Japanese essentials

Do You Speak Any Japanese?

Going to Japan? Here are some Japanese phrases to memorize on the plane.Some of these Japanese phrases are practical. Some of them are funny. All 10 will greatly enhance your trip to Japan. All of the phrases are pretty informal, especially the one about crapping your pants. Note that I spell the phrases phonetically in the bold text, but spell them with the most common romanization of the Japanese characters when explaining a point. Confused already? Don’t worry about it.

1. “Yo-ro-sh-ku o-neh-gai-shi-mus.” This phrase is absolute magic. Say “yoroshiku” to any Japanese person in any situation and they will help you with anything and everything you need. It’s impossible to translate literally, but means something to the effect of “please do your best and treat me well”. If you memorize nothing else before going to Japan, remember “yoroshiku” and you’re totally set. “Onegaishimasu” is a common word that means something similar to “please”.

2. “Yosh. Gahn-bah-di-mus.” This phrase means something like, “OK, I’m going for it,” or “I’ll do my best”. A Japanese would say “Ganbarimasu” before taking a test, or leaving the house for a job interview. Japanese people will crack up if you say it before walking outside, eating noodles or using a vending machine. Try saying it before using useful phrase # 8.

3. “Ara! Onara suru tsu-mori datta keh-do, un-chi ga de-chatta.” The literal translation of this useful phrase is “Oops! I meant to fart but poop came out”. Saying this useful phrase never gets old, especially in public places, especially on a first date and most especially if it’s clearly one of only 10 Japanese phrases that you’ve memorized. When in Southeast Asia, I especially enjoy muttering in Japanese about crapping my pants while walking past Japanese tourists. The reactions are priceless.

4. “Mo da-meh. Yoh-para-chatta. Go-men.” At some point during your stay, Japanese people will probably try to make you drink past your limit. That’s when this phrase comes in handy. It means something like, “No more, I’m already drunk, sorry.”

5. “Ko-ko wa do-ko? Wa-ta-shi wa da-reh?” Na-ni mo wah-kah-nai.” Where is this? Who am I? I don’t understand anything. This is what you say after failing to use useful phrase # 4 in time.

6. “Ee-show ni kah-rah-o-keh ni ee-koh ka?” Shall we go to karaoke together? This is a good line to use if trying to pick someone up from the bar. Think of karaoke as a transition point between the bar and the love hotel. Note – please don’t pronounce karaoke with lots of EEE sounds. It should sound like “kah-rah-o-keh” not “carry-oh-key”.

7. “Hon-toe ni oh-ee-shee des yo!” Use this one when eating. It means something like, “For real, it’s delicious!” Hontou ni means “for real” or “really” or “I’m not kidding.” Japanese people are always telling sweet little white lies, so dropping a “hontou ni” from time to time is very much appreciated.

8. “Ah-nah-tah wa ha-ruh no ee-chee ban no sah-ku-rah yo-ree u-tsu-ku-shee.” This classic Japanese pick-up line means “You’re more beautiful than the first cherry blossom of spring.”

9. “Ni-hon dai-skee”. Japan is the best. I love Japan. When in doubt, just smile, nod and repeat.

10. “Koh-nah ni kee-ray na to-ko-ro wa hah-jee-meh-teh mee-tah!” Japanese people love it when you gush about their country. This phrase means, “I’ve never seen a place so beautiful before”. Bust it out at famous attractions and you’ll meet with instant approval.

Essential Tips For Sushi Eaters.

Keep your sushi simple. Avoid rolls with mayonnaise or anything deep-fried.

If the highlight of your meal is a spicy tuna roll, you’re in trouble.

1. Pick Your Master Chef

Make no mistake: although sushi is often the main attraction in upscale Japanese restaurants, there is lots of lousy sushi out there. Let’s start from the bottom of the barrel.

Pre-packaged

I don’t care if it was made at Whole Foods with all-natural ingredients; the freshness and quality of fish in most prepackaged sushi samplers is laughable.

Why spent a minimum of $8 on a cheap sushi lunch when you can duck into an atmospheric restaurant and get ten times the quality for only twice the price?

On The Cheap Side

Fast food Japanese places restrict themselves to maki rolls when it comes to sushi.

The reason? The “rollers” don’t have to be trained as full-blown sushi chefs, and the fish doesn’t have to be properly cut with an amazingly sharp knife.

What You Want

Irrashai-mase! Tiarescott

Look for a slightly nicer Japanese restaurant featuring a sushi chef who:

Keeps a clean cutting board.

The cleaner and neater the work station, the better the chef.

Has charisma in his presentation.

You want to be able to talk to your sushi chef, joke around with him, ask him for recommendations.

Knows his rice.

Chefs in Japan typically spend two years’ training on rice alone, as it is the essence of sushi. Unlike sweet rice served at meals, sushi rice is repeatedly rinsed to clean up the grains and seasoned with vinegar and the chef’s own secret ingredients.

Fortunate enough to have a woman as your sushi chef?

That’s a rarity. For better or worse, sushi is a man’s world. If you’re living near Los Angeles, be sure to check out Sushi Go 55, run by the country’s first female sushi chef, Tomoko Morishita.

2. Ordering: The Three O’s

Trevor Corson offers the following guidance in his fascinating book The Story of Sushi:

“The order in which the customer requests different types of fish is not crucial, but most sushi connoisseurs begin with leaner, lighter-tasting dish and progress toward fish with strong flavors and higher fat content.”

Here are three Japanese phrases that refer to different ways to order sushi.

Okimari: “It has been decided.”

This refers to set meals and sushi samplers, menu items that have a fixed price and require very little thought. Still, there is usually a good variety of fish to be had.

Okonomi: “As I like it.”

If you’ve been around the block with sushi restaurants and know what suits your palette, go ahead and order fish-by-fish. Most venues will present only two pieces of sushi for each order – the idea is to appreciate the variety.

Omakase: “Please decide for me.”

Saying “omakase” while sitting down at the sushi bar is probably the smartest decision you can make.

Plastic sushi Matsuyuki

Sushi chefs know which fish are the tastiest to have arrived that day, and omakase gives them an opportunity to show-off their skills and experiment with presentation.

The only downside of omakase is the expense: if you ask the chef to choose what’s best, he will most likely assume you aren’t concerned with the price.

Many chefs will use less rice for an omakase order, so you may eat more fish without filling up so quickly.

3. NO chopsticks, NO wasabi, NO soy sauce

The most ignorant thing you can do in a sushi restaurant is to pick up a perfectly formed nigiri topped off with the freshest bluefin tuna the Tsukiji Market has to offer, and proceed to dunk the entire slab of fish into a dish of wasabi and soy sauce.

In old Tokyo, sushi was a finger food sold on the street. Many westerners traveling to Asia assume everyone uses chopsticks for all varieties of food – this is simply not true.

Sushi is meant to be eaten with your hands.

Toro (tuna) Adactio

Give respect to the taste of the fish itself. Every morning good sushi chefs are scouring fish markets to choose only the best catch for their restaurants.

A lot of thought goes into the weight, color, texture, and age of the fish… which is one reason many Japanese chefs are puzzled when their American patrons ruin the taste by overpowering it with salty soy sauce and strong wasabi.

Did you know that the vast majority of Japanese restaurants in the States serve fake wasabi, an inferior horseradish product?

4. Let’s Enjoy Eating Sushi!

Ok, by now you’ve got the basic protocol down. Let’s try some sushi.

Destinations

Step 1:

Make sure your hands are clean by wiping them down with the damp cloth provided.

Step 2:

Pick up whichever fish suits your fancy.

Step 3:

Insert into the mouth upside down so that the “fishy side” touches the tongue first. Get it all in one bite, and mindfully chew, enjoying the tasty sensations.

Step 4:

If you’re moving on to a different type of fish, be sure to eat some ginger to cleanse the palate and wipe your hands again to eliminate traces of the other fish.

Step 5:

Repeat as needed.

At the end of the meal it is proper to drink green tea. Congratulations. You are now a certified sushi ninja.

5. And Now For Something Completely DifferentKaiten-zushi

kaiten-zushi by jlastras

Conveyor belt sushi is becoming increasing popular outside Japan. Instead of placing your orders with a chef or waiter, diners simply lift their choice of sushi off a belt that rotates around the room.

The dishes, which are counted at the end of the meal, are color coded to determine price. Kaiten-zushi is usually much cheaper than a regular restaurant.

Nyotai-mori

Some rather twisted people like to pay a lot of money to eat sushi off a naked body.

Although women are typically the centerpieces, men can be used as well (called nantaimori).

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