Tyhoons and Japan

Tornado alert is one of my memorable experience in Ohio, USA. I even recall the ominous green color of the sky and the tension I felt while we were staying put in the underground level of an apartment building. The warning caught me totally off guard, because I had not been paying attention to the information as local residents do. All I knew about tornados, at that time, were some images of devastated houses.

Thus, here are 5 things that foreign residents and visitors might want to know about typhoons:


1. Tyhoon’s High Season
Between May and October is the high season. Although there are 20 to 30 typhoons born in each year, they rarely hit Japan in early spring and winter.

2. Typical Paths of Tyhoons
When typhoons get close to Japan, they are usually northeast bound and some of them go across the archipelago. The western Japan, especially Okinawa and Kyushu islands are the area most frequently struck by typhoons. On the other hand, Hokkaido, the northernmost major island, is least affected.  Typhoons are usually worn out before they get to the northern region of Japan. Continue reading “Tyhoons and Japan”

“Hai” is the Most Tricky Japanese Word for Westerners

hai-yesThere 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 saying “hai” again. But somewhere down the line, you might find yourself uncomfortable because their only reaction is “hai”. So you decide to put in a joke in order to inject  warmth into your talk…

The Japanese word, “hai” does not necessarily mean “yes”.  It quite often means “I’m listening”, which only implies attentiveness with little implication of affirmation or agreement. There is, however,  an important “cultural” aspect in the Japanese word “hai”.

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“Obon” Buddhist Observance in Japan

local_templeObon 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 in the Truth of Life.”  So, it may be different depending on which school of Buddhism you are in or maybe local “custom.”  Either way, family members get together during this period, and thus it may be comparable to the Thanks Giving Day in the western cultures.

I should also note that the Obon coincides with the anniversary of  Japan’s surrender in World War II, which is August 15.  Although the event does not have any religious meaning, it gives us additional sentiments to stay in peaceful minds.

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