Sunday, May 08, 2005

What I learned last week

The other day The Man went to a wake, as I mentioned previously (wearing very old shoes). It was for the father of the guy who was his best friend at university, many years ago. I think he had only seen this guy once since they graduated, and we practicing greeting somebody in a restrained way before he left. He was afraid he'd see his old friend and be overcome with joy and break out into cheerful, rude greetings without thinking, and that would be inappropriate at a wake. (He told me later his behaviour was impeccable but his attire somewhat inadequate.)

As he was getting ready I asked him how much money he needed to take. You always take money to wakes and funerals in Japan.

He told me. I checked the envelope containing cash he'd just got paid for a job, and said,

"Well, how about that for good timing! There are some nice new bills in here."

"NO!" he said. "No new bills!"

"Eh?" I said.

I thought that in Japan you always had to give new bills. I'd been all ready to start ironing if we didn't have any.

"Not for a wake," he said. "For funerals and weddings, yes, but you shouldn't give new bills at a wake. It makes it look like you were ready for it."

So that was what I learned last week. There are occasions in Japan when giving crisp new bills is a bad thing.

6 comments:

Ms Vile File said...

So I guess there is some strict etiquette involved as to how much money one is meant to give. May I be awfully crass, and ask how much?

Janet said...

That's interesting, I love to read about different customs.

Badaunt said...

For the father of a friend, I can tell you it is ¥10,000 for a wake. We got this information from a number of store clerks and the guy in the noodle shop and a number of random customers. (The experts we consulted.)

However, as it turned out, this was a wake where they specifically asked for people NOT to give money (it happens sometimes) so The Man brought it back home.

I don't know how much it is for other relationships, or for weddings and funerals. I seem to remember ¥30,000 for a friend's wedding, but that could be wrong.

jason said...

HHHHHHHHHhmmmmmmmmm?japanese customs can be very weird so i dont pay much attention but they are dead serious about things like that! and u know something they are greedy people all about money -dollar signs written all over their foreheads lol

Gordon said...

What is it about Japanese customs that I like? So thoughtful and so much attention to detail. I wonder how long it would take other cultures to become so advanced.

Miguel said...

I beg to differ, Gordon. I don't think that meticulous, detailed rules of behavior mean a culture is advanced.

In many respects, the Japanese can be rather provincial.

And when you say "other cultures" do you mean to insult everybody at the same time? or did you have particular people in mind?