The Japanese Rule of 7

Seven Things all Japanese just Gotta Say

It was my very first week in Japan, and already I knew something funny was going on.  I guess I’m a little astute like that.  I had this epiphany on the second floor of a small cafe in Azabu-juban, which is a rather upscale part of Tokyo, as I was having tea with an attractive young lady of my acquaintance.  When she excused herself to use the facilities (we’d had about a pot of tea, after all), the waitress came hustling over.

“Hello,” she said in English.  I looked up and thought, Jeez, you’ve got a lot of earrings.

“Hey, how’s it going?” I said.

“Where are you from?”  She seemed pretty excited.  I looked to see if my friend was coming back any time soon.

“How do you know I’m not from Japan?” I replied.

“Because you’re not Japanese.

“That’s kind of circular reasoning, isn’t it?

“I’m sorry, what?

“Never mind,” I said.  “Are you from Japan?

“Of course!”  she said.  “Can’t you tell?

“I’m American, so no, actually.

“Can you drink green tea?” she asked.

“Like a boss.  How ’bout you?

“Of course!  I’m Japanese.

“Oh, I forgot.

“Isn’t it too bitter for you?” she asked.  “Don’t you want to put sugar in it?

“Well, maybe some people do mix in sugar, or even milk.

“Heeeeey,” she said, and her eyes lit up.

“But have you tried it with salt and pepper?” I asked.  “It’s really good like that.

“Iyaaa, muri!” she said.  Well, I thought, at least I got her to speak some Japanese.

At the time, I naively believed this to be a random bit of conversation.  I can be so wrong.  As the same pattern began to repeat itself hundreds and then thousands of times, I gradually realized I’d stumbled onto something far more . . . what’s the word?  Insidious?  Mmn, nah, that’s not it.  Anyway, far more something.

Explaining the Unexplainable

Between conspiracies, aliens, and God, pretty much all mysteries are solvable.  Got a circle in your wheat field?  That’s aliens.  Imploding sky scraper?  Conspiracy, of course.  The toasty image of Jesus on your waffle?  That’d be God.

Now, I don’t want to say there’s a conspiracy in Japan, but let’s just say something seems a little too “convenient.”  The deal is, if you look “foreign” (whatever that means; but apparently, like porn, one knows it when one sees it), then you’ll hear the exact same phrases, often in the same order, from every single Japanese person.  How’s that even possible?  Coincidence?  I think not.  Special classes?  Induction camps?  Conspiracy, that’s what.   Sorry, but it’s the only answer.

See, God’s a good explanation for big stuff, like where wind comes from and why zebras have stripes.   But how Japanese speak to foreigners?  Clearly out of his purvey.   Logically then, we’re left with only Aliens or Conspiracy.  That’s just deductive reasoning.  Either way, I’m sleeping in a tinfoil hat.  Ken Seeroi is all about safety, lemme tell you, although it’s really hot in the summer, and makes your hair sweat like crazy.  But I digress.  Anyway, let’s just say you’re guaranteed to hear the following seven phrases like clockwork, usually in Japanese, except for Number 1.

A Checklist for Japanese People Speaking with “Foreigners”

1. “Hello!”

Actually, this sounds a bit more like “herro,” but we’ll let that slide for the moment.  Just remember that when you go to France, you’re expected to speak French; in Italy, Italian; and in Japan, English.  Abide by that and everybody’s happy.  Never mind that half the foreign-looking people here don’t even have English as their native language; Japanese folks can’t wait to bust out this word when they see your big, round eyes, just in case you’ve forgotten how much you don’t blend in.  The irony is that native English speakers rarely actually say “hello.”  Well, maybe they do in the movies, I don’t know.

2. “Where are you from?”

I usually get asked this question in Japanese, and have found it to be a great phrase for making people feel at home.  Please don’t hesitate to try this on your friends of other races.  There’s nothing impolite about it, because really, nobody who looks like you could possibly be from here.

The world’s changing, of course, and Japan’s no exception.  These days an increasing number of Japanese people happen to be White, Black, or Something Else Altogether.  You gotta envy their lives, getting to field this question on a daily basis.  Just think of it . . . a white Japanese person?  That’s crazy.  That’s like a black Englishman.  Whoa,  impossible.  What’s next, Americans from Europe?

3. “Your Japanese is great.”

Subtle power-trip or innocuous compliment?  You decide.  No really, every day, you decide.  And there’s pretty much no decent response to this one.  Just last week, I walked into a boutique to look at some manly handbags and the moment I said konnichiwa, the salesman was like, Oooh, your Japanese is great.  I was like, Really?  From one word?  Well, actually, my konnichiwa is pretty stunning, now that you mention it.  And just wait till you get a hold of my sayonara.

4. “Have you been in Japan long?”

This comes either before or after Number 3, and they form a nice set.  If you say you’ve been here a short time, then the proper response is:  “Wow, and already your Japanese is so great.”  Alternately, if you say a long time, then:  “Oh, so then you’re married to a Japanese?”  In either case, you should anticipate follow-up Question 4.5, “When are you going back home?”

5. “What’s your name?”

Ah, an old favorite.  So, the reality is that when you’re not around, Japanese people use last names.  But the moment you enter the picture, they start calling you and each other by first names.  The last-name thing is like a secret handshake, a sort of Japanese closed society, straight up Illuminati stuff.  But when they meet you, because you look so “foreign,” they just take your family name, ball it up, and roll it under the nearest train.  You get called by your first name, and that’s the way it is, Ken.

6. “You use chopsticks really well.”

So the other day I was in a soba shop next to this wrinkly old couple who would not stop staring at me eating a bowl of noodles.  Their table was only a foot away, and they were like 300 years old and the old lady was freaking fixated on me.  I was all like, Okay, just don’t look at the old people and maybe they’ll go away.  But then this skeleton claw reached out and grabbed my arm and started shaking me, and an old witch voice said, Heeey, you can use chopsticks really well!   I was like, Jeez old lady, lemme go!  All that agedness is probably contagious.  Plus, that’s my chopstickin’ arm.  I need that.  But to be fair, my chopstick skills are, in fact, pretty amazing.  And you should see me with a spoon.

7. “Can you eat natto?”

Of all the foods in Japan, somehow natto has won the award for the strangest thing “foreigners” could ever stuff into their mouths.  Not sea snails, raw horse, squid innards, or whatever monjyayaki is, but gooey beans.  There’s about a million things on a Japanese menu more terrifying than natto, but Japan has unanimously concluded that fermented beans equals gaijin kryptonite.  Even buying natto in the supermarket is embarrassing.  I try to wait until there’s nobody in line, and then it’s like, Yeah, I’ll, uh, take this candy bar, and that comb, and a cigarette lighter, and a 12-pack of condoms, and a copy of Penthouse . . . and, oh yeah, that, umm, natto over there.  No, not that one, the one on the left.  Yeah, just go ahead and put that in a bag, would you?  Jeez, I’ve got a ton of combs and Penthouses.

Rule, Law, or Force of Nature?

Japanese people live for rules.  And when they meet “foreigners,” the only rule seems to be they’ve got to cover all seven points as soon as possible.  For years, scholars have speculated that this may even be an obscure law or ancient Imperial edict.  Recent research has also raised debate over the actual number of required questions and statements, with some putting the number as high as twenty.  However, seven remains the agreed upon figure for working calculations.  One could argue higher, or lower, but let’s not get all crazy splitting hairs and going into imaginary numbers and stuff.  Suffice to say these seven are etched deeply into the DNA of every Japanese person.

Win Beer with the Japanese Rule of 7!

The Japanese Rule of 7, by the way, happens to be the world’s safest bar bet.  Here’s how to win a beer.  A delicious beer.  Just wait until you hear someone say “herro,” and then immediately turn to the person next to you and say, I bet I can tell you six more things this fool’s gonna say.  They’ll be like, No way.  Boom, instant beer.  You can even use it with the speaker him/herself, since it’s physically impossible for Japanese people not to run through the remaining six points, no matter how hard they try.  It’s like putting a sack of cats in a roomful of mice.

And to help keep you well lubricated, here’s a convenient and stylish wallet-sized card, listing all seven points, suitable for laminating.  It even includes English translations to assist you in making friends outside of Japan with “foreigners” and others who don’t physically resemble you.  And if you live in Japan, then the next time you find yourself in a smoky izakaya and a drunk salaryman strikes up a conversation (which is like every day if you’re me), don’t hesitate to whip it out and show him you know what’s up.  Guaranteed to keep the conversation flowing.


37 Replies to “The Japanese Rule of 7”

  1. Great Odin’s beard, it’s the Rule of 7 post! Let it be said that Seeroi-san is a man of his word. Great stuff as always, and now I can sleep at night!

    It’s funny, I didn’t get questions like these in Korea very often, and even then it was only a couple of these, and only if the conversation had died. Japan sounds, um… something.

    1. Thank you, I can confirm that Japan is, indeed, um . . . something. I think that pretty much describes it perfectly.

      I’m actually surprised you didn’t get questions like that in Korea. I don’t know why, come to think of it, since I’ve traveled to a number of countries and never encountered them anywhere other than in Japan. One thing I’m sure of is that if I’m not subjected to the Rule of 7 every few hours, I start to think something’s seriously wrong. Like, don’t you want to know where I’m from? Aren’t my chopstick skills incredible? For the love of God, somebody please tell me how jyouzu my Japanese is!

      1. Ha! This reminds me of a scene from the 1970’s sitcom “All in the Family.”:

        Edith Bunker: “How about you Archie, do you think I’m something?”

        Archie Bunker (Setting down his newspaper and turning to look squarely at Edith over his reading glasses): “You, Edith, are something ELSE.”

        If you’ve ever watched this sitcom you know what a character Edith was, and why Archie’s response was so funny. Reading about your escapades in this blog has me concluding that not only is Japan Something ELSE, it’s Something Else Entirely.

  2. As always it was a pleasure to read your post!
    As you know I wrote about my experiences, too, and most of them are exactly the same … I guess that’s standard for most foreigners, really!

    What you write in your blog post is true and that is both, sad and hilarious – if you think about it.

    “Oh, so then you’re married to a Japanese?”
    I never ever got that one, I guess Japanese people are well aware of the fact that the number of foreign (Non-Asian) women with a Japanese partner is quite low ….
    I do get instead: “No wonder that your Japanese is so great!”

    I also get very often: “Are you an exchange student?”
    I’m over 30, so hell no, but thanks for thinking I’m either that stupid or that young-looking. I prefer the latter, of course! ^-^;

    About the “natto” thing. I actually get that reaction about almost all food that is considered to be unique to Japan. Unagi (eel)? You can eat eel?
    Sashimi (raw fish), raw horse meat, squid … anything.

    *LOL* Gotta love that card! 🙂

    1. Well, congratulations on being considered student-age. I think I’ve gotten that maybe once, and even then I’m pretty sure the speaker was just flattering me. I do often get “So are you working in Japan?”, which I find to be a strange question. Like, No I’m just hanging out working on my tan. Of course, I know people are just trying to make light conversation, but even still, you gotta marvel at some of the things they come up with.

    2. When I was in Japan on business a long, long time ago (albeit not in a gaaxly far away), I was presented some natto for breakfast by friends. I ate it. Those dear friends, made me eat it with a spoon without dressing of any kind and that’s it. It is more usually consumed with a bowl of rice, some mustard and soy and whatever other condiments you desire.

    3. I completely agree on food & Ohashi remarks. I had these all the time but not only about food.

      Although the parents of my host family had been abroad while at university, they still showed complete hysteria when I told them I loved curry or could eat takoyaki. It looked like they never thought I could eat Japanese food. Literally, their faces and agitation looked like they would have thought a force field would prevent the food from reaching my mouth.

      Somehow I just can’t believe that given the context. Every single morning I would eat a standard japanese breakfast, misosoup, gohan and a rotating dish. Every evening I would eat with the rest of the family. Cooking was japanese, and they knew this when they offered to host me. Did they expect I would not eat for 4 month?

      So the only reason i can think of for so many grins, laughs, and exclamations as “You can eat takoyaki! Heeeeee, Sugoi!” is acting. And behind it some kind of over politeness which I have always kind of thought about as offensive. Maybe they just wanted to be nice just by saying that I was awesome. How could telling someone he is awesome be an offense?

      But to me it felt wrong. Like people were overly polite because they felt they needed to be. Maybe I am just a sensitive Frenchman.

      I got a hint on this over politeness when I did a week long seminar on Japanese traditional arts with other students from my university : Japanese Grandmas would show us how to arrange flowers and play shamisen. We also tried calligraphy. Everyone was doing a terrible job, me especially. But someway somehow our Japanese teachers inspected our work saying “Joozu, Joozu”. Which if I remember correctly means “you are good at this”. But they would also talk with each other in Kansai dialect. One of our students had a good understanding of it and told us that in fact they were saying that we sucked badly. So much for politeness.

      So I always felt that everything I did was awesome. I was that rockstar… who was like a 5 year old japanese kid, without any language skills! I always felt this awesomeness also meant something like “we don’t believe you can rise to Japanese standard, so we think this is good enough for you and you should feel good about it because it really takes a lot of strength and “gambate” to be Japanese”.

      Although I enjoyed a lot my experience in Japan, I came back sometimes clueless of what happened everyday and how people reacted. So maybe I misinterpret it a lot. Thus your blog Ken, and the comments help me a lot to understand. Again thanks for the amazing writing and dedication and sorry for the long post.

      1. Acting. I’d say that’s part of it. This topic really deserves a post.

        Let me see if I can crank one out in a few days. Thanks for the inspiration.

        Edit: You can find it here.

    4. Actually the number of foreign women married to japanese men is higher than the number of foreign men married to japanese women.

        1. The statistics for the number of marriages each year from 1970 – 2018 are here:

          Of the 21,852 “international” marriages in 2018, 69% of the time the husband was the Japanese partner.
          From 1999 – 2013, the number of Japanese men marrying Chinese women alone outnumbered the number of Japanese women marrying a foreigner of any nationality.

          You have to scroll down to 1974 to find the last year where the number of Japanese women who married a foreigner was more than the number of Japanese men.

          1. That’s really interesting—thanks. In some ways, it seems surprising, but on the other hand, makes sense. One more fascinating piece of the puzzle.

  3. Perhaps not in Korea, but definitely in China. You also get bonus questions about how much you earn every month, how much you pay for your apartment, and why in god’s name you would every leave your home country (if you come from the West) to come to China.

    And don’t try worming your way out of any of the questions or just responding with noncommittal grunts, you will deeply offend the person who is asking you a battery of questions they would never ask another Chinese stranger.

    It is the height of hawkward.

    Love your blog, instant fan.

    1. It’s pretty hard to respond politely to questions about money. You’d think the people asking would realize they’re putting you in an awkward spot. I’ve gotten those types of questions here too, but they’re relatively rare.

      I do get the question “Why are you in Japan?” fairly often, and I find it immensely difficult to formulate a decent reply. Years ago, I could honestly say something simple like, “because I like the food,” but now it’s so much more than that. I mean, it’s just my home, you know? The language, the way people relate to one another, the way of life . . . all that. I’m here because of, well, everything.

      Nobody wants an answer like that. Just like from politicians, people want simple sound-bites that they can easily wrap their heads around.

      And somehow I always think of that scene with Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman, where he screams, “I got nowhere else to go!” That’s not really the case for me, but it’s a pretty good answer anyway. Gotta try that next time.

  4. I tell them I married a guy from Kobe, so it’s 無期懲役. Har! I can be out with my granddaughter and still get ‘how long have you been here?’ and ‘when are you going home?’ **sigh**

  5. Hi Ken,

    I have found your blog by accident and just wanted to tell you a big big thank you for your wonderful style of writing and all these things you write about. Being myself in Japan for 5 years and being related to Japan for around a decade… well, there is a big eye-opener after all these illusions you have at the beginning)
    The rule of 7 just never stops to surprise me!

    Keep writing and I hope that one day maybe you can publish your thoughts that will be kind of an eye-opener to all manga-lovers, zen captured scholars and just those people who wonder)

    1. Thanks for reading. Yeah, after few years, the illusions are pretty much gone, but the surprises remain. Maybe that’s the point at which you can start to understand this crazy country. Anyway, if you figure it out, let me know.

  6. I’ve taught my kids age 10 and 7 the Rule of 7. Last night we were at one of our regular udon places near yoyogi park, and the older couple at next table were staring at us. Then they started right down the list. There was a pause before the お箸が上手 comment as they watched in apparently stunned awe that my 7yo was able to feed herself with those uniquely Japanese stick things. My 10yo correctly anticipated in a whisper the forthcoming comment, I was so proud. And sad for Japan. Really I think their are so many really cool things about this country and I want it to grow and succeed. Can minds be opened without destroying Japan? or is the ideology of uniqueness essential to the whole?

    1. No more than believing that America is a nation of “white” people, I’d say. The notion of tying nationality to race is as old as time, but once Orville and Wilbur invented the 747 and Al Gore thought up the internet, those days were numbered.

      Japan has never been a nation of one race, and what’s left of that idea is eroding rapidly. But you can’t really blame Asian-Japanese for holding on to the concept when Western-looking people reinforce it.

      Just look at what foreign people do to integrate into the U.S.—speak the language, dress like locals, eat Wheaties, change their names. . . Westerners in Japan almost never do that. They accept their role as “gaikokujin.” So yeah, if you want to be the house nigger, I’m pretty sure somebody’ll let you.

      Nobody’s ever going to believe we’re part of this country if we don’t believe it ourselves. So we have to push back against these stereotypes, but in a good-natured way. Equality, now there’s a concept. Why, some day, maybe even white people can be Japanese. Yeah right. That’s like a Japanese person being an astronaut. That’s just crazy talk.

  7. A Singaporean friend of mine went to Canada for college decades ago and was also surprised (and of course somewhat offended) when people remarked “wow, your English is really good!” It’s always strange to hear because Singapore by and large speaks English anyway. So her response to that had been to look at the person in the eye (even if it’s a professor) and say tartly, “thank you! And so is yours.” Probably unthinkable in Japan, but maybe worth a shot the next time you want to cut the conversation short. 🙂

  8. And here i thought the weird thing one could eat would be Sannakji, though that’s korean and if you haven’t heard of it i’d suggest searching for the gifs *shudders*
    Brilliant post as always, i’ll make sure to keep that guide of yours handy when i move there next year ^_^

  9. I’d like to add a corollary to number 3, that the likelihood of hearing how good you are at Japanese is inversely proportional to how good you actually are at Japanese. Once your adorable watashi-was start sort of resembling actual Japanese you fall into the uncanny valley and then it’s like “let me correct every grammatical and pronunciation mistake and could you please hurry the hell up with whatever you are saying.”

    I remember feeling sad when people I just met would no longer comment on my Japanese, but now I’m just sort of offended if they do.

    I usually get the question form of 4 (“Can you use chopsticks?”) so my go-to responses are “Can you use a fork?” and/or “Can you use a western toilet?” The embarrassment usually gets them to open up.

    1. “the likelihood of hearing how good you are at Japanese is inversely proportional to how good you actually are at Japanese.”

      I’ve heard this many times, and pondered it, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not actually true. I was in a bar last night (I know this will be a surprise to many) speaking Japanese for hours and not a single person batted an eye. Which, I’d like to believe, is a sign of how good my Japanese has become. Yet, when I went shopping a couple of weeks ago, I got the “Oh, you’re Japanese is so good” in three separate shops, after just a sentence or two. So unless I’ve improved markedly in a very short time, it’s not about my ability.

      Here’s what it really depends upon: the other person. If they’re gonna be surprised by a white guy speaking Japanese, then they’re gonna say that. Otherwise they won’t. That’s all that is.

  10. Ken my friend (so to speak, in a broad sense, as we have much in common after all…),

    Here’s the way I see things, in other words my two-cents worth, as there are two sides to every story, etc…

    1. I’m French-Canadian, born and raised in Montréal, a rather cosmopolitan city beneath its French surface. That makes me a so-called Québécois. At age 17 I headed out to a nearby province, namely Ontario, to study at the bilingual Laurentian University or Université Laurentienne. I was surrounded by so-called Franco-Ontariens, members of the French-speaking Northern Ontario minority. At the beginning of my second B.A.-in-progress year, my classmates turned me into their class president. Still they used to kid me on my gaijinness, like Hé, le Béquécois!, jokingly of course, but nevertheless I remained a foreigner in their eyes! And of course I was, as I never have ceased to be a Québécois at heart. I wasn’t one of them, I was a cousin from Québec, just like an Acadian, a Cajun, a Belgian, a Swiss-French or a Frenchman are all cousins of mine: our differences remain no matter how hard we may try to hide or ignore them, each one of us having a different and quite indelible accent, although we all speak the very same French.

    2. Four years later, with a B.A. in my pocket, I moved south to Kingston, still in Ontario, home of Queen’s University, having been admitted into its faculty of medicine. I became John, Forest from then on being pronounced Forrest, as was inevitable. Among its 350 students, there was ONE Québécois, and my 60 very friendly classmates were quite aware of my gaijinness. I was never one of them, I was different. Although this time the residents of my student home elected me as their floor senior at the start of my second year! How about that! Thing is, I never thought it could be any different! I’m NOT a Northern Ontarian! Neither am I an English-speaking or anglophone Ontarian! Sure, I’m Canadian just as they are, but it doesn’t mean much deep down inside. It only has to do with geography, mostly. Economics. Business. Dough. And no, we’re NOT sort-of-Yanks either, that’s a no-no!

    3. It seems to me you dream of a melting pot world that I find exists nowhere at all. I mean, Serbs, Bosnians and Croatians speak the same language but hate each others guts; Pakistanis and Hindus roughly speak the same language, whether it be Urdu or Hindi, but hate each others guts; Poles hate those Russian bastards almost as much as they hate Jews, although they have vanished from Poland; and don’t tell a Catalonian he’s Spanish or else beware the ides of March… Differences matter! Highly matter!

    4. I know anglophone Quebecers who thirty years ago married a Québécoise, their kids are bilingual of course, but went to French schools: they are thus Québécois, like I mean purebreds although their name is Smith or O’Donnell. But not daddy! Poor old daddy may speak French all the time, he’s still got that teeny-weeny bit of an accent and so… he’s NOT one of us, he’s un Anglais! And we do kid him as we have for the past thirty years just as, had I settled in Northern Ontario and not moved back home, I would forever have remained le Québécois and for that simple reason forever have been teased. Such is life! Differences matter greatly. There’s US, and there’s THEM. How about trading our differences, huh?

    5. Take Chuck for instance. He’s my youngest daughter’s boyfriend. Un Anglais, un vrai. Now does he speak English way better than I do? You bet he does! You should hear him, straight from the horse’s mouth! Enough to shame me, poor old (although) bilingual Québécois! Either you got it from birth or you don’t. He got it. He’s got it. With thus sandwiched in between. Whatever.

    6. Look at it this way. Say you go to South Africa or New Delhi. Being of course thirsty as always, you go to a nearby deep country or Zulu bar and walk up to an empty stool. Well, you sure know what’s going to happen, and forever will. Dead silence. They then will or will not talk to you, but if they do it won’t be in Hindi or Zulu, you can count on that. You’re a gaijin and will be till your dying day, no matter where you go. Even if you’re a Rhodes scholar and speak perfect Hindi or Zulu. And that’s normal. Differences matter. NZ or OZ ≠ US. We’re different, whether we like it or not. Try and tell the contrary to that Japanese tramp who speaks 100 % Japanese, and perhaps he’ll die laughing as he popped his belly button open thinking of your 40 %…

    7. Languages matter, we’re born INTO a language, we are (from the verb TO BE…) what that specific language made of us, we can be on the move for decades, still our Home sweet home will forever be our mother tongue. Our only true brothers are those who speak the same language with the same accent. All others are and will remain gaijins, more or less, sorry about that. But hey, personally I don’t want to BE an English-speaking Canadian or American, even though I speak their lingo pretty darn well: it is and will forever remain a foreign language, no matter how well I can hide myself behind it. And I know for a fact that any 5 year-old English-speaking lad or lassie will always speak English way better than le Québécois that I am. Lads and lassies don’t translate their mind when they speak to me, whereas I certainly do! Automatically? Sure! Only in my kind of French do I not translate. I even do when I happen to be in France, where I spent two years of my life. But as soon as I opened my mouth, people would say: “Ah, mais vous êtes québécois!” Same rule of 7, Ken… “Where are you from? How long have you been here? How long will you stay? How many dogs do you harness to your sled? Any Indian blood? Wear feathers in your hair?” The works, just like Japan.

    8. Now I’m pretty sure you’ll find a few English oddities in my writing. That’s normal for two reasons. The first one being that since I came back home, in 1964 (!), I have never spoken English anywhere. 100% French. I mean, have a heart, folks! The second and much more important reason being that I have to translate what inevitably comes up to my mind in French and there’s no way out of this dilemma! Either I say it in French or I … translate. And of course you guys out there all know the saying: traduttore, traditore… I mean literally, of course.

    9. But I like it like that as I don’t want to be (mis)taken for who or what I’m not! Of course when in Paris I hide my accent as much as I can, otherwise, not used to it, folks out there would beg me to endlessly repeat myself… And, oh yes, when I happen to be in London, every bloody bloke thinks I’m a crazy bloodthirsty American. Believe me, JFK was wrong when he said Ich bin ein Berliner… No way. He wasn’t, he couldn’t have been. Baby, you gotta be born and bred in Berlin to know what it means to be a Berliner. I know, I’ve been there. I even speak the lingo, so there. Well, maybe 40 %…

    10. Didn’t he say it quite explicitly (I don’t mean JFK…) : To BE or not to BE…that is the question?

    11. Okay, I think you got the message. Mind, only my point of view. Free to disagree, folks!

    12. Au revoir! Bye! Auf wiedersehen! Ciao! Adiós! or… さようなら!Gotcha, huh ?

    1. You know, intellectually, I agree with much of what you said. That is how things are. And yet, personally, I can’t make sense of it.

      It probably has something to do with where I grew up. I mean, my high school yearbook photo looks like a shot from the bridge of The Starship Enterprise—there’re people from all over the world. You get the feeling the Board of Education scoured the earth looking for a guy from Romania and a girl from Ecuador just to balance things out.

      I was never a part of a group that was “Us,” other than being on a sports team or part of a club, and then we had people from all over. So I could never figure out who was supposed to be “Them.” You mean, Them that’s not on the Track team?

      Now, it makes sense to me for people to self-select based upon values and beliefs: Democrats and Republicans, or Catholics and Jews. But to do it based upon appearance, birth, or language . . . well, how does that work? An Italian Catholic is more like an Italian Jew than a Mexican Catholic? The whole thing just seems crazy.

    1. Yeah, I’ve tried that, along with other snide answers such as “Can I eat sashimi? I dunno, can you eat pizza?” But aside from becoming making an instant ass of myself, it really fails to light any bulbs. Nobody gets it. Sigh.

  11. The old couple at the soba shop is the most hilarious thing I read here up to now. Maybe it’s my “foreign” taste for jokes anyway (brazilian). I had a friend years ago who lived near Tokyo, and she told me japanese people go crazy in adoration when a foreigner open his mouth to sound in a perfect japanese, so I wouldn’t be bothered to much as a visitor. Of course living there and hearing the same thing in a regular basis could turn in annoyance. And despite looking “japanese” for us (her father is japanese), she was always treated as a foreigner in Japan.

  12. Japanese Rule of 7 見っけ!  i still stick with my original assumption of the Rule of 7 though…

  13. The sad part is that Will Adams was probably asked exactly the same Q’s, and 200 years from now when there wiil only be a handful of Japanese people left, (due to the non-birth rate), they will still be asking exactly the same Q’s.

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