Toastmasters Advanced Speech: Not so big in Japan

Madam/Sir Toastmaster

Thank you for that wonderful introduction and thank you all for your warm reception.

Could I ask you all a favor today?

I know that the lights sometimes reflect off my head.

Now I do want to dazzle you with brilliance but not blind you the light so If I am standing in a place where this happens, just gesture gently to me and I will move.

And NO. I am not balk OK. I have just outgrown my hair.

And in any case, BALD is sooooooo 80’s. The modern terminology is that I am “Folically Challenged”.

Essentially, I have outgrown my hair….

I like to think of my head as a Solar panel…………………….. for a sex machine!!!!!

That’s why my wife keeps shouting, “Stephen, put a cap on and Stephen, get out of the sun!!”

And just for the record, these lines around my eyes are not wrinkles……………… They are orgasm lines!!

Not so big in Japan.

We are sitting at the airport.

It’s that terrible time when you are waiting to go to passport control and start your journey.

The journey you have planned for a year.

Yet at the same time, you are leaving everyone you love behind.

Torn between the future and the past. In airport Limbo.

From the vantage point of 49, 24 years old seems so young. So innocent. So small.

I was off to Japan to train karate with the chief instructor of my style.

The son of the founder. Who at this point was still alive.

I started karate at the tender age of 5.

My father my first instructor.

I was following in his footsteps too on MY pilgrimage to Japan.

A 2nd dan black belt with a few SA titles behind my name.

My ego somewhat expanded by past victories.

My mind somewhat nervous about Japan and the cultural, language and karate challenges

Tokyo airport was like any other airport.

“Good afternoon, Could you please tell me how to get to Ikebukuru Station” I enquired at Info.

”Yes sir,” came the fluent reply, “You catch the number 9 train on platform 2 and get off 30 minutes later”

“Thank you sir” I said grinning smugly to myself. HAH! What language barrier!!!????

I had been instructed to ask at Ikebukuru McDonalds where my accommodation, Ikebukuru House was.

“Good afternoon, Could you please….”

“Wakarimassen” came the curt reply.

“mmmmmm. I thought. Just my luck to pick a stupid one”

“Good afternoon, Could you please….”

“Wakarimassen” came the curt reply.

“Good afternoon, Could you please….”

“Wakarimassen” came the curt reply.

I walked around aimlessly.

Luggage and all.

“Good afternoon, Could you please….”

“Wakarimassen” came the curt reply.

Then I saw it. The information “I”.

My logic told me it was a department store info desk.

My desperation overrode that and .

“Good afternoon, Could you please….”

“Wakarimassen” came the curt reply.

I think the lady realized that I was about to burst into tears.

She took me to a phone, called English information and gave me the receiver.

I told the operator where I needed to go and handed the phone back to her.

She wrote down the address and took me to a taxi rank, handing the address to the driver.

He tried to talk to me in Japanese and did not seem to impressed when I answered, “Wakkarriwasen”.

Ha. Japan 10 : Stephen 1

MMMMMM Maybe Not so big in Japan!!!!

Settled in, I call my instructor. *pling pling pling plong pling* I dial.

His father in law answers.

“Good afternoon Sir, May I speak with Goshi Yamaguchi please?”

“I am afraid I don’t speak a word of English” *sound of phone been put down*

Ha ha I think to myself. That is HAlarious (that’s with an “A”).. I bet they catch all the foreigners with that!

*pling pling pling plong pling*

“Good afternoon Sir, May I speak with Goshi Yamaguchi please?”

“I am afraid I only speak a little English” *sound of phone been put down.*

In order to survive in Japan, a rather expensive country, I taught Adults English for a living. I promise you they needed it.

I had a lot of fun, met interesting people and got an insider look at the culture myself.

On the surface, the Japanese are very polite and courteous. They do seem to express a polite sarcasm that is missed on most GAIJIN – foreigners. Henna Gaijin means, crazy foreigner. Gaijin were generally deemed second class.

And of course SAN used after a name denotes honour. I was called Stebu-san as they cannot pronounce the letter V. Of course it has to be said with slanty eyes for credibility, “ stebu-sa”

Imagine my surprise when I was introduced by my Japanese instructor as GaijinSan.

Essentially, Honourable foreign idiot.

In Japan, one can tell your culture and upbringing by your dexterity in the use of chopsticks. So when a Japanese says, “Ah you use chopstix “werry well” (yes with a “W”) …….. they don’t mean it!!! It’s actually a veiled insult.

There are no direct insults or swear words in Japanese. So if a man wants to insult another man, he speaks to him in a womans dialect. There are several dialects. Man to man, man to woman. Woman to man. Woman to woman. Man to child. Etc etc.

I love the expression on Japanese people’s faces when I address them with a fluent-ish , “Hajime Mashta. Watashiwa, nihongo ga, sokoshi dake dekimas”, It’s nice to meet you. I only speak a little Japanese.  He he Japan 10 – Stephen 2.

Of course I am also thinking – “HA. In South Africa, YOU are the Gaijin!!!!”

One of my English classes consisted of 5 businessmen wanting to learn business English. One evening, they instructed me to put the text book away.

“We want to learn plactical enlesh” (with an L) they informed me. We found ourselves in an expensive restaurant eating and drinking sake (I was just so happy to just get something other than breadcrusts and Russian strawberry jam into my stomach).

“Stebu-san. Tell us about ‘F’ word. In American movies, F this and F that. PRease explain”

I had a stunning time. What a beautiful way to earn money.

If this was not a toastmasters talk, I would give you all a quick lesson. Suffice to say, they now know the difference between, giving a F, getting a F and having a F!!!!!

That night I missed my train home and walked home drunk. Stunningly, happily, joyously drunk. It was glorious. Until my girlfriend, now my wife, eventually found me tip toe’ing through the garden in order not to wake her.

It’s funny how quickly one can sober up isn’t it!!!

The karate was unbelievable. I was a second dan black belt at the time but felt like a brown belt. I was totally out of my league. For someone who loves learning, I was in heaven. Having said that, getting to karate was a mission.

The instructions were something like this. Bear in mind that there was NO English speech or writing in Japan. Everything was Japanese Hieroglyphics. Man we used to go to the shops for sugar, get home and open it to find washing powder.

“Take the train on the blue line from Ikkebuluru platform 3. Count 4 stations then get off. Then take the train on the red line on platform 7. Count 13 stations and get off.  Then catch the train on the Black line at platform 1 for 3 stations. That is Itabashi station where the dojo is *nodding sagely*

Oh. And JUST do the opposite on the way back!!!!! Clearly they don’t know I have ADD tendencies. There is NO WAY I could concentrate for 13 stations…..

While I was there I was invited to grade for my 3rd dan.  The problem was that my visa expired before the grading. So off I went to Immigration to attempt to extend my visa.

At first it was like heaven. A Jap that could speak ENGLISH.

Then things turned sour.

“Good afternoon Sir” I said in my sweetest voice, “ I came to Japan to learn Karate and I have been invited to grade for my san dan. Would it be possible to extend ……………”

“Karate not Japanese” he growled, “Karate not Budo. Karate from OKINAWA” he spat out the OKINAWA like it was a bug that had flown into his mouth.

“Oh”, I replied taken aback.

“Judo Japanese. Kendo Japanese. Aikido Japanese. Karate from OKINAWA!!!” came another bug.

“My goodness. Yes. I see that now. Would it help if I take up Kendo too?” I ventured.

You make san dan – you go home?” He asked

“Yessir. After my grading I …………….”

You make san dan – you go home?” He screamed.

“Yes. After my grading I …………….”

“OK. Visa applove” he smiled.

The trip home was infinitly better. After 7.5 months I had learnt some Japanese and mastered the train system. My karate was better and I weighed a meager 75kg from not being able to afford to eat.

Big in Japan. Not really.

Huge in my own  back yard. You betya!!


About Stephen van Basten - The Marriage Expert

When you meet Stephen van Basten you instantly realize that there is more to him than meets the eye. This is not a moment to judge a book by its cover. Stephen boasts a list of achievements: He met his wife, Jacqui, 27 years ago, married her 21 years ago and is the proud father of a 'very together' 18 year old daughter. Stephen will immediately tell you with a twinkle in his eye, that Life, Work, Marriage and Parenthood are not for sissies. That while they are all hard work, they can be, and should be, incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. Stephen is a past Karate World Champion, a yoga enthusiast and recovering golfer. If you opened Trip Advisor on his facebook page you will see that he has visited 81 cities in 52 countries including the USA, Alaska, Japan, Europe, Australia and China. Stephen has owned his own company, worked in his family's business, being employed by small and large businesses like Shell SA and the BTG Group. His titles include Brand Manager, Sales Manager, Account Manager, Sales Representative and Business Owner. He now sees himself as an Author, Speaker, Trainer and Coach. Stephen published his first book, "So you're engaged, now what? The journey from engaged to married" in December 2013. His ingenious marketing strategy put this book into over 2000 hands in its first 6 months. His second book "So you're alive, now what? The journey from birth to death" is available online and he is working on 5 more books in the series including "So you're married, now what?". Stephen's obvious passion and first love is Human Behavior and specifically Human Behavior as it manifests in RELATIONSHIPS. He is quick to point out that we have many differing relationships: employer, employees, customers, suppliers, colleagues, friendships, marriage, parents, siblings, children, our maker, other drivers on the roads and we generally have issues in most if not all of them. Stephen is a student of the well-known human behavior specialist, Dr. John Demartini and is constantly researching and honing his understanding of this incredibly complex subject. In 2013 he completed over 175 hours of intense training on T. Harv Eker's signature courses.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s