Saturday, January 03, 2009

Japanese Hug

Our friend from Japan who is staying with us has bashed off to someone else's place to stay for a couple of nights. While Dame M used to say, 'fish and visitors go off after two days', Vik is a very easy house guest. She has now realised that she may well become this little old Aussie lady hobbling around the streets of a northern Japanese town. She clearly likes living there and has fitted into local society well. But she has family and friends here, and seems to be falling into a pattern of returning for a visit every second year.

I asked her to write a guest post for my blog. While she is free to suggest subjects to me, I have something in mind, that is, how Australia has changed in her five year absence and what she likes about Australia and what she likes about Japan, and how they compare.

She never includes the original text in an email reply, and me being such a shallow queen, I often forget what I asked. The email conversation I recall started with some talk about her teenage niece at school who has a girlfriend and there was some bother. I can't recall how we got to talking about Japanese hugs, but we did, and I think you would agree that she writes well enough.

Japanese couples don't usually hug in public. These days you do see some, especially young ones, holding hands but that's about it - definitely no kissing in public either. A friend explained that even in their own home, a couple won't kiss or hug in front of a visitor. However, school age people are often physically demonstrative with same-sex friends. Even highschool boys will walk with an arm across their male friend's shoulders. I've even seen junior highschool boys giving each other massages in the classroom. There's very little touching between the sexes though, even non-sexual contact is avoided. Among adults, even in families there's not much touching. I once had an adult student explain to me that even when their mother was in hospital to have a serious operation, her brother came to see her the night before and simply shook her hand. I explained that in Australia we would think that was too formal and that parents and adult children do hug each other but she said it was very unusual in Japan. Once kids become teenagers, parents usually stop hugging their children. It's interesting how different cultures work, hey?


  1. I shall never cease to hugg my children, even when I am old, wearing old ladies bloomers and toddling along with a frame. I will chase themand jump on them and hugg them when they run away !! LOL
    My nanna used to do that to my brother..he used to run away from her from age 11 years or so. I used to laugh my head off when it happened, it was a usual nanna visit ritual for my poor brother. My nanna didn't even have rough chin I don't know why he never liked it!...Oh, far out, I know why....I just recalled, she used to snuggle him into her soft ample breasts, smothercating him with her hugg! That's why! LOL
    Hahaha, I cannot stop laughing, and now I have to recall the story to my curious kids! Now Tomas is cracking up too! Haha!
    I might ask my friend Lucy who has a blog an comes from Kawasaki in Japan what she knows of culture and hugging, she has two children my boys' ages. It is an interesting subject. Cultural differences are important to note. Especially for me now we have so many cultures that our patients live by and we have to be cautious to "do the right thing" when being carer and patient advocate for them.

  2. 'fish and visitors go off after two days'

    That might just be one of the best things I've heard. Tends to be rather true a lot of the time too!

  3. Cazzie, I hope you won't smell like a grandmother, well one of mine, who smelt of musky perfume, beer and Craven A's. I guess the Japanese get enough close physical contact in their trains.

    Not original Mutant, but pretty good.

  4. In Britain adults seldom hug children in public. (Not since the Gary Glitter episode.) We prefer to spit on them instead.

  5. And that is another whole big subject Brian. One day I will have a go at it.