“Hai” is the Most Tricky Japanese Word for Westerners

There is a cultural gap so wide between the Japanese and Westerners that neither even know it’s there.  The meaning of “hai” in Japanese is a very good example. If you think “hai” always means “yes” in the English definition of yes, it could become the beginning of misunderstanding the Japanese people, especially in terms of business relations. Imagine that you are in the first business meeting in Japan for sales promotion. While you talk in front of  the procurement group, your Japanese counterpart keeps uttering “hai” in Japanese. You know “hai” means “yes” in English, and so you gain a little confidence in your talk and keep talking, while your counterpart keep […]

“Obon” Buddhist Observance in Japan

Obon is a time to express our gratitude to loved ones who have passed on before us.  It is an annual Buddhist observance observed in the middle of August (13th to 16th plus a weekend).  It is in July in Tokyo and in a few areas, but for most of the Japanese, the middle of August is the Obon period, when families get together and pay a visit to their ancestor’s grave. People say that Obon is based on a Buddhist belief that departed souls return to their families during this period.  However, Jodo Shinshu school views in a different way.  “Obon is a time of gratitude, giving, and joy […]

Opening a Restaurant in Sapporo

When starting a restaurant business here in Japan, zoning regulations usually are not the primary concern. We can open and run a restaurant right in the middle of a quiet residential area.  Surprised? One of the reasons behind it probably lies in the limited land. Japan is a mountainous country where two thirds of the land are covered by mountains. So the government, in order to efficiently use the limited land, thinks that it is insignificant to place a clear cut distinction between commercial and residential areas like in other western countries. If you plan to start a restaurant business in Japan, one thing you may wish to remember is that officers […]

It’s the lavender season in Hokkaido

July in Hokkaido is ideal for distance runners.  Maybe not just for runners, but also for any other sports.  I hear that many college sport teams have summer training in Hokkaido due to its mild summer climate. Along the Shiroihi Cycling Road in Sapporo, which is my regular running course, are trees of deep summer green and blooming flowers, and lavender is one of them. I happened to learn that the cultivation of lavender in Japan was started out here in Sapporo about 80 years ago.  Since the Furano area (including Nakafurano and Biei) is the brand name of lavender fields in Hokkaido,  it was a little surprise to me.  I don’t […]

Japan’s compulsory car inspection

I think owning a vehicle in foreign countries involves experiencing social and cultural differences.   In Japan, we have “sha-ken”, that is mandatory vehicle road-worthiness inspection, comparable to MOT in the UK. While MOT is a checkup of basic vehicle functionalities, Sha-ken is rather the “preventive maintenance” of vehicles and it’s costly here in Japan. This time, it cost me “only”, I would say, a total of 93,000 yen, however, it cost me more than 200,000 yen two years ago, because I had to have brake pads, brake cylinders, ATF and others replaced with the new ones.  The next time will be a headache again.  I will have to replace […]