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AD!Venture 2017.01.27 A Story of ManjuPart 1: Exchanging New Year’s Gifts

Bigbeatが年始に配る「野根まんじゅう」について、ニシタイ編集部アドキンズが調べてみた!
※ご興味あれば日本語で解説します。編集部まで!
 
A Story of Manju ―Part 1: Exchanging New Year’s Gifts


The first week back from break, I was invited to coffee by Mr. Hamaguchi, our company president, to talk about marketing strategies. “Japan has these two important eras, the Sengoku Era and the Meiji Era. Do you know them?” The conversation had diverged a bit. “The Sengoku Era, the era when all the states were fighting against each other, ended once Tokugawa Ieyasu brought all of Japan together.” I nodded hesitantly and put internal dialogue on hold to figure out where this was going. I thought I had asked a simple question about manju.


Manju, for those who don’t know, is a small bun made of rice-power with a sweet-bean middle often served with tea (or coffee or sake, whatever floats your boat) as a popular confectionary in Japan. Manju is also, apparently, a highlight of my company’s new year’s routine. In fact, it took center stage during the first few hectic days back from vacation break as Bigbeat staff rushed all about Tokyo for New Year’s greetings.


New Year’s greetings in Japan are not just a private matter. In the business world, there is a widespread practice for companies to send staff out to every partner, client, and potential client office. There they meet with contacts briefly to bow and exchange a few set, important phrases: “Happy New Year.” ; “Thank you for everything last year.” ; “I hope we can work well together this year as well.” While arguably an effective way to foster and maintain relationships, this practice is in no way easy to accomplish.


To make ten or more appointments in a day, our own staff at Bigbeat created intricate, overlapping schedules, and often had to sprint between train stations and jaunt up and down stairs to stick to them. It was breathless work that dependent on a honed ability to be respectful while still being incredibly, and sometimes impressively, brief. When it was my turn to join the hustle, I was surprised to find that, despite the stress of remaining on time, most of my fellow staff members were bright and cheery (if not sweaty).


Most talk, when not focused on which routes were fastest, were, as I mentioned, on the manju we carried. This was our gift, as a show of goodwill, to the people we visited. If you look up why there is gift giving in the new year, many sites attest to an older practice in Japan of bringing food to neighbors to set upon the family Shinto or Buddhist shrines. I had the strong impression, however, that these business gifts were enjoyed more for the tasty opportunity they provided than anything else. Some common gifts I saw included department store cookie sets, chocolates, or senbei. Bigbeat, on the other hand, decided on manju.


To be honest, this manju was my favorite part of the greeting exchange. Its appearance was like the signal for everyone in their pressed suit jackets to relax. It was also, quite importantly, an easy way to show ourselves out. “Please, accept this small gift. It’s not much, but…why yes it is the same None manju we gave out last year. You enjoyed it? Oh, wonderful! It is good, isn’t it? Anyway, thank you for your time.” Beyond it playing this (rather elegantly-dressed) role in the greeting process, I thought little else about it. That was until I was on my way back to the office, on Day Two, having finished my own obligations.


My superior, fast walking beside me to make her next appointment, suddenly wondered aloud to herself when the leftovers would be up for grabs. This surprised me. “We also get to eat them?” I asked. They were gifts after all, and expensive-looking ones at that. My superior gave me a sly look. “There’s leftovers every year. And to not eat them would be a waste, wouldn’t it?” But, “be quick,” she warned. I needed to be ready to move as soon as the boxes were opened, because, “it always goes fast.”


My curiosity was piqued. What was so special about this manju? Was it really that good? My superior shrugged and headed toward the subway. Before we parted to go our separate ways, she flicked her hand toward me distractedly. “If you want to know more, you should ask our president. It has his family’s name on the box after all.”


So, I did.


When Mr. Hamaguchi asked me to a meeting over coffee, I saw my opportunity. And now, here I was, listening to retelling of the creation of modern Japan.


What did this have to do with manju exactly?
 

(next:Part 2 Shacho’s Story)


Produced by Bigbeat,Inc.
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