Taoru wo doozo!

Posted on December 26, 2005 | miyuki

In Japan, the gas stations provide services that are as good as restaurants do. At full service gas stations, which most are, allows you to sit back and relax while the staff do all the work for you - filling up the gas, cleaning the windshield, throwing away your cigarette butts and etc. One of our former students went to a gas station for the first time with his friend. He was pretty impressed with the service he received. While he was left alone in the car when his friend went to the restroom, he was given a towel. With excitement, he thought “Wow! You can even get a wet towel for refreshing!!” But right before he put the towel on his face to wipe as you would in an airplane or in a restaurant in Japan, he noticed the towel doesn’t look so clean. As confused as he was, he reported the incident to his friend and said, “I only wiped my hands and gave it back to them!” Well, you can actually do whatever you want with it, but the wet towel provided by the gas stations is generally for you to dust the interior yourself by wiping the top of the dashboard or inside the window panes and etc. Though it might be uncomfortable for some people to have everything done for them while they sit there and do nothing, it is fair to say that the wet towel is a nice touch which everyone appreciates.

Bounen-kai

Posted on December 06, 2005 | mariko

Now it’s a Bounen-kai season. Japanese hold Bounen-kai between the end of November and middle of December (before Christmas) every year. Have you ever heard of Bounen-kai before? If you work at a Japanese company, you've probably already been invited to a Bounen-kai I think.
So, what is a “Bounen-kai” (or ‘bonenkai’, or ‘boonenkai’)? It’s a year-end party. ‘bou’ means to forget, ‘nen’ means year, and ‘kai’ means meeting or party. We organize Bounen-kai with colleagues, friends, members of clubs, or even with family or girl/boyfriend. Basically, having a Bounen-kai is the best reason to drink and eat ourselves to near-death. During the Bounen-kai season, the party animals among us often find ourselves (alright, themselves...) totally broke due to the number of Bounen-kais. Also, the “kanji” (person who organizes the party, not a Chinese character!) will be busy finding a nice and reasonable Izakaya (friendly Japanese restaurant)! But once you start drinking, everything seems fine and fun! We forget all our bad memories and talk about the funny things that happened this year with alcohol. That's the whole point of a Bounen-kai! So, if you're in Japan for the season (or even if you're not!) why don’t you ask your friends for a Bounen-kai?

Japanese Christmas

Posted on December 06, 2005 | evankirby

With the Christmas Season fast approaching, it's probably time to spill the beans about what Christmas in Japan is really like. You may have heard the one about Santa on the cross, but did you know that the traditional Christmas food in Japan is... KFC? Yes, as the result of an extremely successful marketing campaign, the Colonel managed to establish himself as the provider of choice for Christmas dinner, cueing long lines outside KFC every 25th Dec.
More than a family event, Xmas is a time for couples to spend a little more than usual on a romantic date, and as such is in some ways not the commercial experience xmas in many Western countries can be. Of course, most shops start playing Mariah Carey before November's even finished, but they don't quite seem to know the reason why, as nobody's buying stuff...