Happy New Year! I'm sort of worried about the fact that already like 125 + people have subscribed to the RSS feed for this blog. I suspect a lot of those peeps are leftover subbers from when this was the Just Hungry food blog, who never bothered to check, or something (IT"S MOVED OVER THERE LIKE AGES AGO) but nevertheless. If you were drawn to the boobies, I won't always be talking about titillating (snort, snort) body parts, you know.
In any case, let's get back to the topic of language.
Yesterday, I made my round of phone calls to Japan to say Happy New Year and all. This is the standard way of saying Happy New Year to Japanese people.
Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu. (alternate: Shinnen akemashite omedetou gozaimasu)
Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
The first line basically means, well, happy new year. The second line is a bit more difficult to translate though. Kotoshi means this year, easy enough. The sticky word here is yoroshiku, which becomes more polite with the addition of the onegaishimasu part.
There are several ways of using yoroshiku. For example, it can just mean 'say hi to [name]' or 'give my regards to [name]' (Hiroko-san ni yoroshiku). But when you say it directly to someone, it becomes a phrase that means something like 'I put my trust in you for you to take care of me'. So, when it's used in the New Year's greeting, it means 'In this coming year I trust in you to take care of me. I will be relying on you.'
Here's another usage example, one I see a lot on Japanese blogs:
Kotoshi mo burogu wo yonde kudasai ne. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
Please (continue to) read my blog this year. I'm relying on you! m(__)m
Closely related to yoroshiku or yoroshiku onegaishimasu is the phrase osewa ni narimasu. Example:
Kotoshi suisu ni iku yotei desu.
Sono setsu wa yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
I plan to go to Switzerland this year.
At that time (sono setsu), I plan to rely on you to take care of me. Thank you.
Japanese society is traditionally one in which people, living in overcrowded situations in densely packed urban areas, relied a lot on each other. While modern Japanese society is a bit less inter-reliant than it used to be, it is still far more so than many other societies. So much so that people still use these terms which indicate the wish to rely and depend on others as a matter of course in casual greeting phrases that one doesn't even consider the meaning of much.
A lot of the time, when people say yoroshiku, they don't actually mean they will be consciously relying on you. If they say instead, or add, osewa ni narimasu, chances are they do mean they will be depending on you. So be ready!
In practice, Japanese people are not that likely to rely on a non-Japanese person on purpose, unless they are just placed in that situation by circumstance. On the other hand they are quite willing to rely on other Japanese people. I have heard the above phrase about relying on me when someone comes to Switzerland uttered from complete strangers who just email me out of the blue and things. Given that there aren't that many Japanese people in Switzerland maybe they think we are just here to be their tour guides. Being the rude 'lived outside of Japan for far too long' type though I quickly change their assumptions about that, thus increasing the bad reputation for us 'lived outside of Japan for far too long' types. There's a general feeling, especially amongst older generations, that the longer a Japanese person lives outside of the cocoon of Japanese society that the less 'really Japanese' they become. But, that's a subject for another day.