Friday, July 10, 2009

手締め Tejime

At the end of the nomikai in my last post, the evening was brought to a close with an activity called tejime. The Japanese encyclopedia describes tejime as a celebratory rhythmic clapping of hands that is done to mark the successful closing of an event.

I first came to Japan in 2003. I’ve spent a lot of time visiting and I studied in Tokyo for a year and a half. However, it wasn’t until I started doing business in Japan last year when I encountered the tejime. You can imagine my bafflement as everyone around me commenced the ritual. Take a look:

This example shows the tejime closing the end of a festival in Japan. It can happen after various events such as weddings, business parties and of course, company nights out.

I was confused though. The tejime seemed to have several different forms and different names. This is Japan; there must be rules for these things. So I asked my colleagues and even they weren’t too sure. We found this site though, which cleared things up.

The tejime usually starts with a small speech, where the leader thanks everyone for coming and says the appropriate words. He is then supposed to say the following:

「それでは皆さん、お手を拝借」 Everyone, please ready your hands.

He then says, “Yoh~ !”, which you can see in the video, and everyone claps a certain rhythm. There are a few of these rhythms though.

We’ll start with 三本締め(“Sanbonjime”). This is what you saw in the video above. The rhythm is like this:

and those two bars are repeated three times.

The next is 一本締め(“Ipponjime”). For those of you who can’t read Japanese, you may still notice that the only difference is that 三 has turned into 一. Sure enough, instead of doing the above rhythm three times, you only do it once.

Some of you who live in Japan may be thinking, “Hang on, I’ve done this before, and we did one where we only clap once”. It’s name is 一丁締め(“Iccho-jime”). However, in the Kanto region, which includes Tokyo, it is also called Ipponjime. This leads to some confusion for people like the author of the website I linked to. He has been left on his own when everyone else claps once and he continues the rhythm. In order to avoid the confusion, it can also be called Kanto Ipponjime. Here it is:

The pattern of Ipponjime is 3, 3, 3, 1. The set of threes add up to 9. The number nine has the following character: 九. If you add one more pen stroke (or clap), you get 丸, which is the character for a circle. Therefore, clapping ten times like this is supposed to form a circle and complete the harmony.

九 ⇒ 丸

How do you tell which pattern is appropriate? My colleagues didn’t know the answer to this. The website states that Ipponjime is the standard and this means that everyone is thankful and pays their respects. Doing this three times for Sanbonjime simply means that these feelings are tripled! Sanbonjime is therefore used on those extra special occasions where people want to celebrate the most. The Iccho-jime is perhaps the most frequent in Tokyo and is the least formal.

Incidentally, for those studying Japanese, the “Yoh~” that you always here before the clapping was originally 祝おう, meaning “Let us celebrate”.

I really like this little ritual and it’s easy to see it’s appeal. It’s comforting to know that the event is officially over and there’s no milling around with people saying, “OK, I’ll take off now”, and people leaving in dribs and drabs.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Doh is for DONUTS!

During my time at my present employer, I have of course been drinking with my colleagues on quite a few occasions. It’s always fun and we have a laugh. Last Tuesday was different...

With the arrival of the hot weather in Japan, the office has gone into “cool biz” mode. The temperature gauge has been turned up and the ties are off. The Summer is also the time for an event called 暑気払い(“shokibarai”). This phrase literally means “to beat the heat away” and it’s an opportunity to let out all of the pent up heat and the stress of work. Tuesday was the first time that I had participated in such an event.

Just like any other nomikai, the first thing to do is to assign a person to the role of kanji (幹事). The kanji must organize everything and co-ordinate the entire event. It’s a real pain and naturally the job usually rotates between the more junior members, of which I am one. For this reason, I was surprised when my boss took the responsibility.

The first thing the kanji must do is establish the date for the event. This usually works by passing a calendar round the office. Each person takes their hanko and stamps all of the dates that they are unavailable. The calendar is passed to the highest ranking person first and it works its way down.

After that, the kanji sent the following email, which gave me an indication that this was not the usual nomikai:

営業部暑気払いの開催日が6月30日(火)に決まりましたので、 取り急ぎご連絡申し上げます。

お店は丸の内界隈のお店を予定しておりますが、追ってご連絡いた します。


This to quickly inform you that the date for the marketing department’s shokibarai has been set to the 30th of June (Tuesday). We are planning on choosing a venue in the marunouchi area.

I would like to request that each participant prepares one performance, with the exception of Mr. ___ who must prepare two (the consensus was that 1 was insufficient).

“Performance? What the *$#?”, I thought to myself. This was the first time that such a request had been made.

Next, came the following email:




日時:6月30日(火) 19時スタート


個室、カラオケ機器、ダーツ ゲーム付です。(ダーツはワンゲーム100円の課金) なお、飲み放題2時間限定(!)、でありますので、遅刻などなきよう、この日ばか りは仕事を割り切って、18時30分頃に、みんなで揃って、こっそり退社と致したく、ご協力宜しくお願いいたします。


With the Summer heat near at hand, in order to drive away the overcast and rainy skies, we are holding a party for the whole marketing department.

I would like to invite everyone, without exception, for active participation in the event.

Day/Time: June 30 (Tue) 19:00 Start

Place: Paseo, Ginza (Karaoke Izakaya)

It’s a private room, with a karaoke machine and darts. (A darts game costs 100 yen). We also have an all-you-can-drink deal for 2 hours(!) so lets all finish our work on time and be sure that we’re not late. It would be very much appreciated if we could meet at 6:30 and quietly exit the office.

Sure enough, on the day, we had the unusual pleasure of everyone finishing on time and we quietly met on the first floor of the building as instructed. The karaoke room was quite large and the seats were arranged in a U shape, with a flatscreen TV and karaoke machine at the other end. Our deputy director, who likes to drink, had been looking forward to this event for quite a while and it was reportedly his idea to go for karaoke. As soon as the first round arrived, he enthusiastically stood up and kicked the evening off with a speech and a hearty “Kampai!”.

I think this is the room we were in

We then spent two and a half hours singing and drinking a lot. We were also served a course meal, which was very good, but lacking in quantity. Obviously everyone got fairly hammered and after Japanese pop, came some Enka singing from the older participants. Once one person was finished singing, the deputy director that I mentioned earlier started a trend where the singer’s name was chanted, and people clapped in time as the individual was forced to down his/her drink. I’ve been drinking several times with my department and this was the first time that this had happened.

One peculiarity of going out in Japan is that there are some people who can’t drink. When I say “can’t drink”, I don’t mean that these people can drink less than other people, I mean that they literally can’t drink. There is one guy in our marketing department who never drinks a drop. He says that if he has one beer, it will take him out of the game for the rest of the evening. He is a legend in the office for being a really funny guy and he’s also reasonably bulky (in a good way!). You would expect him to be able to drink substantial amounts. He spent the evening drinking ginger ales and cokes and acquitted himself admirably with a few renditions of Japanese pop songs where he was hilarious in each.

Things progressed to the next level, where a new song was introduced. It goes something like this: (to the tune of “Do Re Mi” from a Sound of Music)







Doh is for DONUTS!

Reh is for Rehmon!

Mi is for Minna!

Fa is for Faito!

So is the so from Aozora!

Rehmon = Lemon, Minna = Everyone, Faito = Fight, Aozora = Blue sky

Before singing the song, the victim had several drinks lined up in front of him, with the next drink being of a smaller quantity than the previous. This made the line up look like a xylophone. Everyone sang “Doh is for DONUTS!” and the person had to down the first drink. Then everyone sings “Reh is for Remon!” and the second drink is consumed etc.

I managed to avoid that one but the non-drinker in our group wasn’t as fortunate. Instead of beers, he got a ginger ale, a coke, a bowl of salad and a mango mouse pudding.