Our textbook is titled Japanese for Busy People, vol. I, and the lessons are organized around situations that a businessperson would want to handle. (A very early unit concerns exchanging business cards.) Each unit has a theme, like “Express gratitude,” or “Make a telephone call,” or “Order food at a restaurant.”

With more than a little nod to James Thurber’s “There’s No Place Like Home,” I remixed some of the unit themes into

Japanese for Busy Terrorists

  • Ask for telephone numbers
  • Describe what is inside a building
  • Talk about numbers of things or people that exist in a particular place
  • Talk about schedules in detail
  • Ask someone to do something for you

Japanese for Busy Counter-intelligence Officers

  • Talk about nationalities and occupations
  • Talk about where you live, where you work, and who your acquaintances are
  • Talk about the times of meetings and parties
  • Talk about what you are doing now
  • Forbid someone from doing something


Sensei was amused when I asked why Mr. Smith, in our textbook, did not use the o-prefix for politeness when asking the name of the fish in the tempura restaurant scene, おなまえ sted なまえ. She said, “Nobody uses the prefix in this situation—well, maybe some senior ladies would.”