Best Ten Japan

Best Ten Japan Part One
10 best things to impress people with when you go home

1. Being able to read people’s kanji tattoos (it might not be what they intended!)
2. T shirts with strange English messages on them
3. Useless hi tech stuff, e.g. a mobile phone that can interpret your dog
4. Being able to eat chicken wings with chopsticks
5. Martial arts skills
6. Debunking at least 25 myths about the Japanese they might have (although sometimes it easier just to not even start on this one)
7. Serving products with weird names at your housewarming party- Colon chocolates (brown inside!), Pocari Sweat sports drink, Cow piss soda (well, Calpis actually, but sounds the same)
8. Reading weird manga in Japanese on the London underground
9. Writing people’s name in Kanji
10. Being able to live in a flat the size of a walk in closet without getting claustrophobic (useful with present London property prices)

10 things to buy or find straight away that you will need all the time

very big clothes pegs (to hang out the futon)

a very small walkman (there is very limited space in your home and on the trains)

a bag that is not a backpack (it is very rude to wear backpacks on the packed trains)

something to defluff your clothes with (due to the old-fashioned twin tub cold water washing machines most people have??)

a mobile phone with camera and internet, plus maybe TV and videophone and MP3 and ….

a local English language magazine or newspaper (there are plenty)

cash (ATMs do strange hours and sometimes still close for holidays, so always keep stocked up)

a heater and a fan (the weather can be quite extreme and the apartments are often not well insulated)

a digital camera (it’s an incredibly photogenic place, and you don’t want to be carrying 3500 print photos home when you leave)

a DVD player or laptop that plays Japanese DVDs (the TV is excruciating)

slip on shoes (you will be taking them on and off all the time) and non-holey socks

10 most popular Japanese words to sprinkle your English conversation with (not sure why it happens, but we all do it)
Keitai- mobile phone, or maybe so much more than a mobile phone and hence the fact that most gaijin use the Japanese word??
Konbini- it’s so much easier to use than ‘convenience store’, as well as the actual shop being a lot more convenient than back home too…
Eki- stations will be a major part of your life, not just going through them but often spending most of the day shopping/ drinking etc. without ever really leaving them
Gaijin- that’s the slightly rude expression for you, outsider. And as you are being slightly rude, if unintentionally, you’ll probably find it suits you well…
Un (or just n) – Means yes, in the totally Japanese meaning of yes- yes, I am listening politely to every detail of what you say, and am politely showing no disagreement
Heeeeeeeey- The opposite, a polite way of saying “What the hell are you talking about, I’ve never seen that on TV so how can it possibly be true??”
Genki- lively, healthy, energetic etc. as a kid whose parents haven’t discovered the concept of artificial additives yet
San- Like Mr, but used after first names and surnames. The Japanese feel kind of naked without it, and hearing it used in an English sentence makes me feel like I’m Tom Cruise in Last Samurai or William Adams as in James Clavell’s Shogun, so I allow it in my English classes to.
Sensei- In a similar way to San, this one makes me feel like the martial arts instructor from Karate Kid rather than English teacher/ babysitter/ counsellor/ paid friend as per my job description

4 Comments

  1. Bernice said,

    April 11, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    Thanks for the article. It’s a great read. By the way, isn’t it the correct way to spell “martial” arts? instead of “marshal” arts?

  2. natilee said,

    April 30, 2009 at 6:24 am

    thanx for the advice im now gonna try eat chicken wings with chop stick and then ill be the best at using chop sticks.

  3. Noblesse Oblige said,

    April 6, 2014 at 3:17 am

    …How long do people normally stay in Japan? I studied Spanish for *two years* and I’ll be damned if I can translate anything in Spanish, and it’s the roman alphabet! Hell yeah I’d be impressed by someone who went to Japan and came back knowing how to read kanji, but realistic? Not really.

    • alexcase said,

      April 6, 2014 at 5:06 am

      It only takes a couple of weeks to learn hiragana and katakana, so you can easily spend the rest of your time learning kanji. Anyone putting a reasonable amount of effort in can learn a couple of hundred kanji in their first year, and by the end of my second year I could read a newspaper.


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