HOW TO: Not make a fool of yourself at a Japanese wedding

Not long after I'd moved to Japan, I received an invitation in the fall from a co-worker to attend her wedding, to be held that winter. It was exciting enough that she chose to invite me to something as significant as a wedding without really knowing me that well, and I told her I'd be there. Though couples still opt for a traditional Japanese wedding in addition to a western one, it seems that weddings lately are trending more towards Western weddings. My co-worker was having a Western one, although she and her fiance took pictures wearing traditional Japanese attire.

Then I realized, I needed to figure out the proper etiquette for attending a Japanese wedding. I'd heard somewhere before that bringing money for a gift is the appropriate thing to do, rather than actual, physical gifts. (I wish this was custom in the U.S....) I told her I didn't have a lot of money yet (but I would give what I could, since I wasn't sure what the normal "amount" was. I doubt I put in a good amount, since most people probably give at least 1万 (about $100 US). I also wasn't sure what to wear, and told her about the clothing I currently owned (no dresses, only some skirts that were more "business wear"). She said whatever I wore would be fine.


The summer season (including the good 'ol rainy season) is approaching quickly. Humidity is up, heat is up, and the farmers have finally planted the rice. There are different ways the Japanese handle the humidity, but I stumbled across these the other day at a store - an entire display of "etiquette pads" and shirts with extra padding in the underarm area. Even Uniqlo (a popular clothing store, akin to Old Navy/Gap) is selling undershirts for women with these armpit pads.

a beach off the beaten path

Spring this year has been abnormally cold. And wet. For awhile it felt like I was back in Seattle, just enduring a typical Seattle winter of cold and wet... Granted, the temperature wasn't freezing, but it hovered near it, and just above. Though Golden Week brought lovely warm weather, and the rain seems to have settled down for spring, I was in the mood for a beach vacation. With Thailand and Malaysia and other warm places out of the running for now, my husband and I settled on planning something nearby, to celebrate our first anniversary. This is no easy feat, if you want something affordable, but not cheap, plush, but not filled with tourists, and something with non-smoking rooms (of course, if you smoke, then you can have your pick of almost anything in Japan).

how to find a laptop with an English keyboard

Japan is known for its electronics. The name brands familiar around the world: Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic, etc. So finding a computer in Japan should seem like no problem. And really, it's not. At least not if you are OK with using a Japanese keyboard. Are Japanese and English keyboards really that different? Actually yes, they are. If you've ever tried using a Japanese keyboard for writing (typing), you'll soon realize just how impractical it is. The enter/return key is usually shaped like an "L" on a Japanese keyboard, with an extra button in between, making that conditioned reach over with the right pinky futile. Or the fact that the semi-colon and apostrophe requires extra button pushing, instead of the gentle one-finger tap. Even just writing e-mails can be a pain, and whenever I use Japanese computers, sometimes I grow lazy and just keep typing the keys that substitute those on the English keyboard, ending up with something that is sometimes undecipherable.

So what to do? In my hunting the last few days, here's what I've discovered.

Wisteria in Shizuoka

Golden week showed up and brought the summer weather with it. As Spring has been cold, wet, and dreary, the sun and warmth were a welcome change. This also meant many days outside, sunscreen, BBQ, and of course, festivals. Fujieda city, in Shizuoka, held a Wisteria Festival (藤の花まつり, fuji no hana matsuri) from early April through May 5th, the end of Golden Week. My husband and I managed to visit a couple times, and by the last day, the wisteria were raining down everywhere. As the cherry blossoms have already come and gone, it was nice to experience the coming and going of the wisteria as well, even if only in few locations.

The Park - you'll notice everyone on paddle boats