“Konichiwah. Doantashdemaschde. Anatawah. Makodonaldo. Genke des. Glando Canyono. Lentil Car.”
Out of the evening with a colleague and his Japanese wife and her parents, I got a few words. I’d learned a sprinkling of Japanese from my Japanese roommate, Akihiro. I understood that the parents were going to make the big American Tour of the West and were going to rent a car, go to the Grand Canyon and Ras Vegas. It was a perfect time of year for the trip, too. I said so.
“You understand Japanese? Since when?” My colleague was a bit of a dick, actually.
“No, but…” Glando Canyono? How Japanese is that?
The evening wore on and I picked up bits and pieces and chimed in once or twice. I had once been fascinated with Japanese culture during my Yukio Mishima phase, but at that moment I’d only recently learned about the Rape of Nanking (I was writing my book about Pearl Buck as an author in the Chinese literary tradition) and I was really angry at the Japs. At that point they were Japs, a little retroactive outrage at events before I was born, right? I got over it.
You probably have to be a person who can get totally immersed in the past through research to fully understand. Anyway, my outrage ended a few years later when I read Tale of Genji and in the beauty of that book found a way to forgive EVERYTHING.
Finally it was time to go home. I tossed and turned that night (too much tea) but finally got to sleep ONLY to dream in Japanese. Since my Japanese was (and is) a sprinkling of polite greetings and words for various kinds of fish, it was all boring nonsense. I would wake up, turn over, and dream again — in Japanese. Finally at about 6 am I woke myself by sitting up in bed (still asleep) and screaming (still asleep)
Wo ta shi wa!