May 19
2008

Koji no go aisatsu.

in Uncategorized

Koji no go aisatsu: Construction Announcement

meiwaku, n.: annoyance; nuisance; trouble. When used in in a certain form it functions as an apology for being a nuisance.

This morning I received a construction announcement accompanied by gifts. A woman who lives in one of the apartments on the floor below ours came to tell me that her apartment will be renovated starting on the 26th of this month. Her visit was accompanied with a letter giving all of the details and apologizing multiple times for the meiwaku and a gift bag. The head of the construction team was also with her, and he handed me a wrapped box as well.

There is an entire system of etiquette surrounding gift giving in Japan. I have read that this system is perhaps one of the most intricate and demanding in the world. There is a multitude of rules which specify when, to whom, and under what circumstances a gift should be given, as well as what type of gift is appropriate given the occasion, how much it should cost and even how the gift should be wrapped. In fact gift-wrapping, called tsutsumi, is almost as important as the gift itself:

In Japan, the concept of wrapping, tsutsumi, is not limited to the function of packaging. It plays a central role in a wide variety of spiritual and cultural aspect of Japanese life . . . In Japan, it is said that giving a gift is like wrapping one’s heart. Just as one helps a friend into a coat carefully and courteously, a gift should be wrapped tenderly and conscientiously. While the wrapping should, of course, protect the contents from breakage or other damage, the same care should be taken with aspects normally thought of as merely decorative–those that reflect the sentiment of the giver–the paper and the way it is wrapped, the ribbon and the way it is tied.
— Kunio, Ekiguchi. Gift Wrapping: Creative Ideas from Japan. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1986.

This morning, the gifts that I received were to apologize in advance for any inconvenience that the construction on the floor below me might cause. So what was in those packages.

In the box from the head of the construction team was a beautiful towel labeled as a “face towel” (about the size of what we call a hand towel in the US).

In the other package from my neighbor below was a tin of “Leaf Pies”.

They are thin sugary wafers shaped to look like leaves.


One bite revealed that these little cookies were made with TONS of butter. They are melt-in-your-mouth yummy. Sigh.


We’ll see how this period of construction goes, but at this point I’m wondering if I can convince any of my other neighbors to do some renovation so that I might be able to receive another tin of these little wafers of buttery decadence.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Jackie May 19, 2008 at 10:28 am

Now I am hungry – do I get a gift for that inconvenience? :) That is very thoughtful though and sometimes I wish our neighbors would be a little more considerate when their dogs are yapping at 3am. I don’t know if fancy cookies would make things better though…

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Phoe May 19, 2008 at 11:17 am

Ooh, those do look good. While I think the gift giving idea is a good one, the social pressure must be unreal.

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The Richards May 20, 2008 at 1:08 am

How awesome that you’ve had a chance to get to know another culture so well, I have to admit that I’m envious (in a good way. :0)) And, by the way, I think you should win an award or something for saying, “little wafers of buttery decadence.” That is a really awesome sentence.

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Bobbi May 20, 2008 at 6:36 am

Will you need to gift any of your neighbors when you move?

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Tartelette May 20, 2008 at 9:28 pm

Although etiquette can be outdated sometimes, I believe there is a lot of good that can be learned from it, especially respect and courtesy. The gifts are all lovely!

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Melissa Hodgen May 25, 2008 at 1:51 pm

Oh, how nice…at least they give good gifts in Japan. All we get is the note with a “sorry”..deal with it!

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