Throwing things out

Japan has a tradition of doing a massive cleanup of their homes before the year ends, and I happen to love joining in on this tradition. I know there’s spring cleaning, but nothing like ringing in the new year in a sparkling home.

That being said, it’s quite hard to throw things out in this country. Every city has its own rules of how you throw things out, and I think maybe the number 1 complaint I’ve heard from people about foreigners living here is: “They don’t know how to throw out trash.”

In the States, I lived in places where you could throw out cans and bottles right along with the regular trash. Not so here. Anywhere I’ve lived here, you just can’t do that.

Traveling in Japan and throwing things out

As a traveler, you will often come across garbage cans that either say もえるゴミ (burnable trash) or もえないゴミ (non-burnable). Again, the rules slightly vary according to where you are in Japan, but for the most part, I think of burnable trash as anything that is made of paper or any leftover food and such. I think of non-burnable as clean plastic (like from packages), metal, and bottles*.

*Sometimes there are trash cans that say カン (metal/aluminum cans so like beer cans) ビン (glass bottles) ペットボトル (plastic bottles like ones from vending machines or even the 2 liter ones). If you find these trash cans, then please sort your trash accordingly. 

Some train stations have one that says 新聞 (newspapers), and sometimes you can see businessmen (I've never seen a woman do this) brazenly stick their hands down into the trash to fish out a newspaper or take the lid off entirely and grab whatever they want.

For the most part, Japan isn’t huge on just having trash cans everywhere for your convenience. Sometimes you can find trash cans outside of convenience stores, but there are usually signs that say “Only for leftover trash from what you bought here.” For the most part, Japan expects you to carry your trash with you and throw it out when you get home. Sometimes you can find bottle recycling bins next to vending machines, at least.

Tip for traveling here: If you can, bring along a little plastic bag to act as a trash bag that you can stuff in your bag. If you do happen to find a glorious trash can (sometimes train stations help you out here), please take a moment to actually sort your trash.

If you don’t know how to throw something out, take it back to your hotel and ask the front desk people.

Living in Japan and throwing things out

My number one tip for living here: Ask your ward office or city office for a little brochure about throwing out trash, then study it. Post it up on your fridge or wherever you need to so you can get it down. It’s annoying, a tremendous pain, but this is a small island nation that doesn’t have many places to throw stuff out. So please do everyone here a favor and try to figure it out if you plan on living here.

Throwing out large stuff: One of the great challenges is throwing out large items like broken or old furniture. In a lot of places where I’ve lived, you need to call the local ward or city office’s garbage collection number (it’ll be on the trash brochure if you got one. Otherwise you’ll need to look it up online) and arrange a date and time for someone to come collect it. They will tell you how much it’ll cost to throw out. Then you go to a convenience store, buy a special coupon thing to attach to your furniture, and on the arranged date and time, you put your old furniture at the designated site with the coupon attached. I don’t know if this is the same process everywhere, so again, look at that trash brochure thingy for options or ask the local ward/city office.

Thanksgiving in Japan

A coupon for Black Friday at an Aeon Mall

Suffice it to say, there is no Thanksgiving in Japan. Not many here know when it even is, and that makes sense to me . Japan already has two opportunities in the year to get together with relatives – in August during the Obon season where you remember the departed, and then over the New Year, where you bring in the New Year surrounded by loved ones. I don’t think Japan is looking for more holidays to get together with family.

However, there is Black Friday. Much like Japan seems to have taken Christmas and turned it into a mixture of commercialism and Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving has turned into an opportunity for sales.

Most amusing to me, I think, is that Black Friday starts anytime in mid-November here, well before Thanksgiving. I’m not sure if many here even know why it’s called Black Friday or why it’s happening in November.

The sales are nice, but I feel rather alone pressing on with trying to keep the tradition of getting together with family and eating a nice meal alive when everyone else is just going about their day. (I personally am not a fan of Thanksgiving’s history, but I do like the idea of having an excuse to get together with family, eat a lot and talk about what you’re thankful for.)

Turkey simply can’t be found in Japan, as far as I’ve ever looked. Even if I could find a whole turkey to cook, the thing wouldn’t fit into my microwave oven. I’m not a huge fan of dried-out turkey anyway. Thus, I’m going to make a chicken dish. I made homemade apple cider since they don’t sell that in Japan either, and I made a pumpkin pie using Japan’s fantastic kabocha squash. I’m also hoping to make some coleslaw at some point today.

I’m hoping we can eat a nice, fake Thanksgiving dinner while talking about what we’re thankful for. Maybe I can mail some of the leftover pumpkin pie to some relatives who live relatively nearby.

Surviving bonsai

I’m ridiculously new to trying to keep a bonsai alive, but I now have three of the poor trees under my care.

I’m in love with maple trees, especially when they change color in autumn, so I have three of those at the moment. If I could just have a nice garden where I could grow things in the ground, I’d have three nice massive ones, but since I can only have plants in pots, here we are at bonsai.

I’ve been researching bonsai care like crazy, and I joined a few communities on Facebook for newbie bonsai care, and I feel like I’m at a level where I’m not terrified of utterly ruining my bonsai thanks to my inept pruning abilities.

I think it helped seeing this guy, my bonsai go-to person, whack away at maple bonsai as if he were trimming some hedges:

This guy is a legend to me.

Thus, I decided that today is the day I would prune the worst-off maple bonsai.

What my bonsai looked like before I trimmed it.

Parts of it are dying for unknown reasons (yay I’m doing such a good job), but there were a few branches having the time of their lives.

I just bought special pruning shears and started snipping away at the poor thing, keeping in mind which I thought of as the “Front” of the bonsai. I’m really unhappy parts of it are just dying, and I realize that forest-like arrangements like this are supposed to be a triangle in shape, but I pruned how I wanted it.

How it looks now

I’m happy with it, for now. I’m mostly just happy I’m slowly becoming more confident in at least attempting things like this. I know this bonsai also needs to be repotted, so I’m trying to gather up courage to repot it in February or March.

Visiting Japan without breaking the bank

For whenever Japan finally allows tourists from abroad back into the nation again, I thought I’d put a few tips I’ve accumulated for how to survive in this nation without losing all of your money in the process.

Avoid convenience stores, if you can

They’re convenient, clean and in so many ways everything convenience stores in America are not, but you pay for all of that. Drinks, snacks and all the other little things are so much more expensive here than in other places.

That being said, I know there are probably going to be late nights when you just really need a drink or you realize you are in desperate need for a tissue box and nothing else is open. Convivence stores love to take advantage of the fact most stores in Japan are not 24/7.

Shop at grocery stores

If you can, find the nearest grocery store from wherever you’re staying and buy all of your food there. They sell drinks, snacks, bread and even obteno boxed lunches – everything you find at convenience stores but for a lot cheaper. A lot of grocery stores also have microwaves where you can heat up everything.

The best time to get cheap obento is just before the store closes, which is when someone from the store goes from obento to obento and puts stickers on marking things half off or more, sometimes.

A lot of Aeon grocery stores are open 24/7 so if you can find one of those near you, your life should be set for your stay.

Pick what souvenirs you want before you go

If you can, take a look around online and see what kinds of things you absolutely want to spend a ton of money on so you can focus on those when you’re here and not get distracted by other stuff, like I sometimes do when I’m on vacation.

For souvenirs for co-workers and such, 100-yen shops have you covered. I have heard many people from abroad also adore Japanese snacks, so the grocery store snack aisles are a great place for that, too.

If you don’t care about luxury staying, here are a few options

Almost every major train station has a host of business hotels near them. They’re like sleeping in a closet, but if you only care about using it as a place to sleep, then you can save a ton of money on accommodation costs.

Japan also has the Air B&B option, but it’s not taking off here quite so much, so I personally recommend business hotels for staying here cheaply.

Word of warning: Don’t mistake a love hotel for a business hotel. A business hotel looks really boring and standard, with windows that actually look out. A love hotel looks really tacky most of the time and with windows that are covered so you can’t look into the rooms whatsoever.

Capsule hotels are also an option mostly in Tokyo, and of course everyone loves to say they survived one of these coffin adventures. I had a friend stay in one who said it was quite the experience, and they’re noted for being pretty cheap, so if you’re feeling adventurous and want to save money, go for it.

Hostels are also a great option if you can find them. If you want to stay in places farther away from touristy areas, then don’t expect to find them too much.

Can’t find a place to stay but you desperately need one?

You actually have a few options if everything I mentioned above is booked solid for some reason or the town just doesn’t have one.

  1. Internet Cafes – They’re still a thing here. Live the life of an otaku or someone who just got kicked out of their house (I’m super generalizing here) and book an overnight stay at an internet cafe. Some of them actually come with showers and complimentary toothbrushes, so that’s exciting.
  2. Large onsen hot springs – Some of them offer overnight tickets, but they have to be a pretty big franchise for this like Oedo Onsen Monogatari, which is near Tokyo Disney Resorts. There used to be one in Odaiba, but it closed in September, apparently.
  3. Family restaurants – A last resort can be family restaurants, which are generally open 24/7. They obviously frown upon you just taking up space in the restaurant with all of your luggage and such for the night, but if you’re desperate enough, at least it’s a place to stay for a few hours.
  4. You can also try asking someone at the nearest train station (if it’s still open) if there are any places still open where you can stay.

Want cool and cheap Japanese clothing?

The best place, in my personal opinion, is a store called Shimamura, which is generally written in hiragana on its store signs: しまむら. They sell a ton of bad English shirts, and you sometimes come across shirts with Japanese on them, too.

UNIQLO will also help you with some cool shirts. They had a whole Japan section at their store near Tokyo Skytree, but I haven’t visited in a while so it might not be there anymore.

For your kids, try finding a store called Nishi-Matsuya (西松屋) which has a white bunny on its sign holding a kind of flower that I want to say is a dandelion. Their clothes are really cheap but still have Japanese anime characters and such on them sometimes.

Bad English

They obviously meant to say “Caffeine free” but I like the idea of tea offering you free caffeine.

Over the over 12 years I’ve spent in Japan, I’ve realized a few points about bad English that you can find here:

  1. You won’t find it on many big-name company products. Disney Resort products are especially careful with their English. UNIQLO is also really good with their English since becoming a more global brand. That means, if you want bad English on a shirt, look to stores selling cheap clothing. The store “Shimamura” comes to mind. Cheap, and the phrases on their shirts are priceless.

2. You stop caring after a while. When I first came to Japan, bad English was a huge novelty that amused me to no end. I collected shirts of truly bizarre English and proudly wore them. Now, however, I’ve grown so accustomed to bad English that nothing but truly, truly genius mistakes will grab my attention.

3. I still remember a news segment I watched a while ago that showed the process of people in fashion companies choosing English that goes on their shirts. It is beyond haphazard. Apparently the employees care more about how a word looks on the shirt, in the font they want, than what it means. They don’t focus on how the words come together to form sentences; it’s all about how the shape of the words look on the shirt.

4. My absolute biggest pet-peeve for bad English in Japan is all of the signs stating “Close” when a store is closed. I think in the 12 years I’ve been here, I’ve only spotted maybe 5 stores that have put “Closed” instead of “Close.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to restrain myself from grabbing a permanent marker and sticking a “d” to the end of the sign.

Japan and English

Japan has a problem with English, that much I’m aware.

They have two mentalities, I think, going against them here.

First, this is a culture that doesn’t like mistakes. There’s a kind of public shaming that takes place, even in elementary school classrooms where I used to do assistant teaching, when someone makes a mistake. I remember being told by my organization at the time to not point out mistakes teachers write in English on chalkboards. I thought that was strange because it meant the kids would be writing down in their notebooks blatantly wrong English and learning it. However, pride gets in the way here, I think. People here want to just magically be perfect at English. As anyone who’s learned a second language can attest, however, mistakes come with the territory of learning a language. Even if you’ve never tried to learn a second language, think back to when you were a kid learning your native language. Did you come out of the womb speaking that language perfectly? I think not. Mistakes are crucial to language learning, and Japan seems to be allergic to mistakes.

Second, they share the isolationist mentality that America enjoys as well – Why bother learning this language when we live in Japan? For America, I often hear the idea of “We’re never leaving the States so why learn anything beyond English?” Japan has that mentality, too, I think.

I don’t have a clear answer to why anyone should learn another language, just my own opinion. I think learning another language helps sharpen your mind, for one thing, but it also helps you better understand just how vast the world is. Even if you never leave your own country, at least you’ll have experienced a taste of a different culture in trying to learn another language. I think that’s so crucial to human development and empathy.

I also understand that English is the major second language of the world, but I think that’s kind of a shame because English is just so complicated and contradictory. I remember trying to learn Esperanto just for fun, and I have to say the creators really did work hard to make that language so much easier to learn than English.

As Esperanto isn’t taking off at all, however, unfortunately lots of people across the world have to suffer through the insanity that is English. And I think Japan’s roadblocks to English success aren’t going to go away anytime soon.

Drinks in Japan

A milk tea that says it will help you stay healthy. The label at the top proclaims “A first in Japan!”

Every time I visit the grocery store, I love perusing the bottled drinks section because I’ll usually run into a drink I’ve never seen before.

Companies like Pepsi love putting out “limited edition” flavors, which for me is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s fun seeing what’s new. On the other hand, if I love one of those flavors, I know they’ll only be there for a month or so and then vanish.

My favorite drink Pepsi has produced thus far was Blue Hawaii from back in 2008. I was studying abroad in Kyoto at the time, and it was my drink of choice for almost the entire time I was there. I sadly, at the time, wasn’t aware that this was limited edition. When I came back to Japan about a year later, devastation reigned when I scoured grocery store after grocery store and never found a single one.

I think drink companies marketing in Japan have all jumped on the latest bandwagon – healthy drinks. Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen an outcropping of drinks that declare they will: lower your cholesterol, burn off fat, help your body not process too much sugar, keep your immune system up, or help you de-stress. I don’t trust any of them, but I still like to try them.

The latest find in the “healthy drinks” department is milk tea (seen above) that seems to be stating it will help you stay healthy somehow. The label says there are probiotic elements in the tea, though it doesn’t have the Health Ministry’s stamp of approval (the silhouette of a person with their hands up in the air) so I have no idea if this actually does anything at all. I’m highly skeptical, but I still bought one to try it.

Studying Japanese

To native English-speaking people, Japanese poses several challenges. In fact, the Foreign Service Institute put it in the top-four hardest languages for us to learn as a second language.

Japanese earns this place of honor largely for its writing systems.

Yes, systems plural.

While English enjoys one writing system (the alphabet), Japan decided it’d be fun to mix three writing systems together, which they do all the time. You can actually see all three in action in one sentence.

For example: ここでサインして下さい。(Please sign here)

Here’s a quick breakdown of the writing systems.

Hiragana ひらがな

This is the first writing system people in Japan learn. Every symbol represents one sound only, which is easier than the alphabet in many respects (I’m looking at you, letters A, and C).

Katakana カタカナ

This is the second writing system, and it’s mainly used to put foreign words into Japanese. This isn’t the only reason for its use, but I think it’s the main one. Just like with hiragana, each symbol represents only one sound. There is one katakana symbol for every hiragana symbol.

Kanji 漢字

This is where many people want to just throw in the towel with Japanese. Each Chinese-imported character represents not only sounds (and the sound can change depending on the surrounding Chinese characters), but ideas. For example, 木. You can read it as “ki”, and it means “tree.”

It might help your mind to know right now that there is kanji for almost every noun you can think of. Even if Japanese usually write coffee as コーヒー (in katakana), you’ll often see older coffee houses writing the word as 珈琲 (coffee) on their store signs. There’s kanji for everything.

Tips

Sounds – It’s important to understand that Japanese has a pretty bare selection of sounds it can make compared to English. That’s why it’s just plain wrong to pronounce “karaoke” as “care-ee-oh-key” because Japanese symbols only have one sound per symbol. Karaoke is written as カラオケ in katakana (“empty orchestra”), where the カ symbol can only be read as “kah”, ラ can only be read as “rah”, オ can only be read as “oh” and ケ can only be read as “kay.” Together, you get “kah-rah-oh-kay.” If you can figure this out early on in your studies, you will swiftly master pronunciation.

I think the best way to learn how to properly pronounce Japanese is to listen to it as much as you can. Just like the way babies learn. Even if you’re not a fan of anime, try to find a TV drama, a movie or a TV show in Japanese that you can listen to with subtitles. It’ll help you listen to the rhythm and ways of speaking the language. If there’s a Japanese club nearby or a language exchange, go for it.

I know of a lot of native English-speaking people who brag about how easy it is to pronounce Japanese, only to sound exactly like an English-speaking person trying to speak Japanese. Your goal should be to sound Japanese. My favorite challenge is to try fooling people on the phone into thinking I’m a native Japanese person. I’ve found that people who are good at music tend to be good at copying pronunciation for various languages. That’s just what I’ve found anyway.

Writing hiragana and katakana – This is painful, but the sooner you can ingrain hiragana and katakana into your head, the better. I’ve heard of some Japanese classes sticking with Romanized Japanese for far too long. Writing out Japanese in Roman lettering will not help you out here that much. Even if you never master kanji, at least being able to write out things like “I’m lost” or “Where is the station?” in hiragana or even katakana will vastly improve your odds of the average Japanese person helping you.

The Japanese way of learning is to write each symbol over and over again until you can write it in your sleep. Do whatever you can to memorize each one. More and more handwriting is getting worse here, and people’s expectations of your writing abilities are low, but if you really want to become a master calligrapher, then I recommend finding some children’s hiragana/katakana workbooks online and copying what you see. Stroke order in Japanese is important so pay attention to that, too. This is all about precision and beauty.

Learning kanji – Another painful thing to learn, but again it’s all about memorization. It really helps, I think, to read children’s books where they put the way to read kanji (in hiragana, which they call “furigana”) above the actual kanji. Manga meant for younger people also usually put the furigana above all the kanji. This helps you remember how to read a lot of the kanji. Flash cards also helped me a lot, as did writing the words over and over again. To really get kanji to soak into your brain, you really need to make it a part of your life. I also love that a lot of Japanese TV shows will, for some reason, write out what the person on the screen is saying, as they’re saying it. It’s like they put closed-captioning on everything. This immensely helps me learn how to read kanji. Again, stroke order is king here.

Dictionaries – I know many people like to buy electronic dictionaries, but I am going to confess to you here that I have gotten to a passing level of Japanese with the help of Nihongodict.com. They are definitely not paying me to write this, but I love them. It’s a free online dictionary that I’ve been using for years and years, and it’s gotten me to where I am today. So thank you, people at Nihongodict.com

Beyond that, kanji dictionaries can definitely help. I wouldn’t really bother with hiragana and katakana ones beyond children’s workbooks (I have learned to never think children’s books are beneath me when learning a second language). I also love reading manga (mostly heart-warming romances). You’d be surprised to find there’s a manga basically for any interest you can think of. I’m sure there’s a gardening one out there I’ve missed.

Japanese TV dramas – Part One

I am a huge fan of so many of the TV dramas Japan has produced over the years. I’m a huge sucker for romantic gestures in light-hearted romantic comedies, in general.

I’m going to introduce a few of my favorites and hope maybe one day you might try to watch them.

General note about Japanese TV dramas

To the great irritation of a lot of my Japanese friends – who say they love American TV shows so much more because big budgets mean movie-like quality – most Japanese TV shows simply don’t have money for good special effects. This is not the place to go for that.

Instead, Japanese TV dramas must rely on great acting and great storytelling to make for a great series.

Unlike American TV shows that can go into 14 seasons or more, Japan usually only ever has one season of a drama, with about 10 episodes. If the show does amazingly well with viewership ratings, they’ll make another a couple more episodes, then maybe a second season. If that goes well, they’ll put out a movie and be done with it.

The only massive exception I’ve seen to this is a cop show called Aibou, 相棒 (“Partner”), which has done 19 seasons.

As such, the stories are usually fairly well thought out, and the acting can be really good. I like that special effects also can’t distract from bad acting or bad stories. If it’s bad, you can immediately tell. Stories that aren’t well received usually stop by around episode 10, sometimes 8.

Hana Yori Dango (花より男子)

(Boys over Flowers – this is a play-on-words for the phrase hana yori dango, which sounds the same, but the kanji for dango is supposed to be 団子, a type of wagashi Japanese sweet, and it means “preferring food over looking at flowers”).

My favorite TV romantic drama of all time, it was truly a force to be reckoned with when it came out. It did so well that they added more episodes, then a second season, then a movie. Everything this production team did was adored in Japan.

Brief synopsis: A ridiculously poor family pours their money into sending their daughter to a high school for the rich in the hopes she marries rich (it’s cringe-worthy just writing here). The daughter has no interest in anyone there, loathing their self-entitlement sentiments, until she finally makes a friend at the school. When that friend ends up on the wrong side of one of the school’s elite students, the daughter shows the whole school what she’s made of.

Review: While I hate the parents and their idea of marrying off their daughter to bring themselves out of poverty, I love basically everything else about this incredibly ridiculous but fun drama. I love watching the male lead (Matsumoto Jun) figure out how to be a human being, I love the daughter (Inoue Mao) for being so unapologetically strong. The two had such strong chemistry in this series that there are still rumors they’re actually dating.

Saikou no Rikon (最高の離婚)

(The greatest divorce).

This is my favorite TV drama for acting. It was received fairly well, though as far as I know, it only got a special (basically a one-hour episode recapping the series and adding about five minutes of original content). I would’ve loved to have seen more.

Brief synopsis: An extremely high-maintenance man wonders more and more how he ended up marrying his polar opposite. Meanwhile, an old flame of his ends up moving into his neighborhood.

Review: My God the acting in this is just superb. I can’t even begin to properly describe how much I love it. To me, this entire series was like watching a stage play on TV. This, I think, is what happens when you boil down a good script to the very best it can be and mix in some high-quality acting. It’s just a treasure to watch.

Although a lot of places seem to describe this as a romantic comedy, a dramedy would be a better description. There are quite a few gut-punching moments in here mixed so beautifully with antics. I can’t recommend this show enough.

Ryusei no Kizuna 流星の絆

(Meteoric bonds?)

This is truly a gut-wrenching story with more fantastic acting from some of the top actors in Japan all in the same drama (much like Saikou no Rikon).

Brief synopsis: Three children are left orphaned after the brutal murder of their parents. When the police can’t find a suspect, the three vow to one day catch the murderer.

Review: This is not a happy drama, though there are moments of light-heartedness. It’s part whodunit, part grieving. There’s nothing like seeing that the older brother’s desktop picture is the police profile sketch of the potential suspect. And the reveal of who the suspect actually is…it’s just incredible.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Letters from Iwo Jima, you might recognize the lead in this: Ninomiya Kazunari, who’s a pop idol currently on hiatus.

This is a tragedy, though the ending is a little bit healing. There’s closure, at least.

Last Friends ラスト フレンズ

This is not for the faint-of-heart or for anyone who doesn’t want to relive being in an abusive relationship. That being said, I love that this drama tackled incredibly important topics Japan usually doesn’t love talking about: gender identity, controlling behavior, abusive relationships that are well hidden.

Brief synopsis: A woman moves in with her boyfriend, only to find out he’s not at all what he seems. Meanwhile, her best friend is struggling with being trapped in a woman’s body while trying to hide her feelings for her friend.

Review: This is not only another unhappy drama, it’s really intense. The abusive boyfriend is played, quite masterfully, by a Japanese pop idol named Nishikido Ryo. (He’s also in the previously mentioned Ryusei no Kizuna) Seeing him acting like this is just something I’ll never get out of my head, no matter how many times I see him in other things. Another actor named Eita, who is famous for his superb acting, also makes an appearance here. (You can also see him in the previously mentioned Saikou no Rikon.) I will never be able to express how much I love Ueno Juri in this show, either. She’s fantastic on so many levels.

Again, this is not a happy show. There are a few sparse moments of levity, but mostly it’s wondering how long before Nishikido Ryo’s character just finally kills his girlfriend. Mercifully, he doesn’t, I’d like to add. I love it for the acting; I love it for tackling tough subjects.

Working in an office in Japan – Part 2

Based on my experiences working here, I’ve realized that many Japanese in the office don’t just say “No” to you or say “You’re doing a terrible job.” They like to indirectly hint at the idea of these, instead, using carefully worded phrases. For your consideration, I have translated them below into more plain-spoken English.

NOTE: Please keep in mind, this is just from my experience. I in no way aim to say that this applies to every single office environment here. This is only what I have learned from my own experiences.

Saying no

“That would be a little difficult to do.”
ちょっと難しいですね。
That’s never going to happen.
“Let me think about it.”
少し考えさせて頂きます。
And the answer is no.
“We’ve never done that before.”
やっとことはないですね。
And we don’t plan to start now.
“Hmm.”
んー・ちょっと
Nope.
“That’s an interesting idea.”
面白いアイデアですね。
That’s a weird idea I don’t like.
“No.”
ダメです。
Dear God it’s such a hard pass that I couldn’t even find a way around being indirect.
“I’m sorry but…”
すみませんが
…this is not going to happen.

Saying you did a bad job at something

“That was hard to do, wasn’t it?”
大変でしたね。
You did an absolutely horrible job.
“You worked hard.”
頑張りましたよね。
A for effort.
“Would you like my help?”
手伝いましょうか?
I can’t stand to see you do such a horrible job anymore.
“You’re so good at this.”
上手ですね。
I’m trying to build up your confidence.
“It’s an interesting take on it.”
面白いやり方ですね。
This is completely wrong.
“It’s a little different than how I imagined it would be.”
ちょっと想像したことと違いますね。
Did you even listen to me when I gave you the directions on how to do this?

Hopefully this helpful new pocket translation dictionary I just wrote up will help you out if you ever decide to work in a traditional Japanese office setting so you don’t waltz around the office oblivious to the undertones of what people are saying to you.