At the end of the day in offices
throughout Japan, workers exchange invitations of chotto ippai. The
after-work drink with colleagues is a standard part of working life in
The destination is usually a cozy
drinking establishment near the office or factory. Although alcohol may be
involved in chotto ippai activities, getting inebriated is not the
primary intent. Spending time together in a relaxed setting is considered
to be an important aspect of building team cohesion. Most salaried
workers consider after-hours socializing to be a pleasure--not a chore.
a little difficult."
We Americans pride ourselves on
our frankness. This meme dates back to the nineteenth century, and the
idea of the plainspoken, self-sufficient frontiersman.
Japan, however, has always been a
densely populated country where people are highly dependent on social
relationships. Whereas the American frontiersmanís self-sufficiency
enabled him to freely speak his mind, the peasant living in feudal Japan
had to avoid offending his daimyo. He also had to watch out for the
lower-ranking samurai, who were sometimes prone to arbitrary violence.
Chotto muzukashii is often
misunderstood by Westerners, who interpret these words as signal that a
plan is basically on track, with the exception of a few minor details. If
your Japanese business partners tell you chotto muzukashii in
response to a request or a proposal, though, you should realize that they
are opposed to your suggestion--or unable to do what you ask.
The customary time for the giving
of midsummer gifts is between July 1st and July 15th. Japanís department
stores look forward to this season as a time of increased profits.
Chuugen are generally
presented to people to whom the giver is in some way obliged. They might
be given to bosses, customers, or teachers. Although the significance of
these gifts is supposed to be in the gesture itself, some chuugen
can be quite extravagant. Luckily, the midsummer gift-giving season
coincides with one of the salaried workerís annual bonus periods.