Wednesday 18 September 2019

Billy Keane: 'I'm not too fluent in Japanese, but I manage perfect Dublinese so long as there's English subtitles'

Keane's Kingdom

'The learning is all by way of preparation for the Rugby World Cup which kicks off in Japan next week' (stock photo)
'The learning is all by way of preparation for the Rugby World Cup which kicks off in Japan next week' (stock photo)
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Today I learnt how to ask for four cold beers. I'm pretty sure they don't serve up warm beer in Japan.

The last thing I want to do is insult the Japanese bar staff by implying they serve hot lager, but the audio I'm learning from only does cold beers and I wouldn't know one word from the other.

I hope it's not a case of fooling the tourists like we used to do to our American cousin Jeffrey who spent two weeks in Ireland telling everyone to póg mo thóin, or kiss my arse, when we told him the translation was top of the morning.

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The learning is all by way of preparation for the Rugby World Cup which kicks off in Japan next week.

There was a boy in our class and he wasn't much good at the Irish. The teachers in those days often used sarcasm as an educational tool. Some of the lads in the class preferred a good walloping to the sarcasm.

Anyway, the boy who wasn't much good at the Irish messed up when he tried in vain to decline an impossible irregular verb. The teacher quipped: "Young lad, you're illiterate in two languages."

I have also been taught how to pronounce the Japanese word for thank you. Think of alligator and take off the r. Alligato is the phonetic pronunciation.

You can make up your own mind at the end of the column whether or not yours truly is illiterate in English.

Japan, and Tokyo in particular, has experienced a very bad typhoon over the last week or so. Indeed, September is peak season.

Typhoon Faxai, which is the 15th of this season, hit central Japan on Sunday last. Three people were killed and the transport system was thrown into chaos. Narita Airport near Tokyo was closed down due to the typhoon. We will be flying in to Narita next Thursday morning.

There are all kinds of warnings in place about storms and rains. Wouldn't it be hard luck if we were stuck in the hotel room playing travel Scrabble for the next few weeks?

I'm told everything shuts down, even the pubs. In Ireland when the bad snows fall everyone goes to the pub, like it was some sort of safe place like an air raid shelter.

My cousin Bill is collecting us. He lives in Japan and takes little or no notice of these storms.

There is a possibility some of the games in the Rugby World Cup could be cancelled.

The rules state that if a typhoon strikes the game will be taken as a nil-all draw and each team will get two points. Some of the games are sure enough five pointers. So if Ireland are unlucky enough to run into a typhoon, it could see us crash out of the World Cup without ever so much as kicking a ball.

There have been some terrible earthquakes in Japan and in 2011 more than 20,000 people were killed due to the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami in the Pacific north east region. Nuclear power stations were damaged and there were leaks into the sea.

I can't wait to go to Japan. Herself says I'm mad for the road and I say it's an awful thing that I have to leave my own country in search of work.

We will bring you all the news from Japan here next week.

I'm also doing a bit of work for Nippon TV, a Japanese TV station with 12 million viewers. The director feels my Japanese isn't good enough and I will be speaking through the medium of English, with Japanese subtitles.

I'm really excited about having my own subtitles. There are some who say RTÉ should put subtitles at the bottom of the television when I speak in English.

The only problem is I'm wrecked after the Listowel races. The back is buckled. I have a sty as messy as a piggery. The soles are as sore as if I had walked on hot coals.

My nearest and dearest call it the miracle of the passport. They claim I could be at death's door the day before the trip but then when I take the passport out of the sock drawer the miracle occurs, and there isn't an ache or a pain.

I put my back out with a sneeze one time. I was very bad but then I sneezed again at Shannon Airport and the back went back in again.

But for all the talk about the World Cup, the big story hereabouts is today's replay between Kerry and Dublin.

I'll be there and then its back home to behind the bar pulling pints. We have an exemption until two in the morning for the last night of the races.

My pals from north Co Dublin, known as The Big Maggies from St Margaret's GAA club, are here in force.

The stories are flying in, as is the slagging. One of the Dublin boys was queued up for chips after the drawn game 13 days ago. The chip people were making fresh chips and that takes time. The queue was long and hungry. "Hey missus," shouted a starving Dub from the back of the queue, "will the chips be ready in time for the replay?"

The town is festooned in green and gold. Moriarty's, the electrical people, put up rows of green and gold lights at our corner. I have never experienced such excitement over a football game.

Whatever happens, history will be made today. Either Kerry will stop five in a row, or Dublin will win five in a row.

The masses have been switched to an earlier time so the faithful can watch the game on TV. In Kerry it can truly be said football is the opium of the people.

If I wasn't working for this paper, I think I would spend the game praying in the church when all the worshippers were off watching the match.

I have now eaten all of my nails which gives us a new recipe for the party favourite known as finger food.

I think we might just about do it. Our boys are young but they are brave and fast. Dublin are one of the greatest teams of all time and they are hot favourites.

Football is our saving grace. Kids are taught how to play from the minute they can walk.

It is part of us and who we are and where we come from.

Good luck, young men of Kerry and God go with you today in Dublin. Or as they say in Japan, ganbatte, which means do your best.

We can ask no more.

Irish Independent

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