正座(せいざ)/あぐら【Seiza (sitting formally on tatami) and Agura (sitting cross-legged)】

There are two different ways to sit on tatami mats. One is called seiza in Japanese, and the other is called agura. Seiza is the formal way to sit while agura is the way to sit for informal situations. It is necessarily to sit in the seiza position for formal occasions and ceremonies. Funeral services, tea ceremonies, and flower arranging typically require people to sit in the seiza position. People also sit in the seiza position when they politely greet each other. The first thing you do in order to sit in the seiza position is to keel. Then you sit down on your heels. It is difficult for people who are not accustomed to the seiza position to sit that way. Their feet and legs begin to hurt and go to sleep, and then they cannot stand up. People who are accustomed to that position can keep sitting that way for hours without any discomfort. The seiza position helps you to keep good posture on tatami mats since it requires you to sit straight up. This well-balanced position is also believed to help you concentrate. The trick for sitting in the seiza position is to sit with your big toes slightly crossed and to relax both your elbows and shoulders.

畳の上での座り方には、正座とあぐらの2通りの方法があります。正座は正式な座り方で、両足を折り畳んでかかとの上に腰をのせる座り方です。儀式などの正式な場や改まった状況では、必ず正座をします。具体的には、葬式、お茶会や生け花の席、儀礼的な挨拶を交わすときなどです。正座は、慣れていないとすぐに足がしびれて立ち上がれなくなってしまいますが、慣れると長時間でも苦痛を感じることなく正座をし続けることができます。正座は、背筋を伸ばして座るため、体の中心線が畳の面と垂直になり、良い姿勢を保つことができます。このような安定した座り方は、精神統一にもよいとされています。上手に正座をするには、両足の親指を軽く重ねるようにして座り、ひじを張らずに肩の力を抜きます。

People usually sit in the cross-legged agura position on informal occasions such as drinking. The first thing you do in order to sit in the agura position is to stretch your legs out in front of you. Then you bend one of your knees in and bend the other leg in the same way. Then you cross your legs and you are in the agura position. The agura position is quite different from the way Westerners normally sit cross-legged and it may look awkward to Westerners. The agura position is not used by women. Only men sit in the agura position. When a woman sitting in the seiza position wants to relax and sit informally, she simply shifts her legs to one side. The phrase ‘sit in agura position’, which literally means sitting cross-legged, is sometimes used figuratively to refer to conceited people who rest on their laurels and do not try to make any further efforts.

正座が正式な場での座り方であるのに対し、あぐらは酒席などの格式ばらない気楽な状況での座り方です。両足を前に出し、ひざを楽に曲げて片足をもう一方の足の上にのせて座ります。あぐらは、欧米の人々が足を組んで座る座り方とはまったく異なるため、欧米の人々には奇妙な格好に見えるかもしれません。あぐらをかくことは男性だけに限られています。女性が足を崩して座るときには、正座の足をそのまま横に流して座ります。「あぐらをかく」という表現は、比喩的に「自分では何もしないで、いい気な態度でいる」という意味でも用いられます。

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