|RANT 'N' RAVE
Strike Three - You're
Gaijin beware: if youre not fully
acclimated to this ineradicable Japanese custom, the art of omiyage (gift
giving), then you may be in for a big surprise. Heres how the customary, age old
tradition frittered away mine and my Japanese wifes dream vacation to Hawaii.
At first, I thought buying omiyage for all of our family members and friends, from
kindergarten to present, bosses and co-workers would be easy. Strike one.
Since it is prosaic in Japan for the housewife to do the shopping, as the bread winner,
all I had to do was nod my head yes or no when she found that perfect gift, dish out the
cash and carry the bags. No problem, besides, since we had seven days, I was quite
confident we could easily balance our time between omiyage shopping and frolicking at
Waikiki Beach. Strike two.
While I dreamed of paradise during our flight to Honolulu my wife must have dreamed of
shopping because when we landed at the airport, instead of napping off our jet lag, we
headed straight to the Ala Moana mall. I had an out of body experience then, impelled by
centuries of some inherent Japanese formidable force to shop, and shop and shop for
Still numb from a couple of time zone changes, I trailed behind my wife like
Kingyo-no-fun, totting bags of omiyage as we weaved through travelling bands of Japanese
tourists who zigzagged like schools of hungry tuna fish from one sale to the next.
This whirlwind of weaving, head nodding, dishing out cash and bag totting went on for six
days, from dusk till dawn, without a break. My dreams of the beach had long since
vanished, so I bought myself a post card. With my priorities readjusted, I abandoned all
selfish desires and obtained what I believed to have been enlightenment into the inherent
formidable truth of the Japanese way. I was at one with omiyage.
On the eve of the sixth day, shopping complete, we rested. The call of the enticing ocean
waves - or was it room service? - beckoned me awake on the seventh day from my abysmal
slumber. We had a few hours to spare so I quickly donned my swim trunks, snorkel, mask and
fins right there in the room and proceeded to rouse my wife who opened her eyes long
enough to tell me she needed to go back to the mall first - to buy a new swim suit. Strike
Upon our return to Japan, our grateful family members and friends, bosses, co-workers, all
bowing and smiling from ear to ear, graciously thanked us for the omiyage and then
proceeded to ask question about our miyage-banashi (experiences of our vacation
to paradise). Particularly about how we could spend seven days in Hawaii and not even get
a tan? Enlightenment once again overcame me. Hmmmm, I said as I repeatedly
sucked wind through my teeth. So desu ne.
Many thanks to reader Glen Steward for this Rant.
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