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.

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