The Kimochi Warui Diary
At first, Jotaro was unphased.
“Alright,” he said. “Which train do we take now?”
I was looking through my notes again, trying to figure out what I had missed.
“I thought that was the train,” I said. “I thought we were supposed to stay on until we reached Osaka.”
Jotaro pointed at a signboard next to us.
“Then what about this? What’s all this shit say?”
He was correct: this was the train schedule… But the stops were printed only in kanji. Line after line of tiny kanji, with no furigana or hiragana to help with reading them.
“It’s all kanji… It’s proper names. The rules for reading proper names are all over the place—”
“What the… So can you read it or not? Isn’t the only reason we’re out this far is that you know the language?”
“Yeah, but I mean, I don’t know… There’s over 2000 kanji to learn and—”
Jotaro smacked the sign with his open palm.
“How the fuck do you not know? What the hell have you been doing this whole time that you were supposedly learning Japanese?”
“This isn’t a fucking Spanish class,” I said. “You don’t just add ‘o’ and ‘a’ to the ends of English words. It’s a whole other fucking language with totally different rules.”
With no background in Asian languages, you don’t become fluent in Japanese—you just suck at it less and less until one day you’re able to read and speak well enough to get by.
But if I were like any of the people I knew online… The ones who bought the workbooks, listened to Japanese livestreams, used their microphones to have real conversations… The ones who went to office hours after Japanese classes…
My Japanese can’t even get me out of a train car.
“There’s a lot of fucking kanji to learn, okay?” I said. “And half of them sound the same, and the whole language is a fucking mess for anyone trying to learn it.”
Jotaro looked like he wanted to say more, but he stayed silent. He looked off to the side. “We got any of those cigarettes left?”
I slid our last cigarette out of the pack. It was broken in the center. I had to hold it together with my thumb and finger while Jotaro lit it. I took a drag to get it burning and then passed it over.
Jotaro turned around and looked at the scene behind us.
He pointed across the tracks, toward a box-like shack. It was the shelter you can stay in while waiting for the train during bad weather.
“Dibs on the box if we’re stranded here.”
I pointed to the cabin in the distance. “Go see if the people in that house will let us stay over.”
“A house in the middle of nowhere?” Jotaro took a drag of the cigarette. “Sounds like rape.”
“True. I heard rape cases are increasing in Japan. But they’re still one of the safest countries in the world.”
“I could easily grab any Japanese guy by the neck and throw him into that lake.”
“Yeah right. They’d go Super Saiyan on your ass.”
We passed the cigarette back and forth until it was down to the butt.
“Kill it,” Jotaro said.
I made sure my last drag was a good, long one before I flicked it onto the tracks.
DING! DING! DING!
The bell above our platform began to ring.
From the opposite side of where our train had come from, a new train had pulled up and opened its doors. We hopped on and, sure enough, it started rolling in the direction we were supposed to be heading.
We were back on the route to Osaka.