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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Father's Day In Japan

Chichi-no Hi Omedetoh - Dad's day, congratulations!

While it may lose something in the translation, the meaning is at least clear.

Begun in the 1950s, Father's Day in Japan is celebrated on the third Sunday in the month of June, just as it is in Canada and the U.S. to name a few countries.

But is it a big deal in Japan?

Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife thinks it is - though certainly not as big a deal as Mother's Day.  Of course, the same holds true in western countries, I bet.

I think people put more thought into a mother's day gift, but were left with the standard socks or tie for dad. At least that's the way it was around my house growing up. 

In Japan, people present a small gift to dear old dad. Nothing huge, like a flat-screen TV, or a big bottle of the best sake in the world - nope. Small and dignified is the way to go for dad in Japan. That's a good thing. I would question where my 14-year-old son found the cash to purchase me a TV or wonder who would sell him booze. 

Father's day cards are a non-issue - there just not done in Japan! 

What to give a Japanese dad?

Well, according to the Asahi Shimbun (Asahi Newspaper) when they surveyed some Japanese fathers back in 2010, the number one thing they wanted from their kids was 'appreciation'. Number two was booze.

The two usually go hand-in-hand.

So, armed with this information, the Asahi Shimbun then asked the fathers what booze they would prefer.

Interesting... they didn't ask how the kids should show appreciation to their father.

The five most popular gifts a kid can give their alcoholic father on father's day are (in descending order): 5) Beer; 4) Shochu; 3) Wine; 2) Nihonshu; and 1) Whiskey.

Wine? Really? WTF?! Well lah-dee-freaking-dah! When did the Japanese man become less of a man? What's with the damn photo up above? The Jittery cloth?

Briefly: The KAKUKAKU2 is a new 3D fabric that can create geometric patterns using shaped memory fasteners so that the cloth shape can remain poofy, like a balloon. Created by Shibamata, its director of planning and development, Matsukawa Kazuhiro (surname first) calls the cloth the: “best of fashionable accent when it comes to the crunch for Father."

Well... that answers that question...

Back to the booze.

I've had shochu before, but I had no idea what it was - I thought it was a fancy form of sake. I was wrong and have only just discovered that shochu (焼酎) is a distilled Japanese drink usually distilled from either barley, sweet potatoes, rice, brown sugar, buckwheat and even chestnuts. It's weaker in alcohol content than whiskey and vodka, but is stronger than wine or sake. It tasted like a nutty-flavored sake and went down smooth and easy.

Nihonshu? Nihonshu (日本酒) is apparently what the Japanese call sake - fermented rice wine. I had no idea. I was wondering why sake wasn't on the list!

Apparently 'sake' is Japanese for any type of alcoholic drink. I really had no idea. 

Now... why is father's day not as big a deal as mother's day in Japan?

Availability.

While women do work in Japan, the vast majority will, after having a child remain home to look after the child and the house - and if she is 'lucky', also her husband's parents, should he be the eldest son. 

Men in Japan work. This not to say that women at home are not doing work - because they are working very hard. But in Japan, men work outside the home (usually - unless they operate a bicycle repair shop from their living room, as I saw many a time in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken).

The men get up (after much prodding from the wife) and go to work - leaving the house often enough - before the kids are awake. I do, too. Although now, 60% of the time my son is awake when I go in to say hello/goodbye.

As well, despite the long hours of a kid's school and club activities, many a father will not return home until after the child has gone to sleep. That means the father has very little to do with the raising of the child.

And, even if the father does arrive home early enough that the kids are still awake, one can only hope that after having a small meal and a few drinks with co-workers after work as part of the usually work bonding thing that the Japanese are so into, you can only hope that dear, old dad is not too drunk.

And, if he isn't drunk, then at least he has the father's day booze to help him get drunk to forget whatever it is he is drinking to forget.

"I've forgotten why I drank... but since it's working, why stop?"

No wonder fathers want appreciation from their kids. Aside from bringing home the bacon, kids appreciate what mom brings to the table - dinner, shopping, someone to talk to, a person to physically touch, to provide comfort, wipe away a tear.

Hey... I'm not slagging the Japanese dad, too much here. My own dad had to work his ass off when I was a little kid. I might hear him leave in the morning, and would be fast asleep when he came home at night (my dad wasn't a drinker, though) as he was a big-time computer programmer back in the late 1960s early 1970s when no one had a home computer or videogame system.

As such, he was paid quite handsomely - so I never did have to suffer from not having things. Though I did not have my dad around that much, he was certainly around in my teen years, refereeing soccer games and providing good advice I never listened too until I remembered it in my mid-20s.
    
OMG... I say the same things to my son now. Of course, I am always around. Despite my love for my father and vice-versa, we aren't overly close despite him having bailed me out of so many fiscal jams its not even funny. Hell, he's letting my family stay for free at the house I grew up in - and he's not even living with us.

I think that the relationship my father and I had was similar to a Japanese one. Dad provides the finances to make sure mom gets the glory. I know, there's no real glory, but certainly the father is not as glorified as the mother. It's true... I could tell my mom anything.

For example... when I mentioned to my mom that I was dating an exotic dancer, my mom asked if she was a nice person. My dad just shook his head in disappointment knowing that it would end. Guess who I talked to next time I had a new girlfriend.

Dad was right, of course... but being the tough disciplinarian who wasn't around when I was a kid meant that I had a greater bond with my mother.

It does not mean that I love my mother more than my mother. Not at all. Equal.

My father fostered my love of music (playing and listening), sports and comicbook collecting. Seriously... when I was 9, he would drive me to downtown Toronto every Saturday, hand me a $20 bill as I walked into Captain George's Memory Lane shop and bought 80 used comics that had come out a few months earlier, or fewer books if I bought the 1960s comics for $1. That's about 4,000 comic books a year. He would also give me a $10 bill and ask me to get a loaf of bread that costs $0.49. I would return with the bread, but when he asked about the change, I never seemed to have any, but always had a lot of fresh comic books. He never got mad at me for that, and allowed this behavior to go on for years and years (I think it still goes on!).

And I think that despite many challenges being thrown at the Japanese nuclear family in the 21st century, kids love their mom and respect their father... but in Japan, I think the respect for dad equates to love.  

And that's why when father's say they want appreciation from their kids as a present for Father's Day - IE respect - they know what it means, too.

Oh yeah... my father was the one who convinced me to go to Japan when all I wanted to do was not go. If it wasn't for him, I would have missed out on a few things that have helped define who I am today.

Chichi-no Hi Omedetoh.

By Andrew Joseph
Just some thoughts from my observations of people I knew while living in Japan. It may be atypical or maybe it is typical. It's an opinion. 

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