How to Make Out in Japanese

One of the first things I did when I got to Japan was fall in love. It didn’t take me long, three or four months in I was lusting desperately after the English-speaking, US-schooled Japanese guy who worked at the same hotel I did. There was also another geeky guy I worked with who was very uncool and spoke no English, but I was too busy lusting after the other guy to pay him much attention. Anyway, I later found out that the hot guy already had a girlfriend and I ended up having my cherry popped in a love hotel and marrying the geeky guy, but that’s another story.

Growing up I had a rather interesting affliction of needing to constantly be in love with someone. I don’t know if it’s an adolescent girl thing or what, but the guys in my class at school used to rotate through my ‘List of boys I want to go steady with’ with wild abandon and I spent most of my free time deciding who was going to be my number one for that particular week.

Anyway, I was eighteen and still pretty immature when I went to Japan. While I didn’t write down my list, I still had one going in my head and I needed someone to be lusting after. After the hot guy quit, the geeky guy I was working with moved up into number one position. I don’t really know why, maybe I’d spent some more time with him and got to know him, maybe my Japanese had improved so that we could actually carry on a conversation or maybe there was no-one else who could be at the top of my list, but whatever the reason, I put my plan to go steady with the guy into full gear and I went into attack mode.

Except I had no idea what sort of things I should be saying to the guy or how I should be acting. He liked Japanese girls who spoke Japanese, so that was my starting point. Cue the need for some reference material in the age before the internet, so that was how the book, “Making Out in Japanese” and a couple of months later, “More Making Out in Japanese” became my Rosetta stones.

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Japanese is a very curious language. Although most languages have some sort of delineation between men-folk speak and women-folk speak, Japanese is more defined than most. There is also quite a big difference between casual language that you use with your significant other and/or friends and neutral language that you use with everyone else around you (there are also several other levels of honorific language and humble language that you use depending on who you’re talking to and what you’re talking about, but let’s not muddy the waters too much.) When you start learning Japanese you learn the neutral form of the language, which is great for asking for a kilo of apples or how to get to the train station, but when you’re asking someone if they like to be t-bagged, it ain’t going to help.

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I liked these books because they had little male and female symbols to show you what was appropriate for a person of your gender to say. I already sounded stupid enough as a foreigner trying to speak Japanese, I didn’t want to sound like a boy as well.

Doing the sex talk in my native language is hard, but I’m in two minds about whether it’s easier to talk dirty in another language. In some ways it’s easier, once you figure what to say, of course, because they tend to just be ‘words’ without the social stigma and connotations that you get with words you are more familiar with. It’s hard to explain, but saying cunt will make me blush to the tips of my toenails, but saying manko is a bit easier. It’s a phenomenon that I’m sure Chomsky or someone else of the linguistic bent has already explored in great detail, but I always find it fascinating.

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The only problem with the books was that they were written by a male foreigner and a female Japanese (which, by the way, tends to be the norm for Japanese/foreign couples) so there was plenty of stuff in there that wasn’t applicable to my situation. It wasn’t useful in preparing me for how a Japanese guy would act or react in a relationship and my Japanese significant other seemed to be drawing on all his knowledge of how foreign women “wanted” to be treated from hollywood movies. There were some pretty bizarre moments involving him carrying my handbag and telling me how big my eyes were while I was spending all my time trying to be cute and wearing cardigans.

Anyway, I found these books when I was cleaning up my room the other day so I thought I’d share. I should get all danshari and throw them away, but I think I’ll hold onto them for another 18 years.

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