Saturday, January 28, 2006

Stupid Foreigner, part 8: Miss you

It's time to learn the alphabet and English grammar with Stupid Foreigner. Originally written on July 12, 1999, right before I was to move back to the States, these are two lists of things I thought I'd miss about Japan.

First the nouns. Nouns are people, places, and things unique to Japan.

A is for Apples at $1.50 each, bananas at $4 a bunch, and cherries at $10 a pint

B is for Burgers at McDonald's dipped in teriyaki sauce and topped with a fried egg

C is for Crooked teeth, and the Japanese rationalization for not fixing them: "They're eventually all going to fall out anyway"

D is for Doraemon goods from students who think I like to collect the stuff just because I once bought a notebook with a picture of the crazy cat

E is for English, as used by the Japanese:
On a plastic sign for your car: "Warning, baby is on a car"
On a package of instant noodles: "Now you can eat the famous ramen chef"
Title of some crazy comedy show: "What A Cool We Are"
More of the same at

F is for Flying cockroaches

G is for Gas station attendants that run into the street to block traffic, bow low to the customer's car and yell "thank you very much!"

H is for Hot hand towels handed to me as I sit down at a restaurant but no napkins at the table

I is for Ice cream flavors like "green tea" and "wasabi"

J is for J-Pops groups like Mr. Children, Hide with Spread Beaver, and SMAP (Sports Music Acting People),none of which I'd ever listen to in America

K is for Karaoke as a legitimate after-hours activity

L is for Loose sock-wearing high school girls that magically transform themselves into kogyaru in public Note from the present: I have no idea what kogyaru means. I forgot.

M is for Mini everything: skirts, shorts, T-shirts, breasts, and the best one of them all: the Mini-Skirt Police

N is for Neighbors that do laundry at 2 a.m. every day in a machine that sounds like it's ready to explode

O is for Old women that splash buckets of dirty water onto the sidewalk right in front of me

P is for Pocket-sized packets of tissue handed to me every day by someone who thanks me very much for taking them

Q is for Questions every day like: What are your hobby? and Why did you coming to Japan?

R is for Rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner

S is for "Super dry" beer that tastes like stainless steel

T is for Telephones the size of granola bars

U is for "Ultraman" fighting rubber monsters at summer festivals (Note: In Japanese, it's pronounced oo-loo-too-rah-mahn)

V is for Vending machines that sell beer, pornos, and used girls' underwear

W is for Weather forecasts for all of my days off: Hot, humid, with a 70 percent chance of rain

X is for XL clothes, or the lack thereof (not that I need it)

Y is for Youth culture embraced by society (plus youths embraced by society's leaders)

Z is for Zero eye contact wherever I go

Now the verbs, present progressive tense. Present progressive (or continuous) verbs are answers I had for my mom whenever she called and asked, "What are you doing?"

A is for Avoiding my neighbors for the entire time I live in any given apartment building (or should I say, being avoided)

B is for Borrowing unlocked bicycles when the walk from the bars seems too long

C is for Claiming gomi furniture at the monthly junk piles in the neighborhood

D is for Dodging scooters on sidewalks

E is for Eating whatever it was that I pointed at on the menu

F is for Forgetting that ATMs are closed on national holidays and then surviving for a few days on 1,000 yen

G is for Groping junior high school girls on the train (or at least knowing that all the salarymen are doing it) and feeling only a little guilty about it

H is for Hostess-bar hopping

I is for Ignoring fellow foreigners

J is for Jamming on my bicycle brakes because someone stepped right in front of me without ever looking up

K is for Killing time at the arcade, but being afraid to try any of the games cause they look so damn tough to play

L is for Lying to students when they ask for any kind of explanation
Student: Andy, what does "autobiography" mean?
Me: Well, to understand that word, you need to know the roots. "Auto" means "car," which is American English for "individual." "Bio" is a scientific word, like "biotechnology," which means "cloning." And "graphy" means that it was written on graph paper. Do you understand?
Student: Um ...
Me: Next question.

M is for Melting within a minute of being in a hot spring while the naked Japanese all around me soak for hours

N is for Napping on the train ride home after an afternoon of drinking and then waking up at the end of the line

O is for Overhearing cellular phone conversations on the train, at the movie theater, on Mt. Fuji ...

P is for Pronouncing every letter in every syllable I utter, then repeating ("Chi-cah-go. I am from Chi-cah-go! Do you want to go to love hotel?")

Q is for Questioning my sanity for staying in Japan for as long as I have, and then for deciding to leave

R is for Relinquishing my seat on the train for an old lady while the guy across the aisle takes up two extra seats, one for his briefcase and one for his feet

S is for Squatting

T is for "Traing," which is Japanese-English for "taking the train to any given point in the country"

U is for Understanding and laughing at hours of TV dramas and variety shows without actually knowing Japanese

V is for Visiting love hotels and happily realizing that the condoms there are actually too small

W is for Waiting to cross the street at a red light, even though there are no cars around

X is for Xeroxing funny headlines from local English-language newspapers and faxing them to other conversation schools

Y is for Yawning while waiting for a student to respond, then trying to cover it up when she suddenly looks up

Z is for Zipping up quickly when a girl barges into the restroom, then realizing that I am the one in the wrong room


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"G is for Groping junior high school girls on the train (or at least knowing that all the salarymen are doing it) and feeling only a little guilty about it"

8:34 PM  
Blogger ap said...

Um, wow, I'm the one that's impressed. Somebody actually read this post! I actually never groped or was groped, but the thing is, groping on trains is a huge problem in Japan; they even have signs all over the stations warning people not to do it. As for me, I usually cycled to work, so the only action taking place was on my bike seat.

9:42 PM  
Blogger Marley6 said...

actually, train groping is a HUGE problem in many European countries, too. I was groped in in Italy more times than I can count. and what's really fun is that the people will yell that you are a crazy american if you start yelling at them for doing it.

2:28 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home