A is for Amaterasu, the sun goddess and Japan's best-known deity. A is also for amanogawa (the Milky Way), Aomori Prefecture and All Nippon Airways.
B is for Buddhism, bo-san (Buddhist priest) and bon dancing — now take a bow. B is also for batsu (literally "X"), the Japanese gesture of crossing your arms in front of you — an alarming way — to indicate something "can't be done."
C is for cheezu! (Cheese!) said when taking a photo. And C is for concriito, a virile form of concrete that grows everywhere in Japan.
D is for dame (no way!), daijobu (OK) and Disney.
E is for Ehhhhhhhhhhhhh?! — an expression of disbelief, such as at the eki (train station), when you realize you've gotten on the wrong train.
F is for futon, fufu (married couple), and furin (to cheat on your spouse).
G is for gaijin (foreigner), and proud of it! G is also for the gakusei (students) you may teach at the gakko (school). And when your students do well, be sure to say "Goo!" (Good!)
H is for hai! (Yes!), the answer to all questions in Japanese, whether you understand them or not.
I is for itadakimasu! said out of respect before eating a meal. Iiiiidesu ne? (Isn't that nice?)
J is for "Japan as No. 1," the country your family thought you went to.
K is for kawaii (cute!), kewpie dolls, konbini (convenience store) and Kitty-chan . . . the real Japan you've come to.
L is for lice (foreign rice) as distinguished from kome, Japanese rice, the staple food in Japan.
M is for the mama-san who serves you miso soup in the minshuku. "Mooooiii desu" (Enough already!) M is for maru, appended to all boat names.
N is for natsukashii, something you fondly remember from long ago. N is for natto (fermented beans). No, not natto!
O is for ohayo! (Good morning!), onsen (hot springs) and "Oh no, I'm still wearing the toilet slippers!"
P is for pachinko chocolate and Pocky, those cylindrical frosted snacks. P is for "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea."
Q is for Q&A, especially the questions that may never be answered about Japan, no matter how much Googling one does on their computers.
R is for Rosu (Los Angeles), Roson (Lawson's), Rasu Begas (Las Vegas), and "I rabu you." (I love you.)
S is for shochu (Japanese distilled spirits), sake and the Gods who beckon you to toast them at 7 a.m. Shinto ceremonies. So desu yo! (It's true!)
T is for taihen (difficult) and tatemae (a form of flattery) that the token gaijin may at times endure. T is for "taoru," (towel), especially those you receive from local businesses with advertising on them. And T is also for takoyaki (octopus balls). Tee-hee.
U is for U-tan (U-turn — people moving back to their hometowns), something you may do yourself some day. But don't be like Urashimataro, who returned home only to find himself hundreds of years old.
V is for the bwee-sign, that gesture given when Japanese pose for photos. You may have thought the V was for victory, but it is really the visual sign for peace.
W is for wan-chan (dogs) who get carried around in their owners' bicycle baskets. Wan-wan! (Arf-arf!). W is also for wairo, the wonderful world of bribery.
X is for Tokyo's X-rated Kabukicho, XX-rated movies, and XXX-rated cabaret clubs.
Y is for yokozuna (the highest rank in sumo), Yoko Ono and making lots of yen!
Z is for zen, which not surprisingly, rhymes with yen.