Humorous Quotes from
The Land of the Rising Yen
By George Mikes
- Humility is one of the most repulsive virtues, nearly always false.
- The Japanese are human beings like the rest of us, but they will strongly resent this insinuation.
- The Japanese have produced a chewing gum with the flavour of sake, their rice-wine. As heartening an example of the amalgamation of two cultures as I have ever seen; a glorious feat of uniting the worst of two worlds.
- At the United Nations nothing empties the debating chamber quite so fast as a Japanese delegate rising to speak, putting on his spectacles preparatory to reading a long string of clichés and platitudes.
- The only positive line taken by our (Japanese) foreign policy is not to offend the United States; in sharp contrast with the now departed General de Gaulle whose only positive idea was to offend them.
- We want to prevent foreigners from learning Japanese. We regard foreigners who know our language as intruders on our privacy.
- Our way is the shell-fish way. The shell-fish has soft meat inside but a very hard, protective shell outside.
- Once a young Japanese gets a job, he is settled for life. He has to kick his boss down the stairs to get fired.
- The confusion is great and a great many people do their best to add to it.
- The steering-wheel of a motor-car has the same effect on a modern, civilized man as the smell of blood has on the average tiger.
- You would think they (Tokyo drivers) never touch their indicators but they do, quite often. A flickering left indicator means: I am slowing down. Or: I am accelerating. Or: I’m turning left. Or: I am turning right. Or: I forgot to switch it off. Or: you would be ill-advised to pay any attention to indicators.
- It is an old joke – I heard it many times on my first visit to Tokyo – that the former suicide-torpedo pilots had become taxi-drivers but were longing to get their old jobs back because they were so much less dangerous. Or it used to be a joke: it is stark reality today.
- Gifts with a red-and-white cord should be tied so that the red cord is on the right; and when using gold-and-silver cord, the gold should be on the right.’ But as time marches on, fewer and fewer people commit harakiri on realizing that they used the gold-and-silver cord with the gold on the left.
- They (The Japanese) often go out of their way to be helpful. This is obvious from brief encounters in the street (they run after you to redirect you, having noticed that you took the wrong turning).
- If an ambassador is a gentleman sent abroad to lie in the interest of his country, then a Foreign Ministry is a collection of gentlemen staying at home, doing the same.
- Japan is, you often feel, an improved version of the United States.
||Favorite Long Quote/Extract
Eating soup has more dangers than almost anything else. When eating soup you
must make a fearful noise. It is a sign of appreciation. If you don’t, your
hostess will think: ‘What an ill-mannered lout.’ But if you do, she will
think: ‘No reasonably well brought-up European makes such disgusting noises
when eating soup. He must be an ill-mannered lout.’
- It is often said that the Japanese are extremely clean at home, or inside any house or office, but dirty and untidy outside. ‘Go and look at a railway station,’ I was told, ‘and you’ll be horrified.’ I went and was horrified; horrified by the cleanliness of the place.
- The Japanese have a strong aesthetic sense: they beautifully, embellish, adorn and decorate everything they touch. A sandwich in Japan is not just a sandwich, it is a work of art.
- I have said that psychoanalysis is gaining ground in Japan, but only slowly. Even so, it spreads more rapidly than neuroses.
- The Snobbery Miracle is almost as glorious as the Economic Miracle, but it is not too subtle as yet. It has a mid nineteen-fiftyish aura about it and, all things considered, it resembles the crude American form rather than the slightly more sophisticated British variety.
- The true samurai refused to learn arithmetic because it smelled of commerce; he was proud of his ignorance and stupidity, like so many ruling classes all over the world.
- The Chinese are very contemptuous about the Japanese: ‘They have learned everything from us,’ they say. The Japanese are equally contemptuous about the Chinese: ‘They have learnt nothing since the seventh century.’ Mutual contempt has always been a good, reliable basis for friendship.
- Chinese writing is based on a childishly simple principle, well suited to the needs of the stone age: every word is represented by a special ideograph.
- Egyptian hieroglyphics are a simple way of writing down one’s thoughts compared with Japanese.
- (In Tokyo) The railways employ professional pushers. These men stand on the platforms, charge the mass of humanity and by sheer force of kinetic energy squeeze a dozen or two extra sardines into the railway carriage. Perhaps a few dozen are squeezed out on the other side but no one would miss them.
- It is frequently pointed out by rueful American, who are responsible for Japan’s defence, that the Japanese treasury spends more on dinners, night-clubs and geisha-girls than on defence.
- There is a festival in June when fireflies, or fire-bugs, are said to bring luck. But Tokyo has no fireflies so planeloads of ‘luck’ have to be imported from Hokkaido. A country where bugs travel by aeroplane must be prosperous indeed; and one where they travel at the tax-payers’ expense, many would say, must be Paradise itself.
- You are always more irritated by your true friends than by your enemies.
- People, by the way, do not speak in Kabuki plays: they chant in an artificial, monotonous, high-pitched voice; they also moan, mutter, groan, squeal, wail, whimper, whine, snivel and roar. This is a very ancient tradition and if you start watching Kabuki plays at the age of two, you may get used to it. If you start later, you wonder.
- ‘If you want to be a Japanese, be a man.’ This is the advice most superficial observers would give you. But it is not followed by about half of Japan’s population, and they know what they are doing.
- Many Japanese will tell you that Tokyo is an ugly city. You must not disagree with them because that would be discourteous; you must not agree with them either, because that would be even more discourteous. You say: ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’ or quote Wilde or Kant on beauty in general.
- Osaka is a big, industrial, commercial and banking city, with ‘no culture’ as Tokyo people are fond of repeating and Osaka people are quite ready to agree; they take it almost as a compliment. They prefer cash to symphony orchestras.
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