Translation: "My Japanese is bad." I couldn't find out how to say "My Japanese vocabulary only contains the words I picked up from pop culture, like 'sushi' and 'kamikaze'"
This is the beginning of my odyssey to the Land of the Rising Sun, when I find out if everything I've heard about Japan is true. I hear that they value the appearance of harmony far more than harmony itself. I hear that they see themselves as always the victims of circumstance. I hear that it's, "We Japanese" versus everyone else. I hear that they claim not to have any homeless.
I hear that women are often "encouraged" to quit working once they reach the age of 30. I hear that they are crazy drivers, but since everyone drives the same way, accidents are less frequent than in the U.S. I hear that everything is expensive. I hear that the Japanese are very materialistic, and tend not to question rising prices. I hear that the motorcycle gangs rev their engines late at night to irritate the police and the general public (which, in my opinion, is better than running around and shanking the homeless).
I hear that it's cool to appear western on the surface, but to be western is a different story. I hear that foreigners are welcomed as guests, but will find integration into the country difficult. I hear that in their minds, Americans are all tall, blue-eyed blonds (as a short, dark, biracial kid, I'm interested to see how this plays out), and that they have the left-handed compliment down to an art form. I hear that they don't understand the concept of sarcasm.
I don't speak Japanese, I can't read it, and I'm going to live there for at least a year. As Sister Maria said when she saw the Von Trapp mansion, "Oh, help."