Sunday, October 5, 2008
Got new bills?
My net friend Jilly mentioned on a different part of the internet that she loved hearing about customs in different countries. I just got back from a wedding and I went to a wake last week, so today I'm going to talk about money.
The above mentioned bills are not bills as in what I owe the electric company, but bank notes, as in a dollar bill or, in this case, a 10,000 yen bill. In Japan, when you are invited to a wedding, you don't ponder what you are going to get the new couple as a gift. You just give money. In new bills. Something about everything being shiny and new for weddings. In a pinch, I have been known to iron out slightly wrinkly bills to use as wedding gifts. Par is 30,000 yen (slightly less than $300 USD according to this past Friday's exchange rate), and it always has to be an odd number of bills so that it's hard to split (like a marriage should be). You wrap it in special paper packaging called a shugibukuro. The picture is of the one I took to today's wedding. The gold character is "good fortune" or "happy occasion" (sorry, it kind of gets lost in the translation, just know that it means well). The cords are always tied in a square knot or some other knot that can't be untied easily, as a symbol of how a marriage should be. The black blotches are not runny ink, but me trying to blot out my real name, so that you can't come stalk me or something.
The opposite works for funerals. You have to give your "condolence money" in old bills, because new bills suggest you were prepared for the death, which is considered rude. This is kind of ironic, though, because most people who've lived and worked in Japan know that wrinkly bills are actually harder to get than the crisp ones. And yes, I've crinkled and stomped on new bills in a pinch. There is also a "condolence money package" that's very plain and white tied with black and white cords that you must use to wrap your old crinkly bills in. The ties are also in a square knot because square knots signify things that can't be re-tied, i.e. repeated. The rule is that the square knot packages are used for events you don't want to happen again (like weddings and funerals) and the bow ties are used for things you do want to happen again (like birthdays and babies).