back to the Black Table

Go to Nippon -- or hell, even a Japanese mail-order bride site like this one -- without knowing the language and your romantic efforts will likely end in shame-faced hara-kiri. Luckily, the Tokyo airport stocks More Making Out in Japanese, a phrase book that promises to deliver a steady stream of Kissing, Petting, and Making Love, or so the chapter titles go. Penned by gaijin Todd Geers and his Japanese wife Erika, the talmudic document contains "all the language you need to start up a romance and keep it going," which, Don Juan be damned, comes to a scant 123 pocket-sized pages, starting, of course, with "Do you come here often?" (Koko-ni yoku kuru?). The level of discourse takes a kamikaze dive from there: Instead of "Let's go to the Kurosawa retrospective" expect lines like "Let's go to your favorite disco" (Anata-no yoku iku disuko-ni iko") and the subsequent head-scratcher "Is it true that Japanese boys dance together?" (Nihon-no otoko-no-hitotte issho-ni odorutte honto?)

Like an episode of Blind Date, the book heats up when the hooch starts flowing: An entire page is dedicated to ways to order (or get your date to order) stronger booze. The do-with-me-what-you-will expression "If I get drunk, that's okay" (Moshi atashi-ga yopparatte-mo heiki-yo) is followed, curiously, by "I have a futon in my pocket" (Pokettu-ni futon-ga haiteru). And if the latest issue of The New Yorker didn't offer enough conversational fodder, you can always fall back on nuggets like Furoa-no raito kakkoii-ne ("The dance-floor lights are cool").

Tucked among such bon mots are asides of dubious value that shed light on Japanese gender relations. We're told Japanese girls will always want the boy to decide what to do, and "almost always they will wait for the boy to remove [their clothes]." And they won't initiate a trip to the love hotel, a topic of such high importance that it spurs the book's only 3-page essay, about how to identify, check into, and make use of a pay-by-the-hour rabu hoteru. ("Don't put the cap back on the empty bottle and return it to the refrigerator—these cleaning ladies are hip to that skip!")

Another primer prepares us for the pitfalls of interracial dating: When Japanese men see you with one of their own, expect them to say things like "She must like big ones!" (Aitsu okii-noga suki nandaze!) or even "I wish I had a big one!" (Boku-no-mo motto oki-kattarana!) (Look at Todd Geers's rather androgynous-looking author photo and judge for yourself whether Japanese men are actually worried about his big one.) You'll know they're calling your woman a slut (or "a public restroom," koshu banjo) when they say "she has a light butt" (Shirigaru onna), meaning she hops from bed to bed.

Aside from the two pages dedicated to car sex (ka-sekkusu), the "Making Love" chapter is surprisingly short. Perhaps this is because some of it was covered in the book's 50,000-copy selling predecessor Making Out in Japanese. ("I'm coming," for instance is said iku-iku, which makes you wonder about Mork from Ork's Nanu-Nanu.) The four translations for "I like your underwear" speak to Mr. Geer's kinky panty fetish, but what are we to make of the fact that the authors only acknowledge four sexual positions (girl on the bottom is seijoi, girl on top is kijoi, doggy-style is bakku, and sixty-nine is shikkusu-nain)? It's no wonder there is also a translation for "I'm tired of that one" (Are-niwa akita.) In this chapter, however, we do get more insight into the Japanese dating game: A high and big nose means a boy is well-endowed, while a small mouth and skinny ankles indicate a girl is "tightly" endowed.

Rather pessimistically, the "Fighting" chapter is 20 pages longer than the list of sex expressions, and all the greatest hits are here: "You take me for granted" (Atashi-o riyo-shiteru-none), "Don't tell me what to do" (Meirei-shinaide), "Let me explain" (Setsumei-sasete) and even "Give me back the apartment/car key" (Apato/kuruma-no kii-o kaeshit). According to the bevy of accusatory phrases offered, fights between Japanese and Americans start for plenty of reasons besides surprise attacks on military bases: forgetting a birthday, leaving someone stranded, not calling someone, and of course, a confession of "I've cheated on you" (Anata-o damashiteta-no).

Cheaters, or "floating minds" (Uwaki-mono), will find plenty of ammo here: "I need excitement, not restriction" (Shigeki-ga hoshii-no, shibararerun-ja nakutte), "I've tried to tell you many times, but I couldn't" (Nando-mo io-to shitakedo) and "It happens all the time" (Itsumo so-nano). When the victim asks "What kind of girl is she?" (Ano-ko date?), certain floating minds will be hard-pressed to answer, since the word for "prostitute" appears nowhere in a book that has probably been used on scores of them. The last six pages of the chapter are dedicated to pathetic-sounding requests to be taken back: "I feel so lonely" (Samishii-no), "Whatever you want, I'll give it to you" (Nandemo hoshii mono ageru) and "I'll do anything to make you forgive me." (Yurushite-morau-tame-nara nandemo suruwa) Including, one can only hope, take a Berlitz course.

A good deal of the phrases in the subsequent "Marriage" chapter fall in the category of "If You Really Need A Phrase Book To Say This, You Are Completely Fucked." For instance, "Will you marry me?" (Kekkon-shitekureru?), or as the Japanese apparently put it, "Will you make my miso soup for breakfast?" (Choshoku-no miso-shiruo tsukuttekureru?"). Even more awkward, one imagines, is when your lover walks to the bookshelf, turns to page 100, and says, "Anata-to kekkon-dekinai." ("I can't marry you," presumably because you don't speak the same language.) Other phrases you might want to triple-check before uttering are: "I haven't had my period yet" (Sheiri-ga konai-no), "Are you sure it's mine?" (Honto-ni boku-no-ko?) and "Start reading books about babies" (Akachan-ni-tsuite-no hono yomi-hajime-nayo), presumably when you aren't reading More Making Out in Japanese. No fewer than five pages are dedicated to whether to have the shujutsu (operation). "I can't kill our baby," (Atashitachi-no akachan-o korosenai) says page 106. But the person seems to have come around by page 109: "Do you have to stay in the hospital overnight?" (Byoin-ni ippaku shinakucha ikenai-no?) After the abortion, it's time to meet the family. "Are your parents fat?" (Anata-no ryoshin futtoteru?)

So there you have it—every expression you'll ever need to court a Japanese woman, including the all-important "Did you gain wait?" (Futtona?), which is offered in the final "Health" (or "How to Keep Your New Mail-Order Bride Slim") chapter. Interestingly, "Health" is also a Japanese euphemism for a massage-parlor brothel, and we can only assume this nifty little tome is on the coffee table there. But if you're seeking to use the book to this end, you'll need to use Google to find the Japanese expression for: "How much do I owe you?" (Ikura desu ka?)


Daniel Maurer has written for The New York Times, New York magazine, Metro New York, and lives in New York, NY. Find him at