By Hannah A.
Some things in Japan make me laugh so hard it hurts. Some things are so mysterious, I wonder about them for days. Others can be powerfully shocking to both my eyes and ears (but rarely in a bad way). Most, though, are simply, ‘WOW, that is SO weird!’… it’s hard to believe if you’ve never lived somewhere so far from home, but we really do live in such different worlds.
The local swimming center has lots of friendly, smiley staff I have become great mates with, especially since winter has come; the gym is the warmest place I can find. The language is always bizare, it can be any combination of Japanese, English, sign language, smiles, nods and all kinds of strange gestures and noises to accompany all/any words. But we usually manage well enough to have some sort of conversation at the end of the exchange exercise.
A few weeks ago the swimming pool put up some new English male/female signs around the changing areas. I think this may have been in response to me using the men’s only sauna for the first few months (by accident of course), or maybe having me around every other day just ‘inspired’ them to dig deep and get out their rusty English skills, who knows. Walking past them at the counter, they were extra smiley, and I knew something was waiting. Sure enough, I turn the corner to some lovely new signage.
You have two options: you can enter the ‘Man Sex only please’ room, or if you’d prefer, head for the ‘Woman sex only please’. I could not contain myself, I read and re-read them thinking, could this be more wrong and funny at the same time? How could they mix up such simple things and come out with these beauties? A simple ‘Man/ Woman’ in blue and pink would have done the trick no bother. In this particular case, trying that bit too hard couldn’t have resulted much worse. God bless them, though. After casually telling them ‘Woman only’ and ‘Man only’ is much more commonly used and looks better (no awkward explanations necessary), they changed them instantly, delighted I had corrected them. I cannot help but crack a huge smile every time I enter the ‘Woman sex only’ changing room.
Column Editor: Jacqueline Laibinis
Do you have any crazy, interesting, or just plain funny stories from your time in Japan? Send them our way at firstname.lastname@example.org