Wakarimasen, my friend…

July 7, 2009

Today was filled with new adventures! First, I exercised at the fine fitness facility at a small military base while Jennie had her Japanese lesson. I watched Dr. Phil while exercising and learned about broken families and how to fix them. It was quite enlightening. Then, Jennie and I headed to Machida, which was home to a 5 story 100 yen store! We got a little lost, but Jennie expertly asked for directions (in Japanese!) and we found our way. The store was very exciting, and there was a whole section of my favorite Japanese treat, lottery candy. ‘Lottery’ because there’s no way to tell what it is until you actually eat it. It’s a fun game!

I communicated with many people today, and understood few of them. It’s fun yet dangerous to order food in Japanese, even if it’s just saying hello and ‘this one please’. They seem to think after (expertly) saying these words that I am fluent, and say many things to me, none of which I understand. I usually stare blankly at them, but today Jennie taught me perhaps the most important phrase yet, “I don’t understand”. (Wakarimasen). I was waiting for the train and my escort (Jennie again) was several feet away from me, and an older Japanese man started talking to me. In Japanese.  I simply looked at him and shook my head, said “what?” in English, (I hadn’t yet learned that key wakarimasen phrase), yet he continued to talk to me. It was very odd, and Jennie must have seen my confused expression and came to investigate. She wanted to make sure that he wasn’t harassing me, which he very well could have been. Or, perhaps he was trying to help me, or even simply make conversation. Maybe he was a modeling agent and wanted to make me into a star! I guess we’ll never know.

This evening at dinner I had my biggest Japanese breakthrough. Jennie, Joey and I were ordering dinner, and after ordering one item, I realized that I actually wanted something else – I changed my mind. Normally, in Japan I would just let it go as it is much to difficult to explain this. However, I was able to communicate to the kind server (through a few simple words and actions) that I wanted this delicious avocado chicken appetizer instead of soup – and he appeared to understand! The true test came when they brought out the food – and in fact, it was correct. Victory! It’s amazing where a few key phrases can get you.

Tomorrow Jennie and I are off to Tokyo Disney Sea, (next to Tokyo Disney), which is very exciting and something I’ve been looking forward to since I purchased my plane tickets. Will Mickey and Minnie look the same in Japan? What will the rides be like? Will Donald Duck talk? All these answers and more coming your way tomorrow… stay tuned!

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