I hereby take myself as my lawfully wedded <I>yome</I>

| Mar 9, 2014

I hereby take myself as my lawfully wedded yome

by Kaori Shoji

I was trudging home the other night with a dōryō (同僚, colleague) after another in a series of sābisu zangyō (サービス残業, unpaid overtime) sessions, debating whether to skip dinner or stop off at the nearest 24-hour sūpā (スーパー, supermarket). Out of the blue, my ...

Playing the Japanese name game

| Feb 16, 2014

Playing the Japanese name game

by Mark Schreiber

Once, when telephoning the international PR office of a major electronics manufacturer, I got lucky. Without my even asking, the young woman who picked up the phone volunteered her name, saying 私は青木と申します (Watashi wa Aoki to mōshimasu, My name is Aoki). Actually it sounded ...

It's never too early to start <I>juken</I>

| Feb 2, 2014

It's never too early to start juken

by Peter Backhaus

It’s that time of year again, when hundreds of thousands of soon-to-be high school graduates are busy taking university entrance exams for the coming academic year. This activity is commonly known as juken (受験), and usually translated into English as “taking an examination.” The ...

Healing words for a hospital stay

| Jan 26, 2014

Healing words for a hospital stay

by Wes Lang

One morning, you wake up feeling kibun ga warui (気分が悪い, under the weather) and slightly darui (怠い, lethargic). Rising out of bed, you take two steps forward when the world goes dark and you taoreru (倒れる, pass out). In a panic, your roommate calls ...

Marketers succeed by generating <I>hitto</I> products

| Jan 19, 2014

Marketers succeed by generating hitto products

by Mark Schreiber

Japanese consumers and marketers alike certainly love their ヒット商品 (hitto shōhin, hit products). To understand how this term came about, we need to look back to the decade following World War II. When living standards gradually began to improve from the early 1950s, Japanese ...

Impress your hosts with <I>osechi</I> meanings

| Jan 5, 2014

Impress your hosts with osechi meanings

by Minoru Matsutani

Shōgatsu (正月, New Year) is the time when most Japanese carry out certain religious rituals, though many of them may not realize what they do has religious significance. The ancient Japanese believed that toshigami-sama (年神様, year god) visited them in the shōgatsu period and ...

| Dec 22, 2013

This year's buzzwords show how Japanese is evolving

by Mark Schreiber

Last month I shelled out ¥2,980 for my 2014 edition of 現代用語の基礎知識 (“Gendai Yogo no Kiso Chishiki”, “Encyclopedia of Contemporary Words”). It’s a 1,660-page monster that’s well worth the outlay, and this year publisher Jiyu Kokumin-sha, as an extra bonus, included a 74-page booklet ...