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Sunday, March 21, 2021

agura あぐら

In Japanese, agura あぐら means a way to sit on the floor: with your "legs crossed." The word is also spelled agura 胡座, and also read as koza 胡坐.

Furuta Sasuke 古田左介 sitting with legs crossed, in agura あぐら position.
Character: Furuta Sasuke 古田左介
Anime: Hyouge Mono, へうげもの (Episode 2)

Definition

The word agura あぐら is a noun meaning to "sitting legs crossed."(デジタル大辞泉) It's also a suru verb.

  • agura suru
    あぐらする
    To sit with legs crossed.
  • agura wo kaku
    あぐらをかく
    (same meaning.)
  • agura wo kumu
    あぐらを組む
    (same meaning.)

Typically, agura refers to when someone sits on the floor with legs crossed, and contrasts with the seiza 正座, which is when you sit on your knees. In particular, warriors in armor are often depicted sitting in agura position.

Example of characters sitting on the floor, two in seiza 正座 position, on in agura 胡座 position.
Anime: Hyouge Mono へうげもの (Episode 2)
  • Context: seiza, agura, seiza.

The agura is considered to be a more masculine way to sit compared to the seiza. As typical in Japanese culture, masculine is synonymous with rude, so the proper way to sit formally is the seiza, not the agura.

On the other side, sitting seiza-like but with both legs to one side, called yokozuwari 横座り, "horizontal sitting," or with each legs to one side instead of under you, called wariza 割座, are considered to be more feminine ways to sit.

Someone sitting on a chair with their legs crossed is also called agura, so it isn't necessarily about the floor.

Shinjou Akane 新条アカネ, sitting cross-legged, example of agura 胡座.
Character: Shinjou Akane 新条アカネ
Anime: SSSS.GRIDMAN (Episode 2)

In rope bondage (shibari 縛り), agura is the name of a tie in which a person's legs are bound crossed, called agura shibari あぐら縛り.

Despite the above, the word agura doesn't apply to all situations in which someone sits with their legs crossed.

"Legs Crossed" in Japanese

The word agura only means sitting with legs crossed when it's on the floor, also known as sitting "Indian style."

If you sit on a chair with one leg crossing above the other, although this is called "sitting with legs crossed" in English, it's not called agura in Japanese. Instead, it would be called:

Nishikino Maki 西木野真姫, example sitting "crossing legs," ashikumi 足組み.
Character: Nishikino Maki 西木野真姫
Anime: Love Live! School Idol Project (Episode 2, Stitch)
  • ashi wo kumu
    足を組む
    To cross [one's] legs. (when sitting, for example, be it in agura or otherwise.)
  • ashikumi
    足組み
    The act of "crossing legs."
  • {kunda} ashi
    組んだ足
    {Crossed} legs.

Another position that's not called agura is that meditation pose, which is related to Buddhism, and in yoga is called "lotus position." One difference is that besides crossing ones legs, the feet soles face up.

Senjougahara Hitagi 戦場ヶ原ひたぎ, example of character sitting in the lotus position of yoga, used for meditation, also called kekkafuza 結跏趺坐.
Character: Senjougahara Hitagi 戦場ヶ原ひたぎ
Anime: Koyomimonogatari 暦物語 (Episode 4, Stitch)
  • kekkafuza
    結跏趺坐, or 結加趺坐
    Lotus position. (in yoga)
    Sitting with legs crosses, both soles facing up.
  • hankafuza
    半跏趺坐
    A variant of the lotus position in which one doesn't cross their legs, just places one leg over the other.

Kanji

The word agura あぐら is normally spelled with hiragana. It can be written with kanji, as agura 胡座. The meanings of the kanji are:

  • ko

    Foreigners. Specifically barbarians around China.
  • za

    Seat.

Note that the readings of the kanji don't match the word agura, because it's an ateji 当て字, due to its origins.

Origin

The word agura originates in a certain type of folding chair originating from China.(kanjibunka.com)

The folding chair makes a cross shape, or rather, an X shape when it's unfolded, just like the shape your legs make when crossed, so that's the connection between the two things.

Characters sitting on folding chairs.
Anime: Girls und Panzer, ガールズ&パンツァー (OVA, Episode 2, サバイバル・ウォー!)
  • Context: the correct orientation of this chair is, ironically, with the X facing sideways.(wakabyashi-jiin.com)

The name of such chair in Chinese would be 胡床 (húchuáng?). In Japanese it was called agura 胡床, so from the Japanese name of this Chinese chair came the term for sitting with one's legs crossed in Japanese.

Note the difference between 胡床 and 胡座: the chair is spelled with the kanji for "floor," yuka 床, while the sitting pose is spelled with the kanji for "to sit," suwaru 座る.

References

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