Japan can be intimidating, even for seasoned travellers. You arrive to massive sticker shock, tiny octopi in soup, and 30 kinds of hot canned coffee (which all taste moreorless the same) in ubiquitous vending machines.
Japan is a long country with 80% mountains – covering several climates, from frosty Hokkaido in the north, to tropical Kyushu giving adventurous folks much opportunity to head to the outer provinces for exploration of the heady scenery of this varied archipelago. With some planning, politeness and persistence, combined with a little zen, you can find big adventures.
Indeed, it is easy to get lost in the big cities of Tokyo and Osaka – crowded with skyscrapers and twisted alleys, piled high with screaming neon clubs pumping techno, reggae or karaoke and shops piled with futuristic technological gadgets that won’t make it to North America for another decade – but, far away from the expensive hotels and talking toilets of the huge Pacific metropolis, you may find yourself soaking in alpine hot springs on a starry night, drinking sake with strangers crammed into a mountain hut after a backcountry dinner of rice, seaweed, miso and green tea.
Due to an affection for stationery, letters, scrapbooks and whatnot, i notice such items when viewing moving pictures. As such, i am often inclined to capture screenshots for my memory. Sometimes, oddly enough, these are printed and put into scrapbooks in a sorta meta-remix. Either way, to keep these tidbits close at hand, assorted specimen are collected within.
A few notes and tips and phrases compiled for guests coming to wedding but likely useful for most anyone coming to Japan.
Remember you must always have your passport with you (stupid but hey… rules is).
Shoes are never worn in homes, change into slippers (which will never ever fit), then different slippers for toilet, don’t forget to change back (you will forget), socks only in tatami (straw mat) rooms.
Big stores / malls often offer tax-refund. Gotta take receipt, passport and credit card (if used) to special kiosk. They will stick receipt and stamp in passport, weird but hey, ya get money back.
Don’t walk and smoke. Hang in front of konbini store, pachinko, find smoking cage, or smoking section of resto or park.
Can drink alcohol on streets and parks however… no sloppiness, penalties/jail harsh.
Konnichiwa = Hello
Chotto matte = Just a moment/please wait
Hai = yes
Iie or Chigaimasu = no / different or wrong
Douzo = go ahead, please (this is super handy!)
Sugoi! = Great! Amazing! i.e.: How is Japan? Sugoi!
Suimasen = excuse me (used allll the time as is Go-men which is like “sorry”)
Kudasai = please i.e. “Kohi o kudasai” = “coffee please”
Domo, Domo Arigato, Domo arigato gozaimasu = thanks, thanks a lot, thank you very very much
Jaa ne / Matta ne = See you / again
Toire (toilet) doko desuka? = where is the toilet (there are more trad words for toilet “benjo” and “o teirei” but the Japanese-i-fied english word is easiest
Konbini = convenience store (7-11, Lawson, Family Mart are plentiful & amazing)
Following our wedding festivities, we dutifully and cheerfully made up several batches of thank you cards to sent to folks who made the trip or sent gifts or letters/cards.
While each batch of cards was different – and some cards required boxes and packets – the general design aesthetic captured in exquisite little photo essay created by nature photographer Cheryl A. (you should check out her cards for sale) which captures the details of the envelope treatment:
What follows is a gallery (vol. 2) of received invites “in situ” wherever they end up in the world / generally unannotated to protect erstwhile privacy unless publicly shared by recipient.
Overall, 300+ packets mailed. Some will get lost in the mail (speaking from experience) but anyone who doesn’t receive a dossier in the post can create their own as desired, plus checkout the pieces not in your packet.
The 6 (at least) tranches of mailouts had varied contents and packaging as the batches were sent from different countries, using different printers (pro and home) and different iterations of items, specifically a variety/sub-set of:
* Announcement storybook (4 panel, 2 iterations)
* Invite to ceremony (2 panel)
* Invite to party (2 panel)
* RSVP card (pre-stamped for folks in Japan)
* Transportation info card (for folks in Japan)
* Letter to friends (on Grand Oriental Hotel letterhead)
* Gig Poster by Joanna Pag (mini-size via various printers and substrates)
These items are easily found within this archive should you desire further inspection.
For the international guests coming for the wedding celebrations, we wanted to make travel easy so we produced a Travel Dossier and series of videos to help with all the “macro” logistics of coming to Japan and getting around easily.
Then for the “micro” logistics around Okayama and wedding-related events, we assembled Welcome Packets which were distributed (with some customization) to the guests’ hotels.
The packets in general included maps of the local area, in particular, a great English-language map by “Next-Trip” which included the 2 primary hotels and various coffee shops and fave restaurants along with the popular tourist sites (castle, gardens, museums etc). To top it off was a few business and/or event cards for other useful shops and exhibits.
Additionally, we stashed a “Japanese Basic Vocab” sheet with handy phrases and a transportation sheet which had instructions for taxi drivers in Japanese and English to aid in getting to various venues. Plus an itinerary of the events, times and locations.
Finally, there was Google Map of venues and Whatsapp group chat channel for on-the-go digital updates.
There were a couple of special young ones coming for the shindig so they received a special welcome packet designed to help them make scrap-journals of their trip. As such, included scissors, glue sticks, stickers, pens, letter/note sets, and blank books with hearty paper – all compiled in a vinyl zippered pouch.
As evidenced by sweet Emily Olson upon her return to Canada, the scrapbooks proved to be a handy way to document a journey in “real-time” with paper ephemera and others papery bits.
For the record, the narrative from the itinerary doc is included, more or less intact.
At weddings in Japan – unlike in “western” countries, guests usually bring cash in special envelopes as a gift rather than a household appliance or other oddment from a registry. The cash is often in 2 envelopes – one as a “gift” and other the cover their portion of party expenses. Regardless, the notes as fresh and crisp and in a special envelope with appropriate decorations and minimal written sentiments.
The guests are almost always sent on their way with a gift bag of treats with items which reflect the spouses personality (not always the case), or the region or season of the wedding. Anyhow, we took the gift bag part on with great enthusiasm and vigour as we wanted all the guests to take a piece of our heart reflected in hobbies, interests and whatnot.
As it goes, with all the work assembling the gift bags of disparate objects, we neglected to document the items dutifully. Fortunately our pal Robert Scales did a pretty decent job of capturing the assortment which included the following
Bizen Yakima saké cup – nearby Bizen one of 6 great centres of pottery of Japan, the cups were handmade by master potter Hosokawa-san and fired with no glaze for 2 weeks at 1000 degrees Celsius in a massive kiln
Note: cups were wrapped in newspaper and packed into hemp cloth drawstring bags
Matcha tea – from Kyoto, in a metal tin with bamboo accessories: whisk chasen and scoop chashaku
Gig Poster – the Taisho-era jazz/travel inspired art for the wedding made by Joanna Ambrosio of Ganamo Design (Vancouver/Mexico) and professionally printed (A4) by Fujii Printing
Sakura oil painting print – from Dave’s Gravelly Beach series, printed A4 by Fujii Printing, signed and number (150)
Commemorative postcards (2) – featuring paintings by Dave of Rural Caprine Farm’s noted gingko tree in full yellow splendour and haiku postbox (there is the actual postbox on site) of a poem about letters and peaches. Postcard backs designed with Olympia typewriter. Printed by moo.com
Thank you card – hand-lettered (Japanese and English) by Ryoko, accessorize with stamps from US and Vatican, printed by Fujii Printing
Incense – ceremonial from Bali
Ceningan Divers invitation – a special offer from our friends with a dive resort in Bali
Vendor thank you – round-up of all the vendors who assisted, contributed etc to the wedding, including URLs for thanks and reviews etc.
Gift bag – blue heavy corrugated paper bags with string handles from Usigaya decorated by hand with a special ink stamp (thanks parents) and gold/silver paint marker flag flourish (by Dave)
Finally, a special “typewriter card” paper clipped to each one to make unique and washi tape to close each bag.
All the materials were ordered, delivered etc and then moved to the goat farm’s kitchen table where dear helpful pals (under supervision of lawyer Lindsay and the Jen-eral) assembled and moved down to the goat farm so the area looked like a splendid festive morning. Then, each guest (mostly) received their bag with (hopefully) delight.
Note to self: there is a snap somewhere of the guide to assembling gift bags to add here.
In planning for the wedding party at Mr. Mac Kobayashi’s Rural Caprine Farm, we set out to transform his goat barns into a 1920s-ish Taisho-era-esque jazz lounge meets eclectic nature retreat. We needed places for band to set-up to play comfortably, for ceremony with seating and small stage, for a grand table for bride and groom, an area to have guest book and photo booth, stash gift bags, make name tags and choose and decorate custom bamboo cup, plus dancing, chilling, serving food, cooking food (bar–b-que spits), and also 10+ beverage stations including a tea ceremony experience and oh yeah, an area for mothers and babies to chill out.
In all this planning came the following sketches (executed by Ryoko), shared here for posterity and amusement. (Note: possibly more sketches to follow).
Oh and these were used by Oka-sensei who constructed stages and backdrops and other staging in a truly remarkable manner and by friends who set up stations and decorations on the morning of the event.
Note: more evidence of the results are found elsewhere in this archive.