We’ve lived in Japan for 8 years this August. During our time here, we’ve moved twice but this is the first time we have ever done the whole hikkoshi no aisatsu, also known as moving greetings.
When you move in Japan, it’s usually polite (and an unspoken expectation) to greet your new neighbors and present them with a small gift. These gifts often come in the form of small hand towels, soba noodles, snacks from your hometown, etc. It’s the US equivalent to how one would go and meet and greet the new neighbors that just moved in by bringing a batch of homemade cookies to welcome them to the neighborhood except in Japan, it’s the other way around. It’s the newly moved-in neighbors who go around greeting the pre-existing neighbors and presenting them with a small gift.
We never did it when we first moved to Japan since we didn’t think we’d be here for more than a year and I wasn’t familiar with this tradition of aisatsu. When we moved into our previous home, we didn’t do it either since we only had one neighbor across the way from us and the neighbors above and below us were small offices. We also didn’t realize the importance of this tradition so we waved it off.
We decided to do aisatsu this time around because we have lived here longer and have a better understanding and appreciation for a lot of the things in Japanese culture. Plus, we have two noisy, rambunctious kids so we wanted to meet and greet our neighbors soon and create a good relationship with them so they don’t complain to the apartment managers about how noisy we are all the time. I’ve heard horror stories from other mom’s who have neighbors who constantly report them and it doesn’t sound pleasant at all.
After consulting with my friends about how to go about with doing a proper aisatsu, I bought some nice hand towels for the neighbors we share walls with (we’re the middle apartment of the 3 on our floor) and for the neighbors above and below us. We just went with the neighbors who border our apartments since it’s easier than going to all 30 apartments in the building. It also seems that it’s more common to just greet the ones near us than everyone.
We greeted our first neighbor to the left of our apartment over the weekend since we noticed his door was wide open. Kaylie was napping at the time so Jason and I stepped out quickly and rang his doorbell. He was not expecting us at all and we assume he was shirtless when he popped his head out from around the corner of this entryway. Either way, it was a slightly awkward greeting for everyone. He seemed a little confused over the encounter and Jason and I were a bit nervous over the first meeting. It went well though, I think, and we gave him our little present.
It wasn’t until after we had met him that I realized I should’ve put a card with our names on the present just so he’d know our names.
We greeted our neighbor on the other side yesterday night and this time, it went a bit smoother. We also had the kids with us, which seemed to have helped with the greeting since the guy living in this apartment has a 3 year old grandchild and overall seems not to be bothered by the noise our kids make. We actually talked with him a bit and he is a bass player for a jazz band. He also has a daughter who live nearby and would come to his apartment to give piano lessons during the weekday.
We have yet to meet the people below and above our apartment but we suspect that our neighbors downstairs might be using it as an office space and are therefore not there in the evenings. Our neighbors upstairs might be foreigners like us based on the nameplate on their mailbox. They were also out when we stopped by so hopefully, we’ll get to meet them soon too.
This whole greeting thing is quite interesting and I find it really nice since I get to meet the people who lives near us. I’ve encountered several other people who lives in our building too and have always offered a “good morning” or a “good evening” out of politeness. I hope that over time, we can build a nice little relationship with many of our neighbors just like the ones we had in our previous neighborhood.