Etiquette for Opening and Closing Fusuma
The basic movement of Japanese etiquette one should know is the correct way to open and close a fusuma. A fusuma, as you may already know, is a moving partition comprised of cloth or opaque paper stretched over a wooden frame. The Ogasawara school of etiquette teaches a three-steps method for opening a fusuma: "First, sitting in front of the fusuma, grasp the handle of the door(near the pillar),and open it just enough to slip your palm into the gap. Next, placing your open palm some thirty centimeters from the foot of the door, open the door completely using your opposite hand..."

In Europe or America, where individual privacy is strongly respected ,each room is equipped with a sturdy door, which quite often has a lock.

Whatever goes on in one room cannot be seen or heard from the next. Thus,when Westerners visit Japan and see thin screen doors, even though they respect the difference in customs they may feel they lack privacy and security. But American zoologist Edward Morse(1838-1925) found something praiseworthy about the fusuma. Observing Japan at the beginning of the Meiji Era, he made the following comment:

"Honesty of Japanese people is proved best by the fact that in a nation of 30 million, houses have neither locks nor bolts, nor even a door to lock. They do use screen doors to lock. They do use screen doors in the daytime, but these are weak enough for a ten-year-old child to pull down."

The three-steps method described above is designed to maintain this atmosphere of trust: By opening the door only a few centimeters a signal is given that the door will be opened. By opening the door halfway you'll be able to assess the activity in the next room without being too intrusive. In this way you can avoid unpleasant surprises. Opening the door fully with your opposite hand is a simple matter of practicality.

After opening a fusuma, enter the room by sliding on your knees. then, turn and reassume a sitting posture and quietly shut the door.

In following these steps and showing consideration to the occupants of neighboring rooms, you can make up for the fusuma's fragility by creating a strong sense of mutual trust.

Of course, the three-step method for opening fusuma is usually reserved for formal occasions like a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. If you follow such etiquette in daily life, it may actually cause embarrassment, as the person you are trying to impress may not be sure how to respond. A simple "excuse me" before entering would suffice.