I read this story years ago, but iidesuyo recently brought it to my attention
in the "mind-blowing video game facts" thread. I thought I'd translate it to English because it is just too hilarious and vivid a story not to spread. ;)
The history behind it: Claude Moyse worked as a German translator for Nintendo of Europe in the 90s and made regular business trips to Japan. Some years ago, he was invited to a chat session from a Nintendo fan site. He had this story to share:
Originally Posted by Claude Moyse
I was at NCL (Nintendo Co., Ltd.) in Japan. I can't even remember why… Anyway, there was this French translator. She was very funny, if not a little strange. She didn't have a clue when it came to video games, but nevertheless, she translated the games for Nintendo France. Anyway, she was the only European woman there at the time and so we spent the evenings together. One evening, we went past a sex shop and she told me "Hey, I still have to get some souvenirs for my coworkers in Paris". So we went into the sex shop.
Just as we entered, of course, all men escaped from the shop in a panic because women really aren't meant to be in Japanese sex shops. The shop owner's face became all pale and he hid behind the counter, completely ashamed. The French woman however ran through the shop, laughing out loud: "Look, Claude. A giant dildo, though the Japanese only have small… And look, here, a gay photo book with sumo wrestlers who are sticking burning candles up their butts. I gotta give that to my gay coworker!" From time to time, some new customers entered the shop but escaped backwards in an instant seeing that French woman waving around with a transparent rubber dildo in her hands. Anyway, so she bought the dildo and the gay porn magazine and stashed it all away in her handbag.
So, a small change of scene. Regarding NCL, you'll have to know that they have a very strict and relatively conservative atmosphere there. Like "Bureoucracy, Incorporated". An example: There were three company doorways. Entrance number 1 led through a big lobby with a marble floor. A receptionist was sitting somewhere in a corner and she explained to me that this representative entrace was only for Mr. Yamauchi and his personal guests. All the other Nintendo employees were not allowed to go through this hall. Entrace number 2 was for the managers and the company executives. And then there was entrace number 3 for all the "normal" people. Work began at 9 a.m. Hundreds of people (the Japanese are punctual) were flowing towards the building. Interesting to note: Managers and "normal" people arrive at different speeds. Managers go more slowly and workers have to hurry up and run faster. Pretty funny to look at. That has something to do with Japanese culture – as an employee, you have to show how dedicated you are and that you're below the managers in the hierarchy. Anyway, once you're in the building, you have to change your clothes first. For men, there's beige Nintendo overalls, for women, there's beige blouses. The offices itself look like battery cages, even Mr. Miyamoto had a small slot in an open-plan office…although he'd probably have gotten more room (and has gotten by now), but back then, he wanted to stay down to the basics. The official working time begins with Mozart's "Eine kleine Nachtmusik". And as if they were robots, everyone begins to work right away, highly concentrated and with an empty expression on their faces.
The French woman and I, we were put in a meeting room, although we were working on different things. I found that very strange, it was almost like some kind of quarantine room for highly contagious Europeans. ;-) And this French woman was really hilarious…she was working on some role-playing game and kept swearing constantly… "To hell with this fucking game…why do I have to think up names for 20 swords? Wouldn't one have been enough?" It was typical video game names for swords, like thieve's sword, hell sword, demon rapier, Excalibur and so on. She just made it "Sword 1", "Sword 2", "Sword 3" etc. We tried to explain to her that it would make no sense that way and that she should be more creative. But her answer always was something like "merde" or "fuck you", all with a French accent, mind you.
I'm trying to remember why I was there, but I don't know. It wasn't because I had to translate a game but because of merchandising for different games. I had to get some approvals on advertisements, posters etc. The person responsible for us was Mr. Tezuka (the producer of the Zelda games), and a lot of other people. Now, I don't know how Mr. Tezuka is in private. During office hours, however, he is dead serious. Safe for a few weird exceptions, as I recall right now – but never mind, that's a different story… ;-) Anyway, so we had lunch hour (heralded by Mozart's "Eine kleine Nachtmusik") and we sat in the meeting room with Tezuka and some others. It was time for some small talk. Mr. Tezuka asked the French woman how she liked Kyoto and what we did the evening before. And she said "Oh, it's great here. We've been to a sex shop…" Followed by an embarassed and unbelieving silence from the Japanese employees. Then she opened her handbag and took out the porn magazine. "Look what I found. They have candles in their asses. Is that what you do around here? And here, this dildo. Cool, ain't it?" It is such a pity that I didn't have a camera with me that moment. I've never before seen such faces, and never have since then. Mr. Tezuka's face got a green tint and he took a few steps back, as if she was possessed. That was cool. Anyway, the story ends on a tragic note, almost like one of the great tragedies. After she had returned from the business trip to France, she was fired one week later. Without any special explanations given. I really think it was because of Mr. Tezuka. Mr. Miyamoto would have had more humor, for sure.