A practical joker has stirred up trouble by publishing a Japanese-to-English phrase book with incorrect definitions for every phrase!
Now thousands of Japanese tourists who've painstakingly studied the bogus dictionary in preparation for trips to America are arriving on our shores only to encounter blank stares, hysterical laughter or even brutal beatings as soon as they open their mouths.
"The man who compiled this dictionary clearly went out of his way to wreak havoc," says New York hotel concierge Jacqueline Porseman, who arranges tours for many VIP guests from Japan. "For instance, when the Japanese think they're asking 'Can you direct me to the rest room?' the book actually has them saying, 'Excuse me, may I caress your buttocks?' "And, the phrase for 'I am very pleased to meet you' is given as 'My friend, your breath could knock over a water buffalo".
At least 50,000 copies of the book have been sold in Japan in the past year and while the Japanese government has pulled the plug on further sales, copies still turn up in used bookstores and bargain-hunters snap them up.
"This is not a funny matter to us," says Hiro Suzuki of the Japanese embassy. "Our citizens who look forward to a pleasurable time in America are being laughed at, spat upon, roughed up and humiliated without knowing what they said wrong. Tourists have been found beaten to a pulp on street corners with this terrible phrase book still in their hands."
Among the nearly 2,300 incidents reported to the embassy:
* A 29-year-old Tokyo man visiting San Francisco for the first time meant to ask a female store clerk, "May I please have film for my camera?" But what he actually said was, "Would you place your copious breasts in my mouth?" He was slapped in the face, then got tossed out by the manager.
*Four family members from Osaka were thrilled see their favorite American singer coming out of a ritzy store in Beverly Hills. While waving frantically, they shouted out what they believed to be, "We love you so much." Unfortunately, what they really said was, "We're here to take your head." The four were arrested and detained for six hours by police.
* A 45-year-old tourist from Okinawa looking for the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem thought he was asking a group of young men, "I am lost. Which way is uptown?" In reality, he said, "I know martial arts. May I kick your ass?" He was chased five blocks before being rescued by police.
No one knows who's behind the elaborate hoax. Some suspect the editor-publisher of the book, identified only as "M.L. Tanaka," is a disgruntled former Japanese tourism official. Others insist the culprit is a U.S. autoworker who lost his job to Japan in the '80s. Says Porseman, "If it's an American, I wonder how 'funny' he thinks it would be to visit a Sumo wrestling gym in Tokyo and think he's saying 'You guys are the best, keep it up,' when he's really saying, 'You have fat butts. Sit on my head.'"It's not so amusing when the shoe is on the other foot, is it?"