Chapter 22:

Nagano: Chapter 18

The Kimochi Warui Diary

At first, Jotaro was unphased. Bookmark here

“Alright,” he said. “Which train do we take now?”Bookmark here

I was looking through my notes again, trying to figure out what I had missed. Bookmark here

“I thought that was the train,” I said. “I thought we were supposed to stay on until we reached Osaka.”Bookmark here

Jotaro pointed at a signboard next to us. Bookmark here

“Then what about this? What’s all this shit say?”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“It’s all kanji… It’s proper names. The rules for reading proper names are all over the place—” Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, but I mean, I don’t know… There’s over 2000 kanji to learn and—” Bookmark here

Jotaro smacked the sign with his open palm. Bookmark here

“How the fuck do you not know? What the hell have you been doing this whole time that you were supposedly learning Japanese?”Bookmark here

‘Supposedly learning?’Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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…Bookmark here

My Japanese can’t even get me out of a train car.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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?”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Jotaro turned around and looked at the scene behind us. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

“Dibs on the box if we’re stranded here.”Bookmark here

I pointed to the cabin in the distance. “Go see if the people in that house will let us stay over.”Bookmark here

“A house in the middle of nowhere?” Jotaro took a drag of the cigarette. “Sounds like rape.”Bookmark here

“True. I heard rape cases are increasing in Japan. But they’re still one of the safest countries in the world.”Bookmark here

“I could easily grab any Japanese guy by the neck and throw him into that lake.”Bookmark here

“Yeah right. They’d go Super Saiyan on your ass.”Bookmark here

We passed the cigarette back and forth until it was down to the butt. Bookmark here

“Kill it,” Jotaro said. Bookmark here

I made sure my last drag was a good, long one before I flicked it onto the tracks.Bookmark here

DING! DING! DING!Bookmark here

The bell above our platform began to ring. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

We were back on the route to Osaka.Bookmark here

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