Monday, June 6, 2011

Fragments of goodness

1. I was on my way by bus. When the bus stopped at a bus-stop on the way, the driver announced on the speaker, "Thank you for boarding our bus. Please be careful when you step off the bus." A very old man was getting off. In Japan, when a person wants to get off, s/he has to press a button, keep sitting till the bus stops, then walk down the aisle and get off the bus after paying the fare.
※(Some buses take the fare in advance when the rate is fixed whatever distance one travels)

2. I had given some clothes to the laundry for cleaning. When I went to collect them, one of my shirts was missing and I was given some other shirt by mistake. It was the first time that such a thing happenned to me in this country (where mistakes seldom occur due to the care taken at work, and attention is given to the smallest detail). The attendant searched the entire shop and then called the washing factory after I pointed out that it was not my shirt. They checked the number of the shop sticker tag and realized they had made a mistake. Then after profound appologies, I was given a coupon to be able to get my clothes washed at half the price next time. They also delivered the shirt to my doorstep by evening of the same day, the delivery man also appologizing profusely!

Sunday, June 5, 2011


I love towels. The fragrance of a clean towel can be savored with half closed dreamy eyes. In winter there is nothing like a hot bath and then wrapping up and drying in a heavy fluffy towel. In summers it has to be the thin hand woven gamcha. This thin towel is convenient for travel as it dries very fast unlike any other towel.

The term "gamchha" derives from the Bengali গা মোছা (gā mochha), which means "wiping (the) body". Gamchha is the local term for a sweat towel used in west Bengal and adjoining areas in India, and Bangladesh. (source: Wikipedia)

The following line is quoted from the novel The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh.

"But she persisted, making signs and gestures until finally he understood. `Gamchha,' he said laconically, and of course, that was it; she had known it all along: Gamchha, gamchha."

Try one!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

衣替え/ Moulting Season Starts In Japan!

This year it has been officially announced to start from the 1st of June and this usually continues till the end of September.
No, the Japanese people do not shed their skins but rather go for a change of clothes. The literal translation means a change of wardrobe.
This started with the Cool Biz campaign in the summer of 2005 when the then Japanese Ministry of Environment minister, Ms. Koike Yuriko proposed the idea to help reduce electric consumption in summer resulting in reduction of CO2 emission. Apparently, British and South Korean firms carried out the idea in 2006.

People wear short sleeved shirts without neckties or jackets to work and the air conditioning is set at 28 degrees. This year Aloha or Hawaiian shirts are the boom as recommended by several organizations.

Japanese society has many kinds of pressures and conformity is an absolute must. A few years ago, the dress code at the work place was almost as strictly oppressive as probably in the military. All had to be in suits. But it is very difficult to work wearing a suit in the hot evervating summer. It also requires that the air conditioning be turned on and temperatures kept low. This requires huge amounts of electricity. So it was proposed that people wear ligher clothing and the bare minimum of air conditing be used. I feel this has done a world of good to Japan where formalities can be very stifling. Japanese people try and bear all that stoically, but in the age of globalization it would not do much harm to relax rules a bit and bring in a bit of color (at least one season of it). After all, I have always felt that Japanese people are trying to be more Western than Westerners when it comes to wearing suits.