Thursday, December 14, 2006

Japanese High School Introductions

The other night, I was studying Japanese in Shibuya while waiting for my fellow all night dance party revelers. Of course, studying Japanese in public is an easy ice breaker for young J-folk who want to talk to foreigners (ie, study english and/or make dirty jokes).

So, of course, a group of high school boys noticed me studying. Eventually, one of them mustered the courage to ask a question (in Japanese)

"You speak Japanese?"

"I can speak a little." I said. "But I need to study more."
(This is both the appropriately modest answer and the unfortunate truth)

Thus, an opening was made, and a flurry of increasingly personal questions followed. Asking questions about hobbies and interests is the standard introduction method here in Japan. When people meet, it's usually five minutes of a predictable Question and Answer format. Unfortunately, the best questions came into use around 1962, and people have just been recycling them ever since.

So, how long stay in Japan?

Um... about 15 months. How about you? (I always ask this)

hahah.... I'm high school student. What's your favourite food in Japan?

I like sushi. I eat it three or four times a week.

eeeeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhh? Three times?

Yep. I love it...

(insert the standard few questions about our favourite fish (Eel, Salmon) and Restaurants (Midori)

.... Where are you from?

I'm from Toronto, in Canada. Do you know of it?

Ahhh.... Toront. I want to go.

To Toron-to. Yes, it's very wonderful.
(Japanese folk know that the "to" character at the end of the word usually represents "t", so they always drop the "o" a the end of "Toronto")

Wow! Do you like Japanese girl?
(It ALWAYS comes to this)

Yes, they are very nice.

oooooo.... so...which is better? Japanese girl or Canada girls??
(It ALWAYS comes to this next, and I'm nowhere near dumb enough to give a straight answer)

Well, I like fun girls, so I like both...

Really?!? Both? ... Do you play sex every night?

Actually, we say "have"...

(For a moment, he stares at me with a look of blank expectation)

/I shrug, and give in to the conversation. I show him the stickers on my phone.

"Tokyo Boy Friends Exchange"

恋人募集中 ("lover recruitment in progress")*

To me, these are funny for their shock-value. To him, they were enough to turn rumour into gospel. Sagely, he points to my crotch and nods.

It's very big, isn't it?

Um.... yeah... just promise me that you won't use that line on Western women, ok?


I'm not sure what they teach these kids in Japanese high schools, but the English classes this guy has been taking seem to be entirely focused on making him a dirty, cock obsessed playboy with a love of exotic cultures and short skirts.

In the west, we rely on music videos for that important task.

English help:

1) Regarding introductions: asking questions about hobbies is par for the course here. If you want to introduce yourself naturally in English, try commenting on the situation, or something else you have in common. That's way more fun.

2) a look of blank expectation: he has no thoughts, but he's excited.

3) Shock-value: something that's effective because it's shocking. Like some of my posts, hopefully.

4) Turn rumour into gospel: Change something into commonly accepted truth.

* - Thanks again, Dave!

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