Baka to Tesuto to Syokanju:Volume7.5 Me and Japan and the Language I'm Unfamiliar With
Me and Japan and the Language I'm Unfamiliar With
“Do you want to follow us back to Japan, Minami?”
At dinner, daddy suddenly asked me that.
“Minami-chan would have to be alone if she stays in Germany...”
Mommy put her hand on her cheek with a troubled look on her face.
Because of work, my parents would not be staying in Germany next February, where they spent 14 years of their lives.
“Eh? Onee-chan's not coming with us to Japan?”
My imouto Hazuki looked up at me worriedly. This kid's really curious and energetic, but she really sticks to her sister...if I don't go back with her to Japan, I think she might not know what to do.
“How about it, Minami? If you want to stay here no matter what, daddy will think of a way for you...”
Though he said that, daddy must be wishing that I would return to Japan with them. Besides, it's to be expected that they would be so worried about leaving their daughter who is in her teens alone in another country.
To me...that's really troublesome. Suddenly saying that we're going back to Japan; and I really couldn't imagine life there. That's because I've always stayed in Germany, I studied in the school here, and of course, the friends I had were from here. Daddy and mommy never mentioned anything about returning back to Japan, and we were communicating in German. It's because of that that I couldn't say even a single sentence in Japanese. To me, Japanese are foreigners, and if possible, I really want to stay here together with my good friends. Even if I stay in Germany, I can still meet my family when it's vacation time. But if I go back to Japan, the chances of me making friends there...I guess, should be quite little. If that's the case, then I...
“Onee-chan...aren't you going back with us?”
Just when I was thinking about this, Hazuki looked like she was about to cry as she looked up at me.
Really, this kid can't do anything without her sister...daddy and mommy aren't at home most of the time because of work, and so as the older sister, I had to bear the responsibility of taking care of her. It can't be helped that she would stick onto me.
Thinking about this, I made a decision. Even after returning to Japan, daddy and mommy would be busy with work. If I'm not around to be with her, Hazuki will be really lonely. It must be really cruel to leave a kid alone at such a young age.
For daddy, mommy and my cute little sister's smile, I decided to state my thoughts clearly,
“No, I'll go too. I'll stay in Japan together with daddy, mommy and Hazuki.”
On hearing me say this, my family heaved a sigh of relief, and their originally stiff faces finally let out smiles.
I was already very bored, and I went through the extremely boring school opening address that I didn't even understand due to the language. My classmates and I will now spend a year in this classroom, and the students started introducing themselves.
“My name's Ryo. I hope that we can get along well.”
After the boy in front of me introduced himself, he went back to his seat. It's my turn next.
I felt somewhat nervous as I walked forward. It's important to give a good first impression if I'm to mix into the Japanese environment. I must make sure that I don't do anything strange.
I remembered the self-introduction I worked so hard to practice on, and used the chalk to write my name on the blackboard. Then, I turned around to say loudly to everyone.
“My name is, Shimada, Minami. Nice to meet you.”
After saying that, everyone widened their eyes in shock. Eh? What's going on? Did I say something wrong so soon?
I felt a slight chill run down my back. Why is everyone looking at me like that?
“Shimada-san is a Japanese from Germany, and she just returned, so everyone, please help her out.”
After the homeroom teacher said that in Japanese, everyone seemed to understand as they nodded their heads. Sensei said that so quickly that I was unable to catch it…but it seemed that he just explained my plight to the other students. Ah, I know, I look like a Japanese, but my stuttering made everyone so shocked.
After realizing the reason, I relaxed somewhat—just when I was thinking that, a few classmates of mine were trying to hold back their giggles. Wha, what? What’s going on?
“It’s alright, Shimada-san, just remember how to write the kanji of your name.”
Even sensei smiled at me after seeing the blackboard. But I did only write my name on the blackboard…
After looking around, I found that everyone was looking at the name I wrote on the board. Eh? Is there something wrong with that?
I looked at the notebook in my pocket to check. Did I write my name wrongly?
I did write that on my notebook, and yet the kanji I wrote was Shimayumi Mikare.
Ah! Looks like I got something wrong!
I hurriedly wiped away the words on the board and wrote it out in romaji ‘Minami Shimada’. What in the world!? If I wrote it wrongly, just tell me that I wrote it wrongly! Only caring about laughing, aren't these guys too heinous already!?
“I hope we can get along!”
As it was too embarrassing, that was all for my self-introduction as I hurriedly returned back to my seat. Uuu...I accidentally made such an embarrassing mistake…
“I’m Sakamoto Yuuji from Kannazuki Middle School.”
The next guy after me introduced himself, and then walked back to his seat. Crude...no, this guy’s more like a violent person, and cold. Seeing him like that, the surrounding classmates started whispering things to each other.
“That guy’s Kannazuki’s…”
“The infamous devil…”
“That guy seems really amazing…”
Seeing such a noisy conversation, that guy just snorted with disdain. I guess...he’s called Sakamoto, right? He looks really unapproachable, but those kind of guys should be normal in Japan, right? Daddy said before that 'Japan’s a country with good security, so you don’t have to worry'. So that person just looks fierce, but he should be a typical Japanese guy, right? Hm, no problem. No need to worry.
As I tried to convince myself, the next student went up, and it seemed like a girl this time.
“My name’s Kinoshita Hideyoshi. I hope we can get along.”
I didn’t understand that guy’s Japanese at all, but it should be normal, I guess? But she was a girl, yet she was wearing guys' clothing. It’s weird, but I don’t really mind. That must be because she’s not used to wearing skirts or something that she’s wearing guys’ clothing.
It’s alright, it’s alright. I should be able to get used to this place called Japan. Daddy said that ‘Japan’s not scary at all, and no weird thing is going to happen’. I must believe in daddy.
I immediately shook off the anxiety that floated in my head and focused on the next classmate who was going to do the self-introduction. Should be a guy now.
He seemed to be mumbling to himself as he said slowly and softly that I could understand.
“…Tsuchiya Kouta. Interests are perv…no, specialty is stealing pho…nothing much.”
The classmate who said this revealed a digital camera vaguely from his point.
This, this should be normal...right? His interest should be voice recording instead of photo taking…to record the things the teachers would teach in class. That’s right, it must be like that! Just a small thing. It can’t prove that Japan’s full of weirdos…right? Daddy, I think I can believe you now!
I bucked myself up to get ready for the next student’s self-introduction. It should be another guy.
“I’m Yoshii Akihisa from Nagatsuki Middle School. I hope we can get along.”
The boy who bowed to everyone at the front—seemed different for some reason. He was the only one with a sailor uniform top.
I got tricked…I got tricked by daddy!!!
My life after this was dyed an unhappy grey. Since when is Japan not scary and weird!? Our class’ full of scary, strange and dangerous people!
Because of those three guys who had such an impact on me, I didn’t manage to listen to the other classmates introducing themselves. Unknowingly, everyone finished their self-introduction.
Our homeroom teacher gave a little briefing before leaving the classroom. It seems that today’s only the opening ceremony and homeroom session, so we could go home after that. Should I go home immediately after this? Daddy and the rest did show up for the opening ceremony. They should be home now?
Just when I thought that and wanted to stand up, I found a lot of people gathering around me. Eh? Wha, what is it?
“Shimada-san’s a Japanese resident, right? When did you come back to Japan?”
“Were you born in Japan or outside Japan?”
“Is your English good?”
The questions came over one after another, and I didn’t know how to answer for a while. Wha…what is Japanese resident? I was born in Japan, but I’m not too good in English or Japanese—erm, how to answer them back in Japanese?
“Where do you stay at now?”
“Do you have any clubs you want to join?”
“Did you get a boyfriend in Japan?”
Just when I was thinking, there were a lot more questions. I’m thinking of how to answer, can you please wait for me!?
“What are your interests?”
“What food do you like?”
“What’s your bust size?”
Ahh!! That’s irritating!! Can’t you people just calm down first!? I can’t answer them all! How do I say ‘please be quiet’ in Japanese?
I really wanted to shout out. At that moment, I suddenly remembered what I heard a girl say that morning. A guy was trying to woo her, but she looked irritated and just said something to quiet that guy down. Then, I should follow what she said.
I remember what that girl said was—
“Shut up, you swines.”
I tried to smile as I said that, trying not to leave a bad impression.
I remembered that girl who said that had a hairstyle of curls.
Did I express my intention clearly? I timidly looked at everyone’s expression, and found that the surrounding students were all staring at my face silently.
“I, I see. I’m really sorry.”
“This is the first time that I was called ‘swine’ ever since I was born…”
“Should be normal to say that in foreign countries…”
My classmates looked awkward and left me.
Eh? Tha, that’s weird? You don’t have to go. I just hoped that you could wait for me to answer properly. Did I choose the wrong words?
I wanted to tell them that I had no intention of chasing them away, but I couldn't express my feelings properly through Japanese.
“Warten Sie bitte Horen Sie meine Geschincite bitte."
I anxiously shouted out the German I was familiar with, but everyone just looked troubled as they smiled at me awkwardly and left me silently.
Uu…doesn’t anyone understand German here?
“We, well…do not misunderstand, please.”
I couldn’t speak Japanese, but at least I can use English to communicate with them, right? English’s not my strong point, but at least it’s better than Japanese.
“Ah…I can’t speak English.”
But everyone just responded like that and didn’t stop in their tracks. As I recovered, I found myself standing blankly over there.
I fought and lost on the first day of school.
Everyone in class kept their distance from me and started to look for others to talk with. They either got together to know each other or intended to go out with their friends (most likely, they graduated from the same middle school).
…I’m so jealous…
I really wanted to make friends soon, and I wanted to play with everyone.
I sighed deeply and packed my stuff as I prepared to leave the classroom.
At that moment—
“Ah, well…you’re Shimada-san, right?”
A boy’s voice came from behind. That’s great! I don’t know why I failed, but at least someone was willing to talk to me!
I turned my head around expectantly, but—
“Eh? What’s wrong? Why did you look so disappointed when you saw my face?”
Standing in front of me was the mysterious boy in sailor uniform. It, it really feels like my expectations were dampened…
Ah, no. I shouldn’t judge people by their appearances. Maybe I'd find him to be a nice guy after talking to him. Maybe there’s a reason why he’s dressed like that?
After being stared at by me, that boy tilted his head in a puzzled manner. Ah, like a little animal. He looks cute…I remember he’s called Yoshii, right?
“Hm? What’s wrong?”
After I said that, he said that really slowly, perhaps because he considered that I was still not used to speaking Japanese, and then answered in a way I could understand. What, so he’s a nice guy.
“Why, are, your, clothes…”
Anyway, I asked the biggest question in my mind.
“Eh? Ahh, you’re talking about this? Well, the reason, that’s…”
The boy in front of me seemed to have trouble opening his mouth.
“Because I overslept and panicked, so I…”
Would Japanese students wear sailor uniforms when they panic? I really don’t understand. This really needs a whole lot of understanding.
“Oi, idiot! Don’t block me and talk about such a stupid thing.”
Just when I was trying to understand the meaning behind that boy’s words, another voice could be heard.
“Don’t be like this, Sakamoto-kun. Shimada-san’s still not used to Japan. How can you call her stupid?”
“I’m talking about you, Yoshii.”
Responding with an unhappy look was Sakamoto, that guy who looked violent.
At that moment, Yoshii, who was scolded and called an idiot, glared at him unhappily.
“Muu…what about me do you find idiotic?”
“Every single action you do.”
“What are you saying! Don’t decide someone’s character based on appearance!”
“I think there’s no need for more when I see you like that.”
Yoshii and Sakamoto seemed to be arguing about something.
As they said that too quickly, I couldn’t understand their conversation at all.
“Calling me stupid!? You’re the stupid one here! Having such a pretty girl talking to you and you practically ignored her…”
“That, that person has nothing to do with you, you idiotic moron!”
“What are you saying!? You’re the damned stupid guy!”
Both of them started to quarrel with even more intensity. Eh…what should I do in this situation?
“I FOUND YOU ANNOYING EVER SINCE I FIRST MET YOU THIS MORNING! ESPECIALLY THAT IDIOT NAIVE FACE OF YOURS! CAN’T YOU BE MORE MANLY!?”
“THAT’S SOMETHING I WANT TO SAY! CALLING SOMEONE STUPID THE FIRST TIME YOU MEET, DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND THE MEANING OF THE WORD, COURTESY!?”
“I DON’T WANT TO HEAR THAT FROM SOMEONE WHO WORE A SAILOR UNIFORM TO THE OPENING CEREMONY!”
Those two guys continued to argue even more intensely, ignoring me while I was all confused. As they were talking too fast, I didn’t even understand a single word they said. However, I understood something clearly—if I get involved with these guys, it’s likely that I won’t be able to live an ordinary school life.
“Well, then, bye.”
I glanced at the boys who didn’t even look and me, grabbed by bag hurriedly and left.
Can I really get used to this school…?
On thinking about the situations I may meet in the future, I couldn’t help but sigh. I know that there’s a lot of difference in culture between Japan and Germany, but what I’m about to face seems to be worse than culture differences…
At least I should get back home before I get even more tired. As I walked towards the corridor, I found a familiar girl in the corridor. The classmate who was wearing the male uniform, even though she’s a girl—that girl called Kinoshita.
Kinoshita didn’t notice me behind her. What to do? She’s a girl from my class. I should say hello to her first.
I looked at her back. Unlike those two stupid guys, Kinoshita looked like an ordinary good student, but she was not wearing a girl’s skirt. I know some girls don’t like to wear skirts, so this shouldn’t be anything weird. I guess it’s fate for us to meet coincidentally. I think I should greet her before I leave.
I decided to do so and repeated the greeting in Japanese in my mind, I remember that if I want to say goodbye, I should say ‘sayonara’. I just need to tell her, ‘Kinoshita-san, sayonara’.
After taking a deep breath, I increased my pace and intended to call her front behind, but Kinoshita changed path all of a sudden. That’s weird. Where’s she going…ah, I see. The toilet.
I didn’t have the intention to chase her and say hello to her, but I still walked behind Kinoshita, who was walking to the toilet. My fingers were dirtied with chalk when I wrote my name on the blackboard, so I wanted to go to the toilet to wash my hands.
Kinoshita pushed the blue door leading to the toilet and walked in. Heh…so the blue door was for female toilets, and the pink door was for males…good thing I was following Kinoshita, or else I would have messed up and entered the male toilet.
I felt the refreshing feeling of the difference in culture and followed her into the toilet.
“““WOOOOOHHHHHHH!!! WHY DID A GIRL JUST ENTER A MALE TOILET!!?”””
A few guys who just used the toilet shrieked out at the same time. HOLD ON A MINNNUUUTTTEEE!!?? WHY ARE THERE GUYS IN THE TOILET!?
“Wa, wait! Please calm down! I’m a man!!”
“““WHATEVER WILL DOOO!!! JUST HURRY UP AND GET OUTT!!!”””
“Verschwinden wir von hier, Kinoshita!"
“THIS IS ALL A MISUNDERSTANDING!!”
I grabbed Kinoshita’s wrist just when she was about to say something, and hurriedly rushed out of the toilet.
“Haa, haa haaa…”
We continued to run, and only stopped once we ran down to the platform on the staircase.
“Muu…why did I have to run too…”
Kinoshita didn’t look too convinced. Didn’t she realize what she was doing?
Th, this person is…
“Bist du dumm!? Geh doch nicht in die Toilette der Jungs!”
“Wha, what? Why must you be angry with me, Shimada?”
Kinoshita looked like she didn’t know why I was angry as she widened her eyes. Even though I just came back from another country, I knew how disastrous it was to mistake the male toilet for the female toilet. Why can’t she tell? Since she’s a girl, she should use the female toilet! It’s because of her that I was treated as a weirdo too!
“Shimada, I know you’re mistaken. Everyone would often be mistaken, but I’m really a guy.”
“Ich habe das für dich getan! Geh ab sofort in die Toilette der Mädchen!"
I gave some advice to Kinoshita in German, even though she sounded like she wanted to argue (However, it’s unlikely that she would understand it anyway), and turned away to leave. Ahhh…really! I’m so unlucky today!
On a side note, today seemed to be a ‘Storm of Spring’ or something, as a lot of girls in the school corridors were holding their skirts down—near them, there was a small and skinny guy lying in his own pool of blood. Really, what’s with this country called Japan…
While having lunch with daddy and mommy, who specially took leave to attend my school’s opening ceremony and Hazuki, who hadn't started school yet, daddy looked worried as he asked me,
“Minami, how’s school in Japan? Are you getting used to them?”
If I got used to them, I’ll be treated like an idiot or a pervert.
“? Onee-chan. Did you meet something you didn’t like?”
Hazuki stared at my face worriedly. Oh dear, I have to be more careful and not make her worry for me.
“Nothing. Nothing bad happened. It’s just that the school had a lot of unique and weird people!”
Or rather, they were all weird.
“Really? It’s great that you can be happy.”
“It’ll be great if onee-chan can get friends.”
To be honest, I’m thinking that it would be appropriate not to associate myself with those people, rather than become friends…
“Minami, everyone knows that you’re a Japanese who came back from Germany. Were there any problems?”
Mommy peeled the apples that were to be used as dessert as she asked me.
“Un. My classmates asked me too many questions, so I even grumbled at them.”
“Grumbled? In Japanese?”
“Heh! Onee-chan’s amazing. You can speak Japanese so quickly?”
“Of course. I used proper Japanese to tell them ‘shut up, you swines’.”
The moment I said that, daddy and mommy immediately lost their voice. Mu? What’s going on?
“Hm? Daddy, what’s wrong?”
Daddy’s face seemed to stiffen. What happened?
“In German, what you said would be ‘Werden Sie schweigsam, ein Sehwein.’…”
Daddy told me the truth with a terrified expression.
Eh? ‘Werden Sie Schweigsam, ein Schwein’ (Shut up, you swines)? Isn’t that…too rude? Something crude that’s used to scold others?
Daddy and mommy looked at me worriedly. Wha, what to do? I have to explain myself clearly to those classmates!
“Tha, that’s because, I was joking with the friends I just met…”
I could only try to lie and go through that. That girl wasn’t my friend, but I did only imitate her. I guess it’s a pass, right?
On hearing me say that, daddy and mommy heaved a sigh of relief.
“Really, Minami, learning such weird Japanese just after transferring in.”
“Yeah. It’s okay if it was a joke. Be careful though, or you may say some really weird Japanese.”
“Un, I, I got it.”
Thus, the first day of my worrying school life ended silently like this.
“Exist, survive, live in, living now, the common applications of these sayings are—”
It’s been ten days since the opening ceremony and the school schedule gradually went on track, but I didn’t understand what the teachers were talking about at all, and that still hadn't changed.
The school did consider my scores, but they didn’t change the lessons for everyone, and continued to move at the normal lesson speed without stopping to explain this to Japanese that doesn’t understand anything about the language. I could barely understand maths (other than proving), but I was completely clueless about ancient language or modern language.
A sigh came out of my mouth, and I could only look outside the window and spend the boring lesson time. I had been melancholic recently.
I don’t understand anything the teachers were talking about, but that’s not too bad, since I expected that. The problem is that I couldn’t get along with the class.
Perhaps everyone got scared off by me calling them ‘swines’. My classmates who hadn’t been prepared to get ready for lessons right before school begins probably wouldn’t spend too much time thinking about the Japanese who just came back from overseas and said too much. I could count the number of people who interacted with me with the fingers of my hand.
“Then, Yoshii-kun. Can you describe what’s the pronoun of the term ‘live in’?”
“I asked about the pronoun in ancient language, and you answered in a Kyoto-ben. That’s really an answer that didn’t fit the question at all.”
“Eh? That, that’s weird?”
That idiot in class was holding an ancient language dictionary, and he made everyone laugh because of the nonsense he spouted. That Yoshii never answered a single question right no matter how many times he was called up. The rate he answered the questions correctly was worse than my rate of not knowing Japanese. What’s going on with his mind? Does he even know how to use a dictionary?
I just feel that he’s really stupid, but the classmates around us who were laughing away don’t seem to think so. They were shocked by Yoshii’s stupidity, but if there’s a need to put it, it’s more like they were ‘smiling’ back at his stupidity. I seemed to be able to hear my classmates say helplessly ‘that Yoshii, really’.
It’s been a few days since school started, and that idiot was able to mix into this class. With regards to this, I just feel unhappy for some reason.
“Unfortunately, ‘hannari desu’ is the wrong answer. The correct answer is—”
Sensei gave a wry smile and said the correct answer. He did explain the answer again a second time, but I still couldn’t understand. Maths wasn’t so bad, but with subjects like ancient language, modern language and Japanese history involved, it’s a whole long set of foreign alphanumerical series that I couldn’t understand. I could barely understand the terms needed for basic living, but specialized terms or old language or whatsoever are really completely out of my understanding.
In the end, I could only look outside the window and sigh silently as I wait for every single second to pass. For some reason, I just couldn’t focus on studying Japanese…I might as well skip that special Japanese lecture on Saturday. Since there’s only one of this lesson per week, it can’t possibly be beneficial to my Japanese.
I continued to wait for the end of the lesson blankly. The ancient language lesson that’s really boring felt like the minute hand on the clock as the progress rate felt really slow for some reason.
“—Okay. That’s it for lessons today.”
Sensei left the classroom, and the painful time finally ended. I should get back home soon…
“Ah, Shimada-san. Where are you going?”
Just when I took my bag and got ready to leave the classroom, someone called my name from beside me. If it’s such a lazy way of calling me, it must be that guy, the idiot who I just don’t like.
I subconsciously increased my intonation.
I specially answered back, but the idiot who called out first—Yoshii looked troubled as he scratched his face with his finger. What’s wrong? What’s with you calling me when you had nothing for me?
“I am, going, back.”
I held back my frustrated emotions and expressed my intent. I might as well head back home to prepare dinner instead of talking to such an idiot.
“He? What a sea?”
“Wa, ta, shi!”
On hearing that idiot’s response, I forcefully pronounced every single intonation one by one. Who would say ‘what a sea’ in this situation! Was my pronunciation of ‘watashi’ so weird? Or is he mocking me?
“Ahh, you’re saying ‘I’m going back’, right?”
At least it seems that he finally understood what I meant, as Yoshii clapped his hands together. Even that action made me really irriated.
“—Want to go back, but not ye…yo—there’s Homeroom after—this—”
Completely failing to notice my feelings, Yoshii then continued to talk. As I was really frustrated at lacked concentration, I could only barely hear the word ‘Homeroom’.
I slightly pondered the meaning of his words.
Homeroom? Ahh that’s right. Speaking of which, it seems that we have to attend some homeroom lesson or something. I forgot all about it since I wanted to go back home early.
“So, you can’t go back yet, so please wait for a while.”
Yoshii looked at me and smiled radiantly. What? I just forgot about Homeroom and wanted to go back early, was that really weird? Or is it that he felt that my Japanese’s amusing?
For some reason, when I see him smiling like that, I really feel very infuriated…!
“Ahh—yea, while there’s Homeroon—I got something—I want to—talk to you about—”
That idiot seemed to be blabbering about something again. Since he told me not to leave, there shouldn’t be anything else to talk about, right? Does he want to talk to me about something?
It’s true that it was my fault for not paying attention to him, but whatever the case, I still don’t understand what he’s talking about. The gradually venting frustration inside me made me glare angry at Yoshii in front of me.
At this moment, Yoshii smiled even radiantly and said to me,
………Haaa……? What, what is this guy trying to say…?
He smiled and repeated the words he just said. This time, I tried to pay attention, but I still don’t understand what this guy is trying to say.
Yoshii then had a doubt on his face, and that expression looked like ‘how do you not understand this’. But, why would there be any doubt…to me, this is a foreign land, you’re all talking in a foreign language, and there’s nothing weird about me not understanding you, right!?
“I DON’T UNDERSTAND!”
I increased my volume and prevented Yoshii from repeating what he wanted to say. This guy must find me interesting and is treating me like an idiot, right? Since he’s been treated like an idiot, he’s treating me as an idiot for being weaker than him in the language, and even treat it as entertainment! It must be like that!
“I’m, going, back!”
I really couldn’t take being belittled by an idiot who can’t even study well. Who cares about homeroom? I just need to tell sensei that I had to leave early!
I know that everyone in class was looking at me, but it doesn’t matter. Even if they deliberately increased their distance from me because of this, I don’t care! I have quite a huge distance from them anyway!
I went back home earlier than usual, spent some time shopping in the shopping street, bought some ingredients for dinner at the same time, and then went home.
“Onee-chan, this crepe’s really nice.”
During dinner, my imouto Hazuki took large bites from the curry-flavored crepes I bought back and said that to me.
“Really? I’m glad that you like it.”
“Un. I like butter crepes, but curry flavor’s good too.”
Butter crepes…on hearing that, my heart sank. I knew that Hazuki liked butter crepes, because I do too. I wanted to buy butter crepes today, but…the ones that were served were curry flavored, and even the sauces were chilli and oyster. The reason was simple. I couldn’t even do a simple thing like buying things.
Seeing my little sister smile so happily and innocently, my heart became even more depressed.
“Thank you for setting up dinner tonight, Minami.”
“It’s nothing, mommy. Don’t mind.”
Mommy looked apologetic as she thanked me.
It’s been a while since we finished our moving, and daddy and mommy seemed to be busy with moving. Mommy came back later, and daddy’s so busy he’s nowhere to be seen. Looks like he has to work overtime today too.
“We’re busy with work recently, so we should be late for the next few days…”
Mommy said this to Hazuki and me. Daddy and mommy are working at the same company, so if daddy goes home late, mommy wouldn’t be coming back home early as well. Hazuki and I didn’t grumble though as we expected it.
“It’s okay, mommy. Onee-chan will take care of Hazuki.”
Hazuki said this sentence that’s full of belief in this elder sister without thinking further, and of course, I won’t leave Hazuki alone like that. Or rather, it’s because I had to take care of her that I came to live in Japan.
“Don’t worry, mommy. I’ll handle the domestic stuff.”
I patted my chest and answered confidently. On hearing that, mommy finally heaved a sigh of relief—actually, on seeing that expression, I’m really guilty about it.
Actually,I…can’t do anything right, whether it’s in school or buying things.
It’s about close to three weeks ever since school started.
My classmates have already made good friends with each other, and every one of them were gathered together, eating bentos during lunch.
In this classroom with a happy atmosphere, I’m sighing alone.
I still haven’t blended well with this class, and I would make mistakes when buying stuff. I often couldn’t find what I wanted, and even went home a few times just to check up the Japanese before going back to the shop.
My Japanese didn’t improve at all. As for why, it’s because I used practically no Japanese at all. As I couldn’t speak Japanese, I couldn’t make any friends; as I couldn’t make friends, I didn’t have much chances to use Japanese. This vicious cycle made me really want to hate myself.
I could only continue to sigh like it would continue forever.
I can’t possibly continue to sigh like this while living in Japan, right…
When I decided to come to this country, I was confident that I could learn Japanese well. Now, I don’t have any motivation at all. The Japanese level that’s needed for everyday life was bad, let alone homework. I left my textbooks and notebooks in school, and didn’t do any studying or revision at all. The textbook was like new, not flawed at all…ahh, no, wait. I can’t say that. I wrote my name a few times, so it can’t be completely new. I was really hoping to do my best on the night before the opening ceremony, and I wrote my name in kanji on the textbooks and notebooks. Unfortunately, I wrote my name wrongly…
I remembered the stupid event that happened when I introduced myself during the opening ceremony. ‘Shimada Minami’ and Shimayumi Mikare’ looked so similar, it can’t be helped that I made a mistake! Really, it’s because I made such an error in the beginning that things got so bad…
I just feel that the reason I’m in this situation was because I wrote my name wrote that time, so I took my textbooks out and looked at my name column. That small block has the ‘Shimayumi Mikare’ that designated my unfortunate life, that wrong name—
My name label—wait, it’s not wrong?
What’s written on it is ‘Shimada Minami’, the correct way. That’s strange? Why isn’t it the wrong name? Did I remember wrongly?
Well, it’s doesn’t matter. I thought as I put the textbook back into the drawer. I’m the only one who thought that my mistake in writing my name was the start and reason behind my unfortunate life. No matter whether the name on my textbook’s correct, it doesn’t change my current situation.
“Oi, Akihisa, those C class guys from Daybreak Middle School said that they want to play a game of basketball. The wager will be the bread from the teamwork club. Are you in?”
“A basketball match with bread on the line? I’m joining in! I’m worried about not having money for meals this month, that’s great!”
“Okay, then let’s get our group members.”
I laid down on my textbook around and looked about the classroom, and saw that idiot and that crude and violent guy chatting away at the platform. I thought they weren’t on good terms... Since when did they become such good friends…? Well, it's not like I'm jealous anyway.
“…I’ll help too.”
“I’ll take part as well. It seems interesting.”
And then, the other two mysterious fellows joined into the conversation. Is this what they mean by the gathering of stench? Idiots would naturally gather with idiots. Humph, just like idiots.
I coldly stared at that group of idiots. After noticing my stare, Yoshii walked towards me in steps ‘doku doku’. Wha, what is he trying to do?
He’s saying some Japanese I don’t understand. What did he mean by ‘cyuu’? Does that mean middle school? Return back to middle school? In the club? ‘Monami’??? Did he just say mean ‘back into the club’? Middle school club—uugh, ARGH! I don’t understand at all! This guy’s Japanese and foreign languages are all weird! Oh well, better ignore him!
As I was really irritated, I decided to ignore his existence. However, that idiot continued to repeat the same sentence.
I don’t want to listen to him at all, but that strange pronunciation remained in my ears for some reason. I don’t understand what he’s talking about…and what’s with that ‘Monami’ at the end! Is he calling my name? But my name’s not ‘Monami’, but ‘Minami’! Since you can’t even remember my name correctly, stop calling me like that so directly as if we’re close!
Such an idea appeared in my mind, and the irritation geared in my mind started to be even more uncontrollable.
Why must this guy always make fun of me!? Doesn’t he know that I’m feeling really irritated now?
The idiot in front of me just smiled blankly, clearly showing that he doesn’t understand anything at all.
“Don’t, talk, to, me, idiot!”
I used Japanese to clearly express my rejection.
The moment I said that, that idiot was stunned for a while, and asked back,
“Heh? Pear…don’t kick it?”
Ahh, that’s really irritating! Why doesn’t he understand at all! Is my Japanese really so weird? Fine! If that’s the case, I’ll say it to him clearly in English!
“What a shit man you are!!”
English’s not a subject we’re familiar with, but with such basic English, he should be able to understand no matter how stupid he is, right?
“Ah? Eh? Erm, that…I, I’m a guy…”
Just when I was thinking about that, Yoshii answered me with some ridiculous Japanese.
I could still understand the ‘I’m a guy’—hold on…I’m a guy? What is this idiot saying? Why would he mention my gender?
“Oi Akihisa, why would you involve the gender now?”
The violent guy beside him—Sakamoto asked Yoshii in a puzzled manner. And then, Yoshii answered back in a shy manner,
“Because Shimada-san just said ‘I man, you are?’ (TN: watashi=I, our idiot would literally understand it like that) Didn’t you hear that?”
What? ‘I man, you are’? That’s right. This idiot probably thought that I was asking him ‘I’m a man, what are you’.
“Maybe she misunderstood me since I was wearing a sailor uniform on the first day.”
What’s that idiot saying? I wasn’t listening though. What…I’m wearing a skirt, has long hair, and he doesn’t feel that it’s strange for me to say ‘I’m a guy’? What an idiot!
In other words, to this idiot, am I a guy instead of a girl? Did he mean that?
“You’re mistaken, Akihisa. Shimada said it so fast that it did sound like ‘I man, you are?’, but if you separate them out, the correct pronunciation should be ‘what a shit man you are’. In other words, she doesn’t like you.”
“Eh? Is, is that so?”
“And you sure have guts for treating an angry girl as a guy.”
This idiot sure has guts… if he thinks that I won’t be angry no matter what nonsense he spouted out just because he thought that I’m a transfer student from overseas, he’s damned wrong! Even I won’t stand being treated like a guy! Do you think that I’ll be that easily bullied!?
“HALTEN SIE MICH NICHT IN HOHN! ICH NEHME EINEN STREIT!"
I growled at Yoshii. Very good! If you want to fight, bring it on! I’m not afraid of you!
While really itching to grab him by the collar and vent my frustration, Yoshii hurriedly waved his hands and said something.
“It, it’s not like this, Shimada-san! I didn’t treat you as a guy just because your breasts are small!”
“WAAAAAHHHH!! MY ELBOW’S TWISTING IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!”
I don’t know what in the world did he just say, but at least I could clearly make out the key words ‘breasts were small’! How long is this guy going to mess around with me! And my breasts aren’t small! They’re just slow in growth! One year later, my figure will be really good!
“Hahaha, this guy’s really amazing. Saying that her breasts are small in this tense situation, you’re really amazing, Akihisa!”
“…Uu…I, it was just a slip of tongue…”
Sakamoto said that to Yoshii while he’s laying face down on the floor. Humph! It’s great that you have a friend you cares for you so much, idiot!
Seeing their interactions, I felt angry for not good reason. To make Yoshii understand every single word I said, I reached my finger out, pointed at him, and slowly said out every single word.
“What a shit man you are!”
Ahh, that’s so irritating! I don’t want to stay in this classroom for a second longer!
Grabbing my bag in the meantime, I turned to head out of the classroom.
Just when I was in the corridor and ready to head for the exit, Sakamoto called me from behind. However, I didn’t say anything. He must be thinking of saying a taunt like ‘you dare to do such a thing to me’ or something like that, right? Okay okay, congrats on having such a good relationship. It’s great to have friends, happy?
Sakamoto ignored me as I continued to walk forward, and said,
“I only know him from just a while back, so I don’t really know his personality…”
It didn’t feel like Sakamoto was deliberately talking loudly at me as he said with a normal volume.
“—That idiot, he may be rather interesting.”
For some reason…I stopped at that moment after Sakamoto said that.
“Go, check, on, the, meaning, behind, what, that, guy, just, said.”
Sakamoto only changed his tone at the end, and said that to me in a manner that’s clear and easy to understand, separated word for word..
A sentence that was very clear, easy for me to understand, word for word.
This tone had a certain hope in it, and made me turn back, but I couldn’t see Sakamoto on the corridor anymore.
I rushed out of the school gate in frustration, but there was nothing I could do at home, so I could only just waste my time meaninglessly. There’s no need to buy anything, but I need to leave just before Hazuki comes back and pretend that I just came back from school.
While remaining in my room, I laid down on the bed and look up at the ceiling. The agitated feelings have calmed down, and now my heart felt heavy.
(Can I make it back to Germany in time…)
No, it doesn’t matter even if I don’t go back now. It’s not too late for me to go back to Germany once Hazuki gets used to the surroundings her. That kid’s friendly and not afraid of others, so she should be able to make new friends here. Besides, she’s at the age where she can learn best, so she should be able to learn Japanese soon. She should be alright even if I’m not around.
(Haa, that can’t possibly happen…)
I shook my head to get rid of the idea in my mind. Even if that kid gets used to Japan, daddy and mommy would still be busy. I have nothing to say about imagining my young imouto staying alone in our house and eating dinner alone.
(In the end, the best way is still to get used to Japan fast…)
No matter how hard I think, it can’t change anything. I have to get used to this country and learn Japanese, that’s the best way. I understand this, definitely, but…
But I, I just couldn’t motivate myself! So what if I can really learn Japanese? There’s only those guys staying far away from me in class or those idiots that irritate me. Do I need to learn Japanese just to communicate with these people? That’s stupid!
(Even so, I can’t just leave it like this…)
Unable to do anything, I could only sigh and take out the Sino-German dictionary. I was just flipping through, and had no intention of checking something out.
Ba [chia] tari (retribution) would mean ‘Verdammater’. [Ba] I (twice) would mean doppelt, [ba] ibai (buy and sell) would mean kaufund…
It’s okay if it’s just ordinary Japanese conversations, but I don’t think I could learn kanji, hiragana and katakana all at one go. Why can’t we use hiragana? I can’t possibly learn them if I’m not locally born!
I continued to try and hold back the urge to throw the dictionary aside, and flipped to the next page.
Bai [ten] (stall) would mean kiosh, ba[ka] here would mean ‘dummkopf’...
On seeing the word ‘baka’, I suddenly remembered what happened in school today. Speaking of which, what did he say when I was about to go home.
As I started to recall, the rage in me started to rise up. I was treated like an idiot by that idiot again and again and again! Since I’m bored now, let’s check up what that idiot’s trying to say! I’ll answer him back in Japanese, and it’ll be my turn to treat him like an idiot!
I got up from my bed and grabbed that dictionary from the table.
(Let me see, what he said was…)
I wrote what he said according to memory. As that idiot was like a broken recorder, repeating the same words over and over again, I was about to remember those strange pronunciations
’cyuu dore buniiro monami.’
I tried looking for words with similar pronunciation. Is it ‘cyunu budore’? Or is it ‘cyuu nubudore’?
I tried looking for it, but I couldn’t find a similar word in Japanese. Would that mean ‘middle (school)? Paddler, Minami’? But there’s no such thing as ‘middle’ in the dictionary. Besides, that phrasing was too weird…
(Uu? This means…)
I was wondering about ‘Monami’. At first, I thought that he just mistook my name ‘Minami’…but on thinking further, that idiot’s been calling me ‘Shimada-san’. Was it not Minami, but something else?
(Monami, monami…mon amie?)
I suddenly recalled that when I was young, before Hazuki was born, our family went on a trip together. On the way, I kept feeling that someone was calling my name, and couldn’t help but turn around every time I heard that name. Once I had that, daddy and mommy would always smile and explain that they weren’t calling Minami, but mom amie. I remember that phrase is…
I moved from the desk to the cupboard and reached out for a photo album in the cupboard. After flipping a few pages, I suddenly remembered that memorabilia photo.
There’s also a label by mommy at the bottom of the photo.
“Minami 3 Jahre alt in Frankreich."
I rechecked the words that idiot said on the notebook.
’cyuu dore buniiro monami.’
I even thought that the pronunciation was weird even for Japanese…was that supposed to be French?
On realizing that the sentence may not be in Japanese, I couldn’t help but be mindful of what that idiot was trying to say. I kept my stationery as fast as I could and walked out of the house. There should be a library nearby…!
Once I reached the library, I borrowed an English-French dictionary and an English-German dictionary and started to look for the meaning behind those words. Though the librarian frowned as I was wearing a school uniform, she didn’t say much.
’cyuu dore buniiro monami.’…
I buried myself into the dictionary, trying to understand the words in the dictionary. As there was no French-German dictionary, I could only translate French into English before translating it into German. This is rather difficult, as the only clue’s the pronunciation of that idiot, so I don’t understand how those words were to be jumbled together. That’s the worst part.
I stayed in the library until it was about to close, and finally understood the meaning of the sentence.
’cyuu dore buniiro monami.’ Actually was ‘Tu ne voudrais pas devenir mon amie’.
‘Tu ne voudrais pas’ would be the second-person pronoun of ‘could you’ in English, ‘devenir’ would be ‘become’, and lastly ‘mon amie’ in English…
‘Tu ne voudrais pas devenir mon amie?”
If I translated that into English, it would mean—
‘Could you become my friend?’
At that moment, I lost my breath.
There was no need to translate it into German. I was able to understand what that guy was thinking with just this English sentence.
Why French? Thinking about this, his face appeared in my mind. Did he think that I came from France? Normally, this mistake couldn’t possibly happen…but though impossible, it’s not strange for this to happen if it’s that idiot.
‘Tu ne voudrais pas devenir mom amie?”
I remembered the first time he said that to it. It was ten days after school started—unable to mix into the class well, I was about to go home and forgot about Homeroom.
‘Tu ne voudrais pas devenir mom amie?”
At that moment, nobody cared about me then, and he was the only one who stopped me, and even said such a thing. He was an idiot, one who couldn’t even speak Japanese well, let alone English—and yet he used a foreign language he was unfamiliar with to talk to me.
I looked down at the piece of paper that was scrawled all over the place just to check the meaning of that one sentence. That’s the time and effort I spent to understand this single sentence, and that wasn’t easy—I guess that idiot didn’t have it easy too. No, because it’s that idiot, it wouldn’t be strange for him to have spent much more time and effort than me. He translated Japanese into French, used a dictionary to check the intonations behind these words, and then used that to check the pronunciation. He translated that into a language he was unfamiliar with, and yet he tried to pronounce it. I could understand how tough that was.
But that idiot was willing to work hard because of me.
He was willing to work hard and study a dictionary of a language he wasn’t familiar with, all just for me, who only knew him for ten days then and didn’t interact much with him.
He must be someone clumsy who did everything to no avail, right? If it wasn’t, he wouldn’t mix up German with French, and wouldn’t deliberately come over to speak to me. If it was me, I would ask sensei first. If I have no confidence in my pronunciation, I would write it on a piece of paper to him. Since I’ve already came back to Japan, he could have just said Japanese to me slowly, and I wouldn’t have misunderstood him.
But that idiot mixed up which country I came from, and spent so much time checking up on French, and even frustrated me because he messed up, and he even got scolded badly by me. Yet he was still willing to talk to me. Really, how stupid, how useless is he…and why is he so kind?
Though I’m in the library, a public place, I couldn’t prevent my eyes from heating up.
--I’m so happy.
That emotion rushed up my head simply. In this school, where I had no friends, no way to communicate through language, and where I thought I had to live alone, someone was willing to devote so much for me. I really felt blessed, and this alone made me feel that there’s meaning to continue persevering.
The female librarian came to me unknowingly, and stared at me worriedly.
“Sorry. I, I’m alright.”
I wiped away the tears in my eyes and smiled at the librarian. The librarian was shocked, yet she seemed to accept my explanation.
“I’ll, go now.”
I started packing the stuff that’s scattered all over the place. On seeing me like this, the librarian turned back, and was ready to return to her seat.
Now, it’s my turn to call her. Since it’s rare for me to come to the library, let’s borrow a book back.
“Yes, what is it?”
I asked the librarian for the location of the book I want to borrow.
“Is there, a book, for Japanese conversation?”
Let’s leave essays alone for now. At least I want to understand how to talk…and only then can I understand what that person was saying.
When I reached school the next day, I called out at the idiot the moment I saw him.
“Eh? Is, is there something, Shimada-san?”
Yoshii widened his eyes, perhaps surpised that I called him. Really, there’s no need to be so shocked—well, of course he would be. I did bad mouth him badly yesterday.
Seeing him so shocked, I carefully said every single word to prevent him from mistaking.
“Wa, ta, shi, ha.”
“Uu, ‘what a shit’? Sorry. Did I do something to anger you…?”
Yoshii seemed to misunderstand again. Is it because I separated every single syllable?
This idiot, now he’s hearing I (watashi) as ‘what a shit’. Even if it sounds a little similar, how can he be thinking that I’m scolding him in this situation! Is my ‘watashi’ pronunciations so weird? Or did he have quite the deep impression on the ‘what a shit’?
“It’s not that. I—”
I noticed it too the moment I spoke. It’s true that the ‘watashi’ I said sounded similar to ‘what a shit’.
What do I do now? I lowered my head and pondered. If that’s the case, I’ll change the way I call myself. I don’t want him to be scared every time I say ‘I’.
My mind suddenly recalled an image of a certain unique way of calling oneself in a TV program I saw before eating dinner.
Can’t be helped. Even though it sounded weird, I’ll just give up on the ‘watashi’, as from now onewards…I’ll definitely be spending more time with this idiot.
“Well, Yoshii. ‘’Uchi’’ wa—”
- Note that Minami's text was given in katakana to specify the accent.
- Wait, please listen to me!
- Let’s get out, Kinoshita!
- Are you an idiot!? Why did you go into the guys’ toilet!?
- I’m doing this for your own good! From today onward, you better go to the female toilet!
- あり、おり, はべり、いまそかり, ari , ori, haberi, imasokari, given in hiragana since Minami couldn’t understand
- はんあり, elegant in kansai Japanese, also known as a name of a certain kind of tofu brand mascot
- Kyoto dialect, basicly part of Kansai dialect
- I’ve never been so humiliated in my life! You must be ready now if you dared to say such things!
- WHAT DID YOU SAY
- Minami, 3 years old, in France.
- Means I, but as an Osaka dialect for girls.