Eigo ga wakarimasu ka?

We recently signed up for Amazon Prime –Japan. We are Prime members at home in the US, and it seemed like a good thing to do here.  We use Amazon all the time back home… it is just so convenient shopping online and having things delivered right to the door. We have used it before here, but had always been home when they brought a package. They buzz from downstairs and we let them in and they ride the elevator up to the 30th floor and walk the package to our door here.

So — when you are not home when they deliver a package, they can leave it in a secure drop-off locker downstairs in the lobby of our building. There is a magnetic card you are supposed to use to open the appropriate locker to retrieve the package. This all sounds like a great system, but we have never had to use it until today. I was not home when the package was delivered, and when I checked the mailbox upon returning, I found this delivery notice.

2016-05-11(1)Prominently displayed on the notice was the phone number. So… I assumed I needed to call them to have the package redelivered. I used Google translate to translate the Japanese associated with the phone number, and found that it was the driver’s direct number. So… I called it. I even told him my name and address in Japanese. We actually communicated…  He understood what I said. But… that is where the productive communication stopped. I didn’t know how to say the things I needed to say to ask him to redeliver my package. I finally asked him: Eigo ga wakarimasu ka. Which means “do you know English?” He said “Hai, Hai” (yes, yes), but continued to speak to me in Japanese. We were getting nowhere. It wasn’t his fault…  It wasn’t my fault. It was just another instance of Japanese-American non-communication. It happens all the time. So, finally…  I thanked him (in Japanese) and hung up.

Not-so-prominantly displayed on the notice is the number 4 — I circled it. As I thought about it, I began to wonder about the locker downstairs. The man kept saying “4, 4” when I talked to him.  Hmm…  I dug around for the previously unused locker card, and decided to see if the package was downstairs after all. Unfortunately…  when I went to the locker, all the instructions were in — yes — Japanese. I played with it for awhile… The screen actually displayed our apartment number (3001), so I knew I was on the right track, but, for the life of me, I could not figure out how it worked. Fail.

That evening we showed the notice to the concierge (she is only here in the evenings) and she showed us which button to push to activate the card to open the locker. “Click”… the door opened,and there was our package. Simple. Sort of. If you know the language.

Nihongo ga wakarimasu ka. (Do you know Japanese?) No… Yes… but not much. Watashi wa Nihongo ga sukoshi wakarimasu. (I know a little bit of Japanese.) Still not enough to communicate effectively, but more than I knew 4 months ago! Progress!

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My husband and I were both born and raised in Kansas, but for the past 20+ years we have been living in Atlanta, Georgia. Now, with our children grown and out of the house, we have the opportunity to spend two years living in Tokyo. My husband will be working with the Japanese counterpart to his American company. UPDATE 2023... After 4-1/2 years in Tokyo, we returned to Atlanta. Now we are heading to London for a three year job assignment!

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