Friday, March 05, 2010

Japanese Unsatisfactory Answers to Simple Questions


This happens a lot, and is very frustrating. Something comes up, arouses curiousity. You ask why something is the way it is, but the answer you receive...never fails to unimpress, and is so seemingly unconnected with what the real explanation must be that you are left bewildered that such an answer could be given. You gradually begin to realise one important aspect of the bigger picture: Japanese don't ask questions, and if they do, they don't question the answers. They just accept them.

Here are some of my favorite examples:

"Why are there so many vending machines?"

"Because they are very convenient."

Ten for every block? Three selling cigarettes and drinks...outside a 24-hour convenience store?

"Tokyo has 20 million people. Whey don't the trains run 24 hours? It would stimulate the economy."

"They need to do maintenance."

I suspect the limited train hours have more to do with the influence of the taxi industry than maintenace schedules.

"Why does the beach close at the end of August? It's 36 degrees celsius."

"Because it's cold."

Maybe cold has a different meaning in Japanese.

"Why can't I swim at the beach at the bottom of my street?"

"Deep water."

This was the answer I got on my second day of JET. It took 20 minutes of 4 office people looking through dictionaries to come up with it.

"Why can't I teach this class English?"

"Because they are studying for their English test."

The saddest thing is, once you understand the system, this makes perfect sense.

"Why does the principal spend all his time doing the gardening?"

"Because he is very busy."

"Why can't the kids bring food from home?"

"Because they can't bring food from home"

"Why do I have to carry this gaijin card around with me?"

"Because many foreigners are criminals."

That makes me feel great

"Why do Japanese people spend so much time at the office?"

"Yes, it's difficult."

And my favourite:

"Why did Japan attack America duing the war?"

"There was a war with America?"

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