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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Stories From Japan: Something Sweet

My husband and I went to visit Nagano this last Japan trip for the first time. We had a lot of fun with the area that you can read here. When my husband and I visit Japan I'm usually using my Japanese to get us around or to talk to people if my husband doesn't start using his phone first. My Japanese is pretty good for getting around in Japan and making small conversation, but sometimes I do slip up and say the wrong thing. This is that kind of story.

When we arrived in Nagano the first thing we did was find the station lockers to put our bags in so we could explore the city without the load on our backs. We made our way to Zenkoji Temple. Seeing Zenkoji Temple was amazing, especially with the surrounding autumn colors of the time. I even participated in some activities while I was there like purifying myself and lighting incense. While we were there I even got stopped by a group of people who were filming a documentary. They asked me questions like what I came to Japan for and why I chose to come to Nagano. I never did ask their names or the name of the documentary but I had fun talking with them anyway.
Autumn leaves at Zenkoji Temple in Nagano, Japan.
Zenkoji Temple.
 After my husband and I explored Zenkoji Temple and took a lot of pictures we started making our way back to the main city street, passing up a bunch of locally owned food stalls. In Japan, there are many opportunities to snack. I find Japan is a snacking culture. These food stalls could not be passed up without buying something. My husband spotted a stall that was selling stuffed buns. We went in front the stall and start to get through the list of fillings they had available. My husband wanted something sweet, didn't matter what the filling was. He wanted me to ask the shop owner for a sweet filled bun. I grabbed the shop lady's attention and thought I asked her for something sweet. She looked at me with a puzzled expression. I thought I was saying the correct word so I just kept on repeating myself as clearly as possible. To my surprise that made no difference. The shop lady still looked confused. I was using the word okashi which means sweets. Keep in mind I thought I was using the word for sweet, the adjective. Luckily there was an older man at the stall with us who was listening in. He kindly injected himself into our conversation and used the word I was trying to use, amai which means sweet. The shop lady understood what he said he proceeded to serve my husband a sweet red bean filled bun. I told the old man thank you as my husband paid for his bun and we walked away from the stall, down the path leading to the main street.
The path from Zenkoji Temple to the main street.
After a few more steps I finally realized my mistake. "Jonathan, I used the wrong word!" My husband doesn't know Japanese so I continued my explanation. "I used okashi instead of amai. The old man was saying it right. I knew that word too, how could I forget!" My husband could tell I was embarrassed by my mistake. "Well, now you'll remember it," he said.

He's right. I will remember those two words now through my mistake. It's like that saying "you learn from your mistakes." Don't be afraid to make mistakes when trying to speak Japanese. Everyone was a beginner at some point in their life, and even the most advance speakers make mistakes too. The more you try the better outcome you will get with your Japanese study.

I hope you enjoyed this little story about my Japanese language mix up. And I hope it helps you overcome that first initial fear of speaking the language. It'll be rough at first but it will get better with practice.

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