Daffy translation

By: Jane B. Holt
This item appears on page 46 of the July 2018 issue.

This month’s winner is JANE B. HOLT of Hinesburg, Vermont:

Kyoto was booked solid for the 2018 sakura (cherry blossom) season, so my husband, Clyde, and I stayed a 9-minute train ride away in Otsu at the Prince Hotel, on the shores of Lake Biwa. We took the hotel’s free shuttle to the train station to dine at a different nearby restaurant each night.

On April 13th, we lucked into Toriraku, a 3-minute walk from the station. Toriraku is a small izakaya (pub), and it was filled with parties of locals, who were discreetly curious about us interloping gaijin (foreigners).

We have no Japanese to speak of so were pleased to be given an English menu, but the list of specials for the day was in Japanese only. Happily, my iPhone and the Google Translate service worked for those.

I wanted to confirm that Google was right and the duck special really was duck. I asked the waiter in English and got a blank stare, so I tried “Quack, quack?”

The waiter was much relieved and said (using the Japanese pronunciation), “Hai! Quoc, quoc!”

I still wasn’t certain so returned with “Aflac?!” (As in the US, the insurance company has a big presence in Japan, where their spokesmascot is the same quacking duck.)

This the waiter thought was great, and the adjacent table of men, who had secretly been watching us, broke into cheers. The other tables in the restaurant saluted us, and the waiter even relayed the story to the chef.

When the duck arrived, it was presented by the chef, himself, who, with a great flourish, announced, “Aflac!” This resulted in another round of laughing and cheers.

The duck, which we’d assumed would be roasted, was, in fact, duck sashimi, cured in black tea and presented very thinly sliced. It was very, very good, indeed, despite my initial dismay over the edge of raw fat on each slice.

As we were about to leave, the chef peeked out from the open kitchen, and Clyde gave him a thumbs-up for the Aflac. As we put on our shoes and made our exit, the other tables all gave us high-fives and thumbs-upand waved good-bye.


Tell us about the funniest thing that happened to you while traveling in a foreign country. (ITN prints no info on destinations in the United States.) There are no restrictions on length. ITN staff will choose each month’s winner, who will receive a free one-year subscription to ITN. Include your full mailing address. Entries not chosen cannot be acknowledged.