My first visit to Tokyo was in August, during Oubon. The combination of the intense heat and exodus of city dwellers to their hometowns for the holiday left the city rather empty. Many shops were closed, and it was obvious that business was slow overall.
I took to Shinjuku in jeans and a t-shirt, wandering aimlessly and eventually making my way into Kabuki-cho. I passed a group of eleven or so well dressed men and women hanging around outside of an ornate building. One of them, a beautiful woman of about 5’9″, in high heels and a simple yet seductive black cocktail dress, and dark brown hair down just past her shoulders, said something to me in Japanese. I replied in Japanese that I didn’t understand (as at this point my Japanese was very poor) and continued walking.
She said something else and I apologized, repeating that I didn’t understand. her response was a single word. “Seksu.” Phonetisize that if you have trouble understanding.
At this point I was still in a committed relationship with a girl back in San Francisco. I have a habit of being faithful to a fault. I also hadn’t started my job, so my income was limited. Wanting to say no to her, I replied “Ie, daijoubu.”
What I meant this to mean was “No, I’m okay.” As in no thank you. There were two problems with this. The first problem was I said ie instead of iie. Iie means “no.” Ie means “my house.” The second problem was I misunderstood the use of daijoubu. While it’s generally translated as “okay” in English, its meaning is closer to “it is mutually agreed upon.” So what I ended up saying was “My house, it’s agreed.” This lead to a bit of confusion, and the woman following me two more blocks.
A conversation with a coworker later brought to light my misuse of the language. He explained to me that if you want to refuse something, it’s best to say “kekko desu,” similar to no thanks. He was more of the opinion that I should have asked “Ikura?” (How much?)