Monday, November 30, 2009


Forgive the pun... I titled this entry "Lost in translation;" I've actually never seen the movie, but it seemed to apply greatly to today's adventures. (I so love a great pun...) I found myself in Fukuoka today. The main purpose of my trip today was unfortunately postponed; it's starting to be something I'm wondering if I'll ever accomplish. When my original plans fizzled out, I resorted to shopping around Tenjin Station, as I had no desire to have wasted a trip to Fukuoka entirely.

It turned out just fine-it's not as if I ever mind shopping in Tenjin. I began looking for New Year's cards to send home. Amidst those and the generic Christmas cards, I found one that was rather unusual. It's a house which says "Season's Greetings" on the roof. There are four windows, two of which feature very Christmasy items-Santa and a wreathe. There's also a pig in one, which just confused me. The remaining window, however, had... a menorah?!? Come again? Yep, that's right, folks, nine branches. Well, 8 and the shamas. (Shamas=lead candle). That'd be a certified Chanukah menorah. Well, color me surprised. I was more than a bit shocked, but would be willing to bet it was a coincidence. Either that, or Japan has taken OC reruns a bit too seriously and is thinking "Chrismukkah" is a new trend.

I took a short walk around outside the station. I laughed when I saw the Hush Puppies sign. I know American brands are everywhere around the world and certainly in Japan, but Hush Puppies just don't seem like the mark of glamour that other brands might. As I got closer, I saw that it was also partially a Foot Locker. Well, actually, not quite... The sign actually read "Foot Lock." I took out my cell phone to take a picture of the sign and someone from the store was curious as to why. I explained. He was shocked and thanked me. I apologized and bowed, then moved on.

On the way back to the subway, I needed to ask a station attendant something. I waited in line behind two Japanese people, as often happens, so, at first I wasn't paying attention. Suddenly, I realized that the two Japanese people were speaking in English to him–with American accents. Realizing that they were Japanese-American and didn't speak Japanese, and still seemed to be lacking information from the attendant who was really trying hard to help them, I decided to step in and try to be of assistance. They reminded me of my first trip to Japan. I was in high school and spoke some Japanese, but very little; my parents and I stood there trying to get help from the attendant in English-I certainly empathized.

When I jumped in to help, everyone looked a little surprised. You could kind of hear that "one of these things is not like the other" song from Sesame Street going on in their heads. It was amusing to all parties involved.

I get a lot of mixed reactions when people know I'm about to speak here. I imagine it's the same for foreigners anywhere; this is just the only place I've lived as a foreigner. Sometimes people assume I couldn't possibly comprehend this language or be understandable, others fawn all over me, saying that even the simplest word I've said has been skillfully done (that's actually quite insulting) and, of course, there are plenty who just take what I say as it comes, like I would hope anyone would do anywhere. Tonight, before I grabbed one of my trains, I stopped to grab a quick bite to eat. The waitress was one of the nervous types described in the first group. Suddenly, I saw a smile on her face, as she saw that I passed all rungs of my order without any mishaps, additional work or frustration on her part. I found it somewhat amusing. Cut to my train ride immediately after. Finally in my seat, a Japanese woman asked me if the train was going to my stop. I was so shocked at first that I didn't say anything. This was because I rarely get asked for things like directions by Japanese people. Immediately upon my pause, she switched and asked the question in English. Surprised again, I said yes, in Japanese, then said "日本語で良い!" (It's okay to [to ask me] in Japanese!)


  1. Sounds like a making of a book, very funny. I bet you shock a lot of people. Love, Mom and Dad

  2. Maybe Santa's Jewish now, according to Japanese cards. >___>

  3. i love how the japanese mix all "foreign" holidays equally; it shows both the fact that the japanese still have that slight distain for other cultures (they don't really bother to learn about them, but then again, what culture does bother these days?) while also pointing out that for them, "religion" didn't exist as a concept or even a word until after commodore perry "opened" japan up to the west.