Basic Vocabulary




Word Focus

Business Japanese

Gift Shop

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"a quick drink"

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 Japan.  

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.




"It's 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.






midsummer gift 

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.