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atn May 14th, 2005 06:37 AM

Kyoto ryokan tipping confusion
I have been told that the one place in Japan where a gratuity is expected is at high-end ryokans. No one has said when you give it, how you give it (where do you get the special envelopes) and how much. Can anyone help?

lcuy May 14th, 2005 08:30 AM

I don't think the right word is 'expecteed'. The recipient will be grateful and will not be surprised, but they don't expect it- especially from foreigners and new guests.

I was taught to do this when you first arrive, after your server has introduced herself and poured tea for you in the rooom. Have clean cash in a plain white envelope, and hand it her.

Unless you are staying for a long time, she will be there every day and will attend to all your housekeeping and will serve your meals in the room.

I was taught to offer the envelope with both hands...not sure if that is the "way it is always done" or was just the way my japanese friend does it??

This same friend told me recently that some people give the money at the end of their stay instead nowdays.

KimJapan May 14th, 2005 02:49 PM

As foreigners you will not be expected to know about this sort of tipping. If you do, it will be considered very nice indeed.

"Correct" tipping in the high end ryokan is as lcuy describes it...given at the beginning of your stay. Since you already know the price of your stay, it is quite easy to figure the 10% or so.

The envelopes can be bought in any convenience store, supermarket, stationary shop...avoid the ones with fancy red string decoratations - these are for weddings. Avoid the ones with similar decorations in black...these are for funerals. Get simple paper envelopes with a red ribbon printed onto it...they usually come in packages of 5 or 10. Feel free to ask the staff in the store if what you have chosen is OK for ryokan...simply holding the package and saying ryokan in a questioning tone will be enough.

emd May 14th, 2005 04:26 PM

KimJapan-- I am trying to figure out your comment about the envelopes w/black. Are you saying people in Japan give money to the relatives at funerals? I haven't heard of that and am intrigued. How does this transpire (at the service?), and what do people typically give?

lcuy May 14th, 2005 05:31 PM

This is also done at funerals in Hawaii. You bring envelopes with cash "the koden"($20 or more, usually)to the funeral service or it can be sent in a sympathy card(Hawaii)or in the bushugi (sp?) envelope in Japan. if you don't attend. They usually have a sign-in table with a box or bowl at the entry to the temple/church/funeral home.

KimJapan May 14th, 2005 05:51 PM

Yes, the envelopes with black decorative "string" bows are for funerals. When you attend a funeral, it is your obligation to give "condolence money."

The amount and the fanciness of the envelope varies depending on the relationship between you and the grieving family. I attended a student's father's funeral and was advised to give 5000 yen. I attended a school owner/president's funeral and was advised to give 10,000 yen. In the back of the oh-so-popular household budget books, calendars and manners books is a list telling you how much to give for occasions like funerals, weddings, New Year...etc. It is never less than 5000 yen.

You give the money when you enter the ceremony hall. A "staff" of family or colleagues from work man a table at the entry way where the money envelopes are collected from each guest, carefully recorded in a book, and a return gift of about 1/2 the value are given to each guest. Showing up without the money gift wouldl therefore be pretty embarrassing.

When my husband's father died in February, several people we know gave us condolence money even though the funeral was in the states and they had never met his father. One man who gave us money explained that he felt that since we were living a mostly Japanese life in Japan we should be given the condolence money as if the funeral were taking place in Japan. My husband also got money from his's part of the for marriage, birth and death.

We've attended weddings and given 5000 yen to people we know a bit, and 50,000 yen (not a typo) to the couple whose marrage we arranged...and in that case, we were also given 100,000 yen by the couple's families as a gift for arranging the marriage.

lcuy May 15th, 2005 02:37 AM

And it is all very carefully tracked...

When we got married, my in-laws wanted a list of all the givers and the amount each gave. That way, a comparable level of cash would be given the next time the giver's family had a wedding (or birthday or funeral).

emd May 15th, 2005 05:22 AM

Wow. That's amazing cultural info- thanks so much Kim and Lucy.

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