The 30 nominees for Japan’s top buzzwords of 2016 were announced Thursday by the Jiyukokuminsha publishing house, covering a variety of new popular terms ranging from the “Shin Godzilla” film to the “Zika fever.”
Comedian Pikotaro was just in time to make the list with his “PPAP” music video going viral on social media since September.
The finalists for the 2016 U-Can Shingo Ryukogo Taisho (2016 U-Can New Words and Buzzwords Awards) included many phrases that highlighted the year’s cultural trends.
The augmented reality phone app “Pokemon Go,” released in Japan in July, of course made the cut. But so did “aruki-sumaho,” or literally, “smartphone walking,” a term describing the act of walking while looking down at a smartphone screen.
Top-selling boy band SMAP’s announced breakup also made the list as “SMAP kaisan.” Fans of the group reacted by mass buying a popular 2003 single “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” (“The One and Only Flower in the World.”) Reaching almost 3 million accumulated sales, it became the fourth top-selling single in the country.
The weekly Shukan Bunshun magazine, which published a number of scoops this year, generated several items, including its nickname “sentence spring,” a direct English translation of its name. Another from the weekly was “bunshun hou,” which loosely translates to “bunshun bombardment,” used by netizens who note that the magazine’s scandalous articles have caused headaches for celebrities.
Such scoops include an affair between TV talent Becky and rocker Enon Kawatani, along with countless reports on celebrities’ adultery. To that end, “gesu furin,” or “sleazy affairs” also made the list.
Nominees also included phrases reflecting politics and social issues, such as “Trump gensho” or “Trump phenomenon,” regarding U.S. president-elect Donald Trump’s aggressive behavior and comments during the election, and “EU ridatsu” on Brexit, as well as the massive “Panama Papers” leak.
Phrases on domestic news include “Hoikuen ochita. Nihon shine,” or “Didn’t get a slot in day care. Drop dead, Japan,” which was used in a blog post penned by an anonymous writer who struggled with the day care shortage.
Another was Twitter hashtag “ganbare Kumamon e,” which translates as “cheer up with Kumamon drawings,” where illustrations of the Kumamoto Prefecture mascot Kumamon were posted following mega-quakes which struck the area in April.
The buzzwords were chosen based on the results of a questionnaire answered by readers of the annually published book “Gendai Yogo no Kiso Chishiki” (“The Basic Knowledge of Current News Terms”). The awards selection committee will announce the top 10 words, including the grand prize winner, on Dec. 1.
2016 Buzzword of the Year candidates
asuriito faasuto アスリートファースト (athletes first)
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike used this phrase on Aug. 25 at an event to promote the Olympics, signaling her goal to put the athletes first at the 2020 Tokyo Games and give them the optimal environment for their performances. The phrase continued to gain traction as Koike launched her cost-cutting efforts, repeatedly saying, “We should think about the athletes first.”
atarashii handan 新しい判断 (new judgment)
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe started using the phrase this summer when explaining his decision to delay the consumption tax hike for the second time. Abe sought a fresh public mandate for the postponement in July’s Upper House election, saying he needs to safeguard growth amid a slowdown in the world economy.
aruki sumaho 歩きスマホ (walking with smartphones)
Smartphone owners who look at their phones while walking became a major social issue after the launch of the popular “Pokemon Go” app in July. As a number of players injured themselves or others while searching for Pokemon characters, signs began to emerge in city wards and on train platforms asking pedestrians to resist the urge to look at their small screens.
EU ridatsu ＥＵ離脱 (Brexit)
In June, the United Kingdom awoke to the surprising results of a referendum in which the majority of citizens voted to leave the European Union, a decision commonly known as Brexit. The event, later echoed in Donald Trump’s upset of Hillary Clinton in U.S presidential elections, sent shock waves through financial markets as foreign corporations with interests in the U.K. become uneasy about what the future might hold.
AI (artificial intelligence)
The computer program Alpha Go, developed by Google subsidiary DeepMind, scored a major victory for artificial intelligence after beating South Korean go grandmaster Lee Se-dol on March 15, four games to one. With the emergence of more products using learning machines, and related ethical and legal issues, we’re bound to see these two letters more often in the future.
Osomatsu-san おそ松さん (Mr. Osomatsu)
“Osomatsu-san” is a new comedic anime series created to celebrate the 80th birthday of late manga author Fujio Akatsuka. The anime follows the daily lives of the Matsuno sextuplet brothers, who are the original main characters from Akatsuka’s 1962 manga “Osomatsu-kun.” The anime’s run ended in March 2016.
kamitteru 神ってる (superhuman behavior)
The phrase, which has been used among teens for years, literally means to receive the spirit of the gods and is used characterized superhuman or miraculous behavior. This year, the word was linked with the Hiroshima Carp’s heroic victory in Central League championship. After Hiroshima outfielder Seiya Suzuki hit a sayonara home run for the second straight day against the Orix Buffaloes in June, manager Koichi Ogata called his outstanding performance “kamitteru.” Ogata said he picked the word up from his kids.
Kimi no na wa 君の名は (“your name.”)
The popular fantasy anime film “your name.” was released in August with high praise for its beautiful animation, complex characters and dynamic plot. It is currently the seventh highest-grossing movie ever in Japanese box-office history. As a result, Lake Suwa, the inspiration for the film’s Lake Itomori, become a popular site for fans of the film to visit.
Kumamon ganbare eくまモン頑張れ絵 (Cheer up Kumamon drawings)
Following the quakes that struck Kumamoto Prefecture in April, many Twitter users posted their original illustrations of the prefecture’s mascot, Kumamon, to show support using the hashtag #くまモン頑張れ絵 (Kumamon ganbare e). Famous manga artists, such as Eiichiro Oda and Tetsuya Chiba, were among the many people who posted their drawings online.
Gesu furin ゲス不倫 (sleazy affair)
The phrase, meaning an embarrassing and scandalous love affair, was coined in February after tabloids discovered an amorous relationship between popular Japanese TV personality known as Becky and the married frontman of Japanese rock band Gesu no Kiwami Otome, Enon Kawatani.
Saito-san dazo 斎藤さんだぞ (I am Saito)
“Saito-san dazo” simply translates to “I am Saito,” but now also implies arrogance and indignation. The phrase was coined by the comedian Tsukasa Saito, member of the award-winning male comedy group Trendy Angel.
Jika netsu ジカ熱 (Zika fever)
The Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease that spread considerably in Latin America and is reported to suspected to cause microcephaly in newborns, forced the World Health Organization to declare a global public health emergency in February.
“Shin Gojira” シンゴジラ (“Shin Godzilla”)
The reboot of the Godzilla franchise went high on the hype charts as it was co-directed by Hideaki Anno, of “Evangelion” fame, and Shinji Higuchi, the veteran effects specialist behind the “Attack on Titan” films. While more than 5 million people saw the Godzilla movies in the 1950s and 1960s, the franchise outdid itself this year by attracting 5.3 million people to theaters. Japan Times film critic Mark Schilling noted that the movie was “clearly inspired by the March 11, 2011 triple disaster, with Godzilla serving as an ambulatory tsunami, earthquake and nuclear reactor, leaving radioactive contamination in his wake.”
sumappu kaisan SMAP解散 (breakup of SMAP)
Japan’s favorite boy band SMAP — which consists of members Takuya Kimura, Shingo Katori, Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and Masahiro Nakai — announced in August that the group decided to split up on Dec. 31. Following the news, the group’s fans channeled their love for the group into purchases of SMAP’s 2003 single “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” (“The One and Only Flower in the World”). With around 3 million copies sold, it become the fourth top-selling single in Japan.
seichi junrei 聖地巡礼 (holy pilgrimage)
While this phrase literally refers to religious pilgrimages to holy sites, it has adapted a new meaning: the act of visiting the real-life location from an anime, movie or TV drama setting or film location. Fans today make special trips to the exact spots of their favorite scenes, causing tourist attractions based on the works to become more and more popular.
Sentensu supuringu センテンススプリング (sentence spring)
“Sentence spring” is a direct translation of the title of the weekly Shukan Bunshun magazine, which kicked off 2016 with a scandal involving TV celebrity Becky’s affair with rock musician Enon Kawatani. “Sentence spring” was a euphemism that Becky used in her Line chat with Kawatani, which somehow got leaked and exposed by — you guessed it — Shukan Bunshun.
Takamatsu pea タカマツペア (Takamatsu pair)
The “Takamatsu pair” is the nickname given to athletes Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsutomo, who won Japan’s first gold medal in women’s badminton at the 2016 Rio Olympics. They are currently ranked No. 1 in the world.
tomin faasuto 都民ファースト(Tokyoites first)
A slogan used by new Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike to describe her major policy goals. Promises made during July’s gubernatorial elections included the pursuit of cost reduction and other reforms to the metropolitan government.
Toranpu genshou トランプ現象 (The Trump phenomenon)
Donald Trump surprisingly won the U.S. presidential election in November by attracting supporters with his aggressive rhetoric and deepened divides in the U.S.
Panama bunsho パナマ文書 (Panama Papers)
A cache of 11.5 million files obtained by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and their media partners, the Panama Papers documented tax havens and implicated numerous politicians and business leaders.
Bikkuri pon びっくりぽん (I’m surprised!)
Protagonist Asa Shirooka of the NHK drama “Asa ga Kita” coined the phrase “bikkuri pon!” to express her surprise. Since the show finished airing in April, many celebrities have taken to using the phrase.
bunshunhou 文春砲 (Scandal scoops by Shukan Bunshun)
Weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun had a big year, uncovering scandals, affairs and sensitive information involving economy minister Akira Amari, TV personality Becky, singer Enon Kawatani and superstars SMAP. The phrase “bunshu hou” combines the title of the magazine, and their ability to leak information and — like a cannon shot — easily destroy a celebrity’s career.
“PPAP (Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen)” — the global smash hit by Pikotaro, a flamboyant character created and played by comedian Kazuhito (aka Daimaou) Kosaka — earned a Guinness World Record by being the shortest song (at just 45 seconds) to break the Billboard Hot 100 (at No. 77). The song’s popularity was boosted by praise from Justin Bieber, and a slew of covers from famous and clever YouTubers.
“Hoikuen ochita. Nihon shine” 保育園落ちた。日本死ね (“Didn’t get a day care slot. Drop dead, Japan”)
The exclamation was used in a blog post penned by an anonymous writer who was angry with the ongoing day care shortage. Frustrated parents heard the rally call and become vocal in protests demanding an increase in day care centers. The hot topic even made its way into debates in the Diet and triggered promises of legislative change from lawmakers.
amoore アモーレ (love)
In June, Japan soccer player Yuto Nagatomo admitted that he was dating actress Airi Taira, saying, “She is my ’amore’ (love).” Taira was seen cheering in the stands for Nagatomo at a match later in the year.
“Pokemon Go” (ポケモンゴー)
Since the summer release of “Pokemon Go” — based on Nintendo’s beloved characters and powered by Niantic’s augmented reality magic — the smartphone game app has garnered appeal from both hardcore and casual players of all ages. Much to the chagrin of people in Japan, the game launched first in the U.S. and other countries weeks before being released here. The delay didn’t dilute its popularity, thought as hundreds of players in search of rare characters swarmed in Pokemon hunting spots such as areas such around Ueno and Inokashira parks, day and night.
mainasu kinri マイナス金利 (negative interest rates)
A monetary policy measure adopted by the Bank of Japan in January effectively imposed a charge on some reserves held by financial institutions and forced them to lend or invest more to help underpin growth. Major banks opposed the policy saying it could damage their earnings and subsequently derail the country’s economy.
minpaku 民泊 (paid accommodations in private homes)
Faced a deluge of tourists and future visitors to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Japan began to loosen its strict restrictions on minpaku, a service that involves paid accommodations in private homes. Tokyo’s Ota Ward led the way, becoming the first metropolitan area to allow home owners to operate minpaku.
morido 盛り土 (layer of clean soil)
New Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike postponed the November relocation of a wholesale market in Tsukiji to a new site on reclaimed and possibly toxic land in the Toyosu area after finding that, contrary to initial plans, a layer of fresh soil was missing underneath the main structures.
regashii レガシー (legacy)
The word, which refers to the possible long-term benefits of Japan being the host nation of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, often appeared in media reports as the ballooning construction costs of new sports venues were scrutinized. In her mission to cut costs, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike often said she wanted the Tokyo Games to leave a legacy.