The learned Geoff Carr points out that living in Japan gives insight into illiteracy. For the first time in 55 years, I am illiterate. It really cramps your style. Try filling up at a self service gas station. There is a certain amount of graphic flow chart on the pump but this is just to lure you in. If you get past stage one, a screen illuminates with a question and that’s it. You are finished. You are illiterate. You have to find someone to help you: here not a problem as the Okinawans are very helpful but imagine the humiliation in your own country.
I go to the supermarket and dodge around the shelves looking for signs, graphics. I am sure my sense of smell is becoming keener as I sniff at tins of fish like a hound.
The supermarket is a mystery. What is all this stuff? OK some of it is foreign and thus I do not feel so bad not recognizing it but liquid in bottles – you would like to know if it is lamp oil, salad dressing or boil remedy.
I bought a router so I could have wireless in the apartment. I foolishly assumed that there would be an English version of the installation instructions. Not so. At first I thought I could work it out using the images. Not so. What is ‘IP address’ in Kanji or more likely Katakana? Ho hum.
So this has left me with a overwhelming feeling of comradeship with all of you out there who have difficulty reading, whoa! don’t even mention writing. It only takes a little displacement to render anyone illiterate.