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Year’s top buzzwords run the gamut from hospitality to revenge to shock

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

Four new words and catchphrases have been named “Buzzwords of the Year” in the annual contest held by publishing house Jiyukokuminsha in collaboration with correspondence education provider U-Can.

Winners of this year’s grand prize were: “Ima desho” (Why not now!), “Baigaeshi” (Double payback), “Omotenashi” (Hospitality spirit) and “Jejeje” (a phrase expressing shock).

It was the first time in the contest’s 30-year history that four phrases shared the top prize, the organizers said Monday.

“Ima desho” became a household phrase after Osamu Hayashi, a popular Japanese literature teacher for the Toshin High School prep-school chain, started using it in TV commercials. The phrase is evoked in response to “Itsu yaru ka?” (When are you going to do it?). The phrase’s popularity was taken to a new level after a parody version of the exchange began to be aired in a TV commercial for Toyota Motor Corp. in January, in which the question was changed to: “Itsu kau ka?” (When are you going to buy it?)

“Baigaeshi” (Double payback, or double revenge) was a killer line in the TV drama “Hanzawa Naoki,” featuring a character of the same name and based on a novel by Jun Ikeido, that ran on TBS this summer.

The story of a junior banker out for revenge against a top executive at his mega-bank was a huge hit, scoring 42.2 percent in viewer ratings during its final episode, the highest for a commercial TV drama in 30 years. The series has since been aired in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Although “Omotenashi,” referring to Japanese-style hospitality, is a traditional concept here, it came under the spotlight during Japan’s efforts in September to land the 2020 Olympics. The phrase went viral after newscaster Christel Takigawa used it as part of Japan’s final presentations in front of the International Olympic Committee members, carefully enunciating each syllable — “o-mo-te-na-shi.”

Meanwhile, “Jejeje,” an exclamatory phrase in the dialect spoken in Kuji, Iwate Prefecture, gained popularity through its repeated usage in “Amachan,” NHK’s morning drama series aired from April through September. Lead character Aki, portrayed by young actress Rena Nonen, adopted the dialect through her interaction with the local people after moving there from Tokyo.

The winning phrases were selected from 50 nominees picked by Tokyo-based Jiyukokuminsha, which annually compiles a book on contemporary Japanese vocabulary.

The contest dates back to 1984, when the publisher named “Oshindrome” as the most popular and influential expression of the year, after the term had appeared in Time magazine to illustrate the popularity of the NHK morning drama “Oshin.”