Different Meaning? Namaste in Japanese

Showing respect and reverence for other human beings is always admirable, and with the true meaning of Namaste that is what it embodies. That it is – among other definitions – honouring the place in you that is the same as it is in me. That connects to the idea of their being a divinity in all of us, and that people that know of this divinity in themselves will be able to acknowledge it in others and will be keen to do so. For people who grew up in Western Cultures it is helpful to know this isn’t a simple greeting exchanged by people of the Indian subcontinent region. But Namaste in Japanese? That’s different.

Now Japan is far and away the most populated island archipelago country of the world, with an astounding 120 million+ population. But the reason we mention Namaste in Japanese is not because any of them are going to have a different interpretation of it. Rather it is that the word has it’s own meaning in Japanese. Eastern spirituality is definitely of a different type, but it is fair to say that they do have much of that same respect and reverence for each other. They just acknowledge it differently.

The question then becomes does the meaning of Namaste in Japanese have anything to do with existentialism even? Afraid not, and in fact if anything it’s more along the lines of what you’d hear parents tell their kids when they’re taking the car for the first time after getting their driver’s license. You’ll see where we’re going with this with our look at Namaste as a Japanese word in a bit here.

Bad Ideas / Good Advice

There is assuming risks, and then there’s being foolish. Japanese climbers will tell you that going to the top of Mt Fuji in summer is risk enough, but trying it in the winter is downright foolish. In 2019 a Japanese man did something unintentionally – he live streamed his fall to his death from near the summit of Mt Fuji after trying to summit in the wintertime.

Now do you think anyone told him to be careful when he told them of his plans? They may well have told him that is quite dangerous and maybe not the best idea, but I guess we can assume he didn’t listen. Well, that should be leading you far enough about what Namaste in Japanese means. In Japanese it means ‘use caution’ and it’s actually more of a multi-word construction rather than just the one in Hindi or ancient Sanskrit.

There’s probably thousands of different instances where you might be saying Namaste in Japanese if you’re in one of the many metropolis cities of Japan, never mind when someone is proposing to climb a dormant volcano in winter. Crossing any road in Tokyo during rush hour and not at a crosswalk might qualify, but traffic doesn’t move too fast in a downtown that dense even at off-peak hours. Still though, the Namaste definition in Japanese is to tell someone to be careful.

Salutation, or Stay Safe?

Japan has their own yoga, and so we can know that any yoga practitioner in the Land of the Rising Sun will probably be aware of both connotations for the term. It may be that more than a few of them think it’s funny to press their palms together and bow slightly when telling someone to stay safe out there. It is kind of neat that there is a crossover between languages with this expression, but that it only happens between these two.

Namaste in Japanese means to use caution, while everyone else who expresses it genuinely will be saying that they bow to the other person and acknowledge their divinity. Very different meanings for sure, but both are better than just thinking Namaste is just something you say at the conclusion of a yoga practice.

Has anyone heard Namaste or any term even similar to it used in a different context in their native language, or are aware of a language that uses it differently in any way? If so, we’d like to know about it so please leave us a comment here. We’ve talked about Namaste in Japanese, but we’d be just as keen to talk about the term’s meaning in another language too.