English a la Carte

To say that the Japanese are naïve in their use of English would be a kindly euphemism, when in fact, what I mean to say is that there were days when I wanted to go out and edit the entire city of Tokyo. In Japan, English in any form is trendy and hip, whether speaking it with foreigners, singing it in karaoke bars, or sporting it on some personal accessory. A word or two of it emblazoned on a handbag or a piece of clothing is tres chic. Which would be fine, except that its use in Japanese fashion, advertising, and product packaging is often either woefully out of context, or it’s a bunch of incomprehensible gibberish.

Some days I was able to enjoy the humor of it, other days it drove me crazy. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself when I saw something like, “This is boy. Pretty wow guy!” printed on a teenager’s knapsack. But there were times when it seemed that everywhere I looked, there was a shopping bag, a product label, a bus placard or a billboard that had shamelessly butchered my mothertongue.

One day the cosmos sent me a little gift that would allow me to transcend the issue once and for all, and never let it bother me again.

It was a workday, and I was on my way out of the building to take my lunch break.  The school where I worked was located directly across from the east entrance of Shinjuku Station, above which there are several large department stores, including one called My City, which I could see from the entrance of the building. On this particular afternoon, parked in the loading zone of My City, was a small, white delivery truck, which I guessed must belong to some kind of clothing or accessory designer. The name of the company was printed in stylish lettering on the side of the truck, with the year in which it had been established proudly displayed beneath it. It said: INFINITY…Since 1987.