Navigating a Japanese Starbucks

The first time I walked into a Japanese Starbucks, I thought I was ready.  It’s pretty easy, really.  “Large” translates to “Grande,” in some bizarro Italian-English-Japanese-word hybrid, and “coffee” is just a bastardized pronunciation of the same:  “ko-hee.”  Even “Hot” is, well, “Hotto.”  So it’s not rocket science.  Coffee’s just about all they sell, so they’ll definitely figure it out.  Anyway, that’s what I thought. Continue reading “Navigating a Japanese Starbucks”

The Great Japanese Name Switcheroo

At first, you might think the Japanese place great importance on addressing others properly.  After all, it’s a nation where even elephants get called Zou-san.  That’s Mr. Elephant to you.

The reality is that this naming convention works flawlessly until someone who looks “foreign” enters the scene, at which point thousands of years of custom go straight out the window. Continue reading “The Great Japanese Name Switcheroo”

The Great Tohoku Earthquake

When the Tohoku earthquake happened, I was sitting at my tiny Japanese desk, in the middle of a giant Japanese office, in the middle of Tokyo, just hating life.  I was working elbow to elbow with about a hundred people, facing a row of unsmiling coworkers across from me, crouched in front of my pc, without speaking from morning until night.  The most exciting part of the day was lunchtime, when we’d all take out our bento boxes and eat lunch together without talking.  I couldn’t imagine it could get any worse. Continue reading “The Great Tohoku Earthquake”