When I first started studying Japanese, the writing system was a fascinating mystery. First off was hiragana, a phonetic syllabic alphabet of sorts. I loved the idea that something that read ”か” or “ka” was always going to be read that way, unlike English where ghoti can be read as fish. The system made sense to me. Next was the kanji, or Chinese characters. There were a shit load of them and it even took Japanese kids nine years to learn to read them. Somehow, at Middlebury College’s Japanese summer school, they thought we could learn 30 of them a day. Oh, and they each had AT LEAST two different ways they could be read depending on how or if they combined with other kanji. But, still, I could see the necessity.
However, katakana, which was basically the same as hiragana but used for telegrams (!) and foreign words made no sense to me at all. It seemed redundant. I slacked on memorizing them. I did not plan to send any telegrams and foreign words? I mean, why would I need them and not Japanese when I was living there. Little did I know….
So, there I was in Japan, now unable to make my way through a menu at a coffee shop or kissaten as they were called. And that’s why I started to doubt myself as I looked at drinks on a menu. Now, this is a current menu, but it will show an issue. (In fact, it practically authenticates itself with a spelling mistake….)
So, making one’s way through the juice list alone, we get – pineapple juice, cranberry juice, orange juice, banana juice, apple juice and tomato juice. I know all of these… but banana juice? You can see why I doubted myself. And why is it one of the more expensive juices?
In the end, I got better at reading katakana so that I could deal with a menu like this. And learned that banana juice is delicious even though banana milk might be a more apt description.
- hiragana – ひらがな syllabic phonetic writing system
- katakana – カタカナ syllabic phonetic writing system (because apparently we need two of them
- kanji – 漢字 Chinese characters. If you learn them, it will help you slightly in a Chinese restaurant, too
- banana juusu – バナナジュース banana-flavored milk served on ice. It’s good!
- kissaten – 喫茶店 coffee shop, but now refers to an old style coffee shop as opposed to a cafe. Grouchy grannies like this style much better.