I’m going to Japan for the first time in a couple of weeks with a group of friends and am so excited. But also so nervous. I don’t speak a lick of Japanese–okay, that’s actually incorrect; I learned three words thanks to Rosetta Stone before giving up on it–and I understand that the Japanese aren’t taught English by adorable British-accented teachers from a young age like all of the countries in the western world are.
My first vacation-related encounter with the language barrier happened a couple of weeks ago when I was calling to make us a reservation at the three Michelin star restaurant(!!!) we’re visiting in Tokyo. The website for the restaurant said that they have an English-speaking reservationist on site beginning at 3 p.m., so I anxiously stared down the clock until it struck precisely 3 p.m. . . . and then pretended to be cool for another twenty minutes before picking up the phone, only to get an answering machine that spoke to me only in Japanese. BECAUSE IT WAS 4 A.M. IN JAPAN. Not everyone runs on Eastern Standard Time! So embarrassing.
When I called back that morning at 2 a.m. our time, a lovely voice answered in Japanese, and hoping I wasn’t being too much of an entitled American who doesn’t even properly know how to say “hello” in her language, I simply said in English, “I’d like to make a reservation.” She quickly switched over to English and began attempting to help me make the reservation, but it was cuh-raaaazy hard to understand each other. I was speaking as slowly as I could, and I have public speaking experience that I thought would make my pronunciation, you know, a pleasure for the people of Japan to listen to, but no. I made no sense to her. Especially my last name! My favorite bit was when she asked what country I was calling from, and I said, “The United States.” I thought that’d be so much less redneck than “the US” or “the USA”, but she just politely asked, “Again?” I said as clearly as I could, “The. United. States.” She asked, “Again?” The tone in her voice was so hopeful. I said, “The United States of America.” And she said, “Ohhhhhh, America!” I was like, “COME ON!” Apparently redneck is the way to go.
Today, we made a reservation for a hotel with private hot springs attached to each room next to Mt. Fuji in Fujikawaguchiko-machi (that doesn’t really mean anything to me, but I just wanted to type it out because it’s such an incredible word), and then I went to check out the menu for the traditional kaiseki meal we’d be served in our rooms. This is what I found:
The first thing that caught me was the “famous Koshu horse thorn”. Then of course there was the “cattle lava”. And then the “crowded morphism”. The very last thing I noticed was the
Isenoumi elderly couple grilled!
I have a feeling this is going to be a very strange trip.