3 Steps (Ho-ren-sou) How to Have Japanese Forgive You for Being Late

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Have you gone out with Japanese friends?

Did you realize every time you thought you would be the earliest to reach the appointed place but you always find that your Japanese friends are there and already had 3 cups of starbucks coffees while waiting for you?

In previous post, I introduced some benefits of studying in Japan. I mentioned that “Good manners” is one of the biggest learning I experienced in Japan. As we know, Japanese is the most punctual nation on the planet.

In Japan society, punctuality is also considered as a social manner that affects profoundly human relationship, business trust, and many other aspects.

If you are late to an appointment, in business world, you are dead. You are more likely to lose the trust from your business partner forever. In friendship, you’d be given a label of “Ru-zu”. (ルーズ loose, Japanese-made English, means careless person) When the rumor spreads, your reputation will be ruined.

I have been late to a dinner with local Japanese old people and I ended up with listening to their preaching for hours. It is a serious problem if you are not punctual in Japan.

However, there are ways to avoid conflict with Japanese for not being punctual. If you are a Ru-zu like me, learn these to keep a good relationship with your Japanese friends. 🙂


3 Steps How to Have Japanese Forgive You for Being Late

I call this “Ho-ren-sou” method (ほうれんそう、報連相, stands for 報告 Report, 連絡 Contact, 相談 Follow-up) “Ho-ren-so” is said to be the basic of Japan business world. Everything should be done without missing a step – Report, Contact, and Follow-up.

Here I will use this “Ho-ren-so” to help you avoid punctuality conflict.

Punctual Japanese

#1 Days Before the event – “Ho” (報告, Report)

If you know you maybe late to the event, you should report to the organizer in advance. Even though you are confident to be punctual, why not just assume the worst case? Send an email or SMS to the Japanese friend to tell them you are likely to be late.

If you reach the appointed place on time, WOW that’s great! They thought you would be late but you made it! Praise high.

If you are really late to the place, that’s okay, you already reported to them, right? Nobody will hate you for that.

This is a win-win solution! Japanese people hate uncertainty of the progress of their group members. As long as you clear the uncertainty – report to them, you are safe. 🙂

#2 The day of the event – “Ren” (連絡, Contact)

Wait. You are now only 40% safe. The next thing you should do is keep in touch with the organizer on the day of the event.

Send an SMS or make a call to the organizer, tell them you are already on the train to xxx, and it would take xx min to reach. Let them know your progress.

If you just keep quiet and no contact, they will be worried about you. You contact them when you got on the train, they will know exactly how many minutes you will be late (thanks to the amazing train system in Japan), so that they can decide whether or not they should start ordering food without you.

After clearing this stage, you are 60% safe to have your Japanese friends forgive your lateness.

#3 After the event – “Sou” (相談, Follow-up)

While “Sou” can mean “Consult” in general, here I would like to define it as “Follow-up”.

After the event, send a SMS or e-mail to everybody involved to say thank you and apologize for being late. We need to follow up with the mistake we have done.

In Japan, they tend to evaluate the second apology. It’s okay if you just apologize once, but it would be way better if you can do the second.

1st apology, means you are doing a good job to keep things smooth.
2nd apology, means you reflect on your past conduct and learned to improve it.

Always remember it will always be better to make a second apology or thank you in Japan. In this stage, you are 80% likely to be forgiven for your being late. 🙂

Hey Shen! Why not 100%?

Well, I can’t guarantee 100% because the 20% left really depends on person. Maybe your friend is a person never forgive lateness? or maybe you did some other ridiculous mistakes beside being late?

There are always possibilities for things. I can help you for the 80%, and the rest you need to help yourself. 🙂 good luck!

Naruhodo! OIC!

Japanese give high credits to those who can practice “Ho-ren-sou”. Sometimes it’s just not the matter of punctuality. It’s the matter of “Ho-ren-sou”. Remember you always need to Report, Contact, Follow-up with everything you do in Japan society.

Now is your turn. Do you have other ways to help avoid punctuality conflict with Japanese people? Share with us. 🙂

A Chinese Malaysian, Blogger, Vlogger on YouTube, Tour Guide in Japan. He believes 1 day his videos can bring Japan and Malaysia together. マレーシア華人、ブロガー、YouTubeクリエイター、日本にいるツアーガイドです。いつか自分の動画は日本とマレーシアを繋げる架け橋になると信じています。 Read more ABOUT him.