A lump of reserve

If you’ve been in Japan for a while you’ve probably heard the phrase 遠慮 (enryo). It basically means to hesitate, to have reserve, or to constrain yourself.

It can be used in many ways…

To refuse an offer…

Kid 1: 明日またカラオケ行こうよ! – ashita mata karaoke ikouyo! – Let’s go to Karaoke again tomorrow!

Kid 2: えっ、また?行きたいけど、遠慮しとくわ。- eh? mata? ikitaikedo, konkai ha enryo shitokuwa. – Eh? Again!? I want to go but I’ll pass this time.

To tell someone not to hold back…

うわぁぁぁ〜ステーキだ!- uwaaaaaaa suteeki da! – Wow! Steak!

遠慮せずに食べてください。- enryo sezuni tabetekudasai – Don’t hesitate to eat all you want.

There is also a famous saying that goes, 遠慮の固まり。(enryo no katamari)

Katamari refers to a lump or clump of something. You might know that word from the video game Katamari Damacy actually… Anyway…

This, is an enryo no katamari.

As you can see, an enryo no katamari is the last piece of food (or other desired item, but usually food) that no one touches because they don’t want to seem like the greedy person who rudely grabbed the last bite.

Typically in Japan, this last tasty morsel will sit around for a few minutes while people carry on, and then at some opportune time ssomeone will offer it to somebody else in the group. “Hey, eat this Joe!” Joe will refuse, and insist that Sam be the one to eat the last bit.

After some more of this someone will finally eat it and the party will be over.

Or everyone will just hang around and watch more comedy shows on TV.

– Harvey