Umbrellas Lost And Found - The Hundred Yen Shop


Did you know Japan owns the most umbrellas per person in the world?

For every person in Japan, there are 3.3 umbrellas.

At least three of them are mine, left outside shops.

In 2011, fresh off the boat in Japan, I moved into my new apartment on the outskirts of Nagoya. At the weekends I'd head to Daiso, the 100-yen shop, to buy bits and pieces for my new flat.

One day, I left my umbrella in the stand outside the 100-yen shop. It was quite a nice umbrella - a neat little folding one - and I was annoyed. I went back to the shop the next day.

My little blue umbrella wasn't in the rack, so I asked at the register.

My Japanese was quite limited then, but I knew how to say 傘を忘れました (kasa o wasuremashita, "I left my umbrella").

The shop assistant looked a bit bemused, but wanted to help me, so she asked me what the umbrella looked like.

I told her the umbrella was 小さい (small). I gestured to show it was very small.

ああ、折りたたみですか。
Aa, oritatami desu ka?
Oh, is it "oritatami"?

I didn't know what "oritatami" meant, and I didn't have a dictionary with me (or smartphone!), so I repeated that it was small.

The shop assistant bustled about, murmuring:

"Oritatami, oritatami, oritatami..."

She went off to look somewhere else, and then came back and apologised profusely. My umbrella was gone.

I walked home. It started to rain.

At home, I pulled out my romaji dictionary. Oritatami means "folding"!

I'lll never forget that word, I thought.

I lost my little umbrella, but I gained a new word in my vocabulary. You need more than 3.3 words per person, after all...