In my ongoing quest to learn more about Japan and its quirky idiosyncracies, I stumbled across this delightful and visually appealing (not to mention useful), tome. We received a copy of Maido: A Gaijin’s Guide to Japanese Gestures and Culture by Christy Colon Hasegawa from the publisher via Netgalley and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
Maido (my-dough, not to be confused with that childhood favorite, Play-Doh) describes the most common Japanese gestures and defines their meanings and the cultural contexts that surround them. Japanese gestures are a world of their own, much the way the language and country are. In the Kansai region of Japan, people often use the term Maido as a greeting in business and sales, and as a send-off to a business’s best customers as if to say, come again or thank you.
In this case, Maido is welcoming you to a world in which you don t offend every Japanese person you meet. By learning a few simple gestures you can avoid making intercultural slip-ups and win the respect of locals. And who knows maybe the next time you walk into the local izakaya (watering hole), you may be lucky enough to hear someone saying, Maido! Maido! to you.”
So this book is essentially a humour-filled pictorial guide to reading the body language of Japanese people and as such is an incredibly useful book to read if you are planning on visiting or moving to Japan. The book is set out in an easy-to-follow format: each page features a picture of a Japanese person demonstrating a gesture, accompanied by the Japanese term for the gesture, an English translation of what the gesture might be called and a brief explanation of how and where one might use such a gesture. Gestures include everything from noting sexual preference to asking for a hot towel at a restaurant, from calling someone a moron to beckoning someone toward you – really, for the individual interested in social interactions, this book provides a wealth of information in a super-accessible way.
Apart from feeling that I was learning some useful information, I had two favourite elements of the book. The first is that the gestures are being demonstrated by a majorly diverse cross-section of Japanese people, from the bemused looking elderly, to the styled-up cosplayer, to the neatly turned out professional type, to the cheeky little kid. Visually, the photography itself provides a fascinating insight into Japanese culture and social interactions.
As well as the visual appeal of the book, I also loved the author’s conversational and humorous style. The author was born and raised in Japan by a Japanese mother and Puerto Rican American father and as such is perfectly placed to deftly explain the social implications of certain gestures in a way that non-natives can appreciate. She is also possessed of a witty turn of phrase, which makes reading each of the explanations a lot of fun in itself.
If you have any interest in Japanese culture at all, be it manga, cosplay or a strong desire to visit the country, you could do a lot worse than to have a flick through this handy explanatory tome. I would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in Japan, as well as anyone who loves an accessible, visually-appealing nonfiction read about society and culture.
Until next time,