Failing to be Swedish

The tiny old woman in the very bright hat turned around and looked at me. It was Wednesday night and we had just finished watching a Swedish documentary in a little art house cinema in Nakazaki-cho, north-east of Umeda (it wasn’t an easy movie to follow, but it was a good challenge and I think I got a bit out of it).

“Tell me, are you a Swedish person?” she asked enthusiastically in Japanese.

“Um, no, I’m Canadian,” I answered. She looked disappointed.

“But how could you watch the movie?” She asked, assuming as a matter of course that no Canadian could ever understand Swedish, no foreigner can read Japanese, and you can’t ever follow a foreign movie by just watching the damn thing.

“Well, a lot of the words are similar to (niteiru, resemble) English and German, and if I can’t follow what they say, I try to read the Japanese subtitles. I think I could understand quite a bit.”

She looked at me as though it were the maddest thing that anyone had ever said to her. She turned, said, “Jyaa, domo,” (casual enough in the context to qualify as “later, Bud,”) and walked away.

I should have told her I was Swedish. I wonder if she could have told the difference?

This entry was posted in Blogroll, japan, language, movies, Osaka, 大阪, 日本. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Failing to be Swedish

  1. Brian says:

    Hi Colin,

    I’m a writer looking for some specific information on Osaka. If it’s not an imposition, could you contact me via e-mail? I promise to only be as annoying as you’ll let me be and then go back to re-screening “Sisters of the Gion” and “Osaka Elegy” over and over.

    I just discovered your blog today and love it.


  2. pastilla says:

    I have to tell you, these little vignettes you share of life in Osaka just TAKE. ME. BACK.

    Osakan old ladies are like no others. “Jyaa, domo” . . . (doubles over with laughter).

  3. henrik says:

    haha! Once again a great story!

    now days your blog and are the only blogs I read…

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