Today's Notables

Dinner Parties and Other Festivities

March 2013
Hisashi Furuichi
President and C.E.O.

I am sure you attended a lot of year-end and New Year Parties around the holiday season where you have had to make toasts, etc. I would like to mention the Osaka Japan America Society’s New Year’s Party that I attended with Kei Simmel, a new employee who joined the PEACE Battery Device Division of PRIMIX last August. Kei graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in chemical engineering. He is half Japanese and American, and is bilingual between Japanese and English. But because he has spent the majority of his life overseas, some aspects of Japanese language and customs are still foreign to him. As a result he asks questions that make this fact apparent from time to time.

But getting back to the subject at hand, when the host of the party said, "I know the party is at its peak of excitement, but it is time for the naka-jime," Kei asked me what "naka-jime" meant. "Um. . . . . ." It was one of those instances, I thought. At that time, I explained that even though the word means "halfway closing point," the party was really over and it was just an expression. After that, I looked it up in the dictionary to find out that it’s not even there!(>_<)Japanese that is not in the dictionary!? I suppose there are numerous examples like this. No wonder Kei didn’t know what it meant. Even the people reading this Notables may not know about this expression.

This calls for a consultation with Internet. To summarize the opinion of most people, "naka-jime" used in this manner could be received as "The party is generally over, but it's okay to linger a bit more if you have some time." However, the more accurate interpretation may be that the party is actually over, and they would like you to go home. It is a roundabout and characteristically Japanese expression used to avoid the booing that would result from saying "party’s over" just as the party’s getting good. Along the same lines, let me touch on the "tejime," the ceremonious hand clapping and chant used when we close an event. The hand clapping rhythm and chant is different depending on the region. I cannot say much about Kei because I also lived in Tokyo from the time I was 15, and there are still many things I don’t know about Kansai.

The word "tejime" is a shortened version of the phrase "close by clapping hands." "Tejime" is called "teuchi" in the Kansai region. The original intent behind "tejime" is to convey gratitude to the people who cooperated in managing the event and is meant to express "we pulled it off successfully." Therefore, should a guest of the event be asked to lead the chant, it would be proper for he or she to refuse. The rhythm, number of times, and chant is different depending on the region but there are two that are generally known, the Edo-jime and the Osaka-jime. In the most popular Edo-sanbon tejime, there are three sets of three claps and one final clap (3-3-3-1, 3-3-3-1, 3-3-3-1). The last clap symbolizes the dot added to the character for “9” (九) to make the character for “circle”(丸), signifying the successful closing of the event. The reason for doing it three times is that the first time is to thank the host for his or her hard work, the second is to thank guests for coming, and the third is to express gratitude for the success of the event. Additionally, the so-called Ippon-jime or Kanto Ippon-jime is a shortened version of the Sanbon-jime, and the 3-3-3-1 pattern is done only once. Many confuse this with the Itcho-jime which is just a one time clap. Furthermore, the Kansai-jime is completely different, and is as follows:

"Uchimahyo, clap-clap"
"Mohitotsuse, clap-clap"
"Iwaote sando, clap-clap-clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap-clap."

Finally, I've heard some older guys even say “Lets do 3-3-7 claps,” which is clap-clap-clap (3) clap-clap-clap (3) clap-clap-clap-clap-clap-clap-clap (7). Well since PRIMIX is headquartered in the Kansai region, I suppose it's only appropriate that we practice the Kansai-jime to carry on the tradition.

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