Monday 13 August 2012

The simple things... Part 1

We interrupt these divorce proceedings to bring you a Japan rant. Why? Because I can't be fucked writing about what is going on at the moment. It's too exhausting to live it, let alone hash it out with correct(ish) spelling and grammar. I'll say things are pretty tense but for the moment the papers are yet to be inked. Thank you for all your lovely comments, don't worry, if we turn out OK I won't hold the "Good work, you should have divorced the cock head ages ago" comments against you.

But back to the topic at hand... Simple things. Life is full of them. Giving a present is one of them. Yes, there are shades of gray with what to give and who to give it to, but in general, you give a present as a sign that you care, right?

WRONG! This is Japan, and the Japanese have a way of taking something simple, complicating the fuck out of it and then wrapping it up in a pretty little bow.

We got lots of presents when the baby was born, in many forms; money, clothes, toys and general baby-type things. I greatly appreciated every single one of them, said "Thank you" and thought about making little thank you cards with Bailey's face on them in a cute blue hue. But no, that's not how it works in Japan. If someone gives you a present, you have to give them something back, and it has to be about half what the present was worth.

What the fuck?? I don't give presents to get shit back! But MIL informed me this is the practice and the only way to go. Grandma also informed me that it's impossible to keep track of everything you get/give, so she gave me a little lined notebook to note who gave me what and the value. I kind of get why grand gestures aren't really appreciated here now though, like if someone made me a cake rather than buying it I would be really touched because I would know how much time and effort they had put in for me, but this must just fuck up the whole system because you can't put a value on time and effort I guess...

So I wrote down everything in the book and thought about what people might like as a 'thank-you-for-giving-me-a-pressent', present... See it's ridiculous every way you look at it!!! And I thought the kids at the school who gave me stuff might like an English book... The older ladies might like some cakes, the younger people some wine... And I actually put effort into thinking about what people might like, only to be thwarted by Japan's ridiculousness once again!!! Oh no, you don't get thoughtful gifts, you get fucking generic gift boxes with foul smelling crackers or dry cakes in them, THAT is the way it's done, silly silly gaijin girl and her crazy thinking!

This system baffles me, I'd rather not get fucking presents in the first place!!

The final straw was when I was so sick of all the rules that seemed to go with something as simple as getting a present for the birth of my baby, that I asked MIL to get the crappy yet appropriate gifts to give back to people, and I would fork out the cash as soon as possible. Of course I was informed that I was to wait at least a month, and I was so exasperated that I didn't ask why, maybe because you buy them all at the same time?? Who fucking knows.

There are SO many things that appear simple and are made complicated in Japan, this is only part 1, look forward to such gems as 'feeding a big-arse fish to a 100 day old,' 'Buddhism for non-Buddhists,' and many many more ridiculousness from Japan!

P.S. I know you want the dirty divorce goss, I will dish when I'm ready...


  1. The present system baffles my brains out, esp having to give presents in return. I'm sure if some "charisma housewife" or something came up with the shock concept of hey, just give a gift worth half the value and get nothing in return everyone would be all over that shit but if it's not a celeb saying then it's not done.

    Btw if blogging about the divorce is too hard, you could always just video it on yr iphone and post it... just kidding (kinda).

  2. Yup. Way to suck all the joy out of receiving a gift. But you don't have to play that game - play the gaijin card instead. Teach a cultural lesson ;) As if you've got the time, energy, or money to waste on gift re-giving when you've just had a baby, it's ridiculous.

    1. "Teach a cultural lesson"

      リサイクルに出す、etc. ってな具合でイロイロ面倒なんだよ、日本は。わかる? 僕もアメ,豪, etc.の気楽な外人が羨ましい、って感じることもあるけどね。

    2. Why do you think it's okay to call people from other cultures "primitive"? What basis do you have to assign values like that?

      Why can't you have the decency to write in English seeing as you can clearly read it? Are you embarrassed about the ignorance in your comments?

      Your snide nastiness about Westerners is really tiresome (assuming you're the same troll as before). Don't you have anything better to do that use Corinne's personal blog as a place to air your generalizations and contempt for entire segments of the global population? It's pretty pathetic.

    3. どうして怒ってらっしゃるんですか?

      「原始、 女性は実に太陽であった。.... 今、女性は月である。」って高らかに宣言したのご存じじゃありません?

      and, may I ask a question? What's that "Westerners"? Californians?

  3. "silly silly gaijin girl and her crazy thinking"
    You made me laugh. :-D Thank you so much! Guess, Japan is different in a lot of aspects, huh?

    I don't want the dirty divorce goss and I think neither do you.

  4. wow, i didn't know about this... i guess you can't just gaijin-smash your way out of it, seeing as you pretty much live with his j-family who are there to check-up on you... *sigh* that sucks... i do sometimes get annoy at all the undercover fakeness of the japanese society... it's not surprising that you find it overwhelming.

    hang in there. if it was me, i would just do the thing you wanted to do, with the baby pictures, and tell everyone "my baby, my way" and that's that. you are NOT Japanese, after all.

    good luck.

  5. Ugh, REALLY not making me miss living in Japan right now. Some things were awesome (the healthcare (as an American), the izakayas, the pretty mountains, my students and friends), but, ultimately, it was the collection of little, tiny cultural nuances like this one, that were made to seem like life-and-death, which drove me back to the US, dragging my J-guy with me. I understand it's their culture, and they probably love it, but I was seriously losing my mind. And my family's MIddle Eastern, so it's not like I wasn't used to another form of hospitality, but sorry, Japan, couldn't do it.

    And, dang, I would MUCH prefer a lovely personalized card than some crappy cake. But there's my rant. Hope all is well with you, and that you're finally able to get some sleep (???).

  6. That is ass-backwards. I am so very happy some traditions were lost in my ancestors move to Hawaii.

  7. Can't you just give whatever random shit and just chalk it up to gajin-ignorance? That's what I would do. *insert devilish laugh*

  8. That's the official rule re present giving but no-one I know (Japanese that is) EVER gave the "half the value of initial present". Most gave towels (nice ones tho) that cost about 1/4 if that of the pressie.
    Trick is to make it LOOK expensive ;)

  9. Glad you're making yourself a bit of space right now. God knows it sounds like you need it.

    As for presents, it's one of the few times I'll happily play the gaijin card. The truth is that most Japanese people realise it's ridiculous as well but don't want to rock the boat (as ever). This must be the only place in the world which produces gift packs of cooking oil.

  10. I've heard lots about Japan's "giving gifts for receiving gifts" culture, and that's one particular thing that I don't like about japanese culture. I personally think it's a bit ridiculous to have to give a gift to the gift-giver, especially if it has to be something you cant even decide for yourself! I really don't like that feeling of feeling so indebted to someone who gives you a gift on an occasion such as your birthday or as a baby shower(I mean, just give them a gift on their birthday or whatever the next celebration is).

    All the best dealing with that picky business!


  11. Umm all the Japanese housewives I know and it be a fair few don,t like the whole gift thing and definatley don,t do the half value thing. Are you Inaka? I think it is a bit more traditional the more local you go. Although, we are hardly big city. Thelentilweaver.

  12. HEY! I've just caught up with your blog after 3 weeks away - and holy shit - did you hear me gasp all the way up here in Hokkaido???????
    Maybe I've missed details, but have you tried a semi-formal talk with some family councillor type person or mutually respected family member or friend or someone???
    Such a hard decision to make all round - I can't imagine it. Power to you and whatever you decide to do for the happiness of you and your children.
    Oh - gift giving in Japan? Total madness.

  13. So if you have to give a gift to the gift giver worth half of what they gave you, do they then have to give a gift worth half of that gift (1/4 of the original gift) then you have to give one worth half of that (1/8 of tje original) and do on & so forth?

    I am sorry to hear things are not great with hubby.

  14. My huge parties owe their inception to this bullshit.
    Started out doing potluck parties and some students mumbled about the amount of food they brought and whether they cooked it or stopped by a super and picked it up. Was like dealing with a buncha fucking kids...really blew my mind and decided to control the party from start to finish with everything in between done by me or my team.

    The gift giving is the same bullshit. If it appears that one gift is better than the other it may be taken as a reflection of their ranking in you sphere when all you tried to do was be thoughtful and if that thing cost 500 yen less than another person out!!! you didn't notice but THEY will cuz they will check.

    I'm surprised the suicide rate isn't near 40% since this place is a nightmare to socially navigate plus the tatemae will assure that your never sure if that was the cause of it all (talking bout the gifts in this case) or not.

    My parties grew to sizes beyond my imagination as a result of me not wanting to deal with their bullshit. It is less stressful taking care of 300 people than hoping 300 people act like fucking people with common sense. I get less stress from a 300 member event than a 40 member potluck event.....I feel ill just remembering that ridiculous petty nitpicking back biting bullshit.

  15. wah, what a hassle! I never heard of giving everyone a different gift worth half the value etc. Here in Tokyo, it's more usual to give everyone the same gift, like a small bag of rice (like 1kg), with a cute tag with the baby's face or something. Some of the baby magazines have that kind of stuff, which you can order online - maybe worth showing to the in-laws? Tell them things have changed since the 1950's. (to be honest, the majority of my Japanese friends just sent cards when baby was born and called or emailed to say thanks for the gift).

  16. Ah the lack of personalising gifts in Japan...woe betide anyone actually getting anything they really want, now where would be the fun in that?!?

    1. "lack of personalising gifts in Japan"

      really so ?

      for typical examples, just do the google image search by keywords like 贈り物 お礼 or 赤ちゃん お祝い返し etc.

    2. 本当のこと言うと"EVERYONE"の"HATE"の標的になるわけ? diaf? そういうわけで、今でもいろんなところで爆撃やるわけだ。
      んで、「YOU'RE DUMB」云々って、あなた、僕の書いた日本語をきちっと理解できてるの? よくわからないままヒステリックになってるんじゃない?

  17. Yep, as a gaijin with a gaijin husband, I received lots of gifts when we married and when we had our first child, but did not hear about this "return gift" custom until literally about 10 years later, or longer!! So of course it was way too late to give return gifts, and would have been *very* awkward to mention it to anyone or apologize, etc. So I have just feigned continuing ignorance. I guess some people might judge me for actually not knowing about this custom, but if you don't know, you don't know, I guess... no one told me, and I never happened to run across the concept. I had never really been in a position to give anyone else a gift for their wedding or baby, so had never myself received such a return gift, either. Embarrassing, but what can you do?!

  18. U wasn't sure what to say and now I'm not so sure this'll turn out just how I mean it...but I feel worried for you :((
    It must be so hard living in another country and still learning the language and just having a baby and then being on the verge of divorce...and working to top it all. A new born baby is a job in itself (@.@)```
    I hope everything gets better for you <3 <3 <3

  19. The first word was supposed to be I not U (^///^)

  20. This is not just a Japanese oddity.I am Australian. I once gave a child relative money for his birthday. His mother promptly phoned me to rant how dare I only give her child $x when she spends $y on my children's gift, and that from now on she will only buy my kids' gifts to the value of $x !Huh? If we have to spend equal amounts on each others gifts, then surely they just cancel each other out, so we might as well just buy our own gifts - and then get what we really want! Gifts should be given without expecting anything in return. The giver should obtain joy from giving to another. It's all about ego.

  21. Gift giving in Japan can be a minefield. Have you heard the stories of Japanese and foreigners doing continuous gift-gicing because neither knew when to stop?

    All the best with your family situation Corinne.

  22. Hi there,

    I just discovered your blog, Loco in Yokohama (whom I met randomly) recommended it to me and I must say I love it. I'm sorry to read about what's happening now and I wish you all the best. I think you're a fantastic writer and you seem to have beautiful kids, and I hope it all works out for you.

    Hugs from Tokyo,