Saturday, February 11, 2012

Got invited to the wedding

I have been to many Japanese weddings. And I have to agree it has been a quite different experience compared to my home country. While only few of the weddings I really loved to go because I was really close friend to the couple and was happy to see them together, some of the weddings offered quite a interesting insights into this increasingly rare phenomenon in Japan.

For first wedding, I had to give a lot of thought to how much should I pay as a gift. Some of the wedding invitations make it easy for you by simply asking you certain amount as 'participation fees'. This was not the case. So I went to Google. And found that even Japanese people themselves need guides to intricacies of the ceremony.

For example,

This site (in Japanese) lists out details of manners at wedding or how you should fold the gift voucher or how you should avoid any numbers indicating 4 (pronounced same as the letter for death) or 9 (pronounced same as the letter for sufferings) and much more.

For reference, here is the translated version of how much you should pay as gift.

To Whom Your Age Invited as couple? Region
No Yes
20s 30s 40s Husband Only Wife Only Kanto Kansai
Collegue 30,000 30,000 - 30,000 30,000 - 30,000 30,000
Subordinate 30,000 30,000 30,000 30,000 - 50,000 30,000 30,000
Brother/Sister 100,000 100,000 - - - 100,000 30,000 100,000
Nephew/Niece - 50,000 100,000 50,000 30,000 100,000 50,000 100,000
Cousin 30,000 30,000 30,000 30,000 30,000 50,000 30,000 30,000
Other relatives - - 30,000 50,000 - 100,000 50,000 50,000
Friend/Acquaintance 30,000 30,000 20,000 30,000 30,000 50,000 30,000 30,000
※ I have absolutely no idea about the logic behind this or some of the inexplicable hyphens in the table.

Some fun and some gloom facts about wedding and marriages in Japan :
  • After the wedding ceremony, generally couple receives gifts from the guests one by one. Many times, the groom has to toast with each group of guests. To avoid getting drunk, a small bucket is placed by his side so that he can throw away excess of drinks and just take sips. I have seen this.
  • Traditional Japanese wedding dresses have cranes displayed on them which are symbolic to lifetime fidelity. Although I haven't seen much of this. I was referring to cranes, not the fidelity ;)
  • Average cost of wedding in Japan (as of 2011) is from 3.5 to 4.5 million JPY with around 50 guests.
  • Having wedding outside Japan is around 30% cheaper than in Japan.
  • Dwindling couples: Very recent survey has shown that singles and those who never want to get married in Japan are all time high.
Another surprising thing for me was getting invited in the first place for couple of weddings I was invited. As I bearly knew the guy or the girl. But I later found out that strength of your bond with the Shinpu: 新婦 or Shinro: 新郎 (Bride or Groom) has nothing or very less to do with whether you get the invitation or not. I respectfully declined citing some inconvenience with my schedule but this also reminds me comments from one of my Japanese friend.

"One of my friend divorced in 6 months, I paid 50,000 in their wedding and for what? Now I have decided never to attend any wedding. It's a waste of money"

I hope you don't have to attend such weddings and also that your brother/sister, nephew/niece doesn't get married in Kansai ;)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Have you ever tried Chicken

To many of non-vegetarians, this sounds as a stupid question. It would to me! So I thought untill recently. Till I found this restaurant in central Tokyo which presents the Chicken in it's totally different way. I am sure you have never tried Chicken "this way".

"Chicken Heart" : Sounds lame but was tasty.
Left Top: Hatsumoto - Base of Heart
Right Top: Hatsumaru - Heart with blood vessels still attached.
Left bottom: Hatsuhimo - Blood vessels from around heart
Right bottom: Hatsu - Heart

Left: Shirako - Testes. If you get a chance, let me know how was it.
Right: Chouchin - Ovaries. Only interested in eggs. Not the nest.

 Left: Megimo - Spleen. Was'nt bad.
Right: Tsubo - Preen Gland. Hmm. Do let me know.

"Chicken Eggs", before they are known to outside world as "Eggs". Most of it tasted like softly cooked egg white

Menu (although in Japanese) explains in details, location of that part in Chicken, it's taste and how it is cooked. Nice!

Here is the link for this restaurant :
My rating? 4 stars out of 5. I took out one star only for comparatively slower service than usual for Japan.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Escape of the fake Rhino

Just read a interesting news on BBC.

I wish I was there at the time of "Rhino's" escape. Wondering who wrote the script. This "Rhino" seems to be quite subdued. Somone should put a chapter on "unexpected event" in that script.

Anyway, it was a funny and yet understandable to watch how serious was everyone, even the spectators.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Law against the obesity??

Came across this bizarre coverage of "how Japanese government forces their citizens to do things". Although old, this video is stereotype one sided coverage given for Japan in western media.

Even though the title of this video is sarcastic, the tone of the reporter (who is not even Japanese herself) is that the Japan government has made waistline measure a legal limit and blah blah blah....

I understand that general impression is that Japanese are very slim and women are even slimmer. But let's not take away the credit to the efforts they put into being healthy and fit. I have worked in Japanese companies for quite long to understand that these medical checks are nothing but routine checks under superb national medical care system. Now this report may talk about NEC and it's employee health care system but NEC is not Japan. Also, there are some benefits that a company gets if it's employees are in-general fit and not having any diseases just because their lifestyles are not healthy. But I see not harm in it.

Being slim is certainly not discussed in government here but it is indeed a social requirement. In this diligent society, being obese is seen as a sign of irresponsibility (which in my personal opinion is right except if you have any health conditions) and laziness. Although, not everybody in Japan thinks in so much details but in a tightly knit and coherent society like Japanese, its hard to justify the company (or society) to foot the bill for your high BP and cholesterol by not having control over what you eat, not exercising or drinking too much. It is as obvious for a Japanese society to expect slim people around as it is for western to expect obese people. (Some people may find this as offensive but even slightly obese people REALLY turn heads in Japan)

Comparatively, men tend live unhealthy lifestyle anywhere in the world but looking slim and beautiful is a routine for many Japanese women. It is so much woven into their daily lives that it has formed a marketing key-word in Japanese: 女磨き (Onna Migaki).

Besides all these social factors against obesity, Japanese diet is one of among the best balanced diet with thousands of years of history behind it as compared to meat centric diet of the west.

I brand this type of reporting, conveniently ignoring all other factors to put across one narrow vision as gap-filling reports. When you actually don't have any significant stories to fill in your on-air time or newspaper pages, you fill those gap with such a low quality reporting.

Unfortunately I have seen this kind of reporting in many western countries lately. Serious issues like Fukushima-crisis were also given one-sided coverage, giving rise to countless rumors. Hope that readers are wise enough to check multiple sources and don't rush in forming opinion.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Party for singles

Thank god I am through all this, but Goukon (合コン)is a huge deal for any aspiring single in Japan. Especially this time of the year (year end and beginning) is also the time when you have good excuse to arrange such parties.

Gokon is a slang word, originally meaning party but has taken closer meaning of speed dating dinner lately. Usually, it starts with one or few people wanting to have such party. More participants are 'recruited' using their connections. It's absolutely OK even if most of the participants don't know each other. In fact, that is even better. Also it's common sense to keep the sex ratio of participants to 1:1 and typically size of the party is from 4 to 10 participants. At one of the Japanese client's place I worked for, there was a roster for desiring participants and during any party there have to be at least 2-3 'outsiders'.

Even the restaurants in Japan are also customized to suit the atmosphere of Gokon. From menu to even interiors. Gokon is arranged in Izakaya (Japanese style drinking bars) or any typical restaurants meant for Gokon. If you haven't been to any Gokon, note that it's dutch and girls usually pay lesser portion. Also if you imagine that since it is kind of 'date' the restaurant atmosphere will be calm and romantic, you are mistaken. Although it is a kind of date, Gokons rarely take place in such restaurants. Unless of course it is matter of 4 people participating in. Usually, it takes place in not too noisy but not too romantic restaurants.

Some of the keywords you will hear often in this context are
Sakura: Yes it's a flower name. But in Gokon context it means a decoy. It's person brought in, just to fill up the place or make sex ratio even. He or she may not be interested in the Gokon or even may be married already. Sometimes it's kind of unsaid favor made to the inviting person because they could not fill the spot and Gokon itself may not take place without it. I have done it few times.

Kanji (幹事): It is not the word for Japanese script but means someone who arranges everything about the party; an organizer or manager in a sense. He looks after everything from choosing the restaurant, notifying everyone to seeing that everyone pays.

What happens at the dinner time itself is similar to typical dinner date. Girls and boys introduce each other and then afterwards it is you and your mingling skill. But iPhone Apps are assisting in everything these days.

本音サーチャー Honne Search (Real Voice/Intention) : It 'analyzes' the real intention behind your voice when you speak to it.

合コン勘定 Gokon kanjo: Easy calculator which considers how much more you charge to seniors or how less you charge to female participants.

If you get a chance to get invited, do enjoy the romantic side of Japan! Who knows, you may even find your soul mate!!