How to Eat at a Japanese Restaurant

in Just 11 Easy Steps

Learning Japanese is a great hobby. It requires levels of endurance and discipline possessed by English Channel swimmers, while garnering the respect typically reserved for those really skilled with yo-yo’s. The good news, if one can call it such, is you don’t need much Japanese to get by in Japan.

Nowhere is this truer than at a Japanese restaurant. Instead, what you need is to know how things work. Once you’ve got the system down, it’s amazing how few words are actually required.

First night in Japan

My own culinary journey began after a grueling day-long flight half-way around the world and several hours of wandering lost in the backstreets of Tokyo. I was out of PowerBars, famished, and thoroughly exhausted. Continue reading “How to Eat at a Japanese Restaurant”

Japanese Customs

“Stop that,” she said. “Sit still. You want people to think you’re a better person, don’t you?”

This is me, learning not to do sewing machine leg from Yasuko, my girlfriend.

“Better than whom?” I asked.

Well, Yasuko was crazy, so whatever. But she was also right. Not moving one’s limbs is actually a thing in Japan.

Next, I learned that you shouldn’t wear cologne from my girlfriend Makiko.

I’d worn cologne every day for years. Who doesn’t like the bracing scent of Old Spice? Not Japanese people, apparently, although nobody said a word. Continue reading “Japanese Customs”

A Friend of Mine Learned Japanese in 1 Year

A reader recently posted an intriguing comment about foreign sumo wrestlers: “Within a year, they have a command of the language that would take most students years to develop.” Implying that with enough immersion and dedication, it’s possible to speak Japanese well in a short amount of time. Apparently, there’s a Japanese book that popularized this notion.

I’d heard this before. Not just with sumo wrestlers but with, well, everybody. A friend of mine learned the language in a year. Actually, less than a year. Well, actually, a friend of a friend.

The first time I heard it was from a random guy in Columbus, Ohio, who told me: “My daughter went to Japan for a year, and came back speaking fluent Japanese.”

That was all the proof I needed. I’m kind of gullible like that. If she could do it, then damn it, so could I. Nobody beats Ken Seeroi, and certainly nobody from Ohio. Continue reading “A Friend of Mine Learned Japanese in 1 Year”

How to Write Japanese

You gotta love Anna. Seriously, because everyone loves Anna. She’s a busty, blonde Swiss-German who grew up playing the piano and speaking Swiss. And German. And English. And now she speaks perfect Japanese. God, I hate her.

Nah, just kidding. Anna’s okay. In high school, she “picked up” French, Spanish, and Italian. Well, they’re all like the same language, but still she deserves credit for one. Then in college, she majored in Japanese and ended up moving to Japan and becoming an interpreter. Not an English teacher like, um, some people. Okay, now I hate her again. Continue reading “How to Write Japanese”

Why Your Japanese Sucks

It’s not Romaji That’s Evil—-It’s Hiragana

I have a new co-worker, who just so happens to be white. It’s very exciting, finally speaking with a real foreigner. I really gotta practice the English more. I think she’s from some place like Kansas, probably because she reminds me of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, albeit minus the little dog and red shoes. Maybe it’s the pigtails, and the fact that her aunt is named Em. Or is that M? Whatever. On Thursday, apropos of nothing, she turned to me and announced,

“I’m heading over to Japanese class tonight.”

“Oh,” I said. “That’s great.” Foreigners are always heading over to Japanese class. “How’s that going anyway?”

“Wonderful,” she replied, “we’re learning hiragana.” Continue reading “Why Your Japanese Sucks”