Japanese People Say The Darndest Things – Version XP
I teach business conversational English classes twice a week. Unlike kids or old folks, adults are usually more reserved about what they say, so I rarely hear too many zany, WTF-worthy stuff. …But they do come up with some pretty funny stuff sometimes.
One group I teach is a really fun bunch. They seem to get along well outside of work, so in some ways the English class is a chance to unwind and enjoy themselves. Which is a good thing.
For my first class with them, we did self-introductions. After the obligatory boring regular introductions, I had them pick someone – anyone at all – assume the role of that character, and introduce themselves to each other in pairs. They made some interesting character choices – at one point, “Barack Obama” met “Jack Bauer”, and we all agreed that this is a meeting that should happen in real life.
As they are making the rounds, Jack Bauer meets a girl maybe in her mid-thirties/early forties. She’s also kind small/short. For this exercise, she has assumed the identity of Pikachu. As she introduces herself, Jack Bauer is a little surprised by her choice. He steps back, takes a good look at her, and says “Oh, you are Pikachu?! But, you are not yellow. You have no tail.” He even looked at her ass as he said that.
Maybe you have to be very un-PC to appreciate this, but I just found it absolutely hilarious. A Japanese guy sizes up a Japanese woman and then says, “You are not yellow. You have no tail.”
Obviously, Jack Bauer is in the Sir Mix-a-Lot camp when it comes to women.
Speaking of “Pikachu”, this woman actually avoids speaking English as much as humanly possible. Weird for an English class, right? Welcome to Japan.
After the introduction exercise concluded, I asked everyone to tell me about someone interesting they met. When it was Pikachu’s turn, she decided to tell me about her meeting about Jack Bauer.
Me: So, where does he work?
Pikachu: I don’t know…maybe some kind of special police?
Me: Okay…maybe we can say he is special police (I’m trying to keep things simple). Did he tell you anything else that was interesting?
Pikachu: (thinks about it for a second) …Not really.
Me: Really? Nothing? Nothing at all?
Pikachu: Yes. Jack Bauer has a very ordinary life.
Me: …Really? So, nothing interesting happens to him, at all, say in one whole day?
Pikachu: (thinks about it again) Oh, his wife died a few years ago. But that’s about it.
International terrorists…nuclear bombs…deadly chemical weapons…the fate of the free world…apparently all of this is just one normal day for Pikachu. Man, the Pokemon world is a lot more cutthroat than I thought.
In a different exercise, I had the students pretend to be travel agents and potential travelers. The catch was that the travelers were extremely rich, and wanted to take a vacation where they could spend ridiculous amounts of money. Again, Jack Bauer, the travel agent, was paired up with Barack Obama, the traveler. …These are just my nicknames for them now, I didn’t have them play travel agent as these characters. I can’t imagine the travel package that the real Jack Bauer would put together. “You too can scream in terrorists faces and shoot dangerous criminals, while staying in the fanciest 5-star hotel and enjoying the recreational facilities…”
For his desired vacation, Obama was telling Bauer that he wanted to see the pyramids in Egypt. He asked about travel arrangements through the Egyptian desert, to which Bauer replied, “Oh, we have a special camel. It makes you feel so good.”
…I…don’t think I want to know.
Personally, I would have preferred a tricked-out humvee or something, but hey, who can say no to a special camel that makes you feel so good? Sign me up!
In a different class, I was teaching two young female lawyers about how to politely refuse suggestions by saying I’m sorry and giving a reason why you can’t. As a scenario, I pretended to be a guy asking them for a date, so they had to come up with excuses as to why they couldn’t go to the movies or dinner. As an interesting cultural point, I told them that there was one response in particular that American women are famous for giving, and asked them to guess what it was. “Imagine you are an American girl, and I’m an American guy asking you for a date,” I said. “You don’t want to go. What would you say, if you were an American girl?” Trying their best to think like young American women, their responses were -
“I’m sorry, but I like much bigger, stronger guy.” (Keep in mind that I’m 6’3, over 200 pounds…)
“I’m sorry, I can’t. I’m a lesbian.”
I told them the answer was “I’m going to wash my hair”* and they both agreed that it was a terrible excuse.
*I’ve actually been hit with this excuse. At the time I was young and stupid and accepted it, but seriously, what the hell? I also told this to my wife, who’s response was “Yeah? I wash my hair everyday.”
I then asked the two girls to come up with an excuse of their own. As usual, they kind of stared into space, thinking hard about what they could say. I tried to give them a prompt by coughing – I was aiming for “Sorry, but I have a cold/I’m not feeling well.” However, upon seeing my prompt, one girl said, “Oh! I’m sorry, I can’t. I must go to the hospital.”
Well, I guess that’s one way to let a guy down. “I’m sorry, I can’t go out with you. Your date proposal has made me so intensely, violently ill, that I have to check into the nearest hospital immediately.“
I think I like the hair washing excuse better.
Let’s go back to Pikachu.
In one exercise, I pretended to be a passenger on the trains, violating some rule or being rude in some way. The student had to ask me to stop or change what I was doing. For Pikachu, I pretended that I was a guy who had cluelessly wandered onto the women’s only train. So, ideally, Pikachu would come up to me and say “Excuse me, but this is a women’s only car. Would you mind moving to the next car?” Ideally.
But remember that Pikachu tries to avoid using English whenever possible. So her solution to the problem was just to get off the train.
I got Pikachu back on the train, and explained that she needed to ride this train to be on time for work. With no escape now, she had to now use English to talk to me. So as a clueless Gaijin male who just happened to mistakenly board the women’s only car, Pikachu, this tiny little Japanese woman, comes up to me, taps me on the shoulder, and says “Get out!”.
I didn’t have to pretend to be surprised. Keeping up the story though, I asked why I was being asked to get off the train. Pikachu thinks about it for a moment, then points to my crotch and says, “You have that. That is not okay on this train. You must get off.”
Well, I guess the “No Penis Car” is one way of saying “Ladies Only Train”. Gentlemen, take your penises to cars 2-8 only.
Not wanting to let her off the hook just yet, I said that the morning train was crowded so I couldn’t change cars internally, and the doors had just closed. I asked her how I could get off this train car? I was hoping to get out of her “Wait until the train stops, and then change cars at the station.” What I did get was, “how about the window?”
I’m telling you guys, Pikachu is hardcore.