Mag2.com, which presents a selection of articles from various online sources, recently featured a humorous piece filed from New York City by locally based businessman Katsuaki Takahashi. In New York these days, he reports, T-shirts bearing weird or meaningless Japanese words and phrases are "in."
Such shirts are not necessary a bad thing. After all, articles of apparel are far cheaper and less painful to remove than tattoos, Takahashi observes. And when the messages they carry turn out to be silly or meaningless, the embarrassment can be ended merely by removing them -- or just wearing them inside out.
T-shirts bearing Japanese characters are, of course, popular souvenir items for tourists visiting Japan. The most popular seem to be items bearing words like samurai or bushi (warrior), or those carrying the names of the places visited, such as Osaka or Asakusa.
Takahashi, who writes an online column titled "New York Matenro Tayori," reports that of late he's been observing shirts bearing "New York Nihongo" on an almost daily basis. And much of their contents could be described as hen (strange). For instance there was one that read 読書感想文 (dokusho kansobun, "book review") and another with katakana reading システムキッチン (system kitchen). Then there were shirts with おにぎり (onigiri, seaweed-wrapped rice balls) and 素敵 (suteki, nice)
Others, however, seemed completely out of place on garments: Like 送料無料 (soryo muryo, free shipping) and 肌荒れ (hada are, skin roughness). Or one reading バカまるだし baka maru-dashi, exposed as a fool). And one can almost imagine the smirk on Takahashi's face when he saw a dad pushing a baby stroller while wearing a shirt emblazoned with デキちゃった婚 (dekichatta-kon, shotgun wedding).
One that appears fairly commonly is a black shirt with white lettering reading 日本人の彼女募集中！(Nihonjin no kanojo boshuju!, now accepting applications for Japanese girlfriend). Asking the wearers, Takahashi found they understood what the words meant. "But no one ever told me wearing the shirt had helped them get one. (I can understand why ladies would be turned off by anyone who approached them.)"
In a bar on Manhattan's Upper West side, Takahashi encountered a slightly inebriated Caucasian youth, who appeared to be a university student, with a shirt reading ケンカ買います (kenka kaimasu, I will buy a disagreement). "If in Japan," he wrote tongue in cheek, "that would be a cause for concern, since a dispute might flare up."
Next came a brawny black gentleman with impressive dreadlocks, wearing a shirt whose contents seemed in complete contradiction to his appearance: 茶道部 (sadobu, tea ceremony club). "I felt somewhat skeptical."
He also got a good giggle from the couple he passed on the sidewalk. The gent's shirt read 焼き餃子 (yakigyoza, fried meat dumplings); his lady friend's garment read 水餃子 (suigyoza, boiled dumplings). They did not appear to understand the meaning, but Takahashi felt they were a good match for one another.
In addition to T-shirts, baseball caps with characters also seem popular in New York.
"Do you know what that word on your cap means?" he asked a black gent who operated a street pushcart dispensing hot coffee. The single character read 狼 (okami, wolf).
"Of course I do," the man replied confidently. "It means 'karate.'"
"Er, not exactly," Takahashi said. "You see, 'karate" is written with two characters, and that's only one."
"Oh, so in that case I guess you would just read it 'kara,' right?"
Takahashi declined to provide further details.© Japan Today