One reason I like studying a foreign language like Japanese is the way it teaches you about your own brain, and whenever I’d undertake the (always difficult) process of internalizing some new bit of vocabulary or grammar — which all too often requires that I “trick” my own brain in devious ways — I could feel the synapses stretching to accept the new information. One thing I learned is that the brain doesn’t want to process what it isn’t already familiar with, and sometimes a Japanese person would ask me a question but my brain refused to react, treating the strange words as static rather than as something that required a response. During college I had a Japanese girlfriend (these come in rather handy, let me tell you), and once she told me to wait for her by the 自動販売機 jido hanbai-ki, the “automatic selling machine” e.g. a vending machine. I didn’t know this word, so my brain substituted the nearest thing it was familiar with, 自転車 jitensha or bicycle, which is why I found myself waiting in vain for her by the bicycle racks instead.
Ami is waiting for me by the vending machine.