Synopsis: For their recent Japanese concert tour, SHINee was given orders to sharpen their Japanese speaking skills, much to their displeasure. Taemin thinks that the best teacher is perhaps KARA, the most popular Hallyu star in Japan, but during his “lessons” he finds something else that is far more interesting.
The SHINee boys entered their dorm in a bitter mood.
That was all thanks to their prior meeting with their president, who ordered them to brush up their Japanese “until you’re really really really fluent” before their upcoming concert tour in Japan.
It’s not like they didn’t like to learn it. They have done it before, and they had all the basics down. It was just that there was suddenly so much to do in a very short period of time.
“Why can’t we have a translator help us out? Or Yunho-hyung and Changmin-hyung? Or the So Nyuh Shi Dae girls?” Jonghyun complained.
Onew glanced at him tiredly. “I already told you a thousand times. We have to do this on our own because our effort would seem more sincere that way. Have you forgotten what our president said?”
Jonghyun just grumbled in reply and slumped deeper into his armchair.
“For our fans, we have to do this, even if it is by ourselves,” Minho exclaimed determinedly, and pumped his fist in the air.
The others just rolled their eyes at his ‘heroic’ enthusiasm. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know that,” Key said dismissively.
Minho narrowed his eyes angrily at him.
“Look, why don’t we start by,” Onew began, picking up the TV remote and somehow successfully easing the tension, “watching some Japanese programmes? We’ll get some enjoyment out of it, too.”
“Good idea, hyung,” Taemin said, closing his eyes and rubbing his temples.
The first Japanese channel Onew came upon was NHK which showed a documentary on a group of fishermen in Okinawa and how they make a living.
The boys tried watching in silence for five minutes before Key voiced out sarcastically, “Yah, Onew-hyung, is there anything more boring than this?”
Onew scowled and changed to another channel.
Thankfully, the next channel was showing Hey! Hey! Hey!.
“Ooh! Let’s stick with this!” Key said excitedly. “They usually have interesting guests. We have to get used to the variety programmes’ lingo anyway.”
The others perked up and continued watching, but they totally didn’t expect one of the guests to be one of their own fellow stars in the Kpop world.
“We also have KARA!” the show host exclaimed, and the five girls, all smiles, filed out while waving to the audience and the camera.
Key blinked. “Okay,” he said slowly. “I didn’t see that one coming.”
The other hummed in agreement but their eyes were glued to the screen.
“At least we can learn something from them,” Minho said.
To their amazement, the girls were perfectly natural on the show and didn’t reveal even a slight discomfort in being on it. Their accurate Japanese flowed freely from their mouths as if they have been speaking it for many years.
“Do they really understand what the host is saying, or do they just follow everyone else when they laugh?” Jonghyun asked incredulously. “That host is, like, saying a hundred words per second! And she mumbles the whole time.”
“Yah. The girls have been doing this for far longer than we have. Of course they understand,” Key replied miserably. “Nicole told me they learned it in one or two months, and already they were this good.”
“Really?” Jonghyun and Minho exclaimed in disbelief.
While his seniors discussed between themselves about the girl group’s achievement, Taemin found himself unable to take his eyes off the KARA maknae, Jiyoung who conversed the most with the host.
The way she spoke Japanese was so natural that she figuratively became one of the Japanese people on the show. And her confidence was very apparent on screen.
“Amazing,” he whispered, totally in awe at how natural and easy it was for her to speak Japanese.
“Hm? What did you say, Taemin?” Minho inched closer to him but didn’t take his eyes off the girls.
“Huh, what? Nothing,” Taemin said hurriedly, cleared his throat and continued gazing at Jiyoung on TV. ‘She’s so good!’ he thought.
As if Minho could read his mind, Minho said in admiration, “Uwaa, Jiyoung’s Japanese is really good!”
Taemin was surprised to also find the others echoing Minho, with their jaws open as they stare at the television.
“Seungyeon-noona is good too,” Onew mumbled.
“Nicole too,” Key said softly next to him.
“These things are not scripted, right?” Jonghyun asked exasperatedly, his wide eyes glued to the screen.
“I doubt it,” Onew answered gravely, his face showing an expression of horror. “I think we would sweat a ton if we were asked that many questions.”
The others agreed sadly at the cruel truth.
When the show was finally over, the boys remained still, still not taking their eyes off the TV, even when the channel was showing a news programme.
Jonghyun sighed. “That is why they are the most popular Hallyu star in Japan right now.”
The others hummed in agreement.
“Do you remember last year when we did that Christmas concert special with them and FT Island?” Jonghyun asked. “We had to plan what to say, and we even wrote it down and had it memorised, but not them. They spoke to the audience from their hearts. Even FT Island was better!”
Minho stood up. “Hyung, let’s not dwell on how better everyone else is than us. We can be just as good!” he exclaimed, punching a fist in the air.
The others rolled their eyes and left him standing alone in the living room. “What?” he asked innocently. “We can do it if we believe in ourselves!”
Key said over his shoulder, “You do know that you’re the worst at speaking Japanese, right? You should take your own advice and get to work. Now.”
Minho glared at his retreating back and grumbled.