Musings on the Japanese Language

So today at Kagura I got to ride a number of chairlifts, gondolas, and ropeways. Some notes:

1. The lift attendants are unfailingly polite. ‘Hai dozo’ they say (literally ‘yes please’ but here more like ‘here is your seat and you may go’) at the bottom, then again as you disembark. As I stood at the top of the lift arranging gloves, hat, and various other kit throughout the day, I could hear the top-station attendant saying ‘dozo, dozo, dozo’ as each person got off the lift. That’s something I can’t imagine happening anywhere else.

2. On one ride, I shared the quad chair with an older couple (perhaps in their 40s or 50s). Mostly, the woman was talking, and for the entire ride each of the man’s responses was one of the following:
A. Ah, so desu (lit. ‘Oh, ok’)
B. ‘Eeeee’ (no translation – guttural sound of agreement)
C. ‘Ohhhh’ (see B, above).

Those three responses were the ONLY words he spoke for the 10-minute ride.

3. Thank God for sushi. I went to get some food for lunch. Downstairs was what appeared to be a curry / rice place. There was a machine near the entrance which may have offered three sizes or types of curry, but as there was no English text or pictures I was stymied. This is a fairly common setup – you buy a ticket from the machine for the dish you want, then give the ticket to the server in exchange for your food (or in this case, for a bowl – it was self-serve. I tried waiting to watch new patrons come in — in hopes of ordering via mimicry — but no one seemed to be ordering. I was a bit bummed because I love Japanese vegetable curry, and it looked (and smelled) great. So, still hungry I went to the upstairs restaurant, where once again the adage about a picture being worth a thousand words was confirmed. Several appealing choices were pictured on the wall, including a nice-looking bowl dish with rice, a curry-type sauce, and some shrimp tempura and an egg on top. Now, after eating sushi for years even I know that shrimp is ‘ebi’. So in this instance I could have simply pointed to the picture on the wall, but I was saved that mute indignity by one of my beloved sushi words. ‘Ebi’, I said confidently to the cashier, and a few moments later she told the server, ‘ebi desu’. A simple gesture to avoid the nearly-raw egg (also pictured) and I had a hot, tasty meal in hand.

I still think the curry would have been better, but at least I got something to eat.

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