Today I made the trip downtown to register for free Japanese lessons from the Sendai International Center. Not only do they find someone who is local to teach Japanese but the price is right – free! (Ok, the books cost money, but the ongoing lessons are free). I can’t wait to start, but I’ve been warned by other gaijin (foreigners) that it can take a while before getting started.
This brings me to two items that I would like to experience before I leave Japan – sumo wrestling and geisha. It is easy enough to ask a local about sumo wrestling, but it is decidingly more difficult to ask about finding a geisha (especially in conservative Sendai) and any protocols to abide by. I’ve discovered that Japanese people love their unwritten rules when it comes to a variety of different situations from the mundane to the complex.
For example, when passing a business card you always offer it with two hands and accept it with one hand. If you fail to take time to review the card before depositing it, kiss that relationship goodbye. Same thing when getting change back from a store – the paper money is always counted out for you and offered with two hands.
Another example is the greeting you get when you walk into any store. The employees always call out a greeting (I have yet to get a translation on this) but you should never reply. Did I mention that this is not just when you walk into the store but from EVERY employee that you walk past?
The third example I can think of is finding places – no street names, just block names. A great video to explain it.
Tomorrow will be another trip downtown in the afternoon and then out for birthday dinner of sushi. I’ll be sure to get more pictures of downtown Sendai if the weather stays sunny.