Category Archives: WOTD – Japanese

All of the writers on are fluent in Japanese, reading and writing included. Sometimes we come across great phrases that make us think, “now why haven’t I ever heard/read/used that before”. When we find a ripper of a Japanese word that we come across in everyday life in Japan (one that is generally colloquial, or not usually in standard dictionaries), we will introduce it to you in our “Japanese: Word of the day” section.

J-WOTD: お土産外交

おみやげがいこう (omiyage gaiko)
Omiyage - Maid in Japan

* “J-WOTD” = “Japanese Word of the Day”

The beauty of the term Omiyage Gaiko is in its simplicity. Rather than being a complicated “4 character word” (四字熟語) it’s a neat little phrase that I saw for the first time being used on the television earlier this week. Yukio Hatoyama (鳩山 由紀夫) of the Democrats (not to be confused with his younger brother Kunio “a friend in my butterfly collecting club is from Al-Qaeda” Hatoyama (鳩山 邦夫) who is in the LDP coined this phrase a couple of weeks ago.

The two words that make up this phrase お土産 (omiyage, souvenir) and 外交 (gaiko, foreign policy) make an unusual combination. Hatoyama was using them to refer to Prime Minister Fukuda’s recent decision to force the refueling bill through the lower house without debate before his scheduled trip to America later this week. Continue reading J-WOTD: お土産外交

J-WOTD: 自転車操業

じてんしゃそうぎょう (jitensha sogyou)
自転車操業 jitenshasogyo

* “J-WOTD” = “Japanese Word of the Day”

I’m surprised that there hasn’t been more focus by the media on what Nova really was. Nothing more than a long lived Ponzi Scheme.

I guess for the foreign press it is easier to win over readers with a sob story about how many gaijin will be fired/evicted due to the mess that Nova is today. What is most amazing about this scandal is how quickly it has snuck upon us. Only three years ago Nova’s share price was trading above 600 yen (this week it is closer to 16 yen!). Why did the proverbial $hit hit the fan so quickly? Because Nova was a house of cards. Continue reading J-WOTD: 自転車操業

J-WOTD: 若い燕

わかいつばめ (wakai tsubame)
wakai tsubame

* “J-WOTD” = “Japanese Word of the Day”

Since antiquity the sparrow has always been seen as a bird of love in the west. It was associated in classical mythology with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, and Catullus, the Roman poet, famously used the sparrow as a symbol of true love and spiritual connection to his lover. In Japan the sparrow does not carry the same connotations except in the phrase wakai tsubame which literally means a young sparrow but refers to a younger lover of an older woman, or, 女にとって年下の愛人。 Continue reading J-WOTD: 若い燕

J-WOTD: 二枚目 (にまいめ)

nimaime kabuki
二枚目 or nimaime is the handsome guy here ↑


* “J-WOTD” = “Japanese Word of the Day”

For some reason, the Japanese language has many words to describe good looking men. かっこいい, ハンサム, イケメン, 美少年, and Kansai-ben’s 男前 are quite a selection, proving that Japanese can be more expressive that English when it comes to certain things. Continue reading J-WOTD: 二枚目 (にまいめ)

J-WOTD: 居合 (いあい)

Rinko Kikuchi as a JyoshiKosei in the Movie “Babel”

いあい (iai)

* “J-WOTD” = “Japanese Word of the Day”

If you enjoyed the movie Babel / バベルの塔 (official English language site) as much as I did then I’m sure the first thing you did when you got home was to do a Google Search to find out who that unknown girl was playing the role of Chieko. While I’d heard of (and recognized) Yakusho Koji (役所広司), I hadn’t heard of Kikuchi Rinko (菊池凛子)before (official English language site).

Following the hype surrounding her Academy Award nomination, I had read a little about her in the press. Continue reading J-WOTD: 居合 (いあい)

J-WOTD: ヤメ検 (やめけん)

Kenjiやめけん (yameken)

* “J-WOTD” = “Japanese Word of the Day”

The phrase “yameken” is an abbreviation of the words 検事 (kenji, member of the public prosecutor’s office (検察庁, kensatsucho)) and やめた (yameta, to quit). Quite literally it refers to someone who has quit their role as a public prosecutor. More specifically, it almost always refers to someone who has passed the bar exam after quiting and become a lawyer. I guess it is a little like an elite version of “datsusara” (脱サラ) except it is a lot less common.

The concept is novel as the majority of people who go to work for the kensatsucho are bound to silence and often work there until they retire. Continue reading J-WOTD: ヤメ検 (やめけん)

J-WOTD: 左団扇 (ひだりうちわ)

ひだりうちわ (hidariuchiwa)

* “J-WOTD” = “Japanese Word of the Day”

uchiwa-1.JPGThe uchiwa is a type of fan, which these days is generally made of plastic and handed out at festivals or in front of train stations for advertising during the heat of summer. Here it is combined with hidari, the word for left, to literally mean to use a fan in the left hand. However, with air conditioners becoming so common these days, you are just as likely to hear the phrase in the cold of winter as the heat of summer because the term carries with it the connotations of living a life of comfort. Continue reading J-WOTD: 左団扇 (ひだりうちわ)

J-WOTD: 逆玉

逆玉(ぎゃくたま, gyakutama)

* “J-WOTD” = “Japanese Word of the Day”

koshi-2.GIFLiterally gyaku means opposite and, generally, tama means ball. However, despite it becoming a common enough term over the last decade or so, it is not easy to see just how gyakutama took on its meaning of “to marry a wealthy woman.”

Tama is short for the phrase tama no koshi ni noru (玉の輿に乗る、to marry a wealthy man). Of old tama also meant gemstone or a thing of beauty and it is that connotation that is being used here. Koshi ni noru means Continue reading J-WOTD: 逆玉

J-WOTD: へべれけ

へべれけ (hebereke)

* “J-WOTD” = “Japanese Word of the Day”

へべれけ Japanese "Word of the Day" It is December and on the social calendar that means bounenkai 忘年会. These end of year parties are often held for work groups, sports clubs or any gathering of friends who need another lame excuse for a few drinks. With so many of them it can be a period when there seem to be more drunks around than normal.
The most common terms used to describe drunks are 酔う(you、to get drunk)and 酔っ払い(yopparai, drunkard). However, these tend to be somewhat overused. Hebereke, however, is one term that doesn’t get used as often as it might. Hebereke means to get badly drunk and is most commonly seen in the phrase へべれけになる (Hebereke ni naru, to get drunk).
Everyone in Japan should have the opportunity to use hebereke over the next couple of weeks Continue reading J-WOTD: へべれけ

J-WOTD: 二足のわらじを履く

にそくのわらじをはく (nisokuno waraji wo haku)

* “J-WOTD” = “Japanese Word of the Day”

Two pairs of WarajiTo “Have one’s fingers in two pies“, or to “have the best of both worlds“. (Literally: To “Wear two pairs of straw sandles” – waraji being the straw sandles, pictured here.)

There are situations everyday where we would like to do two things at once, or be in two places at the same time. Sometimes this seems impossible right? As hard as having the best things from two worlds even? That’s how we English speakers express the concept, which seems a little to exaggerated when you think about it. Well, the Japanese have a more earthly approach, and think that the ideal analogy for having your fingers in two pies is, Continue reading J-WOTD: 二足のわらじを履く