Language | BILINGUAL

Let's roll up our sleeves and get in the data

by Mark Schreiber

Contributing writer

Have you ever wondered what foods are most disliked by Japanese children? Do people in Japan like the shinkansen? How many admit to having hoarded household goods in anticipation of the stay-at-home orders, and what did they buy?

No matter how quirky or offbeat the topic, you’re bound to find that someone has conducted an アンケート調査 (ankēto chōsa, questionnaire survey) about it. Often shortened to アンケート (ankēto, questionnaire), the katakana loan word comes from the French enquête.

The survey perhaps most familiar to people in Japan, which is frequently cited in the media, is the 内閣府の世論調査 (naikaku-fu no yoron chōsa, public opinion surveys conducted by the Cabinet Office). The most recent one was taken in February and made public at the end of March.

Surveys are also regularly conducted by 行政機関 (gyōsei kikan, government agencies), NHK and other マスコミ (masukomi, mass media), 市場調査会社 (shijō chōsa gaisha, market research companies), 生命保険会社 (seimei hoken gaisha, life insurance firms) and シンクタンク (shinkutanku, think tanks).

One response typically elicited by survey questions, especially as applies to government and politics, is 支持する (shiji suru, literally “to support,” but frequently expressed in English as “favorable”). Its opposite would be 不支持 (fushiji, don’t support or unfavorable). Depending on how the question is phrased, other responses might include a simple はい (hai, yes) or いいえ (iie, no).

More detailed options include 賛成 (sansei, agree) and 反対 (hantai, disagree), but if you’re less certain you could answer どちらかと言えば賛成 (dochiraka to ieba sansei) or どちらかと言えば反対 (dochiraka to ieba hantai), which would mean that if you must choose one you’d choose “agree” (or “disagree”). Or maybe you want to go with どちらとも言えない (dochira to mo ienai, can’t say one way or the other). Also appearing could be: 全く当てはまらない (mattaku atehamaranai, not applicable at all), 分からない (wakaranai, don’t know) and 無回答 (mukaitō, no response).

To make the data easier to visualize, survey results might be organized using either an 円グラフ (en gurafu, pie chart) or a 棒グラフ (bō gurafu, bar graph).

Looking back to the opening question of this article, about 子供の嫌いな食べ物ワースト10 (kodomo no kiraina tabemono wāsuto 10, the 10 worst foods that kids hate), the 日本スポーツ振興センター (Nihon supōtsu shinkō sentā, Japan Sport Council) back in 2010 surveyed 10,000 elementary and middle school students about their dietary life.

In response to the question of what food they most disliked, in descending order, the top three were: ゴーヤ (gōya, bitter melon), named by 23.9 percent; なす (nasu, eggplant) at 9.2 percent; and レバー、ホルモン (rebā, horumon, liver or other organ meats) at 9.1 percent.

Now before you say 私には関係ない (watashi ni wa kankei nai, this is not relevant to me) and skip to another article, let me just say that if you are a resident of Japan, you almost certainly take part in at least one survey, which is the 国勢調査 (kokusei chōsa, population census), conducted every five years by the 総務省統計局 (sōmu-shō tōkei-kyoku, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications Statistics Bureau).

The above bureau has an informative website and provides regular updates in both Japanese and English on such data as 人口推計 (jinkō suikei, population estimates); 消費者物価指数 (shōhisha bukka shisū, the consumer price index); 完全失業率 (kanzen shitsugyō-ritsu, the unemployment rate; and 消費支出 (shōhi shishutsu, consumer spending, lit. “consumption expenditures”).

I have a few personal favorites for data mining. On most Saturdays, a column called “Be Between” appears in the “Be” supplement of the Asahi Shimbun. It’s outsourced to a survey specialty firm, Macromill, and the contents seldom disappoint. Another favorite appears in Dime, a monthly trend magazine published by Shogakukan. Each issue features a column called “Data Watching” that often picks up interesting nuggets of information.

For more heavy-duty mining, there’s the 博報堂生活総合研究所 (Hakuhōdō Seikatsu Sōgō Kenkyūjo, Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living) which often shares its research data on its website.

You never know where an interesting survey might pop up. This month, weekly magazine Asahi Geino (June 4) carried results of a survey of 2,000 adults in the age range of 20 to 69 years, in which they were asked, 上司にしたい戦国武将は誰? (jyōshi ni shitai sengoku bushō wa dare? Which warlord from the Sengoku [Warring States] Period would you want as your boss?) Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543 -1616; ruled 1603-1605) — who presumably ordered the heads removed of subordinates who displeased him — was named top by both men and women. Go figure.

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