Friday, October 21, 2011

Fast Food, Fast Women

From an old Japan journal…

Kugayama soggy wet from a heavy early morning rainfall, a half hour of fat raindrops bashing houses and buildings. Hoping the plants on the veranda might enjoy a natural watering, I nudged them toward the front. Probably by now so accustomed to tap water out of plastic bottles, the sweetness of rain has become to them an alien drink.

Sat at the kitchen table with coffee, an English muffin, and a slightly damp Japan Times. According to one article, awareness of culture and art among the Japanese has stayed the same over four years, but morals and values are falling rapidly. The first part is a surprise and the second seems a little like someone informing me that cows can be found at a dairy farm. I wonder about this reported steadiness of interest in art and culture. Aren’t all these things—culture, art, values and morality—linked in a way that one informs and supports the other?

A Japanese businessman was not pleased about his transfer to Singapore from Tokyo, so decided to leave the company. He soon found a new job in research at a university, part of his work including occasional travel to the US. Before his first trip on behalf of the university his boss there gave him an insurance policy to cover his roundtrip flight and his time in the US. Looking closely at the insurance policy at home that night, the man noticed something odd in regard to the beneficiary listed on the policy. Should anything happen to him, anything including injury and death, neither he nor his family would receive a cent—all benefits from his death or injury to be paid to the university, his employer.

Some nutty Japanese-English in the paper this time. Throughout the years of my stay in this country the ongoing life of twisted English among the Japanese has never changed. It’s unkillable, immune to correction and by now almost as much a part of Japanese culture as chopsticks. Interesting examples from the morning paper…

The cover of a restaurant menu: ‘Fast Food, Fast Women’

Sign in after hours store windows across Japan: ‘Close’

Brand of children’s clothing: ‘Lusty’

A new model of Toyota: ‘Fun! Car! Go!’

Cover of a photo album: ‘For enjoy natural color and your best scene own’

Another photo album: ‘Come join the Rapid Party’

Poster at the dry cleaners: ‘Let’s go to my bag’

A birthday card greeting: ‘I wish to fall in happy drops on your head’

Language school ad: ‘For your heartful life’

And their mission statement: ‘To fulfill heartful English lives so people can gentle mind and more very enjoy Japanese English. Also pets.’

In class yesterday…

For some Japanese university students classes seems little more than an interlude in a busy life of complete vacuity. One young lady arrived late to class, entering the room in mid-conversation on her rhinestone encrusted cell phone. Not far inside the door, I halted her in mid-stride, backing her out of the door and closing it in her face. I should have asked, “What were you thinking?” But of course, she wasn’t.


  1. How is it that the Japanese don't learn English and how words are put together? If they want to learn the language, they should want to learn to construct sentences the way Americans (most, anyway) do. By the way, the flowers in the post are lovely and the cell phone looks like it has a disease.

  2. Always a treat to read the infomative posts concerning Japan. And America's endless fascination with that country and culture is called Japanophila. I have the benign form: no suffering but only the desire to know more and the "wish to fall in happy drops on your head."


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America