Plaintiff tells NHK to stop using foreign loanwords


A 71-year-old plaintiff representative Thursday demanded that NHK stop using foreign loanwords at the start of a damages suit against the broadcaster before the Nagoya District Court.

NHK admitted employing common non-Japanese words, particularly popular English terms, including “risuku” (risk) and “kea” (care), in programs and has one TV program titled “Spo-tsu Purasu” (“Sports Plus”).

But NHK denied it uses loanwords excessively, asking the court’s three-judge panel to reject the ¥1.4 million damages suit filed by Hoji Takahashi, a resident of Kani, Gifu Prefecture, who represents a group called Nihongo wo Taisetsunisuru Kai, which roughly translates as Society that Appreciates the Japanese Language.

Takahashi questioned why NHK uses loanwords that must be translated into Japanese, urging the broadcaster to use Japanese terms, even though, for example, “sports” has no direct Japanese equivalent, except possibly “undo” (movement).

NHK’s lawyers argued that the broadcaster did not infringe on the plaintiff’s rights even if he felt disgusted by the programs.

Takahashi, who is seeking ¥1.41 million in damages from NHK because district courts handle damages claims of more than ¥1.4 million under the Code of Civil Procedure, claims he suffered psychological damage due to NHK’s excessive use of foreign loanwords that he does not understand.

  • msupp

    I understand the concern that foreign words — particularly English words — are infiltrating the Japanese language. This is a concern all around the globe. But the claims here seem rather dubious; I’m not sure this is a legal question, as much as it is a societal/cultural question.

    • Mark Garrett

      Not sure I understand why incorporating foreign words is a concern? It’s been happening since the beginnings of spoken languages.

  • Frank Thornton

    Maybe NHK’s eikaiwa programs such a Little Charo should be a prerequisite… ; – )

    • Kenji Sugahara

      That is a good one. :P

  • I wonder if Mr. Hoji is aware that the name of his “group” of one (I read an interview with him elsewhere where he admitted his “group” only ever had two members, but the other member was expelled after objecting to Mr. Hoji’s raising of the membership dues) contains foreign loanwords like “nihongo”, “taisetsu” and “kai”?

  • same for Korea: sports covers a wider scope than eundong (exercise)

  • EQ

    Like many languages throughout the World, the Japanese language has adopted or “Japanized” many words from foreign languages, especially from the English language. Understandable in cases where no Japanese equivalent existed. But, in cases where an equivalent Japanese word already exists, I feel that forcing the usage of a foreign word or creating a “new Japanese word” is unnecessary and unjustified. I feel that NHK, as a public TV Channel, should help protect and preserve the Japanese language by refraining from using foreign words whenever possible. All languages evolve continuously. Nothing can stop that. But when a language is invaded by foreign words the way the Japanese language is, I can understand why this person is trying to raise the alarm. That said, I don’t think that the plaintiff stands a chance in court, though. His plaint is not even reported in News programs on TV, especially not on NHK. Or perhaps I missed it.

  • DNALeri

    Japan is becoming a katakana-ized nation. Have you noticed that absolutely all new building projects have katakana names? And BTW, NHK’s foreign language programs are noisy and use the foreign instructors as clowns (especially the Italian and French language programs).