「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


A Japanese lesson

By David Yenches


My first experience of living around and teaching Japanese people was in Singapore in 1980. I'm American, but had lived in England and Iran before getting a teaching job there, so I flew out from England. It was my first time in Southeast Asia.

At the time, Japan was already the second-biggest economy in the world, with a nominal GDP of over 1 trillion dollars, so there were many Japanese working and living in Singapore — a hub of the Southeast Asian business world and a melting pot of Chinese, Malays and Indians.

Interest in things Japanese had been growing worldwide even when I was living in London. Turning Japanese, a song by English band The Vapors, was a hit in 1980, and there were growing numbers of Japanese and sushi restaurants.

One early experience I had at the language school in Singapore was with a Japanese private student who was an executive with the local branch of a major Japanese bank. He told me that in Japan he lived in a mansion and took a limousine from Narita Airport to his home. Based on the original meanings of "mansion" as a huge house a millionaire might live in, and "limousine" as a big, long, expensive car with a driver, I thought my student must be very rich. Little did I know of Japanese English.

Another Japanese student at the school introduced himself to me and gave his name, and I thought he said "Mickey Mouse." In fact, he had given his family name, Miki, first, Japanese style, and had shortened his given name to Masa from Masahiro. Again, I was totally confused.

Japanese food and restaurants in Singapore were all the rage among people at my language school, and we were often introduced to new foods by students at end-of-term get-togethers. These included sushi, sashimi, sukiyaki and kushiage.

My British wife at the time was so impressed with sushi that she decided to buy some fresh sliced raw fish and make vinegared rice for hand-forming nigiri sushi at home. She also bought a tube of grated Japanese horseradish from the big Japanese supermarket nearby. When I came home, she looked so disappointed because the rice grains wouldn't stick together; each nigiri fell apart because she had used Thai long grain rice instead of Japanese or other East Asian short grain rice, which is stickier. Live and learn, I guess.

In my three years there, the Japanese students I met were all like the stereotypes you know: polite, modest, a little shy, hard-working and serious. If only I had known more about Japanese before going there!



The Japan Times ST: April 1, 2016

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート




2018年6月29日号    試読・購読   デジタル版