What the heck is a “Gossip Shop?”

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, has a few odds and ends that have stuck in my head since I first played it. One in particular is the quest for the game’s fourth and final bottle. If you’re unaware, the quest involves finding a locked chest in the Dark World, then bringing it several screens away to the master of unlocking in the Light World.

A 3-image summary of the side quest. Link finds a chest in a ruined house in the dark world and, after bringing it to the desert man, receives an empty bottle.
By the way, Daniel Owsen and Hiroyuki Yamada localized this game. They were pretty much the dynamic duo of Zelda localization around this time, working on both this and Ocarina of Time.
Link to the Past's fortune teller tells Link, "The gossip shop in the Dark World has treasure for the asking..."

One thing always bothered me though: how the heck are you supposed to know to bring the chest to this guy?! As it turns out, this solution is hinted at pretty strongly throughout the game, but even more so in Japanese. For starters, one of the fortune teller’s hints attempts to set the player on the right path.

Unfortunately, this hint is pretty obtuse. The biggest problem is it’s not immediately apparent what a “gossip shop” is. In fact, there is only an uneasy consensus among us English-speaking LttP players. Across message boards, fansites, and wikis, there are two common assumptions:

GameFAQs users suggest that "the gossip shop refers to the broken house that is in the Smithy shop location in the Dark World."
How, indeed?
Google results for "gossip shop lttp" posit that the Gossip Shop is either the Dark World Smithy's house or the master of unlocking in the desert.
In addition to the run-down Dark World version of the blacksmiths’ workshop, some people suppose the master of unlocking himself is the Gossip Shop.

To understand why these explanations are not correct, we’ll have to start by comparing the fortune teller’s dialogue in both Japanese and English:

JapaneseOfficial EnglishDirect Translation
Abracadabra alakazam!
The gossip shop in the Dark
World has treasure for the
Cro-Magniyooon, Cro-Magniyooon…
For treasure chest matters,
ask the tipster that lives in a
cave in the Dark World…

Right off the bat, we can see that the official localization completely left out the detail about living in a cave, which automatically rules out both of the above theories. It also refers more explicitly to treasure chests, which can help clue you in that it’s related to the locked chest in the Dark World version of the blacksmith’s workshop.

The confusion largely boils down to the mistranslation of a single word: じょうほう屋 (jōhōya). The first part, jōhō, equates to something like “information” in English. The term would be ordinarily written as 情報, but Link to the Past is a children’s game, and these kanji are taught in the fifth grade. The writers likely opted for the easier-to-read hiragana characters for this reason.

This is a pretty common concern for Japanese developers. It’s expected that children know the pronunciation of significantly more words than they know the kanji for. Pokémon—which is typically aimed at very young children—contains no kanji at all!

Regardless, the specific problem in this phrase is the kanji 屋 (ya). The most common English equivalent for this kanji is ‘shop’, but it can also mean something like ‘dealer’, ‘merchant’, or ‘seller’. Given that the dialogue also mentions “living” in the Dark World, I think it’s safe to say the latter definitions are the correct ones.

Side-by-side screenshots of dialogue where the fortune teller says "Cro-Magnon" and "Neanderthal" in Japanese.
This is a digression, but I found it pretty amusing that the fortune teller is using a more emphasized version of ‘Cro-Magnon’ to invoke their second sight. Other tips also have them saying “Neaan derthaal”.

So, who is the mysterious tipster the hint is referring to? Well, throughout Link to the Past, you will find individuals who will offer information for Rupees. These are where we’ll find our “gossip shop”, and the one the hint is referring to is located northeast of the Ice Palace. Let’s take a look:

A Dark World inhabitant offers Link some information in exchange for 20 rupees. The NPC is shaped like a hand.
Hopefully he can give us a HAND with this mystery!
JapaneseOfficial EnglishDirect Translation
Hey! I’ll tell you a profitable
story if you pay me 20 Rupees.
Hey, if you give me, say, 20
Rupees, I’ll let you hear a nice
story, heh….
[After paying]
Heh heh. Thank you. To tell
you the truth, I used to be a
thief in the Light World…
Heh heh, thanks, I guess. To tell
you the truth, in the surface
world I was also a thief….
Some of my fellow thieves went
into hiding because they were 
afraid of being caught.
(Regarding) one of my
associates from that time, he
was afraid of being arrested,
and is now a fugitive.
One of them was a master 
locksmith, but now he is hiding 
the fact that he was a thief…
That guy, he was a master
of lock-picking, but now it
seems he’s trying to hide the
fact he was a thief, heh….
…by pretending to be a strange
middle-aged guy! Ha ha ha…
By acting like a strange, middle-
aged man, heh heh heh….
Don’t be thrown off by the use of ‘surface world’ here. The thief is referring to the Light World, but probably just doesn’t know the term.

Aside from some minor changes, it looks like Owsen and Yamada pretty much got this one dead on! In particular, I found it noteworthy that they correctly localized おじさん (ojisan) to ‘middle-aged man’ instead of ‘uncle,’ as some localizations of the time might have.

Side-by-side comparisons of a conversation with a boy in Kakariko Village. In the English version, the boy asks Link if he means "the grandpa" when referring to the Elder. The Japanese text uses ojiichan, a familiar way to refer to an old man.
Unfortunately, they did leave in some awkward wording with おじいちゃん (ojīchan/old man/grandpa), but that mistake is common even today.

Anyway, this informant gives us a pretty clear indication that if we want to find a guy who can open our eternally-locked bottle chest, we’ll need to find someone pretending to be a “strange, middle-aged man.” At this point, the player would have been required to pass by the man near the desert, but not necessarily interact with him. One more exchange points us in the right direction:

An NPC tells Link one of their ex-members is staying at the entrance to the Desert.

Perfect! Both texts direct the player to investigate the entrance to the Desert of Mystery to get our man. If you’ve played LttP, you may remember that he’s completely silent, unless you bring him a chest or mess with his sign. That being the case, you’d think there’s not anything interesting with his dialogue, but there were actually pretty big changes! Let’s take a look:

JapaneseOfficial EnglishDirect Translation
Pay no attention to the
average middle-aged man
standing by this sign.
Leave him alone!
Don’t talk to me. I am a
strange middle-aged man. 
As for this sign, please don’t
remove it or anything
[After Removing Sign]
Why did you take my sign? It
says plain as day to just leave
me alone! Sheeesh!

In this case, we can see that the dialogue actually underwent quite a bit of rewriting. They completely rewrote the last sentence of the sign to be about the man, instead. The man was also rewritten to be much more indignant when his sign was removed, while the Japanese text was only a single word. This is commonly referred to as “punching up” dialogue in localization, as Japanese can sometimes sound very flat when translated directly. In this case, it certainly did make the man more memorable, so I can’t argue with it too much.

Unfortunately, the localization team did make an outright error with this dialogue, in translating へん (hen)—meaning ‘strange’ or ‘suspicious’—as ‘average.’ It’s possible to read the rewritten text as suspicious in its own right, but the change is compounded by the fact the storyteller explicitly states that his former associate is “pretending to be a strange middle-aged guy,” which could lead to English-speaking players having some confusion as to whether or not the player has found the right person. Still, combining the two hints we got from the thieves makes it pretty likely that this is the right guy, overall.

Side-by-side screenshots of a Gossip Stone from Ocarina of Time and the Mask of Truth from Majora's Mask. The Mask of Truth's Japanese text refers to Gossip Stones using English loanwords.
By the way, I wondered if the Gossip Stones in other Zelda games such as Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask were also translated from a phrase similar to ‘Gossip Shop,but they’re simply ゴシップストーン (goshippu sutōn), which is the English phrase ‘gossip stone’ transliterated into Japanese.

So, with all this in mind, what happened? My best guess is that the localization team probably assumed ‘shop’ was the correct definition, and didn’t think too hard about it. This happens somewhat frequently in localization, since they’re often working with little-to-no context, and don’t always have time to thoroughly investigate every little line of dialogue. It also would’ve been a bit difficult to concisely convey all the information in the hint, since Japanese is significantly more information-dense than English.

As for players’ assumption that the Dark World version of the blacksmiths’ house was, itself, the Gossip Shop, I think that was most likely fueled by the fact that once the chest is unlocked, the flag for this hint is cleared, and the fortune teller stops giving it. It’s a natural assumption that once the hint goes away, you must’ve found what it was referring to, after all!

Do you know of any other hints that might have gotten lost in localization? Let me know, below, and maybe I’ll look into them! Also, feel free to follow me on Twitter if you want to know when I post new articles! And if it’s your first time to the site, you can find a list of all articles on this page, sorted by the series they’re about.


  1. The translation to the word “average” probably wasn’t an error, it was rewritten/punched up to invoke the trope of suspiciously specific denial. It’s a common joke for someone who has untoward motivations or backstory to vehemently deny it, even when nobody brings it up. To me, this seems like a clear example of that. To most english speakers, this would make the man seem more suspicious than even just calling him suspicious directly on the sign, so I think it was a decent change.

    1. I think it definitely makes him seem suspicious! But it being at odds with the other thief’s hint that he’s acting “strange” does still make it at least a consistency error, in my eyes. Maybe I should make that a little clearer in the article text, since I’ve had a few people give this kind of feedback….

    2. I agree. I think saying “don’t mind me, I’m just an average middle-aged man” is pretty conspicuous and, dare I say, strange. It fits in line with someone else saying that he acts like a strange middle-aged man.

      I don’t remember if I figured this out of my own when I played the game but I did use a guide to 100% it regardless.

      (Great article btw <3)

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