some countries, some people can be 4 hours late. Trains and buses never run according to the time schedule. I was very surprised! On the other hand, sometimes Japanese people are very uncaring about the end time, for instance staying at the office past 5 hours your clock out time. People work and drink until very late and if somebody says “I’m leaving”, the other co-workers will peer pressure the person to not leave. They even go as far as to look the person with an unhappy face.

However, there is Okinawa Time (Uchinah time). Okinawa is in the Southwest part of Japan. It’s like Hawaii. Okinawa is very warm and people are very relaxed. Apparently, people are always late. If it rains, people will cancel meeting up. I asked my Okinawa friends if this is true. They say it is true! Haha. Okinawa has its own culture, food, music and language. It’s very interesting.




2 thoughts on “Is a few minutes early still considered late in Japan?

    1. 3 hours! You should tell the time 3 hours earlier to the friend! haha My friends who live in my hometown too. They’ve never arrived on time because they are so close and they know nobody will get mad.

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