The X-Pat Files
(Brought to you by H&R Consultants)
The X-Pat Files Community E-Newsletter provides a forum for the spread of information useful for English speakers living in Aichi. You can use the newsletter as an informational resource, and of course you can send in information you would like to share.
Contents for This Edition
1.Japanese Etiquette 101
2. Popjisyo Japanese Internet tool
3. Ten Gallon Hat
4. Social Sporting Events this month
5. Champagne Ball
7. Meet and Greet Luncheon
9. Sakura Spare Ribs and Fruit Tea
10. Time to Chill
1. Japanese Etiquette 101
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. While it’s not true that in Japan you must do “as the Japanese do”, transforming yourself into a picture perfect Japanese model citizen, there are a few basic rules that will make you seem less like a rude and culturally insensitive foreigner. Some of the following rules you will have heard of before, some may seem strange to you. However, knowledge and practice of the following will help Japanese to see past your “strange gaijin” side and to your true self.
Never enter a house with your shoes on. This is an absolute rule, so don’t try and buck the system on this one. As well as people’s homes, this rule goes to some public buildings such as schools. In such situations small plastic slippers are usually provided for you to change into, and some Japanese will become quite bothered if you decline these slippers and walk around in socks or (worse) bare feet inside a public building. However, it is fine to bring your own slippers, so if you have an irrational fear of public slippers then you may like to invest in your own, if indeed you find yourself in many such situations. Separate slippers are usually used for the toilet – change into these and do please remember to change out of them before you leave. On tatami, never wear slippers, take slippers off at the door and walk into the tatami room in your bare feet or socks.
Dripping umbrellas are another thing you should never take into a home and there will usually be an umbrella stand at the door, or you can just leave them in the genkan (entry hall). Similarly, many stores will provide plastic umbrella bags for you so that you will avoid dripping on the floor. Other public facilities will provide umbrella stands that have a little lock and key so that you will never lose an umbrella this way. It is possible, however, that you will lose an umbrella if it is left unattended in an unlocked umbrella stand, so sometimes it is good to use cheaper convenience store umbrellas when you go out!
Blowing your nose in public is a big no-no and it is considered much more polite to sniff than it is to blow. The polite thing to do is to excuse yourself and go to the bathroom. At the very least remove yourself from the crowded situation and hide in the corner, turning away from your potential audience. Tissues are used more commonly than handkerchiefs for nose blowing because once used, it is considered dirty to stuff the thing back in your pocket (although it is sometimes done). Many pocket tissues are given out on the street corners as an advertizing gimmick, and these tissues come in handy for these nose blowing moments, or for if you find yourself in a public toilet with no toilet paper.
It’s rude to point, here as it is in the west. Especially it is rude to point your chopsticks at someone or something. If you have to indicate direction, do so with a subtle wave of your hand rather than a pointing action.
Mobile phones in trains are a point of contention. Absolutely turn your phone to silent mode if you don’t want to be embarrassed as your favourite Abba ring tone amuses your fellow travellers, but as far as possible, don’t use your phone at all on the train. Answer the phone in a quiet whisper, and indicate that you will call the person back later. Sending e-mails and texting is completely fine, and common practice on the homeward commute.
Gift Giving. When you are invited into a Japanese home, bring a small present or "omiyage" (souvenir, usually something edible). Often things from your home country are appropriate. When you move into an area, it is appropriate to take such gifts around to your neighbours. Gifts can be very symbolic, so there are a few rules. Never give a potted plant to someone in hospital (lest they grow roots and stay), do give laundry soap or sugar as presents to people who have helped you mourn a death (it will “wash away” the misfortune that has befallen you so it won’t go to them, or it will “sweeten” the loss).
Money Giving – Money is given in many situations such as at a wedding (instead of a gift) and at a funeral (in lieu of flowers). Here is a list compiled of such occasions, how much you might expect to put in the envelope (this amount will vary with your closeness of your relationship to the recipient) and all the rules about which colour decorative cord goes with which occasion. There are a few random rules to follow here (however don’t beat yourself up if you get them wrong) – crisp new bank notes are better for weddings, however creased or old notes are better for funerals. Don’t give a number suggestive of the number 2 or 4 for a wedding – it is too easily divided into two parts and therefore is indicative that you don’t think the marriage will last!
Avoid being too direct – Japanese people value harmony over brutal honesty, and avoid expressing what they call their "honne" (real opinion), usually favouring their "tatemae" (public opinion). The latter does not disturb the group harmony. Of course it depends on who you are speaking to and what you are saying. "Honne" is usually used only to close friends or relatives.
Silence is golden, interrupting is not – Japanese people don’t find it uncomfortable to be in silence, so don’t interrupt someone’s thinking just to fill in a need for conversation.
Casting a beady eye in someone’s direction or even having too direct and constant eye contact is considered off-putting, especially between the sexes.
Do not stick your chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice, as this is used in Buddhist funerary ceremony. If you want to avoid funeral practices completely, you might also like to check that your pillow does not face to the north when you sleep. Also, do not pass food to someone else with your chopsticks for a similar reason – this is how cremated remains are passed between family members at a funeral ceremony.
When going out drinking, you should fill the glasses of people around you when they are empty, and they should do the same for you. If you want to refill you glass, start by serving other people and they will return the favour. If you do not want a refill, do not empty your glass. It is not rude to leave a drink mostly full if you don’t want to drink anymore. Leaving a drink full is simply an indication that you have had enough.
“Ittadakimasu" and "Gochisousama deshita" are polite phrases to use before you start eating and after you are finished. “Ittadakimasu” ensures that everyone starts eating at the same time (unless you have some reason to start early at which time you would say “Osaki ni Itadakimasu”). “Gochisousama deshita” is your way of thanking someone for the meal, if they have cooked it, if they have paid, or simply to announce that you have had enough and have finished your meal.
Slurp your noodles, ignoring all the politeness training you got from your grandma. Especially slurp hot noodles or you’ll find that you burn your lips. The noodle bowl comes closer to your face (pick it up!), don’t bend over it. The same goes for rice bowls.
"Meishi" (business cards) are exchanged when meeting someone for the first time. They should be given and accepted with both hands in formal situations. It is of course polite to remember your new friend’s name. Place the card on the table in front of you if you are sitting, or put it in your wallet. Do not under any circumstances fold the card or put it in your pocket. If however you are going through your name cards later and you find you don’t need some of them any more, it is etiquette to rip the card up before throwing it away (so that someone else may not find it and pass themselves off as that person). Many business savvy people keep huge files of people’s business cards with a written record of where they met them so that they can contact them at a later date. These business card filing systems are available at any stationary store.
Japanese wash themselves before entering the bath, as they have the custom of sharing the bath water. This is equally true for public baths as for hot springs (onsen) and baths in individual homes. Do not empty the bath after you have used it. Most baths at home have a reheat function if you need to heat it up for someone else. This is a very eco-friendly way of bathing, and some people even use that same water at the end for washing their clothes. Pumps can be bought from any home centre for this purpose.
When bathing in a public bath or hot spring, do not wear a bathing suit. Some people make use of a “modesty towel” but this should absolutely not come into the tub with you lest it sully the clean water. Tattoos are banned from most public baths because of their connection with organized crime. If you do have a tattoo, or you don’t have one but you just don’t want to bare your body to other people, one way of getting around this is finding a hot spring that has family baths, called “Kazoku buro” in Japanese. These baths are private, and you close the door to a private entry area before you and your family (mixed bathing OK) enter the bathing area.
2. Cheating your way through Japanese internet
Thank you to Christina Moorehead for the plant blog listed in this submission
I have just found a fantastic (if quirky) site that helps you to read a website in Japanese. While it is not a text translator like services such as Babelfish, it is actually more useful to a learner of Japanese because it gives you pop-up definitions and study hints for just the words that you don’t understand. Swish your mouse over any word, kanji compound or even grammatical structure and you will get a friendly pop-up for the word you are trying to read.
To take this baby for a test run, I decided to try and read a blog that had been sent to me by a friend. The blog is “written” by a plant who “works” in a café in Kamakura. Each day the plant records the weather, ambient temperature and other things that would be interesting to its plant readers. The original blog (possibly the first blog in the world written by a plant, by the way) in Japanese is here.
Now, when I plug the URL for this website into the Pop Jismo website, it takes me to the original plant blog, but with the ability to move my mouse over certain words to get a translation. It immediately picks up the kanji for “plant”, the kanji for the plant’s name (“Midori-san”, by the way) and a more difficult kanji that I don’t recognize. Apparently this difficult kanji means to “patch together, link, or connect” which makes sense in the context of the sentence. So far so good, I am making progress with my Japanese already!
There’s more… at the top of the page, I can play a matching game with all the vocabulary words that the jismo has already found on my chosen website, so before I even start reading I can test my wits against the machine and learn the words I need to know. I can also ask for a word list, and set the number of characters I want as a minimum. I tended to get more katakana words as I increased the number of characters. When I set the number of characters to two, I tended to get composite kanji words.
There are of course drawbacks. The tool does not recognize the composite kanji for the place name “Kamakura” and so when you wave your mouse over this area all you will come up with is “kama” (sickle) and “kura” (warehouse). If you didn’t know that you were supposed to be looking at a place name you might be confused. However, for the middle to upper level Japanese reader, this website is an incredible cheat tool that could be useful on a day to day basis, or to improve your reading level in Japanese.
By the way, if you want to get around that place name issue, you can still copy and paste text from the original blog and feed it into a regular search engine like Google. Do that for the kanji for “Kamakura” and the first link you come up with is the tourist information page for the city of Kamakura. It took me approximately 45 seconds of clicking around until I was on the English version page “Kamakura Today”, where presumably I would have been able to look up a map of Kamakura, and plan my trip to visit Midori-san the blogging plant!
3. Ten Gallon Hat
Thank you to Betty Mizutani for this submission
4306-8 MatsumotoCity, Azumi, Norikura
Nagano Pref. Japan 390-1511
TEL +81(263)93-2360 FAX +81(263)93-2144
You may recognize the name of this pension from the HOPE International Auction. While I had hoped to be the winner of that package, I was determined to visit this pension as it seemed quite interesting to me. In May, my family along with visiting family trekked to Nagano-ken to stay at this pension with plans to visit Kamikochi as well. This was a very nice pension with such a relaxed atmosphere.
For those of you with small children, this is also an excellent choice. There is a kids' room that has toys, a few English books, and a small slide. For the adults tending to those small children, there is a massage chair in the kids' room so that you can relax while keeping an eye on your kiddies.
Important features for my family: the food was EXCELLENT, fresh made bread was offered every morning. The dinners were delicious and filling. Three baths were offered, and I visited two of them and can attest that they have a beautiful view of the moutain fed creek that ran beside and behind.
We want to go back!
4. Social Sporting Events This Month
a. ACCJ 1st Annual Golf Tournament
The ACCJ Chubu Chapter is holding its 1st Annual Golf Tournament on Sunday, November 9, 2008 at the Midorigaoka Country Club in Moriyama-ku. The participation fee is 25,000 yen, which includes registration fee, green fees, 2 drinks during play, lunch and awards ceremony. The only additional costs will be for extra food and drinks during play and other personal purchases.
Tee time for the first foursome is at 7:00 am, with a short pre-game speech and group photo from 6:30am. Play format will be the Double Peoria system, whereby the golf club calculates handicaps on hidden holes and uses a formula to determine the actual handicap. There will be awards for the top 3 finishers, as well as near pin and long drive competitions.
There are only enough openings for 32 participants and we are expecting a terrific turnout, so please act now to reserve your spot. We are also presently recruiting sponsors for the event. If you are interested in supporting this event as a sponsor and/or a participant, please contact Chris Oostyen at 090-2925-9963 or <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> . You can also contact Noriko Kato at the ACCJ Chubu Office at 052-229-1525 or <mailto:email@example.com>.
We are looking forward to hearing from you!
ACCJ Chubu Golf Tournament committee
DATE: Sunday, November 9th
TIME: 6:30am / Tee Off at 7:00am
COST: Members and Guests 25,000 yen
VENUE: Midorigaoka Country Club
ACCJ Member Online Registration: http://member.accj.or.jp ACCJ Office Fax: 052-222-8272
b. Nagoya Undokai (Sports Day)
This is a free family event which might be interesting for foreign families who don't know UNDOKAI (a Japanese traditional cultural sports event around this season). If your kids don't go to local school, it might be a great opportunity to try it out.
There will be lots of enjoyable games and attractions. Events and fun for all ages. Young children can also enjoy.
●When: Sunday, November 23 - 10:00 to 15:00
●Where: Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium next to Nagoya Castle
●Cost: Participation is Free (Prior application is required by November 7)
●Details and Application forms ↓
【office】Nagoya Chamber of Commerce and Industry
TEL: 052-223-5709 or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Champagne Ball and Awards Evening
Thank you to Liz Sato for this submission.
ATTENTION: TICKETS ARE SELLING FAST TO THE NAGOYA SOCIAL EVENT OF THE YEAR! PLEASE BOOK YOUR TICKETS SOON TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT!
Building on the growing success of previous Champagne Balls that were attended by over 300 guests (sold out in 2007!!), the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) and the Tokai Japan Canada Society (TJCS) have once again teamed up to host Nagoya's most prestigious international event.
This year's Champagne Ball will be held again in the elegant Oogi Ballroom at the Hilton Nagoya and will bring together two of the most dynamic and interactive international organizations in Nagoya for a night of celebration, recognition and social interaction between the international and Japanese communities.
We are pleased to have renowned jazz chanteuse and local celebrity Prisca Molotsi back, once again, as Mistress of Ceremonies and look forward to her performance (backed this year by Seikyo Pops Orchestra) during the tantalizing premium buffet dinner.
The event will also allow the ACCJ and the TJCS to recognize individuals within their organizations for their efforts and dedication as well as jointly recognize one special individual who has contributed to making Nagoya a better place.
There will also be exciting raffle prizes and to unwind after dinner, the Nagoya based band Whoop! who are returning this year and will once again rock the house and fill the dance floor with their selection of pop hits from the 70s, 80s and 90s.
In classic international and Japanese style, there will be a second party when the first party ends at 23:00. All guests are invited to visit the top floor of the Hilton Nagoya at Windows on the World lounge at no charge (a ¥1,500 value) where they can enjoy a spectacular city view and great entertainment from the house band until late in the evening.
Don't miss The Social Event of the Year!
DATE: Friday, November 21st, 2008
TIME: 6:30pm reception, 7:00pm program
VENUE: Hilton Hotel in Fushimi, Oogi Ballroom
DRESS: Business Attire or Formal. Black tie is welcome.
BABYSITTING: Please contact ACCJ office at (052)229-1525 for details
TICKETS: 12,000 yen per person
RESERVATIONS: Please make reservations as soon as possible to avoid disappointment, but by the latest by November 12th, (052) 955-3333 or Fax: (052) 955-3334
Book your tickets now for the 3rd annual Champagne Ball and Awards Evening on Friday, November 21st at the Hilton Nagoya.
6. TELL – Tokyo English Life Line
Thank you to Nancy Kobayashi for information contained within this submission
Free, anonymous telephone counseling including confidential crisis counseling and non-judgmental emotional support.
Hours: 9 a.m. - 11 p.m., daily
Tokyo English Life Line is a multifaceted, nonprofit organization that has been serving the international and business communities since 1973. Services include free phone counseling and information (accessible from anywhere in Japan, not just Tokyo), professional face-to-face counseling (in Tokyo), and educational workshops.
Call the Life Line for free, anonymous, and confidential telephone counseling from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., 365 days a year. Trained volunteers can offer counseling and support, as well as information on a broad range of English-speaking services in Japan.
Calls to the Life Line cover a wide range of issues, including relationships, depression, anxiety, HIV, cultural adjustment, pregnancy, sexuality, eating disorders, and substance abuse, as well as emergency situations, issues relevant to young people and suicide.
Sometimes we just need to talk, so whether the problem is big or small, whether you are young or old, or whether you are from the Japanese or international community--we are here to listen.
Tokyo English Life Line has also launched a new service, wiki-TELL, online information for all parts of Japan. The information is at present limited but being in Wiki format, anyone can submit a resource to be listed. Go to TELL's website http://www.telljp.com click where it says 'Online Resources' and then 'Enter the Directory'.
7. Meet and Greet Luncheon
Thank you to Joey Tan for this submission
For those of you who are new to Nagoya, please come and join us for lunch. Meet and Greet lunch is the ideal place to make new friends, have a chat, and find out what is going on in Nagoya.
Date and Time: Tuesday, November 11th, starting at 11:30 a.m.
Place: Shooters Sports Bar and Grill , Fushimi
Price: 1500 yen for buffet lunch and a drink.
RSVP: Joey Tan is the Meet and Greet Coordinator. Please RSVP to Joey by e-mail at email@example.com as soon as possible, but at the latest by the 9th. When you are RSVPing for another person, please give the name of the other person to avoid double bookings.
Note: For those coming by car there is a relatively cheap option, Toyo Parking for 110 yen per half hour, down the street from Kinkos which is walkable from Shooters. For those with car navigation, the phone number of the parking lot is (052) 231-3550.
Thank you to Belinda Griffiths for this submission
Etsy is a website where individuals can set up a shop of their handmade or vintage items. It's all in English, based in the States. Payments are made through Paypal, so each seller does not know your credit card details. Most items ship world wide at reasonable postage rates. You can search for objects by name, materials, and other descriptors, and also you can search by colour, the location of the sender... the list goes on. You can make your own favourite items and sellers lists, and you can look at other people's favourites to get fresh inspiration. I love the jewelery of Claire Ishino, an Aussie in Nagoya, who can be found by searching by supplier and typing in “claireishino”, or by going to claireishino.etsy.com
There are many other sellers across Japan - foreigners and Japanese people too. Just search by location to find them all and see what they have on offer!
I am addicted to the cheap earrings, Japanese fabric handmade bags, and other unique creations made by crafty people from all over the world!
9. 150 Years of Cooperation Between the USA and Japan
Thank you to Noriko Kato for this submission
After the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States and Japan was signed in 1858, official trade between these two countries began. This so-called "Harris Treaty" became a turning point for Japan in her drive towards modernization. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Harris Treaty. Shedding light on the Commodore of the U.S. Navy, Matthew C. Perry, and the first United States Consul General, Townsend Harris, an exhibition at The Nagoya Boston Museum of Fine Arts introduces the early years and the history of US-Japan relations through a survey of about 250 documents and artifacts from the period. Works on display include the extant personal effects and belongings of Perry and Harris, a portrait painting of Perry by Heine, who joined their expedition to Japan, the original manuscript of the treaty, and many other historical items.
Twenty free tickets to this event are available from the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan on a first-come-first served basis. Please contact Noriko Kato at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
The Perry and Harris Exhibition -The Dawn of U.S. - Japan Relations
Open: 10am – 7pm weekdays, 10am – 5pm Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays
Tickets: General Admission 1200 yen door (1000 advanced booking), Aged and Students 900 yen door price (700 advanced booking), free under junior high school age
Advanced Booking Tickets Available: on site, Ticket Pia, Circle K, Family Mart, Lawson, 7-11, JTB, Kinki Nippon Tourist etc
Transportation: Next to Kanayama Station on the JR, Meitetsu and subway line.
Enquiries (Japanese): Tel: 052-684-0101, Fax: 052-684-0738
10. Reaching Out
I am writing this post today on behalf of the editor Sue Conolly. I have never met Sue. She would walk right past me on the street without even realising. But I wanted to do this for her today while she is snowed under with work, school, her responsibilities as a wife and a mother. You see, two years ago during a grey and bitter winter day when I was feeling like it would never be Spring again, I read something Sue wrote and burst into tears. It seemed to speak directly to me. In a fragile emotional state I did something very unusual for me and emailed her telling her how her essay had moved me. And she called me up. This stranger who she’d never met, who mailed her out of the blue. That five minute phone call brought sunshine into my day.
As expats, living far away from our families and friends we can often feel bereft of our support networks. With modern technologies- email, blogs, Facebook, Skype and the like it is easier than ever before to keep in touch with friends from home. But when you’re having a day when your Japanese is failing you and the post office clerks all run to the back of the room to pow-wow when you ask for what you thought was a simple request, or you can’t make head nor tail of yet another notice stuffed through your post box to work out whether it’s a notice of impending power disruption or just another political party’s circular, when you’re the only person at the city health check without the regulation size towel, it can take so much effort to explain the background to the problem to someone who’s not living here before they can offer support, more effort than you have energy for.
The obvious answer is to make new support networks here. But it isn’t as easy as all that. It’s not like when we were kids and you could ride past someone’s house and be best friends in half an hour. But sitting around waiting for friends to fall in your lap is hardly a recipe for success either. You need to be proactive. Join an expat group online, join a gym, take a class at the community centre, get involved in your chonaikai neighborhood association, volunteer, it doesn’t matter what you do, you just need to get out there.
That’s the first step. But you can sit next to the same person every week at a class and never get past the “Hello, how are you this week?’ stage. But take the chance - you’ve got nothing to lose and a new friend to gain. Suggest a coffee, take some home grown produce to share, bake some cookies, ask for some advice or a recommendation for a shop or service. You might not have success the first time, or even the second, but when you find someone you click with it makes all the difference.
Then you have to nurture your relationships. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the daily grind and leave emails unanswered, not get around to returning those calls in the missed calls list on your mobile, leave the ‘let’s get coffee sometime’ vague invitation as just that but the more you put into your relationships the more you’ll get out of them.
Once you have your support network don’t forget to use it. Too often we run ourselves into the ground trying to do everything and be everything for everyone in our lives when all we need to do is ask for a helping hand. Ask for advice, a second opinion, just call up and get everything off your chest. It’s old and tired but it’s true: a problem shared is a problem halved. Don’t feel bad about asking for help, who knows- next time you might be the one lending an ear or offering a hand.
For a while it can be difficult forming a support network again from scratch in a new country, once you do you’ll find that having people who understand the trials of life here, the ups and the downs, and who can give you tips on the ins and the outs, you’ll find life less daunting and more fulfilling - even on those bleak wintry days.
Editor’s Note: What a wonderful life it is when, during your busiest time when it is easiest to lose hope that everything will somehow get done, you can reach out to good friends who are always on the outskirts, waiting to pick up the pieces of your sanity. Last week I was so overwhelmed with work and it seemed that nothing could save me. In desperation I “vented” to an online chat group I belong to (www.afwj.org) and immediately received several offers of help. One friend in this area offered to cook meals and look after kids. Several women from all over the country sent in X-Pat Files information which is listed above. And Heather - dear Heather - became the first person besides me to write the “number 10” article you are used to reading at the end of the X-Pat Files. When I was lowest on inspiration, Heather was there to remind me that good friends are pure gold. Thank you!
That`s it for this edition of the newsletter. We hope you found it informative - please let us know what you would like to see in future editions, and we will attempt to address your issues.
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A disclaimer - While we do try to check submissions when they come to me, we do not take responsibility for the accuracy of any donated information. Nor do we take responsibility if your experience of places and services you find through this newsletter are not as rewarding as they were for the person who originally sent in the information. Obviously everyone`s experience is different.
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