Japan, Land Of The Cat-Bath

| Japan | Learning | April 3, 2015

(I teach English conversation in Japan. The class has a man in his 40s and a high-school boy. Both are very shy people with a beginner level English skill. Student #1 is the business man in his 40s and Student #2 is the high school boy.)

Me: “What are you going to do after the lesson today?”

Student #1: “We are going to take a bath.”

(I thought it was weird that Student #1 was speaking on behalf of the high school boy, too.)

Me: “A bath? Both of you?”

Student #2: “Yes.”

(A few people still use public bath houses, but usually not high-schoolers and definitely not together with a 40-year-old man. So I ask some follow up questions to clear up this misunderstanding.)

Me: “You mean, together? You’re going to take a bath together?”

Student #1: “Yes, we always take a bath together after this lesson.”

Student #2: “Yeah, that’s right.”

(Now I’m very confused. These two people who have no relationship (that I know of) always have a plan to go to a bathhouse together. I probe for more information.)

Me: “So are you friends outside of this lesson? Do you hang out?”

Student #1: “No.”

Student #2: “No.”

Me: “So, why do you take a bath together? Is there a special reason?”

Student #2: “Not really.”

Student #1: “We get in at the same time. We sit down. And then I get off first.”

(Now I’m feeling really weird. I’m imaging the two of them together in a really strange situation.)

Teacher: “Do you talk?”

Student #2: “No talking. Just get in. Sit down. Get off.”

Me: “Do you wash your hair or anything?”

(Now they are confused.)

Student #1: “Huh? No.”

Me: “So, when do you clean yourself? In the morning?”

Student #1: “No, I wash my hair in the bus after I get home.”

(That’s when I realize they were mispronouncing ‘bath’ and ‘bus.’)

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