National

Japan's top 2017 buzzwords powered by politics and Instagram

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

Japan’s most popular buzzwords of the year reflect the scandals that rocked the political arena and the trend of people eager to shoot photogenic items for social media.

One of the winners — announced Friday — for the 2017 U-Can Shingo Ryukogo Taisho (2017 U-Can New Words and Buzzwords Awards) is “sontaku.

Its meaning is the proactive anticipation of a person’s wish before an explicit order is given. It saw a revival following the Moritomo Gakuen cronyism scandal, in which bureaucrats in charge of approving a new school were suspected of acting in line with the intentions of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe without being actually ordered to do so.

Kang Sang-jung, committee member and political science professor at the University of Tokyo, said it was quite a year for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, in addition to the country’s general elections being held this year. “Hence, many buzzwords are related to politics,” he said.

“Sontaku” shared the top honors with “Insuta-bae,” referring to scenes or products that look picture-perfect for the photo-sharing service Instagram, reflecting the power of social media. The trend of sharing snapshots of daily life and observations on Instagram sparked many businesses to come up with Instagram-suited campaigns and photogenic products.

Jiyukokuminsha publishing house also announced eight other top buzzwords, including other political terms like the government’s satellite-based warning system “J-Alert.” The emergency system activated several times when North Korea fired several missiles around or over Japan.

The committee also highlighted “Premium Friday,” an example of a slogan that made waves even if the campaign it aimed to promote failed to catch on. Premium Friday is a nationwide public-private campaign designed to encourage people to leave work early on the last Friday of every month to increase spending and curtail the nation’s long working hours. It gained little traction.

The committee also said that over half of this year’s top 10 buzzwords contained numbers.

The winners were chosen from a short list of 30 words and phrases based on readers’ answers to a questionnaire. The survey is included with an annually published book explaining news events.

The awards committee also gave “9.98” and “Fujii fever” special prizes, recognizing the popularity and achievements of two astounding prodigies — students sprinter Yoshihide Kiryu, the first Japanese to break the 100-meter race 10-second barrier at 9.98 seconds, and professional shogi player Sota Fujii, 14, who made history by winning 29 consecutive games.