Topic 1 Unit 7 Expand

お正月

おしょうがつ

New Year’s Day is the most important holiday in Japan. It is comparable to Christmas in the Western cultures. Christmas is not a holiday in Japan. おしょうがつ is a family day. Presents are given. Adults may be given presents of food and other things. The children, however, usually receive おとしだま, spending money, in an envelope.

 

It is also a universal birthday. By tradition, the Japanese always added on to their age on the first of Japanese no matter what day they were born. However, this is no longer the case, and Japanese people celebrate and age according to their actual birthdays in the recent times. As well as giving and receiving presents, it is a day of feasting and drinking. Before New Year’s Day, the women prepare large amounts of food which include mochi rice cake, soba noodles and おせちりょうり(vegetables and cooked fish arranged on beautiful open containers).

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Some women also dress up in the best きもの.

It is also a day to receive greeting cards, ねんがじょう. The purpose of these is for friends to keep in touch, but these days they are also part of a sort of mini lottery. The cards are purchased at the post office. Each card has a number at the bottom. With good luck, the receive may win a prize.

 

The greeting cards usually have the animal symbol of the New Year on them. The twelve-year cycle of animals signs is shown below.

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Using black ink, children write phrases such as きぼう (hope) on pieces of rice paper and hang them in front of the Shinto altar in their homes. It is a day to make New Year’s resolutions. It is also a day to visit temples and shrines to pray for a prosperous New Year. At the temple or shrine, people buy だるま. Daruma is a round stylised head with a face on it. When you buy one, you paint one eye and make a wish. When the wish comes true, you paint the other eye. At the end of the year, they burn it whether the wish comes true or not and buy a new one in the new year.
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Games are also played. Girls often play shuttlecock. The shuttlecock is made from a nut with a coloured feather stuck in it and is hit back and forth over a net using wooden paddles. The boys play with tops and fly kites.

It is customary to visit close neighbours and say

「あけまして おめでとうございます」

「しんねん おめでとうございます」

The word おしょうがつ literally means ‘the first month’. By common use, it has come to mean ‘the celebrations at the beginning of the month’, which may extend over more than one day.

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そば

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Soba is buckwheat noodles. They are made long and thin. Soba is eaten at any time of the year. However, it is the custom always to eat soba on New Year’s Eve. If eaten then, it is called としこしそば (send the old year away soba). Although it is given a special name for the occasion, it is no different from soba eaten at any other time. Soba is either served in a hot soup or cold, on a bamboo plate. When served cold, you pick it up with chopsticks and dip it into a thin cold mix and made from soya sauce and other ingredients before eating it. Cold soba is very popular in summer, while hot soba is popular in winter.

Because soba is long, on certain ceremonial occasions, it is used to represent ‘length’. Thus, when it is eaten on New Year’s Eve, it both farewells the old year, and by superstition, confers long life on those who assemble to partake of it. If you buy a new house, you take gifts of soba to your new neighbour. Here, it symbolises the desire for a long friendship with them. It is then called ひっこしそば (moving soba). Soba is also nutritious fast food served at railway stations and other places. No symbolism. It’s really good when you’re hungry!

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Learn how to make a delicious cold pork soba noodle dish!

25 Must-Know Phrases

 

  1. Bonjour.
  2. Salut.
  3. Ça va? / Comment ça va?
  4. Bonsoir.
  5. Bonne nuit.
  6. Oui.
  7. Non.
  8. Je m’appelle (name).
  9. S’il vous plaît / S’il te plaît.
  10. D’accord.
  11. Exusez-moi.
  12. Merci.
  13. De rien.
  14. Il est quelle heur?
  15. Òu sont les toilettes?
  16. Enchantè.
  17. A bientôt.
  18. A demain.
  19. Au revoir.
  20. Bien sûr.
  21. Je peux utiliser (noun)?
  22. Je suis désolé.
  23. Pourquoi?
  24. C’est vrai?
  25. Je ne comprends pas.

Japanese Marriage Tradition

おみあい

Some Japanese still have arranged marriages. A meeting arranged with a view to marriage is called omiai. Most young people these days seem to prefer to find a partner by themselves, but many still feel secure when their parents or a go-between or a match-making company presents a suitable person

The go-between could be a professional matchmaker, a friend, relatives or the parents themselves. They find out everything about the prospective marriage partners to make sure that they are basically compatible. They bring photos to show to both families. If both families and the young people agree, the go-between arranges a meeting, perhaps at a restaurant or a coffee shop.

If the first meeting is successful, and both sides agree to meet again, a second meeting may be arranged. After that, the young people may make further arrangements as they please. If by any chance one side does not want a second meeting, the go-between is told and he will inform the other side. This avoids undue embarrassment. They can also break up after several meetings take place. Arranged marriages seem to work well. It is probable that they are successful because they have parental support and that the social, economic and educational background of the couples is well matched. In olden times, matchmakers arranged marriages, and that was it. The young people getting married had no say in the matter.

 

Marriage

If the couple decides to get married after many meetings, they exchange gifts and decide on a suitable date. The fourth of the month is definitely out. 四 ‘shi’ means ‘four’ but 死 ‘shi’ means ‘death’. Thus four is an unlucky number. Hospitals do not have a fourth floor or a room number four.

Many people get married Spring and Autumn because the weather is good at these times. The wedding may be held in a hotel function room or a special function centre with a shine, and a Shinto priest to carry out the ceremony. Some young couples like to get married at a church, in full western style dress.

The bride wears an elaborate tradition kimono with designs of cranes. She has a large wig (few girls would have sufficient hair of their own) arranged in the traditional style. Her face is painted white and she is made up to look ver much like a doll. She wears a ceremonial white veil and in her hair, she wears smaller pine tree boughs carved from a tortoise shell. The pine tree, tortoise and crane live for a long time. The symbolism is obvious. These days the bride may simply wear a large tsunokakushi (the bride’s hood) that covers the entire head except for the face. There is no wig or elaborate make-up. The groom may wear a traditional kimono and hakama (long pleated pants), but some wear a formal western suit.

After the formal ceremony, the bride changes out of the ceremonial dress and into a lighter kimono for the reception. This may be held at home (in a large country house), at a reception centre, or a hotel. There is eating, drinking, speeches and formal toasts. After that, the bride again changes, this time into a white western dress, and mingles with the guests in a less formal way.

The guests bring presents for the bride and groom. These presents are usually money. As the guests leave, they are each given a present by the host. After that, the bride again changes and it is time for the newlyweds to go off on their honeymoon.

Reserving accommodation

When making a reservation for accommodation, there is some information you need to provide to the staff so they can find the most appropriate room available for you. The details may include:

  • Date
  • Duration of stay
  • Number of people
  • Bed required
  • Smoking or Non-Smoking and
  • Preferences for views.

Date

Refer to the section on Months and Dates here.

  • 九月二十一日から九月二十五日までよやくしたいんですが…

Duration of stay

To refer to the length of stay, you would often talk about the nights you will be sleeping in the accommodation. (1 night and 2 days)

Use the counter 〜泊(はく・ぱく).

  1. 一泊(いっぱく)
  2. 二泊(にはく)
  3. 三泊(さんぱく)
  4. 四泊(よんはく)
  5. 五泊(ごはく)
  6. 六泊(ろっぱく)
  7. 七泊(ななはく)
  8. 八泊(はっぱく)
  9. 九泊(くはく)
  10. 十泊(じゅっぱく)

When Japanese people talk about the length of a trip, they would say:

  • 一泊二日(いっぱくふつか)
  • 三泊四日(さんぱくよっか)
  • 九月十四日から三ぱくよやくおねがいします。

Number of People

Refer to person-counter revision section.

The staff may ask, 何めい(名)さまですか。which is the politer way of asking 何人ですか。

You may answer using both めい(名)or 人.

  • 2名です。
  • 大人二人と子ども一人です。

 

Types of Rooms

To refer to the size of bed, you may use the English terms:

  • シングル
  • ダブル
  • キング etc.

 

To ask for a smoking or a non-smoking room, use the following phrases

  • きつえんへや (smoking room)
  • きんえんへや (non-smoking room)

 

Facilities

〜つき can be used after many words to mean ‘including’ or ‘attached’.

  • 食じつき (with meal)
  • バスとトイレつき (with bath and toilet)

 

Preferences for View

見えます, as we have learnt previously, is the potential form of 見ます which means ‘to be visible’ ‘can be seen’ or ‘to come into sight’.

Therefore, you may use this phrase to ask for an ocean view room.

  • うみが見えるへや
  • ふじ山が見えるへや

 

Asking for Vacancy/Availability

The phrase 「あいていますか」can be used to ask for availability.
Consider the following sentence.

九月七日からダブルで三泊よやくしたいんですが、うみが見えるへやはあいていますか。

The speaker is wanting to reserve a double room with an ocean view for 3 nights from 7th September.

You can use 「あいています」interchangeably with 「あります」.

おんせんつきのきんえんへやがありますか。

The staff will often respond in a polite form:

はい、五月十五日から十七日まで、シングルが二つございます。

 

Listening Practice

Reading Practice

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Read the above dialogue between the hotel staff and Yamada.
What do you notice about the difference in language between the two speakers?
Why are they different?

Extra: Checking-In