January 16, 2016


For 20 years at least, the Japanese words or sentence or phrase was in my head – etched in my brain for life by someone I don’t remember who, or in what circumstances.   I do recall my cousin who was living in Japan visiting our home when I was ten years old.   

I knew every syllable, though neither the spelling nor the Japanese characters.  


But no Japanese I met through those decades recognized the words or sounds.  Until this January 15th, 2016 my friend Yuki Watanabe (from Kazo, Saitama, Japan) took the time to unravel what I was uttering.  He said the phrase differently.  Yuki pointed out my intonation was misplaced, and I was pronouncing Su in Shisuka with an S when it should be a Z as in ShiZuka

He wrote in Japanese the characters

辺りは静かで音もありません。 (in Kanji and Hiragana to read)

あたりはしずかでおともありません。 (in Hiragana to pronounce)

Yuki said the phrase meant  “It is silent around here.”

Yuki said:
ATARI means “around here”  
WA is a pronoun like I or he or it
SHISUKA  means silent  or quiet
DE OTOMO  refers to sound
ARI  is the “be” verb
MASEN is  “not”

So my take on translation is “Around here it is very quiet , no sound at all.”

Now say it the right way:   

Atariwa Shee zu (long like zoo)  ka De Oto mo Ari masen

I repeated the phrase to Saki Hagato and guess what: she can’t understand what I was saying …

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