09 October, 2013

Towelling business card

A week or so ago our doorbell rang. My husband answered the door, only to receive a strange message and an unusual (at least to Australians) gift.

He reported that neighbours with whom we share part of our back fence were having their fence fixed and it would take 10 days. 

A few days later scaffolding was put up around the entire house, all the way up to the roof. We both thought, That's a strange structure to "fix a fence". It turns out that he mixed up the word for "fence" and "outer wall". 
Our view of our back fence and neighbour's
Gaiheki is the word for "outer wall". Saku or hei are the words for fence. It just goes to show that gesturing doesn't always get you a good result because my husband had confirmed his guess at the meaning of the word by gesturing towards the fence and the person bringing the message agreed. (I'm just thankful David was home, who knows what kind of interpretation I might have made!)
Our new, and fairly flimsy, towel.
The unusual gift was a small towel. Actually in Japan it isn't an unusual gift at all for neighbours. On it was printed the name of the company who would repaint the house and a phone number. 

My Japanese friends assure me that the purpose of all this is not just to inform you in advance of something that might inconvenience you, but also to give you someone to contact if there is any problem.

I have to say that it hasn't been a big problem. A much bigger neighbourhood hassle happened to us about five years ago when we lived in a house on an axe-head block. Our only access to the road was also where we parked our car and the same for our neighbour. Our shared driveway-carpark was so narrow that there was only just room for our two cars and no fence between them. I always sweated a little when parking, anxious that I'd scratch our neighbour's car.

The shared driveway-carpark at our previous
house in Tokyo.
Then came the day that our neighbours announced that they would be totally renovating the inside of their house (and they probably gave us a present, I really don't remember). Soon after, they moved out and professionals ripped out and rebuilt the inside of their house. As you can imagine, this was somewhat inconvenient to us. We shared our driveway-carpark with large construction vehicles for some time! Thankfully I don't recall that anything major went wrong, but it did make parking a bit hairy at times.
The narrow entrance to our house.
On the left is the fence of the neighbours
who renovated their house.
In these situations, it is a blessing that Japanese people are so courteous. They live so close to one another, that it would make life difficult if they were rude. They are very concerned to maintain peace and harmony in relationships and so go out of their way to accommodate you, which is more than I can say for some in my home country.


Barbara said...

What I always wondered about - is this politeness their true attitude or is it just that they feel obliged to behave in this way, even though it is getting on their nerves? What do you think?

Wendy said...

It is not an indication of their true feelings towards you,. They may be very upset at you, but you won't know. I was editing an article today on this very topic. Harmony is very important and they will bury their true feelings because keeping surface peace is, for the most part, more important. But it fools foreigners into thinking they are the kindest race.

Barbara said...

But don't they "explode" one day when they have to treat everyone like that and are never allowed to "let it out" anywhere? Or do they all have a punching bag at home? ;)

Wendy said...

They don't treat everyone with extreme politeness, mostly those with whom they have a relationship for one reason or another: eg. at work, neighbours, etc. There is, however, a lot of mental illness and the suicide rate one of the highest in the world. Marriages are often in a bad state (though they would generally put on a good face in public) and there are many lonely people. Yes, there is a lot of badness covered up by politeness in this country.

Barbara said...

Still a lot for you and yours to do obviously.