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Thank you for all your comments on the topic of aisatsu. I have to do the feedback early this week because I will have no time tomorrow.

In the morning, I’m doing a presentation at a conference for junior high and elementary school teachers in Gifu. In the afternoon, I have a class, and then I have to drive down to Kobe for a big conference this weekend.

On the topic of aisatsu, I think the biggest difference between Japan and other countries is the formality of the greetings. When people talk about someone “not doing aisatsu properly,” I think they often mean that the person did say something, but that it was not appropriate or correct. That is not really such a big deal in Western countries.

At the moment, I am teaching an advanced English class at my university on Wednesdays, and we usually have a discussion about whatever topic I have posted on the blog that week. It was interesting to read your comments about personal space, because that is exactly what we ended up talking about on Wednesday.

As some of you pointed out, it seems like a contradiction that even though Japanese people tend not to touch each other when they greet, they are comfortable in situations where they have very little personal space.

Another topic we talked about was people who kiss as a greeting. This is common in European countries, and it is becoming more and more common in the UK too. Actually, I don’t really like it, because I never know how many times I am supposed to kiss or which side to kiss first. I like hugs, though!

Anyway, here is some feedback on your comments. I’m afraid I won’t have time to read any questions, though, because I will be at the conference all weekend.

as you grow older, you see the world and begin to think like, “If greetings settle everything, then why don’t I try it? It’s much less stressful.
You could also say, “As you grow older, you tend to choose the path of least resistance.”

Of course, workplaces are not the military, so you don’t need to shout it to the whole office. That would be weird!
People do exactly that in Japan, though. When I went to observe my students doing their teaching practice, they had to shout a greeting every time they entered and left the staff room, even if no one was listening.

I make it a rule to greet people from me with a smile and tell my sons to greet people.
I make it a rule to greet people with a smile, and I tell my sons to do the same.

Just as your son’s case,
Just as in your son’s case,

As for your supermarket story, I know exactly what you mean. Some Japanese people are very polite to only people who are acuainted with them and often behave horribly badly to strangers!
I have definitely noticed this tendency in Japan.

Did anyone watch the TV program featuring a Japanese woman married an English man last night? She was complaing about the way her husband did the dishes, and it was like perfectly what we discussed with Kattie a little while ago! He never rinses the dishes after washing them with washing-up liquid. The program visited another family to confirm if it was only the case in the above-mentioned family, but the wife of the latter-mentioned family told the Japanese TV interviewer that she did dishes in the same way, too, and she even said that it was a traditional way of washing the dishes in the UK! Of course, celeblities in the TV studio all said, “え~っ、きったな~い!”, but as you all know, Kattie told us that she always rinses them like we do.
I hate to say it, but isn’t this just proving the point I made last week? A TV program about how people wash dishes? Really??? (LOL)

Japanese people are lucky to have these handy phrases!
That is very true. Since I learned to speak Japanese, I have often found myself searching for a phrase like “onegaishimasu” when I speak English.

But when you have to Aisatsu for older people than you, it’s a bit nuisance, troublesome or annoying to care about using proper words every time.
But when you have to do aisatsu to people who are older than you, it’s a bit of a nuisance and quite troublesome and annoying to worry about using the proper words every time.

I don’t think people would get angry because of not using fancy words.
Really? I think that a lot of people, especially older people, do get angry about this.

I think Japanese people are a bit insensitive to being very close to other people, or touching(accidentally, of course!) other people, aren’t they?
That is a very interesting point.

I knew some coworkers(they are all Japanese) who hated being said “otukaresama”
… who hated it when people said “otsukaresama” to them.

The husband said to me “Nihao”. I answered, “Konnichiwa” and told him, “I’m Japanese”.
You are very patient. I would just have ignored him! That’s what I do when people start asking me things about America.

Hi, I have a question today. I should have written on the last topic about TV.
Hi Taco. Sorry, I can’t really help without hearing the program. I know that Jamie Oliver can be a bit difficult to understand at times, though.

I used to work at a company where we had to do aisatsu in a militaristic way.
That’s the only bit of the aisatsu culture that I don’t really like.

Actually, I just remembered something one of my students said on Wednesday. He is actually a high school English teacher, but he is doing a Master’s degree now. He said that one day, one of his colleagues suddenly started talking to him differently. When he asked him why, the reply was, “Because I’ve just found out that you are older than me.” My student looks quite young, so the other teacher had thought he was a kohai instead of a sempai.

That’s it for today, have a great weekend, and I’ll be back with another topic on Monday.

18 Comments

  1. ashmoleanmuse on Thursday October 24th, 2013 at 11:16 PM

    Hi David,

    Thanks for the feedback.

    and then I have to drive down to Kobe for a big conference this weekend.

    Drive safely!

    Another topic we talked about was people who kiss as a greeting.

    I froze up when I was kissed on my cheek as a greeting for the first time and I couldn’t give a kiss in return.

    Ash



  2. Biwa on Friday October 25th, 2013 at 10:18 AM

    Hi David,

    Thank you for the feedback. It’s always very helpful. I wish I could join your Wednesday discussions!

    >Really? I think that a lot of people, especially older people, do get angry about this.

    Well, just ignore those stupid people! (lol!) I’m really sick of those seemingly polite people saying meaningless things endlessly. I really hope that younger people don’t waste their time learning those empty speeches.

    Anyway, good luck with your presentation! It seems that they’re going to teach English as a compulsory subject from the 3rd-graders, and I guess elementary schools and junior-high schools will have to try harder to integrate their curriculums. I hope I can see your presentation on the blog some day.



  3. YU on Friday October 25th, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    Hi David,

    Thank you for your feedback!

    > choose the path of least resistance

    It’s a useful expression, thank you.
    Anyway, I’m glad that you were able to get what I meant. I wasn’t sure if my sentences made sense!

    > … who hated it when people said “otsukaresama” to them.

    I see.
    This usage of “it and when” was new to me.
    It seems to be widely applicable.

    > it seems like a contradiction that even though Japanese people tend not to touch each other when they greet, they are comfortable in situations where they have very little personal space.

    Do you really think we’re comfortable in situations like that? I don’t think so. I think most Japanese people(except 痴漢!) are uncomfortable about packed-trains in the rush hours, too, but we use them because that is the only means of transportation to go to work/school for most people in urban areas. In fact, I often hear the news like passengers fought over their territories(?) in the trains and had a brush with the police.

    Talking of personal space, I happened to hear in a TV drama I watched last night that Northern Europeans leave a space of at least one meter or more between others when they wait for their bus at the bus stop. I found it interesting. I tried to remember if they don’t hug or kiss when they greet each other. If I remember correctly, all Scandinavians I got to know in Germany hugged and kissed me when they greeted me! As you all might guess, I really hated this culture! (LOL)

    > A TV program about how people wash dishes? Really??? (LOL)

    Of cource, the program introduced some other serious(?) information, too, such as what elementary school students learned at schools in the UK. For example, there was a word “bed” in a sentence on the textbook they were reading, then suddenly the teacher asked a student, “What does a word ‘bed’ remind you of?”, the student answered, “Well, speaking of beds, my parents bought me a bigger bed for 7 years and above recently because I got taller. Oh yes, talking of something new in my house, my father bought a new car last week….blah, blah, blah….”. Later, the headmaster of the school explained the Japanese TV interviewer that it was one of their ways to nurture presentation skills of children from young age in the UK.

    The program also introduced the fact that a lot of parents in the UK move to a house located in the school district of the elementary schools they want their children to go because the rates of excellent students of each public school are opened to the public, and although they are all public schools, the academic ability in each school varies from very high to very low. In the UK, private schools are anyway very very expensive, so parents use all possible means (incl. moving) to have their children enter even just a little better public schools.

    However, what I was surprised the most among information introduced in the program was that the rent in London was staggeringly expensive. The Japanese wife who married an English man was looking for a new house in the surburb of London to have her first son enter a popular public elementarty school, but all houses she looked with her realtor were not below 250,000 yen per month! To tell the truth, I was wondering how the family will manage to pay such an expensive rent
    in the future, because they didn’t really look rich. Is it not my business? I know it! 🙂

    Anyway, good luck with your presentation, class and conference!
    You’re a very busy man!

    See you next week!!



  4. ashmoleanmuse on Friday October 25th, 2013 at 03:44 PM

    A correction:

    on my cheek —> on the cheek

    Ash



  5. amo on Friday October 25th, 2013 at 09:17 PM

    Hi David,
    I did it again(lol) I was going to write a comment last night, but you already had gave us the feedback. Anyway, my thoughts are almost the same as taco. I don’t think the phrases(お疲れ様です。お先に失礼します。) are weird, but they are really useful. Anyway, you seem to be busy at the moment, so take good care of yourself.

    Hi taco,
    I used to watch one of Jaimie’s TV programs. Actually I googled his TV programs last night, and I watched one episode. It might be not the one you mentioned, but he used an oven in it and he said the word which you couldn’t get. I wished that I could help you but unfortunately I couldn’t get the word either 🙁

    Have a nice weekend everyone,
    amo



  6. Fumie on Friday October 25th, 2013 at 10:40 PM

    Hi David,

    Thank you for your feedback!

    >Actually, I don’t really like it, because I never know how many times I am supposed to kiss or which side to kiss first. I like hugs, though!
    -Generally, Japanese people don’t hug even with their family, close friends or lovers as greeting. Isn’t it sad? When children are little, we hag, hold or kiss them but when they get older we don’t hug any more. If I hug my teenage sons, they would say “stop it, Mom. Yuck!”

    Good luck with your presentation! I hope I can attend your presentation when you do them in Kansai area someday.

    Hi Biwa,

    >It seems that they’re going to teach English as a compulsory subject from the 3rd-graders, and I guess elementary schools and junior-high schools will have to try harder to integrate their curriculums.
    -It’s a good news for English teachers like us because they want more English teachers; we would have more job opportunities. But it would start from the year 2020. I will be ~ years old then. I wonder whether they would hire old woman.

    Have a great weekend, everyone!



  7. Biwa on Saturday October 26th, 2013 at 07:36 AM

    Hi Fumie,

    >But it would start from the year 2020.

    Really?? I wonder why it takes so much time to start new things in this country!



  8. YU on Saturday October 26th, 2013 at 11:25 AM

    Hi Biwa and Fumie,

    I heard the news a couple of days ago, too.

    http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20131022-00001489-yom-soci

    > 英語が専門外の担任教諭が主に指導しており、質の確保が課題になっていた。

    Is this really so?
    I always thought that ALT and Japansese assistants like Fumie gave them lessons.
    I don’t think all class teachers are good at English….

    I guess the government will start empoly full-time English teachers in elementary schools before 2020 like current junior and high schools, and that is why they need the preparation time. Official teachers should be employed for a new official subject, I think. I hope 5,6 graders will learn reading and writing from them at least! Or, my son could be the first victim of the reform… I know that qualified school English teachers in Japan don’t always have good English knowledges, but it’s still better learning from them than from class teachers who are not good at English at all!



  9. taco on Saturday October 26th, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    Hi David,

    Thank you for your reply to me about Jamie Oliver’s English. I still don’t know what he says, but it’s good to know he can be a bit difficult to understand at times. Last week, you were talking about TV programs in Japan and the U.K. Cooking shows in western countries are different from Japanese ones and I like both of them.

    Hi amo,

    I’m happy to see your comment to me. I watched Jamie’s cooking show yesterday too and I guessed he said “full work” when he heated oven. Do you think “full work” means 「火力全開!」? Also I realized he said “actually” in natural accent to me. と言うことは、彼がよく言う”actually”に似た言葉は”actually”ではないということになります。It would be a long way to figure them out. But it’s ok because the program is aired from Monday to Friday, and Sunday on D-life! Anyway, nice talking to you, amo, thanks.

    The weather is clearing. Have a nice weekend.
    See you,
    taco



  10. ashmoleanmuse on Saturday October 26th, 2013 at 02:19 PM

    For those who are not familiar with Jamie oliver.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/jamie_oliver.html

    Ash



  11. amo on Saturday October 26th, 2013 at 02:39 PM

    Hi taco,

    Thanks for your comment 🙂
    I think that “Full whack” is the words we were looking for. I googled it and I found that “Full whack” is “set the oven to 240°C”
    Thanks to you, I enjoyed watching him cooking, and it makes me want to try the recipe. Have you ever tried his recipes?

    Bye for now,
    amo



  12. YU on Saturday October 26th, 2013 at 04:55 PM

    Hi Ash,

    Thank you for the video.
    I saw him after quite a long time.
    He is talking about “overweight”, but isn’t he a bit overweight himself now?



  13. taco on Saturday October 26th, 2013 at 05:49 PM

    Hi amo,

    Thank you so much! I finally got the answer, thanks to you! “Full whack” was impossible for me to guess, but I was almost there, wasn’t I? You are so great to find the answer. I put “full whack” in the box on Google, and Google showed “full whack oven” on the list. And I searched more, it showed “full whack oven Jamie Oliver.” Is “full whack” Jamie’s original English? I’ve never tried any recipe of his, but I will try one. All his dish looks so fresh every time, and I also think Japanese meals are sophisticated at the same time. It was really really nice talking to you. You make my day! I’m going to watch the program till I get the other mysterious word like “actually.”

    Hi ash,

    Thank you for the site. I’ll watch it later. I think I’ll be good at his pronunciation.

    Hi Yu

    >He is talking about “overweight”, but isn’t he a bit overweight himself now?

    That’s very true! I like good looking, but big guys! おおらかな感じでけっこう好きです。

    Have a nice weekend,
    taco



  14. YU on Saturday October 26th, 2013 at 06:19 PM

    Hi everyone,

    I’m going to make a speech in English at Christmas party of my son’s English school. I’ve just finished writing the first draft.
    Could anyone correct errors?

    Here it is ;

    “Good evening, everyone.
    My name is XXXX, I’m the leader for Class-F.
    Firstly, please allow me to introduce our class briefly.

    Class-F was born in May this year, so you could say it’s still quite new.
    It has five kindergartners ages 4 to 6.
    As you might guess, it’s still a bit difficult for them to read and write English, so they mainly learn basic English vocabulary through their textbooks with a lot of pictures or playing games.

    Well, today, first they would like to introduce themselves in English, and then will sing ABC’s Song. Lastly, they’ll dance to the music of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”

    I hope you enjoy their performance, and everyone, please give them a big hand if you like it.
    Thank you.”

    Thank you for your help in advance! 🙂



  15. YU on Saturday October 26th, 2013 at 07:39 PM

    correction :

    > so they mainly learn basic English vocabulary through their textbooks with a lot of pictures or playing games.

    – so they learn basic English vocabulary AND PHRASES MAINLY through their textbooks with a lot of pictures or playing games.



  16. Fumie on Saturday October 26th, 2013 at 10:08 PM

    Hi Biwa and YU,

    >I hope 5,6 graders will learn reading and writing from them at least!
    -If I remember correctly, the government is thinking about teaching 5,6 graders reading and writing for report card (evaluate student’s abilities.)



  17. YU on Sunday October 27th, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    Hi Fumie,

    I thought so because as the article I posted says, English is going to be an official subject from 5th graders after 2020 like Japanese, math or other subjects, and that means, schools will need to employ official full time English teachers(=qualified teachers 日本では優秀か否かは別問題として大学の教育課程履修、教育実習を経験し、教員採用試験に合格した教師) to evaluate students’ performance just like other subjetcs.
    However, they might continue to use ALTs, Japanese assistants or class teachers for 3,4th graders because for them, English is still not an official subject, but it is just a compulsory subject(表の中の現行の小5,6年生が受けている外国語活動と同じ扱い) even after 2020.



  18. Fumie on Sunday October 27th, 2013 at 11:24 PM

    Hi YU,

    Thank you for the explanation. I wonder whether this plan will go smoothly.