Jinbei (甚平) is Japanese summer wear traditionally worn by men and children. It consists of a kimono-like shirt and short pants. It’s a lot more relaxing than yukata (浴衣), and considered as casual outfit for informal occasions. In present days, the most likely place you’d see people dressed in it is at matsuri (summer festivals).
Today, jinbei is also popular among women, and you start to see more and more of them designed and targeted for girls.
Unlike yukata and kimono, it’s easy to move and loosely fitted, so many people use it as an indoor wear and as a pajama too. The material used for it is usually either cotton, hemp, or combination of both. It absorbs sweat and breathes air well, making it comfortable to wear even in hot weather.
In Japan, zippers are called “jippā,” “fasunā,” or “chack.” Jippā (zipper) and fasunā (fastener) are obviously derived from English, but what’schack (チャック)?
Chack is actually a made-up word coined by a zipper manufacturing company in Omichi as a trademark. It’s derived from Japanese word kinchaku (巾着), meaning drawstring bag. The trademark was registered in 1927, and zippers sold under the trademark “chack” were received very well by public.
Today, zipper, fastener, and chack are used interchangeably in Japanese.
Aiaigasa (相合い傘) means a behavior where two people share one umbrella. Although a simple act of sharing an umbrella does not necessarily mean they are in relationship in actuality, as they could be doing it for practical reason, but when you call it aiaigasa, you are definitely implying romantic tension behind it.
People often draw aiaigasa symbol (shown below) with their name underneath it to show they are in love. Sometimes kids do it to poke fun at others who are attracted to each other.
Although it’s no fun when it rains, but take it in positive way. It’s also a great chance to get closer to someone you love!
“Posto (ポスト),” or post, refers to a mailbox or a post box in Japan.
In Japanese, English equivalent of post (as an actual piece of mail, or delivery of mail) is called “yūbin (郵便),” but public mailbox was given a western-derived name “post.”
Today’s Japanese mailboxes are typically square-shaped and made of metal. They have two slots for different types of mail. One is for postcards and regular-sized letter, the other is for expedited, irregular shaped, and international mail.
Many convenience stores in Japan also offer part of postal service. In such case, you can buy postage stamps, send letters and packages there. A small “post” can be found near the cashier.
You can usually tell whether a convenience store provides postal service or not by looking for a postal logo “〒” at the entrance or on the store window.
Tsūcho (通帳) refers to a bankbook issued from a bank or other financial institution to keep track of your transaction history and saving balance. Although the world is going rapidly in favor of electronic banking, this little booklet remains to be a common way of keeping financial record for Japanese people.
Tsūcho from different banks in Japan.
Having a bankbook is essential in Japanese culture. It serves as a legitimate proof of your saving, so you can use it when you are required to show your financial status at situations such as signing a contract with cellphone providers, renting an apartment, etc.
It’s easy to use tsūcho. Just go up to one of the ATMs (from the bank that issued your bankbook), and choose “Update Bankbook.” It’ll ask your to insert your bankbook, so open the page from your last recording, insert it in the machine, and you’re done!
Hieshō is a symptom where an individual continually feels cold in his or her hands, feet, thighs, and arms, even in warm weather. In Japan, it’s considered a common problem/condition for women. Causes can vary and could be a combination of many, but a lot of the times it’s a lifestyle problem such as bad circulation caused by lack of exercise, working long hours in an air-conditioned office, hormone imbalance from stress, etc.
Many products are advertised and targeted specifically to people suffering from hieshō.
“Foot Warmer” controls temperature around your feet (above).
This “Hot Alpha Tsumasaki Walker” is a pair of small socks that partially absorbs moisture from feet to produce heat inside. They only cover tips of feet, so you can wear them with pumps without being too conspicuous at work.
I noticed that Tully’s Coffee in Japan often offer complimentary blankets to their customers during their stay, even in summer (some stores could get really chilly from air-conditioning). As I am suffering from hieshō myself, such service makes me truly appreciate Japanese people’s hospitality.
Around this time of a year in Japan, many stores start taking orders for ochugen gifts.
What is ochugen (お中元)?
It’s a Japanese tradition in summer where you send gifts to people whom you’d like to show gratitude to. It’s a custom of saying thanks to the recipients and also showing your intent of keeping good relationship with them in future. It’s basically the summer equivalent of oseibo gifts given at the end of every year.
Ochugen gifts are usually sent to recipients by July 15th in Kanto area and August 15th in Kansai area. Gifts are typically given to their business partners, clients, relatives, special friends, people you owe favors, etc. In many cases, people order presents at retail stores and have the stores ship them to recipients on behalf of the senders. This way, when gifts are fresh food or perishables, you don’t have to worry about them going bad in transit.
Beer is also a popular ochugen gift. It comes in a pretty packaging.
Like oseibo, ochugen gifts are wrapped in special paper called noshi.
In Japanese, when one says daiya (ダイヤ), it could mean two things.
One is short for diamond, as in precious gem. The other is short for diagram, and more precisely, refers to a service planning diagram used in railway and bus operation.
Daiya in latter case is a document showing exact routes and time schedules of public transportation. When you are using trains in Japan, sometimes you may hear announcements for “daiya no midare (ダイヤの乱れ).” It means daiya, or the pre-set operating plan, has been disrupted, and certain trains and buses may be delayed as a result of it.
Daiya could be disrupted by various reasons, such as bad weather, accidents, and natural disasters. When it happens, railway companies are not responsible for financial loss caused by delay, so they wouldn’t be able to pay your tickets back. What they can do though is to issue a certificate of delay (Chien Shoumeisho from Japan Word of the Day #44) that you can bring to work to legitimately explain why you were late.
Futon (布団) is a traditional bedding used by Japanese to this date.
It usually consists of padding (comforter) made of cotton/synthetic fiber/down wrapped in a quilted cover to maintain its shape.
There are two types futon: kakebuton (掛け布団) and shikibuton (敷き布団).
The former is used as a blanket to cover the person.
The latter is used for spreading on the floor for a person to lay on.
Originally, futon is intended for sleeping on the floor/tatami mat, with no mattress underneath. However, as western-style beds became widely available, people now use futon on top of beds as well.
In western culture, futon refers to an entirely different thing. It’s a collapsible bed on wooden/metal framework that can be both used as a bed and a couch. In Japan, this type of furniture is called sofa bed, and it’s differentiated from futon.
There are many merits in using futon. One is that it helps you save space.
When you don’t use futon (when you are awake), it’s usually stored away in closets. Thus, the room used for sleeping can be used for other purposes during daytime. It’s very important for Japanese people with limited land to have items that occupies the least space possible.
Also, Japan gets quite humid from time to time. Having a bedding portable enough to frequently dry in the sun to remove mold and excess moisture is crucial to keep sanitary environment.
Because so many words in Japanese are based on English, it’s easy to mistakingly assume one can communicate by simply saying English words in Japanese pronunciation. However, you have to remember that Japanese words are actually derived from many different languages.
One good example is rubber. In Japanese, rubber is called “gomu (ゴム).”
It’s named after Dutch word “gom.”
In English, rubber products are named in combination with the word rubber, such as “rubber band” and “rubber (as an eraser).” Since in Japanese, the base word is “gomu,” related items are named in combination with it.
However, some of the more recently introduced products such as car rubber mats are called rubber mat (rabā matto/ラバーマット), directly borrowed from English word. So in such case you’d just have to learn specific terms one by one.