This is going to seem like a pretty crass post to my Japanese readers but I wanted to explain a Japanese custom related to hospitalization.
Before I was hardly in the hospital half a day my friends started visiting me and bringing me gifts. They brought me books and flowers and fruit and cakes. And money.
The custom of giving money applies to many situations in Japan. Instead of wedding gifts, money will be given. When someone passes away, the family receives money from relatives and friends. And when someone is hospitalized special envelopes of money are formally presented with many deep bows. It does no good trying to refuse the gifts of money, that would be insulting.
Envelopes came from pool friends, the elementary school, the PTA, English students, the traffic safety section of the city hall, the church etc. I suppose before insurance and disability leaves etc. the monetary gifts helped pay for medical care. Nowadays it is a custom that maybe takes the sting out of illnesses and injuries.
Another custom in Japan is to give a return gift, and so last week I consulted my friends about what might be appropriate. There is a whole business dealing with return gift giving in Japan but in the end Tetsu and I decided to give our friends some fancy tea and a couple of cookies. Not hand made cookies (I'm not that great a cook) but some cute kitty cookies made in our city. I've ordered these before and anybody who sees them and knows me at all will think "Tanya!"
Now... to deliver my teas and cookies!