When I was in high school, I was almost never late. Well, that’s not exactly true – I was late from time to time. My school had a rule about being late: we had to fill out a form writing down the time and reason. After filling out the form, we had to find someone from the teachers’ office to get his approval.
I thought that the practice was time-consuming and unnecessary, especially having to write the reason which I thought was utterly useless. ‘What difference does it make?’ I thought. Most students simply overslept. Wasn’t it obvious? Sure, there were some lazy ones who got up early enough but were still late because they were watching TV or whatever procrastination they were involved in at the moment, but what were they supposed to write? ‘Watching a particularly engaging morning show’ surely wouldn’t cut it. We would just end up writing the same old excuse (I overslept) again and again and I don’t think the teachers enjoyed it. (Actually, I fantasised about writing ‘saving people’s lives’ but unfortunately the opportunity never presented itself.)
One day, I got creative. I wrote nantonaku (without any particular reason) as the reason. I thought it was an interesting choice of word; the kind of inexplicableness that the word possessed pleased me. ‘We humans don’t always have clear motives to do things’, I thought, ‘and hopefully, some teachers will understand my sense of humour, and even if they don’t it’ll be interesting to see their reaction.’
What I didn’t know was that the only teacher who was available at that moment was an American who didn’t speak fluent Japanese. When I handed the form to him, he got confused.
‘What does nantonaku mean?’ he asked.
‘Ah, well …’ I looked at him awkwardly. I didn’t know how to explain for I wasn’t particularly fluent in English back then. The nuance of the word seemed awfully complicated.
Nantonaku is such a useful word. It is a perfectly valid answer when somebody asks you ‘why?’
‘I wanna eat Thai food today?’
‘Why are you dating him?’
‘I’ve been feeling nantonaku sad since this morning.’
‘I nantonaku feel something good will happen today.’
The best thing about this word is that you can give a reason without giving a reason. We don’t always know the reason why we are doing something or feeling in a particular way, but when we talk about it, we may feel giving a reason is expected. Now you know how to deal with this: just say nantonaku.
That’s how I’m going to answer this question: why did I write this article? Well, nantonaku …