[The American Years]

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Greetings from Japan, where some cars have mysterious stickers on the back, one green and yellow, the other orange and yellow. For your benefit, I have learned a little about these. Okay, it's not for your benefit at all, but you still have to hear about it.

First this one.

The green and yellow are for new drivers. As I understand it, after one gets a driver license, this sticker must adorn the new driver's car for one year or so. I think this is to warn other drivers, or make them more patient when the newbie is taking their sweet time making that right turn against traffic to get into the convenience store.

The orange and yellow is not for new drivers, but rather for old ones, aged ones. I believe it's not a requirement, but voluntarily purchased and placed on the senior citizen's cars. Again, to warn drivers. The real warning is not about the skill or reflexes of the driver of that car. Rather it's about the steep fines you'll get slapped with if you cut off or mistreat a driver with this emblem.

There is no similar sticker for foreigners driving in Japan, though we need it the most. The new driver and the old have far more training sitting on the right side of the car and driving on the left side of the road.

I am definitely going to get one or both of these Japanese car stickers to adorn my car back in the states. It might make 3 or 4 Japanese people in all of Kentucky laugh out loud, while the rest of everyone has no clue what's going on. Completely worth it.


A regular and copyrighted feature of this blog:

JITDTLSLNET (Japanese is Too Difficult to Learn So Let's Not Even Try)

The honorific 'O'. By putting the long "O" sound in front of words, it makes them honorary. Which is fine unless you are just learning the language and have a weak vocabulary. Sometimes it's no problem. The word for money "kaneh" is always prefaced with "Oh". So is gift. Miyage is always pronounced as Omiyage. I learned both those words with the "Oh" in front and only learned later that it was tacked on to increase the respect for the noun.

Always respect your nouns.

However, it gets in the way when you don't know it's coming. Two examples.

We checked in to a hotel and the Japanese lady was going on and on about the Oheya. I had no idea what she was talking about until later when I realized she was talking about the room. Heya is room, but she totally lost me.

The better example was when Kathleen was at the grocery store. She had picked up a nice round watermelon and was toting it as grocery carts are a bit smaller over here. The grocer is ready for this. Kathleen was approached by an employee and by hand motions it was clear that he was going to take the watermelon up to the front for her and hold it there. He asked her what her name was, putting the honorific "O" in front of the word for name.

Kathleen knows the word for name, and would have got it pretty quickly, the "O" threw her. She tried to sort out what he was saying by repeating it back to herself slowly. So she started back with "Oh.." This was all the grocer needed (or cared to wait for). He decided that her name was 'Oh-san' and he wrote it on the watermelon and took it up front for her. So of course at the front Kathleen had to ask for Mrs. Oh's melon to complete the transaction.

It makes the Japanese almost Irish. O'Malley, O'Tool, O'Kaneh, O'miyage.


It snowed on us! Right here in Nagoya, it was almost enough to scrape together a snowball or two, and stayed on the ground for half a day. Pretty nice, and probably the only snow for the year in this area.


Below is a slide show from our early January trip to Kyoto. It was our second trip, so we were able to do some exploring of sites that are off the beaten tourist path. Many of these places we were the only foreigners there, which is odd in Kyoto.

The shrine with the many orange Tori gates is Fushimi Inari. It makes a brief appearance in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha. Of course in the movie they show only the front side of the torii. The back has writing saying which company has donated the torii on which date. I was glad I couldn't read it, as it would have taken away from the solemnity to see "Toshi's Dry Cleaning, donated 2002" on the back of an impressive tori.

The kids can only stand temple after shrine after garden for so long, so we went to a steam locamotive museum. It was pretty great actually. Did you know they drive their trains on the left side of the tracks...?

The kids were having fun trying to make "ghost pictures" when it was near dark. So look out for those.

We stayed in another Ryokan, or traditional family run inn. This was the best one for the kids, as there was a girl there to make friends with, as well as a dog and a cat.

Our last visit was a small temple up in the mountains, one of the oldest in Japan. It had the oldest tea field in Japan, for those of you interested in old tea fields.

"Never rely on the glory of the morning nor the smiles of your mother-in-law"
-Japanese Proverb

(No offense Marsha! You have a lovely smile!)

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