Sunday, November 4, 2012


Time: the Friday before Justin and I are scheduled to take his parents to the hot spring (onsen) hotel near Kurokawa called Fujimoto (owner's name) Ryokan (traditional inn). It is a fabulous weekend spa-style retreat in rhe mountains with natural geothermal baths, and something his mom had been looking forward to since booking her trip here. All errors of Japanese are probably authentic.

My phone rings.
Me: Hello?
Person: indecipherable Japanese.
Me: すみません, えいごを話まづか?(Sorry, do you speak English?)
Person: いいえ(no). More indecipherable Japanese.
Justin: Hey, is that the hotel calling about our reservation?
Me: Um... 藤本ですか? (Fujimoto?)
Person:はい!(yes!). More Japanese.
Me: Ah... ちょっとまってください. One moment please, followed by a disastrous sentence which aspired to convey that I would hand the phone to Justin, whose Japanese is better, but which, based on homophones I just looked up in the dictionary, probably said something more like "The fur seal is melodious.
Person: puzzled sound.

Justin manfully took over, and asked the man if he could confirm our reservation for 3 pm Sunday. The man objected. Justin said we would be driving to Kurokawa and could change the reservation time if necessary. The man said something about Monday. Justin said that we had booked for Sunday months ago. The man said no to Sunday again. The conversation went around for a few more minutes before Justin decided to call in the big guns and ask our Japanese friend Toshi, who helped us find Fujimoto in the first place, to call the man for us and find out what the heck was going on.

A few minutes later, Toshi calls back.

It turns out the man was not Fujimoto Ryokan in Kurokawa, but rather a wrong number looking for a man named Fujimoto in Kurokawa. "Reservation" and "appointment" are the same in Japanese (予約/yoyaku) and rather than calling to confirm our Fujimoto yoyaku, he was calling to make a yoyaku with Fujimoto to foreclose on him, I believe for nonpayment of rent, and he didn't want to do this on the weekend. Every step of the way, coincidences lined up to make for an utterly bewildering string of statistically implausible misunderstandings. I mean, what are the odds that he'd misdial my phone to make a yoyaku with Fujimoto in Kurokawa the exact same weeked that we had a yoyaku at Fujimoto in Kurokawa?

Fujimoto Ryokan called the next day. 3 pm on Sunday was fine.


  1. That is such a weird coincidence that even if you all spoke English it would have been a confusing conversation.

    Very funny!

    And I am very impressed by your Japanese by the way!