Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"Nice try, Kevin" file

This one goes into the "Nice try, Kevin" file. I just thought it was a nice-looking bunch of flowers in the storefront and, on the spur of the moment, decided Kaori deserved to enjoy them. Chrysanthemums, however, are usually seen at Buddhist altars along with incense sticks and food morsels for the dead. It's sort of like giving your beloved a grave marker for their birthday. This was a point that Kaori reminded me of when I presented my well-intended gift.

If I had stopped to think about it long enough, I might have remembered that this variety is more associated with occasions of death, then times of joy. Navigating the cultural symbols correctly often gets me in trouble. After 12 years in Japan, my nice try, Kevin" file is pretty full.


Unknown said...

As a Chinese-American (more American than Chinese), I remember hearing as a child that for Chinese people the color of death is not black but white -- so I felt your 'pain' in giving funeral flowers to Kaori. Fortunately, our loved ones still appreciate us in those 'nice try moments.'

Paul T. said...


In 1982 for Christmas I bought what I though was a jewlery box for my Japanese girlfriend of 11 months.(She is now my wife of 27 years.) Turns out I bought her a Jubako used for osechiryori at new years. She gave me a strange look, but still married me 2 years later.