Japantics

Don’t You Forget About Me

By Natalie Laber

I don’t want to brag, but I might be the queen of losing things. There’s nothing these magic fingers won’t drop, break, or set down and forget about. Back in America, I can think of three separate times when I set down something worth over $100, only to go back for it and find it gone, presumably stolen. (A fourth time, a real low point in my life, I lost a cellphone down an automatic flushing toilet.)

But here in Japan, my recovery rate of lost items is a perfect 100%, and it’s happened so many times I have honestly lost count. I’ve lost my smartphone, my wallet, luggage, omiyage, and various items of outerwear, in a multitude of locales and circumstances, and I’ve been lucky enough to always get my stuff back in the end.

ueno-station-tyuou-4

I’ve lost and found so much in Ueno Station.

I’ll never forget the first time it happened. I was a junior in college, in Japan for study abroad, and my friends and I had made a day trip into Tokyo on our first day off from classes. We went into a game center, played a few lively rounds of Mario Kart, and then walked around outside for a while. It wasn’t until an hour later, as we were descending into the train station to return home, that I realized I didn’t have my IC card—or my wallet. Panicked, I hurried back to the game center, sprinted up the escalator to the third floor, and checked the Mario Kart machines. My wallet wasn’t there. One of the game center employees passed by, and I waved her over frantically.

Mario_Artwork_-_Mario_Kart_Wii

Not sponsored.

“Sorry,” I said in English, then tried to remember how to speak Japanese. Bear in mind, I’d been in the country for less than two weeks. I had studied Japanese for three years, but right now nothing was coming out. I frantically searched through my memories for even any little bit of vocab that would help me, and then, with striking clarity, I recalled the lesson in our textbook about lost items. We’d had to listen to some dialogue about Tanaka-san leaving a paper bag on the train, and at the time it had felt so pointless, but now, finally, it would pay off.

Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 14.40.46

Only ’90s kids remember Tanaka-san.

“I forgot something,” I told the staff in Japanese.

And sure enough, she ran through basically the entire dialogue from the textbook with me—what had I lost, and when, and what color was it, and what was inside, etc. I didn’t answer nearly as eloquently as Tanaka-san would have, but I was able to get my meaning across somehow. After telling me to wait for a moment, the staff produced my wallet from a back room, and just like that I was good to go.

[Sidenote, as I was typing this I suddenly remembered that after returning to America, I actually lost that same wallet at a Vons. And I never got it back.]

jr-east-hayabusa-big

I know y’all recognize a Hayabusa train when you see one. Anyway I’ve lost and found stuff on the bullet train too.

The moral of the story is based off of purely anecdotal evidence, but if I bothered to look it up there’d probably be statistics to back me up: Japan is a better place to lose stuff than America.

The other moral is that sometimes language textbooks actually really do teach you the stuff you need to know. Shout outs to the Situational Functional Japanese textbooks for keeping it real. Life imitates art.

3 thoughts on “Don’t You Forget About Me

  1. Pingback: April, Volume 2 | Good Morning Aomori

  2. Let me tell you a story about when I lost something.
    **Advisory: This story is real and really happened. Everything in it.**
    It had been a regular morning. My alarm clock went off and I immediately got out of bed. I woke up for school and had a craving for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Being the ignorant person I was, I got out the jelly and bread and spread the jelly on one side of the bread. Next, I went to the cabinet to get the peanut butter, and to my chagrin, there was none. I began to panic. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. Why was there no peanut butter? Why didn’t I have the intelligence to check before starting the sandwich?! My mind raced with a hundred questions and my palms became sweaty. I could feel the rage bubbling up inside of me like never before. I couldn’t just eat a jelly sandwich because that’s gross and I don’t eat gross things. Calming myself down, I decided to call my mother who was at work; she works as an astronaut and was preparing for her departure the next day. Fervently, I demanded to know where the peanut butter was. She told me that it was in the other cabinet so I felt better and made my sandwich. Also, she surprised me with telling me that we were going on vacation…to Disney World! This made me feel so much better then I did before. Don’t worry though, this wasn’t my MOST memorable moment. That comes later on.
    Later, I went to school, came back, and packed my stuff. We were going to leave the morning afterwards. I was so excited. I had never been to Disney and I had heard of all the amazing things it had to offer. Also, I had never been on a plane so I was super psyched. I packed all my stuff and could barely fall asleep at night. When my alarm clock woke me up the next morning, I jumped out of bed and we got on the plane. The plane was big and the airport was beautiful. Everything made me so excited. I sat down and was with my mom and my brother and my sister. At first, I was scared of the plane ride but soon I realized that it wasn’t scary at all. It was kind of fun. Then, I could see the smoke coming out of the wings. At first, I thought this was normal, but then when I told someone, they started screaming and soon everyone was screaming. Then I started screaming. The things like the bag things came down from the ceiling and we all had to breathe with them but I didn’t understand why because there was still oxygen in the plane. Whatever. I was so scared. Soon, we were crashing. Everything got black.
    When I woke up, I could hear the tropical sounds of an island. I was still really scared but I couldn’t find anyone. There was just me and the plane wreck. Why was I alone, I asked myself. I got up and started walking around because I knew I was going to need food, water, and shelter because I learned that in science class. Soon, I got frustrated because all I could find were bugs, and if you remember, I don’t eat gross things. Also, I found water which was good. Then, a girl walked out from the woods. She told me she was a vampire and I didn’t believe her but then she showed me her teeth. I was scared, almost more than I was scared when the plane crashed.
    She told me that she had eaten everyone from the plane crash. I started to cry because that would mean that my mom and brother and sister were dead. She went to bite me, but before I knew it, I was saved. I looked up and could see the vampire girl flying away, being held by some sort of dragon. I know this might sound ridiculous, but I promise I saw a dragon and a vampire girl. I wouldn’t lie about these things. That was my most memorable moment.

  3. Pingback: May, Volume 2 | Good Morning Aomori

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