Upon my arrival to these distant shores I found work on the rough and tumble docks of Yokohama. Sure the work was dirty, demeaning, and downright dangerous but so was I. After the whistle would blow I would knock off work and erase the blackboards and clean up the classroom of any trace I had been there (oh, I was an English teacher at a big American container shipping company going over the finer points of conversational English with the Japanese employees).
One evening while waiting for the train home at the nearby train station I was approached by one of my students. He was surprised I didn't drive a car back and forth to work. I think he imagined me arriving to work in a Cadillac convertible, wearing a ten gallon hat on my head and cowboy boots on my feet, and was probably a little disappointed to see me waiting on the train station platform.
He asked me, "Do you drive car?"
"No I don't have a car," I told him.
Then he asked, "Are you saving ass?"
The question made me pause and think for a moment. Was he asking me if I gave up driving in favor of getting more exercise through walking, etc. in an attempt to trim down ("save") the size of my ass?
"Ass?" I asked in hope of getting the derailed conversation back on track. Then he pointed to the full glowing moon hanging low over the roof of the station and said, "You know, moon - ass."
Which I found to be just as puzzling a statement as his previous one. I thought his reference to the moon was once again anatomical, as in "mooning," etc.
After a few awkward minutes I finally realized he wasn't saying "ass" but rather he was saying "earth." He was asking me if I had given up driving for the sake of the planet earth. Japanese learners of English usually pronounce the "th" sound as "s" while e's and a's are typically elongated.
Relieved at where the conversation was headed, I smiled and said, "Oh, earth, you mean earth. Yes, I'm saving the earth." Then suddenly two trains pulled up along both sides of the platform. He smiled bowed and got on his train while I nodded and boarded mine on the opposite side as we departed into the night, headed in completely different directions.