“Peek-a-boo” to most, and “Eat Bulaga” back home in the Philippines, my fast-growing, fast-talking two-year old Uri introduced me to its Japanese counterpart recently.
Anybody with kids in Japan takes comfort in knowing that children’s books are as regular as magazines in many establishments. It’s no surprise, then, to see kids running off to bookshelves when visiting the dentist, doctor, or barber, or just eating out at a restaurant.
Uri had easily picked up on the habit, and on this particular day, we were at a drug store waiting for kusuri (medicine) for his nagging cough and colds. Having been familiar with this small shop beside his doctor’s clinic, Uri was off to the shelves the moment the sliding doors opened for him. I, on the other hand, headed to the counter to hand over his prescription and kusuri techou (medicine book). Quick and already engrossed with his choice, Uri was talking to his book as he walked to me at the waiting area, much like a cellphone addict texting and talking on the phone while crossing the street.
As I slowly tried to decipher the title of the book, written in basic but a bit fanciful Hiragana font, Uri gave the answer away, complete with the proper intonation.
“Oh, right, that’s what the title says,” I thought to myself, while peeking at the cover from the side.
But Uri kept repeating the words, as if innocently mocking me. And, as he continued to read on, I realize that he had been playing the game with a bear, a cat and a little girl – the characters in the book – who were taking turns covering their eyes on one page and opening them on the next.
A simple, self-explanatory book had suddenly given me a eureka moment. With confirmation from Google Translate, the second Nihongo translator in the house was well on his way, and that I had just learned the Japanese for “Peek-a-boo.”