Sir, I want to practice on you

Trends & Culture - July 26th, 1985
What? More Japlish? Yep, and they’re beauts

by Miranda Kenrick

“Sir,” he said loudly. He was a student, in high school uniform. He had approached a western wom­an (no, not I!) in the lobby of a Tokyo hotel.

“Sir,” he repeated, “I want to practice on you.”

She must have told that story a hundred times. It was her favorite “Japlish” ever.

I collect such anecdotes and Japlish in any form. And categorizing all the bits and pieces accounts for many a hysterical hour.

Start with the names of Coffee shops: Jack, Betty’s Friend, Cry Baby’s Egg. Tasty Crub.

Move on to menus: “potted good gulp shrimps,” “brain special,” “crumb chop,” “hot dog and dessert dog,” “horsed oerves,” “chopped chil­dren.”

Have a drink: “the high­est black tea,” “profuse dairy drinks,” “natural gas,” “bear.”

A chewing gum wrapper says: “Memories of your elegant fragrance.”

A box of fruit cookies, “How sweet it is, how alluring it is, how eternally fresh it is, this forbidden fruit. All the sparkling morning, the breeze is gently warm and soft. Remember the sweet memories of childhood. There were fruit trees in the tiny old garden. They filled the air with wonder­ful smells. Sweet and soft, sweet and soft. On a bright sunny afternoon you can make sweet memories in the orchard with someone nice.”

A box of strawberries comes with this wrapping paper: “When you have strawberry, please prefer milk if possible. Adding milk and sugar, mash strawberry enough by spoon, then the Yogurt is made within it. The Yogurt contains plenty of lactic bacteria which acts strange­ly on sterilizing the other bad bacterium in human intestine. For this reason, he who wishes to live long, use always Yogurt. Fresh strawberry with milk pro­mote further your health.”

An ice cream shop iden­tifies its flavors in katakana and English. “Double creme” in kana becomes “W creme” in English.

A supermarket sign says: “Turkey, chicken and ram roll are in the frozen room. To our customers.”

Part of a tempura res­taurant’s pamphlet says: “Tempura is shrimp and other tasty deep sea goodies deep fried in oil before your eyes. Our restaurant has been doing their tem­pura thing for 70 years.”

A French restaurant de­scribes itself thus: “The interior is fully decorated with marvellous marble, and enchanted with the coiling light decorated with a mass of wine glassed glittering alike a gorgeous chandelier. Wines are su­perb all imported from original places in European countries sealed with the Age.”

A steak house “fosters authentic beef with deep affection… Beef has characteristics and physical property and mind as hu­man fairsex has them. You will never cat the beef with the same taste as you are now eating forever!” So there!

An Indian restaurant proclaims: “As spices are said flavor not only em­phasize taste and smell but also they are efficacious. Basis of spices Indian foods are exactly the source of health. Unconsciously healthy body will be.”

So, stick with spices, and you might not need to in­vest in a gadget to check your own blood pressure. The advertisement says, “You can know an anxious blood pressure precisely by yourself. Especially mini­mal blood pressure should be always in your grasp for your happy life.”

Japlish appears in many a register for overnight ac­commodation, from youth hostels up to deluxe inter­national hotels.

“To our guests under construction,” is the greet­ing at one hostel.

Another asks for “regis­ter of names lodging par­son,” “lodging birth,” “the other day lodging land” and “going tomorrow.”

Day begins in some hostels at 6:30 with “get­ting up and cleaning a poom.” You’re thrown out at 10 for “any person ex­cept those especially per­mitted can no tremain.”

A door is marked “stuff only.”

A vending machine says “toothbrash bending ma­chine. Good days, good foods, good my life.”

Propaganda from a hotel says “return to nature only 3 hour ride away from Tokyo! In snowy hills hares and foxes hop around and in streams trouts and chars swim about. Also you will enjoy the glare of sun beams and fresh ozone. Down at the foot of the 4200 feet over sea-leveled hotel, there are factories of cameras, watches, and mu­sic boxes.”

An international hotel coffee shop invites you to “enjoy snacks and coffee in a light airy room. Sunlight filters through young trees that change with the seasons: young buds in spring, green leaves in summer, red in autumn, bare in winter.”

The same hotel offers “an abbreviated but true tea ceremony — for even quite a stranger a trial will serve you somewhat appreciable of inherent im­plication of the traditional art of life — with a touch of modern fesability — making you realize, but for the grace of refined eti­quette and formality, spirit hardly goes much far in life!”

This notice has been around for some time in the garage of a Tokyo hotel: “Provided at this room with carbon dioxide fire extinguishing system. Alarm by voice is broad-casted before discharging CO2 gas. Take shelter to outside immediately.”

Speaking of garages, when the Immigration office moved, directions to Otemachi were posted at Shinagawa. Travel by public transport was advised. “Do not use parking lot as we expect a great deal of dustle.”

And on the subject of Immigration, the Alien Registration Law spelled out Ward Office registration requirements. “Those who become aliens, while in Japan, by birth or any other reasons” must register within 30 days.

Just how does one set about becoming an alien? Perhaps that’s a mystery for Sherlock Holes, as a Japanese person called him, to solve.

Move around Japan and Japlish is everywhere.

At a train station: “Please wait until the door is open before passing through. Passengers will line up in rows of two at times of conjection.”

At another train station: “Flowers and fish are here to be loved.”

At Karuizawa station, “You are prohibited from climbing Mt. Asama for it is acting now.”

A ferry boat has this sign: “First class lady toilet.”

Another ferry says: “In an emergency whistle and motor siren 7 or more staccato blows will be sounded followed by one long blow. Passengers will assemble on upper decks in calm. Attention to passengers when using Chuter to get to Life Raft. Sit down with your legs stretched forward in a natural manner. You will be down in a few seconds so feel easy and get sliding with your face turned up. Once down do not try to stand up in a hurry, get up only after sliding is well over.”

When Narita Airport opened, a slew of Japlish appeared. The airport limousine service put out a pamphlet that said. “We appreciate your cooperation for the prevention of bus jack.” It went on to say, “put your baggage in the belly of the bus. You can enjoy sweet accommodations and enough space and reclining seat. Please make yourself at home at your favourite angle.”

In the seat pockets were “clean packs” and “emergency cards.” The clean pack was to be used “if you feel sick or you can do it as a trash bag.”

The emergency card said, “Please show the driver a Red Card in case of sudden illness and a Blue Card when you wish to use a rest room urgently. He will take care of you in accordance with the situations.”

Tourist pamphlets produce such gems as “beautiful Nagara River, verdurous Mt. Kinka, scenic Gifu Castle and noted cormorants fishing on the River Nagara which are symbolic off he good old tradition of Japan, possess the optimum surroundings to have enough of the Japanese emotion. The resort hotels standing on both sides of the Nagara River offer the visitors a relaxing atmosphere to enjoy the romantic mood of the spa to their hear hearts content.”

A children’s “Sportsland” in Beppu includes, in its attractions, “lovely train driven by a tame monkey” and a “magic house where anyone will be quite surprised and utter ‘S.O.S.'”

Near the Sportsland is an electric science museum where “the wonders of electricity are displayed for children to be easily digested.”

Where else but in Japan would babies’ diapers be called “my pee”?

Or would a cosmetics company even think of advertising a face cream called Visible Difference by its initials? (Fortunately an English-speaking person on the staff squelched that one.)

Shopping is an adventure. Here are some signs I’ve collected over the years:

Outside a men’s shop: “Fashionabull. Men! We hope fleedom!”

Outside a bridal shop: “Weeding gowns.”

A department store banner: “Oh! Gift flush!”

A kimono shop: “Ancient boy’s kimono about 120 years ago used by high cluss famoly for automun and winters.”

An antique shop: Japanese antique sword case decoration made in tie crasp with our idea. Very good copy made small sord brade.”

Bath salts come with the instructions “dissolve 2 1/2 spoons in your bath.”

Sachets say, “a perfume accessory for sensible ladies. Surely fit you. Certainly you like veiling in dreamy fragrance. Also best for a acceptable present.”

A hair tonic “sinks deep into the scalp and transfer energy to assist the renewal of protein in the cells, where our body fail to do normally in lime. Terminal hair grows within a short time.”

Carrier bags are a subject unto themselves. “Little Jammy and Christopher,” says one. “Harajuku, mccca of dude, dundy or fop,” says another. “For the young and young at heal,” is another. And what about this: “How about sharing company? Let’s Chat. Popcorn shared will become fluffy white clouds. And a friend can turn your Insides into a Clear Blue Sky.” Or this: “Now baby. Tonight I am feeling cool and hard boiled.”

An advertisement for an apartment: “Your better life will be guaranteed by such an extraordinary best location, facility, appliances and arrangement,” it declares. The “qualified floor plan” description ends with “furthermore all your stuffs can be stored in the big closets.”

A post card advertises a disco: “Let’s dance good moody music like “Thank Goods it’s Friday.’ “

An antique dealer sends a card, inviting us to his shop. “Please call out us at the entrance front,” he writes.

I notice in a newspaper that a Tokyo radio station is offering children the chance to “plant rice in a muddy puddy.”

I clip an article that says the Ministry of Health and Welfare will “set stern sanitary standards for hand towels.” Apparently some used oshibori sit for days before being washed, and bacteria and germs proliferate. However, rest assured, “the Ministry plans to set a standard of just how many germs per towel will be acceptable.”

This report follows a riveting headline “Rites for Rats.” It says “about 30 solemn-faced santitation dcparlment officials got together recently for a religious service — for dead cockroaches, mosquitoes, flies and rats. Before an altar a Shinto priest prayed, ‘a quiet repose to the souls of these insects and animals. If you are ever reborn, we pray that it will be as something that will do good to people’.” Prayers out of the way and consciences eased, the sanitation officials settled to the rest of their meeting. They were assembled to discuss methods for exterminating cockroaches, mosquitoes, flies and rats.

A translation of a speech about the future of riding and horse breeding in Japan contains this sentence: “In foreign countries they get a good blood colt with chearper cost and bleed him good.”

An airline executive is giving a speech in English to Europeans about Japanese travelers overseas. He writes down the points he wants to make, then hands me the speech to write. I am momentarily flummoxed by “I must say that a kind explanation of variety of food which will be served particularly on-tray, dinner time are necessary to Japanese. In Japan very seldom you will be asked to have on-tray before the main table food, and since you have many variety of decoration, recommendation of the waitress will be also very much appreciated.”

A news release at a previous Expo says, “Item 6 of previous release said ‘Mosquito Class Yacht Race.’ This is our amateurish and poor knowledge mistake. Please correct to ‘Moth Class Yacht Race’.”

An office girl writes: I’m going to patty. So would you watch my job for awhile? Patty means is rest room (bath room.)”

Finally, while I am travelling, I entrust a chore to a secretary. She writes to say that she has done as I asked, “so please set your mind at east.”

It’s at east all right, where it has been for years and years — very, very Far East.