The Only Gaijin in the Village (Or, How the Onsen Changed my Life)

On my recent trip to Japan, my fourth, I finally tried an onsen. We stayed in a traditional, and very beautiful ryokan on Lake Chuzenji, just out of Nikko. We spent three nights eating, sleeping and bathing in the traditional way. All the traditional ways of living in Japan are surrounded with layers of etiquette…

Japanese Etiquette 101- Honorifics

Before I went to Japan I had seen old movies where the foreigners called the restaurant owners Mama-San, and had a vague understanding that San was something like Mrs. I had no idea that honorifics are part of everyday life in Japan, and that I would one day answer to both カイリさん (kairi-san-my name- Kylie-san) カイリ先生(kairi…

Japanese Etiquette 101- Hashi (Chopsticks)

The day after we arrived in Japan for the first time Mya and I did a Sushi cooking class in Asakusa. It was an excellent idea (in hindsight) as our beautiful teacher, Yoshimi-Sensei, armed us with some essential local knowledge, including hashi etiquette. Hashi, or chopsticks, are, of course found in many other countries. However,…

Japanese Etiquette 101- Surgical masks

Upon arriving in Tokyo the first time, you may mistakenly assume you have arrived during some kind of epidemic. Many people (my kids and I estimated around 25%) of the population wear surgical masks when out in public. At first, I found it slightly confronting. Only because it’s difficult to ascertain someone’s mood by looking…

Japanese Etiquette 101- Pay on the tray…

I had no idea when I went to Japan that change trays existed outside of restaurants, or that they would be used in every cash transaction I would make in Japan. But they were. My first slightly awkward experience was within a very short time of disembarking my flight. The JR ticket office at the…