Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Art of Little Things

Based on my experience in Japan so far, I dare say that there is no culture in the world that has made an art of as many small things as has Japan. Etiquette is highly-nuanced and strictly followed. Although I have no meaningful understanding of it, a bow, for example, is not just a bow. A gift received must be reciprocated with a gift given (which seems to create an endless cycle, which I also don't understand).

The same complexities and subtleties permeate the language. Certain words, like sushi, are to be said differently by men than by women. A woman must say o-sushi, a man can say sushi. The nuances of Japanese culture are enough to make any gaijin (foreigner) feel like an elephant in a flower garden.

In other fora, Japan's mastery of the little things, is so precious and elegant that it's irresistible. Chief among these precious art forms, for me, is the art of wrapping gifts. 

I took the picture above at a local store that primarily sells chopsticks (called hashi in Japanese). However, the wrapped packaging in which the chopsticks may be presented is also on open display. For in Japan, the packaging of a gift is commonly considered at least as important as the gifts itself. And when gifts look like this, this comes as no surprise. 

These hashi are placed in a beautiful box and then presented in a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth called a furoshiki. 

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