Gregory: Aroused By Tasty Smells
How long have you been in Japan and why did you decide to move here?
I’m back in the U.S. now; I was in Tokyo for two months. I’ve always been attracted towards Japan and the Japanese language, going all the way back to when I was a kid collecting Japanese pressings of Beatles records. I also went to architecture school in Japan about ten years ago, that piqued my interest in Japanese architecture and design.
I like that when I am in Japan, it is evident that there is a respect for design and visual order. And it is a matter of pride to keep things moving as smoothly as possible, as to not inconvenience the traveler, the commuter, the consumer, and the customer.
What was your level of Japanese when you arrived?
I have been studying Japanese on my own, with private instructors, at Japanese schools and over the internet for about seven years now. Although I can have everyday conversations, there are so many things that I am at an elementary school level at – such as reading and grammar. I was happy that just two months of classes at Coto Academy helped my kanji reading ability and my grammar considerably!
How have you been able to use the Japanese you learn in the school in your daily life?
I have many Japanese friends in Los Angeles. Since taking two months of Intensive Courses I have become more particular in my grammar usage as well as my pronunciation. I have noticed that my friends have responded to this and are more willing to engage me in all-Japanese conversation.
Do you have a few funny stories resulting from studying Japanese to share?
When learning Japanese, what is really important after a while is to just listen and figure out “how do they say it?” Japanese learners often want to want to plug in equivalent Japanese words for what they’re saying in English, but it really doesn’t work that way.
For example, instead of saying “I was drawn in by the appetizing smell”, in more natural Japanese one would say 美味しいそうな匂いに、そそられた。This roughly translates to “The seemingly tasty smell aroused me.” Of course one never says it this way in natural English.
What is something that surprised you when you first arrived in Japan?
I was immediately surprised by the automatic taxi doors! It took me a few rides – and a few displeased taxi drivers – to get used to that. Leave the doors to their own devices!
What’s your best tip for anyone thinking about moving to Japan?
If you move to Japan to improve your Japanese, you will have done the right thing! You’ll be surrounded by kanji. Everyday, a few more of the kanji you had just been studying in class will pop out at you, and bit by bit the advertisements on the subway will start making sense.
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