Normally, if I didn’t complete a challenge from my 35 Before 35 list I would just opt not to write about it. However, as two of my challenges hinged on being completed during my recent trip to Tokyo… and didn’t happen, I figured it was worth a little post on what went wrong.
Number One on my list, and probably the most troublesome challenge, was to Learn Enough Japanese to Get Around Tokyo. While I had taken weekend Japanese lessons for nearly 4 years as a teen, I retained very little of it and probably learned more “practical” Japanese watching Pinky Violence movies. My initial idea had been to try to take some evening classes, but uncertain income and then incredible work stress made it hard to commit to paid lessons and even harder to find time for self-directed learning.
We did have enough foresight to buy basic phrase book that we could study on the airplane, but it wasn’t close to enough to carry on a conversation with someone and often not even enough to get answers to basic questions. Rick was much more fearless is walking right up to someone and reading directly from the phrase book, while I usually just politely nodded while a shop clerk babbled at me until they stopped and raised an eyebrow, at which point I would mutter “wakarimasen” (“I don’t understand”) and scuttle away, mortified.
It was interesting when Rick and I would approach someone together, him reading from his phrase book and the person we were talking to would immediately turn to me, assuming I was just humouring my “gaijin” boyfriend. They often seemed to be waiting for me to gladly translate for them in perfect nihongo and usually looked disappointed (or even worse, disapproving) when I continued in English or muttered “gomenasai wakarimasen”(“sorry, I don’t understand”) sheepishly.
I would love to learn Japanese one day, but I don’t really have a head for languages and really only speak French as well as I do since my parents dumped me in French Immersion school before I’d even learned to read. Maybe I’ll figure it out before our next trip to Japan. Whenever that is.
As for Getting A Tattoo in Japan, I hadn’t actually done any research into it before we left for Tokyo and tattoo parlours don’t really litter the street in Japan the way they do in Montreal. They are largely underground affairs, from what I understand, and can be very expensive. Much more so than in North America. I also hadn’t really thought about what I would have liked to get as a tattoo, so it seemed like a little too much trouble for what would have amounted to a novelty tattoo.
That said, I will probably getting more tattoos in the next year. Just not in Japan.