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Looking for Ranma

爱香 and I were on the outskirts of 上海, looking for a comic called ‘乱馬1/2’. I had bought an English copy of 乱馬1/2 in Sydney, but now needed the Japanese version, so I could study it.. We had gone up and down 福州路, which is where the major concentration of bookshops are in 上海, but had no luck finding the original Japanese version. Our last chance to find 乱馬1/2 was to head out to 古北区, where the biggest concentration of Japanese expats and shops are.
After reading a tiny ad in a Japanese magazine, we had gone up and down the same road three times, into an apartment block, back out the same apartment block, to the security guard at the front of the apartment block, and finally to a スーパー across the road.

As soon as we entered, I had a bad feeling. It looked just like a normal スーパー; vegetables, cereal, fruit… a lot of edible stuff but no 漫画. We wandered through, and were pleasantly surprised to find 4 shelves full of books. Only one small shelf was 漫画 though, but only a small proportion of that was understandable to me, and not a single copy of 乱馬1/2. 爱香 was interested of course, and started looking through the grown-up books. I picked up a copy of クレヨンしんちゃん, a comic about about a rude little boy who loves exposing his penis, and started working my way through it.

After a while I heard 爱香’s voice talking to someone else. Her voice had that high twittery sound and her verbs all had ‘ます’ on the end of them, which usually means she’s talking to someone she hasn’t met before. I kept reading.

After finishing another クレヨンしんちゃん story, I wandered over to where 爱香 was. She was talking to another lady, and they were looking over a map. The map was printed on a plastic bag, and they were pointing to it. The other lady seemed to be giving directions, 爱香 would say ‘はい’ every now and then. The other lady had some some friends too; two other well dressed ladies were listening intently. Every now and then the other lady would ask her friends to clarify something 「。。。ですね、。。。」 and the others would frown hard, as if they were deep in thought and give a long 「うん。。。。」

I had a peek over 爱香’s shoulder to look at the map. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it, and the Japanese was so fast and at such a high pitch that I didn’t get it at all. I wandered back to the 漫画 section, put クレヨンしんちゃん back, and picked the next book in the series.
I got a little way through it, with 爱香 and her new friends still twittering behind me. Eventually I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see 爱香, grinning. Clutched in her hands was the same plastic bag, filled with magazines.
「これもらった!」 she said, still smiling.
I froze. “I know this,” i thought. What did Peter先生’s say about giving/receiving verbs? I did a mental calculation… ‘これ=this… もらった=received…put the verb first… means… ‘I received this!’
“Really?” I said. “They gave you that? Who were they?”

“I didn’t know them,” 爱香 replied.

It turns out that 爱香 had just asked a passer-by if she knew of any good bookshops. She had asked her friends, who had a plastic bag with a map on it. She had given 爱香 the bag, and taken about 10 minutes of her time to explain the directions to the bookshop on it. Then, she had called her friends over to help out. There were many other recommended bookshops which didn’t have directions on the bag, so one of the ladies had left the store, gone across the street, found a magazine with a map in it, and brought it back. After taking more time to explain the way to the bookshop and give 爱香 some recommendations on good books, she had given the magazine to 爱香, along with the bag, and other various magazines she had also brought from across the street, just in case we got bored on the way. I couldn’t believe it. As 爱香 explained all of this to me on the way to the next bookshop, I felt bad that the only thanks I gave her was a mumbled ‘アリガトウ’ and a clumsy bow.
爱香 often asks me why I like Japan so much. I don’t think I have ever given her a satisfactory answer. I use words like ‘friendliness’ and ‘diligence’ and ‘ニンテンド’ but I don’t think she gets it yet. It’s not that people from other cultures wouldn’t help you, it’s just the diligence in which Japanese people will fall over each other to help out a complete stranger. It’s not the only time it’s happened either.

But that’s another story, maybe for another post!