Further, as my ability to generally converse in Japanese allowed me to make friends with those Japanese in Montpellier, I have been able to practice some Japanese traditions here! Namely, to wear the Yukata to a summer festival. Twice.
The Yukata are summer kimono. They are much lighter and consist of much less fabric. In Japan, they are commonly worn by girls and boys to festivals and, especially, fireworks. In the spring, they are quite readily available at affordable prices. (I have a preference for UNIQLO, where not only are they acceptable priced, but they typically have a fabulous selection.) You can see them in all fashions and patterns, old and new. I have a preference for the older designs personally, but the newer ones catch my fancy as well.
Principally, Saki and I found the temptation of wearing our Yukata (I had one of my own with me from Japan, and she had two) to fun to resist. And why should we have? It hurt no one and gave us quite a good time! We even ended up tempting others to go with the next weekend.
There were a number of reasons for this to be enjoyed. First, it inspired interest in Japanese culture between some of friends, as well as strangers. I really enjoyed this because it almost felt like we were famous. Quite often we’d be talking to some people, and someone would take a picture from afar, or even ask to take pictures with us. There were also many times where, in passing, people would say something they’ve picked up from asian culture; about half got it right that we were doing something Japanese.
It was also just really good fun to enjoy a time out being special within our own group. It was a nice bonding experience with those people we went out with, even if they weren’t dressed in Yukata themselves.
Some notes for meeting with Japanese:
おはよう – Ohayou [Pronounced “Ohio” like the state]
こんにちは – Konichiha [Pronounced “ko-nee-chee-wa”]
こんばんは – konbanha [Pronounced “kon-ban-wa”]
Japanese bow with both hands at their sides.
Or, for girls, with their hands folded in front of their legs.
Other useful phrases:
ありがとう – Arigatou <thank you> [pronounced “a-ree-ga-toe”]
すみません – Sumimasen <excuse me> [pronounced “sue-me-ma-sen”]
頑張って! – Ganbatte <good luck> [pronounced “gan-ba-t-A”]
かわいい！* – Kawaii <cute!> [pronounced “ka-why-eeee]
私は＿＿＿ – Watashi ha ___ <I am ___> [pronounced “wa-ta-she wa”]