Holiday Reservations in Japan- New Years cards and fried chicken
Looking in a number of Japanese to English dictionaries for the Japanese word “yoyaku.” The following English words and terms will probably appear: reservation, advanced order, booking, appointment and subscription. Japanese normally select reservation when they are speaking and writing in English, but that often sounds awkward to American ears for some of the reservations. Among all these terms in the dictionaries, advanced order may be the most appropriate for New Years cards and fried chicken.
While the simple word order does not appear in any of my dictionaries for “yoyaku”, many native English speakers may think order is the most appropriate term. If I order New Years cards in September, I am obviously planning to use the cards for New Years.
On September 1, I walked to the post office for the first time in about a month. A sign over the door encouraged people to order their New Years cards. Actually the banner over the entrance encouraged people to advance order their New Years cards. Advertisements and stores are very clear on the difference between ordering and advance ordering/reserving. An order is normally for an item or items that will either arrive soon or are already available. An advance order is usually something that will not arrive for some time because the item ordered is either not ready and will not be ready for some time because it is seasonal such as New Years cards and Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas, or because it is a new product that is not yet available.
For New Years cards and Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas, advance orders meet two purposes: Enabling buyers to be confident that they will get what they want and enabling sellers to calculate the volume of demand and be ready to meet it. Considering that approximately 35 billion New Years cards are sent every year in Japan and that almost all of them are originally purchased from the post office, we can see why the post office would want to keep track of the volume and why they would want to start early. Japanese New Years cards are postcards, not cards like Hallmark manufactures. Nonethless, 35 billion cards keep the post office busy, printing and delivering. The post office also needs to hire extra workers to deliver the cards on New Year’s Day. If cards are posted by a certain date, the post office guarantees delivery on New Year’s Day.
As to Kentucky Fried Chicken in Japan, 20% of KFC’s annual sales are at Christmas, based on the traditional American Christmas dinner. Well, what Kentucky Fried Chicken advertises in Japan as the traditional American Christmas dinner. Regardless, 20% of annual sales is a lot of chicken. We can understand KFC wanting to be prepared.
Japan has other items that you can advance order/reserve such as summer gifts, year-end gifts, food and cosmetics. The list may be endless. Advance ordering/reserving may be far more common in Japan than the United States for two reasons. First, advertising advance ordering/reserving is used in Japan as a promotional tool. Second, producers and sellers depend on advance ordering/reserving to help them estimate the quantities to be produced and purchased. This can be especially convenient in Japan where millions of people do things together at the same time very year.
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