Before You Get Married To A Japanese Man

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may already know that I am very curious about how convenience stores are operated and I am quite against “super convenience” system that dominates Japan. “Against” may not be the right word but it would be more like “I am scared”.

(If you have not read my past articles regarding convenience stores yet, take a look at them, please!)

The Mystery of KOMBINI

Is This a Trap of Convenience or What?


Even after writing these articles, my curiosity had never stopped and I had kept finding people who were willing to talk about their work at convenience stores. And I was able to have very valuable interviews with various people in Tokyo.

I will write the survey results bit by bit, and today I would like to share what bothers most the people who work at convenience stores.

Most of the interviewees said that they felt frustrated when customers made orders by just telling them bluntly the names of the products they wanted. I mean without “please”. Customers of this kind don’t even look at them when order. They lamented that they felt as if they were treated in inhuman or degrading way.


"Please" is surely a word Photo by Iberian Proteus
“Please” is surely a word which has a cushioning function. It lets the shock below the risk levels. But even this very effective word sometimes don’t work…
Photo by Iberian Proteus



Well, I thought Japan was a country which was recognized as a country of politeness, but the reality seems to be something different. I was reminded, during the interviews, of the famous three words that Japanese husbands say to their wives at home when they come back from work.

  • Meshi.” 『めし』
  • Furo.” 『ふろ』
  • Neru.” 『ねる』


The first word, “Meshi”, literally means “rice” but in this case, it means “a meal”. This single noun can mean, “I’m hungry. Get supper ready.” As the husbands of this kind normally think that supper is prepared by wives as a matter of course, they are not interested in what their wives cook and how they prepare it. Normally appreciative words are hardly pronounced.

The second word, “Furo”, means “a bath”. This single noun can mean, “I will take a bath.” In Japan, there are quite a few people who just take a shower and most people soak in the bathtub. In this case, husbands think that wives prepare a hot water in the best temperature before they come back home as a matter of course. Maybe they will get mad if they find lukewarm water in a bathtub or vacant. Moreover, there used to be a tradition that husbands should take the first bath and some families still keep this tradition.

The third and the last word, “Neru”, means “sleep”. This single verb can mean “I’m going to sleep. Get the futon ready.” Futon is traditional Japanese bedding consisting of a padded mattress and a thick quilted bed cover. The advantage of futon is being pliable to be folded and stored away during the day. However, it is quite a heavy duty to lay futon in order, which normally is wives’ task. When husbands say “Neru”, husbands don’t ask their wives if they want to go to bed together, but they are interested just in whether futon is ready for them.


ooo Photo by Jared Shelburne
A pair of futon. Actually I’ve never seen a double-sized futon
Photo by Jared Shelburne


I guess many people would think how patient Japanese wives are… I guess many people would also be interested to know how many couples divorce in Japan…

Let’s take a look at the graph that indicates the numbers of divorces issued by Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.


the number of divorces from 1907 to 2001
the number of divorces from 1950 to 2008


You may notice that before 1970 the numbers of divorces were quite low, less than 100,000 couples. Since 1990 the numbers were getting higher and higher. It is said that many wives could not make a choice for a divorce because they could not live by themselves. As the income of women was lower than that of men, and as it was more difficult for women to find a good job than for men. According to the article of one of the Japanese major daily papers called Asahi Shimbun in 1969, the numbers of wives who decide for a divorce after their husbands go into retirement were increasing. In Japan a lot of companies have retirement allowance plans and people receive quite a large amount of money. Wives take 50% of retirement allowance and go away. Also, in 2007, the pension system was changed and it enabled divorced wives to receive their share of their husbands’ pension.


Money releases slave wives…


Joking aside, according to the interviewees, people who order bluntly by just saying the names of things without please are not only old men but also young men and all ages of women.

I assume that some wives who have been ordered bluntly tend to get their revenge on weaker people they find. People who work as sales clerks in convenience stores don’t have a right to disobey customers. In addition, the sons and the daughters who have seen their mothers ordered bluntly by fathers tend to take it for granted to not say “please” when making orders.

I have no idea if my hypothesis is right but it is quite sad to hear that many people don’t follow the golden rule of manners. They should read this article that I found in the website of The Center for Parenting Education!


At home, you must first, and most importantly, model good behavior for your children. This may sound like common sense, but you must never overlook how much children emulate the behavior they see from their parents. Start with the essentials. Say “please” and “thank you” throughout the day. Say it to the children. Say it to your spouse or to the sales clerk in the store. Make sure the children hear you use these words several times all throughout the day. Encourage them to use the words too. Remind them when needed. If your child says, “Get me…” or “I’ll take…” and expects you to jump up and get something, remind your child to ask properly, using words like, “May I please have…” instead. Everyone feels good when they are thanked, even for small things like passing the mustard.
(Quoted from the article written by Nona Melnick, Principal of Montessori Children’s House.)



One of the Kendo principles is  Photo by Fred Dunn
In Kendo, one of the most important principles is an etiquette to encourage respect for partners, and nurture people with a dignified and humane character.
Photo by Fred Dunn


Even signboards placed in construction site in Japan are full of courtesy…


By the way, I have to tell you a Japanese word for “please”. I’m afraid there is no exclamation which means exactly the same as “please”, but the well-mannered ways of asking something to somebody are:


Onegai-shimasu” (おねがいします) = “I ask you”
kudasai” (ください) = “please give me”

Put names of things you want before these phrases and don’t forget to add “wo” (を) after the names which indicates the objects as;

Coffee wo kudasai.” (こーひーをください) = “Coffee, please!”


If you are going to marry or if you are thinking to get married to a Japanese man, you have to make sure that your boyfriend and his father can use the word, “please” properly! If you cannot be sure about it, let your boyfriend look at this video to learn how to make a beautiful bow!


(An instruction for men: How To Make A Beautiful Bow)

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  1. Hilary より:

    Hitoshi and his dad know how to use, please. :D Phew! I still mix up onegai and kudasai in some situations and most definitely drop “wo”. This is a great reminder, especially since I’m back studying Japanese again.


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