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Born in Stockholm (Sweden), now live in Sapporo (Japan). Hold a Ph.D. in computer science and work with computers during the days, perform magic in a bar during the nights (and weekends, for kids). Also used to teach historical fencing back in Sweden.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


My colleague still wearing his rather worn slippers
My Greek colleague is moving back to Greece so he can finally throw away his very worn down slippers. In Japan you take off your shoes when entering a building and change into slippers. In Sweden we also take off the shoes but slippers is not as common. In Japan I am told it is partly because of all the earthquakes. The likelihood that glass will fall on the floor and shatter is high on any day in Japan (there are on average four larger earthquakes per day in the country) so wearing something to protect your feet is the way to live your life.

Anyway, my friend is leaving the country and an appropriate phrase in Japanese for such occasions is "sayonara". This means "good bye" and is used when you do not know when or if ever you will next meet (so it is not like "see you soon", which would me "mata ne" or something similar).

Strangely enough, the phrase sayonara is used in Greece too. Despite this word coming to Greece from Japanese, it is not used to mean "good bye". Instead, it means something like beach sandals... My Greek friend explained it to me that sayonara are anything sandal-like that has a thing between your toes (as in the photo above). This type of sandal was unheard of in Greece before Greece and Japan had relations, and such sandals first came to Greece from Japan. The Greek traders that brought them from Japan did not know any Japanese, but when they left the port, the Japanese women stood on the quays and shouted "sayonara" (since the Green ships were leaving) so they figured lets call these Japanese sandals by a Japanese word and the only word we have heard enough times to remember it is sayonara, so let's use that. At least that is how my friend explained it.

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