06 October, 2013

Put it in a bag!

The Japanese custom of always wrapping something or putting it in a bag before giving something to someone, still trips me up.

For example, in June I lent last year's school year book to a Japanese friend on the day of graduation because she wanted to know who she knew of the graduating class with the idea of giving a gift to their mums. I just gave her the book, my natural response. When she returned it, it was in a recycled opaque plastic bag. I'm not sure how Jaanese people feel when given things that aren't wrapped. But it isn't the way they operate themselves.

I guess it a pretty helpful thing to do, actually. Today, in this bag, I received back a small clothes-hanging thingy that we'd lent friends. It was handed to me at church, but because it was in a bag, no one commented on the slightly strange "gift".

Perhaps this all comes comes from their tradition of using a cloth, furoshiki, to wrap things. See this video (fast forward through it, if you wish, it is a bit slow, but at 2 minutes there is a different method shown):

Even better than a plastic bag is a paper one with a handle. We have a collection of preused one for this purpose.

This isn't something I've read or been told that is important in Japanese culture, not like shoe removal, still it's something that's here, no doubt about it. Just a little thing that occasionally reminds you that you aren't in your natural environment.  

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