5 Japanese Values Westerners Could Adopt

As the 2020 Tokyo Olympics draw closer, Japan and the Japanese culture are garnering more and more attention in the West. Lots of students are learning Japanese at school and university, many young people enjoy reading manga or watching anime, others like to practise martial arts, and Japanese restaurants are opening in cities all over the world because everyone wants to eat delicious and healthy Japanese food.

The desire to visit Japan is often an extension of what young people have enjoyed growing up and they’ve developed their passion for Japan even further through social media channels. But why do so many people rave about Japan and why do so many Westerners decide to stay and live in this country for many years when the culture and the language are so different from their own? The answer may simply be their appreciation of Japanese values and how these values impress Westerners who spend time in Japan, even if they’re just visiting the country for a couple of weeks as a tourist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below are five values deeply ingrained into Japanese society. Each value makes an important contribution to the Japanese culture and everyone’s day-to-day life in Japan. Although some Japanese people would argue you need to be Japanese to truly appreciate these values, it’s still possible for Westerners to try and adopt them or simply acknowledge them in order to improve their communication skills and to cope in their daily lives. These principles and moral standards can also help Westerners to understand their own culture and why people behave in a certain way in their home country.

1. Mottainai (waste not, want not) deals with waste without regret. This Japanese word is gaining international recognition, partly due to the very popular children’s book Mottainai Grandma by Mariko Shinju, a bilingual book that teaches children to be resourceful and to think about the impact waste has on the universe.

One way stores and companies in Japan are adopting mottainai is by upcycling products and turning them into covetable items with market appeal. The NHK World TV program Tokyo Eye 2020 recently featured a retailer called Seal Omotesando Honten. This fashion and apparel shop upcycles scrapped tire inner tubes and turns them into stylish and unique men’s bags and accessories.

Hopefully, this company’s success will encourage other Western entrepreneurs and well-known companies to look at different ways to upcycle and rethink waste in the future in countries outside of Japan.

Seal Omotesando Honten in Tokyo. Photo courtesy of NHK World TV.

Seal Omotesando Honten in Tokyo. Photo courtesy of NHK World TV.

2. Omoiyari is to notice and be considerate of others. I was really impressed by the kindness I received from the Japanese people when I taught English in Japan. When I was ill my students brought me medicine and made me delicious and healthy meals, my Japanese friends organized parties and hilarious karaoke nights when I was lonely and missing home, and strangers went out of their way to help me when I lost my way and I couldn’t find my destination. I can remember one Japanese lady I asked randomly in the street for directions in Ginza who actually led me to an eikawa school I couldn’t find, even though it took ten minutes out of her time. What struck me the most was the fact she was delighted to do this and she showed no signs of frustration or exasperation.

 Sadly, I was working in an office in the UK and a young man in his early twenties on our team had unfortunately had an accident playing sport and he’d broken his leg. The doctor had told him his leg would probably need to be amputated. Three days a week, he’d arrive at work and only two other people on our team of twenty would ask him how he was feeling or show any concern, even though he would limp into work on crutches for several months looking utterly defeated.

Westerners are often accused of being confrontational and competitive. Obviously, we need to stand up for the values we believe in but we should embrace omoiyari and take more time to think of others. It’s actually very rewarding to reach out to others and help them if you can. It doesn’t need to be a grand gesture, it just needs to come from the heart. Even a friendly smile could make someone’s day!

3. Honne vs. tatemae are true feelings versus opinions and behavior we express in public. Westerners sometimes complain about the way Japanese people use tatemae or wear a mask to hide their true feelings in order to cover up their honne or real feelings and how this can be frustrating and leave a person feeling isolated and confused. However, some Japanese people say Westerners could benefit from using more tatemae in their lives and less honne. Just consider some of the reality programs dominating TV these days in Western countries. I’m sure you’ll agree some Westerners really need to rein in their opinions and stop flaunting themselves physically and emotionally on television for the whole nation to see.

Western celebrities in the public eye who may have been praised in the past can be condemned to obscurity because of criticism and miscommunication on social media. If we were to express more positive honne and show more tatemae when we feel negative toward someone or something, especially on public forums, maybe life wouldn’t be so difficult for everyone, especially the young who sometimes feel very vulnerable when they’re online in a world where there are no boundaries.

4. Omotenashi – The Japanese company Kanebo Cosmetics defines omotenashi on their website as “the Japanese way of treating a guest. It blends a welcoming spirit with warmth, understanding, and above all respect. The concept is all encompassing.” We’ll certainly see this word omotenashi used a lot more in the media in the run up to the 2020 Olympics, although this interpretation of Japanese hospitality can sometimes be overused and written out of context. Nevertheless, omotenashi is definitely one of the values many tourists will appreciate and remember after they’ve visited Japan.

Omotenashi Japan

Retailers and restaurateurs from countries all over the world could benefit from a visit to Japan to develop a better understanding of omotenashi which they could customize to improve the customer service experience at their own establishments in their home countries.

 

 

5. Iki is inherently a stylish and fashionable aesthetic that represents everyday Japan. This value became popular in the late eighteenth century with the middle and lower classes during the Edo period, but it’s still an active part of the Japanese vocabulary today.

Books by Haruki Murakami are said to embody the spirit of iki. His characters and plot structures are transparent and straightforward, his writing style is neither poetic nor full of underlying themes, and there’s an obvious appreciation of natural beauty and behavior.

Kuki Shūzō was the first person to publish a comprehensive study of iki in The Structure of “Iki” (Iki no kōzō) in 1930. This research indicated iki has three elements: sensual allure, pride, and a sophisticated indifference toward one’s own attractiveness and capabilities in every aspect of life.

It’s not easy to apply iki to the Western world but one woman who comes close to representing this value is Kate Middleton before she became a royal. Her hair and makeup were always Kate Middletonnatural, she had the everyday qualities that attracted Prince William, she had a slim physique, her style was never garish, superficial or coarse, she was neither common nor overly transcendental, and her sensual allure was always understated and discreet. All these attributes personify the principles associated with iki. Many Western and Japanese mothers would probably be very proud to have a daughter who behaves and looks like Kate Middleton in their private and public life.

Simple Japanese Party Food and Drinks!

It’s mid-winter and very cold outside so it’s a great time to have a Japanese themed party with your friends inside a warm home. I live in the UK so everything in this blog post is available from the Japan Centre in London. You’ll be able to pick up most of these ingredients at your local supermarket or convenience store if you live in Japan. Whether you live in Japan or your home country, make sure you invite all your Japanese friends. They’ll love all the drinks and snacks on offer at your party. I think it’s important to stick to popular and much-loved favourites to make sure everyone enjoys the food.

Drinks

There are lots of different drinks available in Japan but I think sake might be a bit strong for this kind of party so I’m recommending some lighter drinks. If you want to stick with the more popular beers buy a few bottles or cans of Kirin Ichiban Shibori Lager or Asahi Super Dry. I recommend umeshu (plum wine) for your guests who like sweeter alcoholic drinks, and Calpis or Melon soda for the kids.

KirinAsahiTakara plum wineMelon soda

 

 

 

 

 

Sushi

Every good Japanese themed party should have a selection of sushi but this can be time-consuming and fiddly to make. Don’t worry, there’s a simple alternative: Salmon and tuna nigiri sushi are much easier to make than temaki and maki sushi. Watch this short instructional video by The Telegraph and you’ll have your nigiri sushi ready in about half-an-hour. Don’t forget to add 1 tablespoon of sushi rice vinegar to 250 grams of freshly cooked short grain steamed rice for an authentic taste.

Japan offers an incredible selection of savoury and sweet snacks you can buy in stores, from vending machines, and at train station kiosks all over the country and you can see a lot of these delicious delights have definitely been influenced by the Western world. The selection below is mostly old favourites you can buy in Japan but there are also some really tasty treats on the list you can get at the Japan Centre, such as the green tea & atzuki bean swiss roll and the cream breads. There are also lots of different variations of Pretz and Pocky in Japan. Almond Crush Pocky has been a firm favourite since its introduction in 1971 so I definitely had to include it here. Kitkats are obviously available worldwide but I recommend the matcha (green tea) version if you want to stick with the Japan theme.

I hope you enjoy all the scrumptious food in this blog post at your Japanese themed party. If you want to make your party even more authentic why don’t you greet your guests at your front door in a kimono? Don’t be afraid to encourage everyone to dress up and have fun!

Savoury Snacks

1. Wasabi peas
2. Pretz Tomato Pretzel Sticks
3. Nori Seaweed Rice Crackers
4. Nuts Aji Gonomi Savoury Mixed Snacks

wasabi peas

Pretz tomato

seaweed snacks

nuts savoury

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Snacks

1. Pocky almond crush
2. Panda Chocolate cream biscuits
3. Meiji Kinoko No Yama (mountain mushroom shape) Chocolate Biscuits
4. Lotte Koala’s March Chocolate Cream Biscuits
5. Japan Centre Green Tea and Azuki Bean Swiss Roll
6. Japan Centre Hello Kitty Character Chocolate Cream Bread
7. Totoro cream bread
8. Matcha (green tea) kitkat

pocky-almond-crush

meiji-hello-panda-chocolate

meiji-kinoko-no-yama-mushroom-biscuits

koalas-march-chocolate

matcha-azuki-swiss-roll-side

Hello Kitty Bread

Totoro bread

kitkat-share-pack

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2017 from Renae at Cherry Blossom Stories

I’d like to thank everyone who has read my books, visited my blog, and supported me in 2016. I hope to receive your continued support in 2017.

christmas-photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admittedly, I haven’t been doing a lot of writing in 2016. I would have liked to have done a lot more writing this year but I’ve been suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome for over ten months. This is making the palms of my hands and my fingers tingly and very itchy so it’s difficult for me to keep typing for long periods of time, but it’s slowly getting better with the help of wrist braces that I’ve been wearing for as long as I can when I sleep. I’ll need to keep wearing these splints for a few more months before I can start typing continuously for several hours again. I’ve been concentrating a lot more on reading than writing this year. I’ve read some amazing stories and quite a lot of Japan-related books from some fabulous authors who have opened my eyes to different writing styles, a variety of plot structures, and some wonderful characters.

Despite the problem with my hands, I’m currently working on my next book Tokyo Dreams, the sequel to Tokyo Hearts: A Japanese Love Story. I’m sorry for the delay in publishing this next book and I appreciate your patience.

Happy Holidays!

My Photoshoot at Sudeley Castle & Gardens – “The Most Romantic Castle in England”

On Friday 25 November, my husband Roy and I had the honour of visiting Sudeley Castle and Gardens in Winchcombe in the south-west of England for a photoshoot and it was a truly memorable experience! Sudeley Castle is said to be “the most romantic castle in England” and Roy and I can certainly attest to that. I’ve visited a lot of stately homes, castles, and places of historical interest over the past twelve years during my time in the UK, but Sudeley Castle really stands out as the most breath-taking and fascinating estate I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit.

sudeley-castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

I visited Sudeley Castle with a purpose. I needed a high-resolution photo and I thought Sudeley Castle would be a fantastic location for the photos. I’d also been thinking of updating my profile photo for social media (this was long overdue) and we obviously couldn’t take any old photo of me with my phone so I decided to arrange a photoshoot somewhere special and this Tudor castle, with its glorious grounds and its fascinating library, was the perfect choice.

the-knot-garden1

I called Astrid Martin, the Corporate Events and Weddings Manager at Sudeley Castle, and
when I spoke to her I was delighted to discover she was very professional and also absolutely
charming and obliging. Astrid met us on the Friday morning at the castle and guided us around the stunning gardens (the Knot Garden is pictured on the left) and the Banqueting Hall.

 

Later in the day, we were given permission to take some photos in The Dent Brocklehurst Family’s Private Library inside Sudeley Castle (pictured below). One of my The Dent Brocklehurst Family’s Private Libraryfavourite authors is Charles Dickens so I was very pleased to discover a copy of David Copperfield by Dickens on the bookshelf in the library. We were also shown Charles I’s despatch box which was used during the Battle of Naseby, a beautiful 16th-century Sheldon tapestry, and priceless works of art including a portrait of Rubens by Van Dyke, all of these exquisitely preserved in this resplendent library.

 

After the photoshoot, Astrid told us there were several ghosts haunting Sudeley Castle and one ghost in particular hovers in the hall between the library and the kitchen. Interestingly enough, we stopped walking exactly where the ghost is said to exist and we realised we had to head back to the library. Maybe this ghost prompted us to pause and turn around!

Sudeley Castle is steeped in history and contains treasures dating back to ancient Roman
times but it’s also very famous for being the only privately owned castle to have a queen buried rsz_catherine_parrin its grounds. On 30 August 1548, Queen Katherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII, gave birth to her daughter Mary here but unfortunately she died seven days later. She is buried in St Mary’s church in the grounds of Sudeley Castle. Queen Katherine Parr can be seen resting serenely in her marble burial place (pictured on the left) in this beautiful chapel, bordered by the very elegant and pretty White Garden.

 

 

 

Obviously, Queen Katherine Parr is extremely famous for being the final queen consort of the House of Tudor but as a writer I was immeasurably impressed by the fact that Katherine Parr (alternatively spelled Catherine or Kateryn) was the first woman in history to have a book published in English using her own name. 

Sudeley Castle has a lot of royal connections: Henry VII granted the castle to his uncle Jasper Tudor after the Wars of the Roses but it was returned to the monarch and became the
property of King Henry VIII after his death. Henry VIII visited the castle with his second wife Anne Boleyn in 1535 but following Henry’s death in 1547 Sudeley Castle was passed on to King Arial view of Sudeley CastleEdward VI who granted the castle to his uncle Thomas Seymour, the brother of Queen Jane Seymour and Katherine Parr’s fourth husband (Katherine Parr and Seymour married in secret because the Regency council didn’t approve of their union only six months after Henry’s death).

 

 

Sudeley Castle is definitely a must-see attraction for tourists and the perfect place for a dreamy wedding or an important function. Your special occasion here will Wedding ceremony in the librarybecome part of the castle’s history and your event will be remembered forever by your family and your guests. In fact, the English international model and actress Liz Hurley famously married Arun Nayar at Sudeley Castle in 2007. The castle and its grounds can provide spacious dining, catering, and waiting staff in the Banqueting Hall and Terrace Pavilion for up to 120 guests and the library can be used for more intimate events (pictured left).

Please contact Astrid Martin directly at Sudeley Castle on +44 (0) 1242 602 308 
for all enquiries.
I can assure you Astrid will go the extra mile to make sure you have a weddingsfantastic experience during your time at the castle.

I can also highly recommend Katy Pheiffer and Charles McArthur if you’re looking for a first-class makeup artist and an excellent photographer. Katy is listed as one of the top five makeup artists in Gloucestershire and both Charles and Katy are willing to travel all over the UK and abroad for events. Thank you, Katy and Charles for your professionalism and for the wonderful makeup and photographs. Below left is a photo of me taken by Charles McArthur at Sudeley Castle in front of the door leading to the Banqueting Hall.

renaesavvytokyo

Finally, I’d like to sincerely thank Astrid Martin, Lady Ashcombe, and the Dent-Brocklehurst family at Sudeley Castle for giving us the opportunity to visit the castle in November and for making our day extra special.

 

 

 

The photos in this blog post are courtesy of the Sudeley Castle & Gardens website, the Historic Houses Association website, and Charles McArthur Photography.