Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Seasons' Greetings

Beginning of the school library newsletter from the beginning of the month:


(Roughly) Greetings from the library committee. It's finally starting to get warmer, but pollen has begun to fill the air, too. Are many of you suffering from allergies?

This one is from the beginning of this week's newsletter from the school health center:


The cold winter is finally coming to a close, and the warm sun is beginning to return. 

When writing a letter or greeting in Japan, it's customary to comment on the weather or the season. I've been noticing this a lot lately, and thinking about it a bit. On one hand, I think it's kind of BSey. No one needs to tell you that it's getting warmer - you already know. And in cases like this season, it can be a little asinine. People have been writing these little "it's spring!" intro's for weeks now, and though the days are in fact getting longer and a little warmer, the friggin winter just won't give up. In fact, it's not finally warm here. Tomorrow is slated to be around 40 F, give or take a few degrees. Spring my ass.

On the other hand, although I think we're a little more "straight to business" in the West, we have our niceties, too. If you're writing to someone you haven't spoken to, you usually ask them how they've been, even if you aren't interesting in long-winded answer. It's just being polite. This is similar, and it's actually kind of easy to fall into after you've been here for a while. I imagine when I go home, I'll be commenting on the weather more often than I used to. And that's fine. It's just the canned parts of these greetings that usually annoy me. Sure it's spring, but it's not warm yet. So how about an intro like this:


Greetings, everyone. Spring is finally coming, but the coldness of winter is still here, isn't it? The pollen and cold are tough, so let's do our best!


  1. Meaningless symbolic speech is something I won't miss after I leave. I'll miss some things...but not that!

  2. Where I work (public library in Ohio), the Director's Notes in our quarterly newsletter to the public typically start with a comment about the season or the weather, which is usually followed by a segue into an enumeration of all the notable things that have happened in the past three months, which is also generally stuff that everyone already knows. So I guess Japan is not alone here.

    On the other hand, the incessant use of 頑張る and its forms is uniquely Japanese. In the English-speaking world we don't say junk like "Let's do our best!" unless we're preparing for an imminent team competition or difficult challenge of some kind.

  3. Yeah, I suppose we do have seasonal commentary in America, too. But I don't think we have any set phrases like they seem to in Japan.

    And yes, 頑張る is pretty damn Japanese.

  4. Good intro!
    Japanese really like to talk about weather if the topic is useless.

  5. Haha, good point. Thanks, Cocomino!

  6. I'm sorry

    if → even if

    I'm studying English...

  7. Hm? I understood what you meant - no apologies, please! You should see how many mistakes I make regularly in Japanese.

  8. It would be nice if the scripted stuff were just limited to speech, but when they crank the heat on trains just because it's November even though it's still 25C outside, it gets ridiculous.

  9. Yeah, good point, Billy. Guess companies have policies that aren't subject to discretion, maybe.

  10. I like the filler and the fluff...