Kung Fu, The Great Wall, Egg Fried Rice. Have you ever wondered what life would be like in that ancient land? I did, but the SARS happened so I went to Japan instead.
Five years later and I’m back.
Was Japan everything I wanted it to be? Well if I tell you that what I wanted it to be was a hilarious mish mash of every Asian stereotype Id ever seen and on the verge of creating a sentient robot dog, then I’ll let you imagine as to whether the answer is yes or no. (Benny’s hint: The answer is ‘yes’).
When a figment of my imagination suggested I write an article that would help people learn Japanese, I only had one question – “How much money is in it for me?” Upon hearing the answer I only had one more question – “Why don’t you go screw yourselves?”
But then I got to thinking about all the words that would have helped me out had I known them. I mean, anybody can learn ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ right? But that’s not what you need…you need deeper, more culturally intricate words. If you’re going there you want to dive straight in and be able to express yourself with words that will communicate exactly what you want to say. Words that will earn respect from the locals.
(Bih – Me – Oh)
This word is great because it can be used as an answer for anything. ANYTHING. It basically means “Its hard to say exactly”, which may sound vague and obtuse, but Japan is the country of the Samurai were vague and indirect are symbols of depth and thought process. Openness and direct answers tend to be frowned upon, for example a sentence like “Ok, ok, it IS my kid” will just make you look like a total loser.
Follow along with these examples.
A: How are your Japanese studies coming along?
A: Which is your favourite of these two animes, the one where the space adventurer has to save the planet, or the one where the demon octopus shits all over that lady?
A: You have a class to teach. Where are your trousers and why do you stink of alcohol?
So that’s your ‘get out of jail free’ word. Figuratively speaking of course. Don’t actually use it in jail, especially in response to “Do you like violent butt sex?”
Sorry about the mental image I may have given you with that, but lets face it; from brutalist torture regimes to Speed 2: Cruise Control, appalling things that we have no control over happen in life.
That’s when you need a word like:
(sho – ga – nai)
Another extremely versatile word, an approximate translation would be ‘It cannot be helped’. The Japanese are great believers in destiny, inevitability and the will of the universe and as such believe that any circumstance they find themselves in is through the design of an unknown higher power. I’m surprised that this way of thinking hasn’t caught on over here – I know I certainly found it easier to believe that the reason I have no house, car, girlfriend or BFFs is due to events beyond my control and not a borderline personality disorder.
A: My son has his first birthday party this weekend but my boss has told me I must work.
A: It’s my sons wedding this weekend, and although my boss first told me I could take a day off, he has now changed his mind and says I must work.
A: I’m 70, my wife’s left me and my son never visits. I kind of feel like I wasted my entire life working 7 days a week at the SUPER-MEGA Corporation. I didn’t take a day off in 50 years and all they got me when I left was a watch.
So now you can say let people know that A) You can’t explain yourself and B) It can’t be helped. If you ever come out of a ‘dream’ only to find yourself naked from the waist down and surrounded by police deploying pepper spray into your eyes, you’ll be all set.
But how about if you want to be a bit more aggressive with it? If you want to let people know that you don’t give a crap about their ‘suggestions’ and ‘advice’ and ‘hints on bathing effectively’. Well then you say:
(Oo – Roo –Sai)
This is an easy one. It means “Shut up”. But before you go throwing this at anyone that looks at you sideways, a word to the wise. The Japanese don’t have swear words. They have intonation. So a word like ‘urusai’, if used in casual manner would mean ‘shut up’. However scowling and shouting the same word would have the same effect as ‘Shut your damn, ape-like mouth’, with degrees in between.
A) Hey man, I know you’re a brand new couple, but have you done anything with Sarah yet besides kiss?
A) No dude, for real it’s just that…look, this isn’t easy to say...well before you and her got together I hooked up with her one night and things got really hot…
A) She’s got a dick.
B) URUSAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII! (Screaming into pillow for an hour for every second you frenched optional).
So there we go guys. Three words that will undoubtedly be as useful to you as lying to girls in nightclubs about my personal achievements has been for me. I hope you enjoyed it, see you next time!