Monday, May 01, 2006

How Do You Say 'Thirsty' in Japanese?

An unfortunate thing has happened: just like in Australia, John has fallen sick soon after seeing me. He's pretty sick this time--fever and sore throat and whatnot, and understandably was not up for much more than sleeping yesterday. So I decided that after 2 days in Japan I was ready to set out on my own and still take in the sights we were planning to see.

Thanks to the always helpful Lonely Planet, I was able to navigate very easily to my two destinations of Nijo Castle and the Kyoto City Gardens. There is more signage in English than I expected, so I didn't get lost at all on the subway. And of course at the tourist attractions there was quite a bit in English. I was even fortunate to latch on to an English-language tour at Nijo Castle. Very informative, and also amusing watching a group of truly middle Americans learn about 11th Century Japan (these people were decked out in fanny packs and jogging suits and all the awesome 'ugly American' paraphanelia one might expect).

I was quite hungry by the time I finished my sightseeing, so I decided to get some lunch. My first thought was to just go into one of the many convenience stores and/or sample from one of the many vending machines because (1) it would not require really talking to anyone or needing to understand anything and (2) the food and drinks from the convenience stores is actually pretty good--nothing like 7-11 in America. I could have ended up with a pretty staisfying lunch, eaten in the park and everything.

But I was pretty hungry and wanted a bit more of a meal. Given that I only know approximately five words in Japanese, this would not be easy. But there were a few things on my side. First of all, a lot of restaurants not only have their menu outside, but they also have plastic models of the food. A truly brilliant idea. Second, having grown up being close friends with a Japanese American family, I have been exposed to enough authentic Japanese food that I can recognize a surprising amount of dishes both by sight and name.

I found a place with pretty plastic food in the window and recognized a dish I could order (tempura udon--not too complicated). Everything was fine, except that I was hot from walking around and realized that I did not know how to order a drink. I didn't see any bottles of pop or a jug of water, so I couldn't even point. They brought me hot tea, so at least that was a liquid, but I didn't even know how to order more. The hot meal made me even hotter, and I was dying for something cold by the time I left. So in the end I guess I still relied on a vending machine for part of my meal, but in the end I am pretty proud of myself for venturing out on my own and not fumbling too badly.


Adrian said...

Missed you at Nationals. We have plans for nest year. shoot me a e-mail and I will update you.

Jen said...

I'd say you did okay! Never underestimate the power of badly done mime, though. I was in a Soviet hospital with a very, very sick American boy and he needed to vomit. I couldn't find the word for vomit quickly enough so I ran into the hall, found a nurse, and mimed vomiting and pointed to the room. A bucket was brought. I love tempura udon, going on to less disgusting topics.

Becky Trombley said...

I don't comment often, but I have been following your travels! Give my cuz a smooch for m!

teana said...

wow, when you said you were leaving the country you weren't kidding. it also looks like you got out just in time. i just read about tsunami warnings for new zealand. glad to hear you're doing fantabulously. i know you're super stoked to have seen you survived on your own. have fun in japan!

Cynthea said...

Omizu kudasai?
to ask for cold water.

Or if all else fails, try saying Ice Water with a japanese accent. =P

IIsoooo Wataa poooreeeze.

When Ken was little, and we were travelling in Osaka, we taught him to ask for cold water.

So the next chance he got, he said, Omizu kudasai?
But the woman responded with Ohiya?
Ken and I were kerflummuxed, but my parents laughed at us. Apparantly they can't just say cold water like the rest of Japan in Osaka; they have to have their own special word.
good luck in japan, geetha.