Strange Customs — Still Learning!

Years of living in Japan doesn’t take away the mystery of various customs!  Here are three that I have thought about the past couple of weeks:

1) Hanging calendars in the bathroom (toilet rooms).  Why does every Japanese family in this nation hang one or more calendars in the toilet room?  I have asked a number of friends and still don’t have a good answer.


For the first time ever, i have conformed.  We were given a calendar that has a different Japanese historical fact on each day – I thought the kids may try and read and learn something while they are hanging out there.  (Really – if anyone knows – DO let me know!)

2)  New and old money.  Still learning about this.  In Japan it is common to take a monetary gift (called omimae) when you visit someone close to you in the hospital, when someone is injured and you are somehow involved, etc.  Unfortunately one of our children was involved in the injury of our friend’s dog, and so we took an omimae gift to that family.  One of our Japanese friends helped advise us on how to do this write, and Eric wrote out the envelope (he has much better handwriting than me!):


In the process of preparing this small gift, we rehearsed what we already knew of giving money and learned a few things as well:

–for a wedding you always give new, crisp bills  (we are always scrambling to get new bills on the day of the wedding!)

–for a funeral you never give new bills – you don’t want to seem like you had prepared for someone to die (!!)

–for omimae as well you do not want to give new bills (but not really old ones either)

–for study classes where you are individually taught, you usually want to give nice new bills (though for larger combined study classes  – like English, dance, etc. — this isn’t as important). Oops.  We haven’t really followed this one too closely….

3)  Photos with three photos:  Today is Coming of Age Day in Japan.  Young women and men who are turning twenty years old celebrate today with a ceremony that is usually done in the local city and/or at a local shrine, and then go out with their friends.  Most twenty year old women pay a professional to help dress them in a kimono and get their hair done at a salon for this.  Here’s a photo of our beautiful friend Sakiko who celebrated today with her parents:


Some young men wear traditional Japanese garb, or else they wear business suits.  Often sometime before the event they will go to a professional photographer and get photos done.

Today we were at a friend’s home and a mom proudly showed us the photo of her son’s coming of age day photo, taken with her and the grandmother.

ImageI asked if the stuffed Minnie Mouse had significance.  She explained that you don’t want to take a photo with just three people in it — or the person in the middle will die soon – in this case, her son. So they included a fourth — Minnie Mouse!  Wow.  Completely new to me.  (See this article for more on superstitions in Japan).  I told Eric tonight and he couldn’t stop chortling.

There is much about this country that puzzles me;  some things that still drive me a little crazy, but I love Japan.  So thankful God has called us to live here among so many amazing Japanese people.  Still lots to learn.


One thought on “Strange Customs — Still Learning!

  1. Hmmm…that three in a photo thing must not be strictly upheld by everyone…interesting…I’d never heard that before either.

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