Tag: ‘Language’

Top 60 popular Japanese words/phrases of 2010

16 Nov 2010

Publisher Jiyu Kokuminsha has released its annual list of the 60 most popular Japanese expressions of the year. The words and phrases (listed below in random order) reflect some of the trends, political developments, events and people that captured the attention of the Japanese media in 2010. From this list, a panel of judges will select the year's 10 trendiest expressions and announce the results in early December.

* * * * *

UPDATE (Dec 1, 2010) -- Here are the top 10 most popular words/phrases of 2010:

1. Gegege no ~ (see #21 below)
2. That's a good question! (see #23 below)
3. Ikumen (see #24 below)
4. AKB48 (see #9 below)
5. Women's get-togethers (see #42 below)
6. Ozawa defectors (see #34 below)
7. Edible chili oil (see #45 below)
8. Totonoimashita! (see #22 below)
9. ~nau (see #4 below)
10. Alienated society (see #8 below)

* * * * *

1. ~zeyo! [・・ぜよ!]: One symptom of this year's widespread Ryōma Sakamoto fever is the tendency to emulate the 19th-century samurai's Tosa dialect by finishing sentences with an emphatic ~zeyo!

Ryoma Sakamoto beer --
Sakamoto Ryōma beer

2. Elderly in name only [nabakari koureisha - 名ばかり高齢者]: This refers to the "missing elderly" problem that came to light this year in Japan. In October, the Justice Ministry announced that more than 234,000 of Japan's centenarians were missing or dead, despite being listed in government records as alive and well. Poor bookkeeping was blamed for most of the errors, but authorities discovered a number of cases where relatives were collecting pension payments on behalf of elderly residents who had died or disappeared. [More]

3. Hayabusa [はやぶさ]: The Hayabusa unmanned spacecraft developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) returned to Earth after a 7-year mission to collect a sample of material from the Itokawa near-Earth asteroid.

On November 16, JAXA announced that analysis of approximately 1,500 particles found in Hayabusa's sample canister proved they came from the Itokawa asteroid. [More]

4. ~nau [~なう]: Internet slang adopted by texters and social media users. This mutation of the English word "now" indicates your current location, activity, food, etc. when added to the end of a word.

5. Reality-filled [ria-juu - リア充]: This internet slang is used to describe people who lead fulfilling lives in the real world (as opposed to the virtual online world). Examples of "reality-filled" people include those who enjoy relationships with others in the real world, those who attend parties or participate in group activities, and those who pursue non-otaku interests.

6. Net game junkie [netoge haijin - ネトゲ廃人]: Netoge Haijin is the title of a non-fiction book by Osamu Ashizaki that examines the world of online game junkies with serious habits that interfere with daily life.

7. Loopy [ruupii - ルーピー]: In April, the English word "loopy" captured the fancy of the Japanese media after a Washington Post columnist used it to describe Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's recent behavior, particularly with respect to the issue of how to handle the future of the US Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa, a major sticking point between the two countries.

Loopy Hatoyama --
Loopy Hatoyama

The results of an online poll suggested that some people in Japan agreed with the criticism, and Hatoyama himself later admitted that the "loopy" characterization may have been correct. [More]

8. Alienated society [muen shakai - 無縁社会]: A reference to contemporary Japan's struggle with problems stemming from the erosion of personal and family relationships and from the growing number of single-person households.

9. AKB48: The 48-member Akihabara-based female idol group enjoyed their most successful year since forming in 2005.

10. K-pop: Korean pop music reached new heights of popularity in Japan this year.

Girls Generation --
K-pop big in Japan: Girls' Generation [Shōjo Jidai - 少女時代]

11. Irritable Kan/Useless Kan/(Fill-in-the-blank) Kan [ira Kan/dame Kan/...Kan - イラ菅/ダメ菅/○○菅]: A variety of adjectives have been used to describe Prime Minister Naoto Kan's policies and personality.

12. A society with minimum unhappiness [saishou fukou shakai - 最小不幸社会]: Shortly after assuming office in June, Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced his aims to rebuild Japan and create a society where unhappiness is kept to a minimum. The number one goal of politics, according to Kan, is to minimize the factors that make people unhappy.

13. Domestic opposition [kateinai yatou - 家庭内野党]: Prime Minister Naoto Kan has described his wife Nobuko as the "domestic opposition." As Kan's harshest critic, she reportedly clashes with her husband over everything from household chores to tax reform.

14. Support Jiro Shirato [Shirato Jiro mo yoroshiku - 白戸次郎もよろしく]: During the parliamentary upper house elections in July, mobile phone operator SoftBank ran a series of TV ads featuring the company's mascot dog, Shirato Jiro, as a candidate.

15. Galapagos (gala-kei) [ガラパゴス(ガラケー)]: Galapagos refers to the unique evolution of Japanese mobile phone technology and its increasing isolation from the rest of the world. Gala-kei, short for "Galapagos keitai," describes Japanese mobile phones.

16. iPad: Japan loves the iPad.

17. 3D: Despite the hype surrounding 3D TV, sales got off to a slow start this year and the availability of 3D content remains low. [More]

18. Is 2nd place not good enough? [nii ja dame nan desu ka - 2位じゃダメなんですか]: Late last year, members of a budget review panel tasked with cutting government waste famously questioned the need to spend money on a planned supercomputer that was destined to be the world's fastest. Budget cuts recommended for science projects caused an uproar among some Japanese researchers.

19. Cross couplings [(クロス)カップリング]: The 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded jointly to Richard Heck, Eiichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis.

20. Wide open leak [dada-more - ダダ漏れ]: This expression typically refers to large-scale leaks of confidential data, but it has recently come to include the unsanctioned streaming of live events, press conferences, etc. via video broadcasting services such as Ustream.

21. Gegege no~ [ゲゲゲの~]: Interest in the classic GeGeGe no Kitaro manga/anime series has been rekindled by the success of the NHK drama "Gegege no Nyobo" (Wife of GeGeGe), which chronicles the early life of manga artist Shigeru Mizuki and his wife Nunoe Mura before Mizuki became successful (based on Nunoe Mura's 2008 autobiography).

22. I've got one! [totonoimashita - ととのいました]: Catch phrase used by Nezzuchi (half of the popular Daburu Koron manzai comedy duo) before introducing a nazokake word-play riddle into the routine. [More]

23. That's a good question! [ii shitsumon desu ne! - いい質問ですねえ!]: Freelance TV journalist Akira Ikegami often uses this expression in response to questions posed by celebrity guests on his popular Ikegami Akira no Manaberu News show. Ikegami has a knack for explaining complex and technical issues in layman's terms.

24. Ikumen [イクメン]: Ikumen are fathers who take a proactive role in child-rearing, a phenomenon that appears to be on the rise in Japan.

25. Doya face [doya-gao - どや顔]: A smug look of triumph that says: "How about that!" (Doya!)

Doya face -- Doya face --

26. Bike conscious life [バイクコンシャスライフ]: A healthy, eco-friendly lifestyle that embraces the bicycle as a mode of transportation.

27. Why only one step at a time? [nan de ichidan ichidan nan darou - なんで一段一段なんだろう]: In a tearful interview after placing 4th in the women's freestyle moguls at the Vancouver Olympics, skier Aiko Uemura expressed frustration at her slow-but-steady progress over the years. She placed 7th at the Nagano Olympics in 1998, 6th place at Salt Lake City in 2002, and 5th place at Torino in 2006.

28. Yama girl [yama gaaru - 山ガール]: Yama girl ("mountain girl") refers to a new breed of fashion-conscious outdoor women who wear cute yet functional mountain skirts, colorful leggings and stylish boots while hiking, camping and communing with nature.

Yama girl -- Yama girl -- Yama girl --
Yama girls

29. Power spot [pawaa supotto - パワースポット]: A natural, man-made, historic or religious place believed to possess spiritual powers that bring energy, health and luck to visitors.

Mt. Fuji --
Mt. Fuji, Japan's most famous power spot

30. 33-man miracle [33-nin no kiseki - 33人の奇跡]: This refers to the 33 Chilean miners rescued from the collapsed San Jose mine in October.

31. Phoenix [fenikkusu - フェニックス]: The rescue capsule used to retrieve the 33 trapped Chilean miners from the San Jose mine.

32. Moshi-dora [もしドラ]: Moshi-dora is the abbreviated title of a popular novel by Natsumi Iwasaki that introduces the ideas of Austrian-American management scholar Peter Drucker. The full title is "If A Female High School Baseball Team Manager Read Drucker's 'Management'…" (Moshi koukou-yakyuu no joshi maneejaa ga Dorakaa no 'Management' o yondara - もし高校野球の女子マネージャーがドラッカーの「マネジメント」を読んだら).

Moshidora --

NHK is scheduled to air an animated series based on the novel next March. [More]

33. Homeopathy [homeopashii - ホメオパシー]: Japan has seen a recent rise in the use of homeopathy -- a form of alternative medicine which makes use of highly diluted preparations derived from plants, animals and minerals -- but not without controversy. Top scientists have slammed homeopathy as "absurd," urging health practitioners to avoid the alternative treatment as it becomes more popular. [More]

34. Ozawa defectors/Pro-Ozawa/Anti-Ozawa [datsu-Ozawa/shin-Ozawa/han-Ozawa - 脱小沢/親小沢/反小沢]: Divisions formed within the Democratic Party of Japan based on the level of support for political heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa.

Ichiro Ozawa --
Ozawa, the puppet master

35. Destroyer [kowashiya - 壊し屋]: Nickname given to Ozawa for his tough image and habit of splitting up parties.

36. Strong arm [gouwan - 剛腕]: A reference to Ozawa's strong-arm tactics.

37. Foot soldier [ippeisotsu - 一兵卒]: After Ozawa lost the Democratic Party of Japan's (DPJ) leadership election to Prime Minister Naoto Kan in September, he announced his intentions to fade away and become a common "foot soldier" for the party.

38. Moteki [モテキ]: Mitsurō Kubo's Moteki manga tells the story of a previously unlucky-in-love male temp worker who suddenly finds himself in a moteki (a period of time in which one is found attractive to the opposite sex).

Moteki --

The manga was adapted as a 12-episode live-action TV series on TV Tokyo.

39. Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution [kensatsu shinsakai - 検察審査会]: Committees for the Inquest of Prosecution are independent, 11-member judicial bodies tasked with reviewing whether cases dropped by prosecutors should have resulted in an indictment. The goal is to ensure that the decisions are accurate and represent the will of the public. In the past year, these committees have grown more powerful due to revised laws that make their decisions legally binding (previously their rulings were treated merely as recommendations to prosecutors). [More]

40. Transparency [mieruka (kashika) - 見える化(可視化)]: This refers to the move toward greater openness, communication, and accountability in business and government.

41. Agenda [ajenda - アジェンダ]: The English word "agenda" (political agenda) was a popular buzzword during the parliamentary upper house elections in July.

42. Women's get-togethers [joshikai - 女子会]: The growing popularity of all-female social gatherings, called joshikai, has prompted many restaurants, hotels and travel agencies to offer special package deals for women-only groups.

Joshi-kai --

43. Are they trying to wreck the national sport? [kokugi o tsubusu ki ka - 国技を潰す気か]: Hakuhō, sumo's lone yokozuna, voiced disappointment over the Japan Sumo Association's decision not to present the winner of the July Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament with any awards, including the coveted Emperor's Cup, because of the baseball gambling scandal that rocked the ancient sport.

44. Intense heat [kokusho - 酷暑]: Soaring temperatures this summer -- the hottest ever recorded in Japan -- sent more than 46,000 people to the hospital and resulted in 150 heat-related deaths.

45. Edible chili oil [taberu ra-yu - 食べるラー油]: This versatile, spicy sauce made with ra-yu (Chinese chili oil) and assorted condiments and chopped vegetables (onions, garlic, etc.) has taken kitchens and restaurants by storm.

Taberu raayu -- Edible rayu --
Edible ra-yu

46. Final preparations [shuukatsu - 終活]: This word, which appears to have been coined by Shukan Asahi magazine late last year, refers to the preparations one makes in the final days of life (securing a grave site, making funeral service arrangements, etc.). The popularity of books and magazines devoted to this topic appears to be on the rise.

47. Life conference [ikimono no kaigi - 生きもの会議]: The nickname for the 10th Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) held in Nagoya in October.

48. Biodiversity [seibutsu tayousei - 生物多様性]: The COP10 conference brought the discussion of biological diversity to Japan.

49. Golkon [gorukon - ゴルコン]: A golkon is a group blind date (gōkon) in which the participants play a round of golf.

Golcon --

50. Waiting elderly [taiki roujin - 待機老人]: The "waiting elderly" are the 400,000 or so people on waiting lists to enter special care nursing homes (according to 2009 estimates). The inability to meet demand appears to be the result of government cutbacks in social welfare, despite the graying population. [More]

51. Tokyo Sky Tree [Tōkyō Sukai Tsurī - 東京スカイツリー]: Tokyo Sky Tree -- a broadcasting, restaurant, and observation tower under construction Tokyo's Sumida ward -- will stand 634 meters (2,080 ft) tall when completed in late 2011, making it the tallest artificial structure in Japan.

52. Pension parasites [nenkin parasaito - 年金パラサイト]: Pension parasites are dependent adult children who live off their parents' pensions. There has reportedly been an increase in the number of households where an aging parent in need of nursing care is not moved into a care facility because the dependent adult child is afraid of losing his or her primary source of income. [More]

53. Shopping refugees [kaimono nanmin - 買い物難民]: Shopping refugees are people who live in economically depressed rural or suburban areas where shops and shopping streets are going out of business, often due to competition from large chain stores in neighboring areas.

Shutter street --
Abandoned shopping street

54. I've got it [motteru - もってる]: In an interview after scoring the winning goal against Cameroon at the World Cup on June 14, soccer player Keisuke Honda expressed confidence in his mojo, saying, "I've got it."

55. Honda△ (Honda's cool) [Honda(Honda-san kakkee) - 本田△(ほんださんかっけー)]: This play on two similar-sounding expressions -- Honda-sankaku ("Honda triangle") and Honda-san kakkee ("Honda is cool") -- popped up on internet bulletin boards during the World Cup as a show of affection for star player Keisuke Honda.

56. Round of 16 [(W杯)ベスト16]: Japan's national soccer team advanced to the Round of 16 for the second time ever.

57. Vuvuzela [bubuzera - ブブゼラ]: Zzz zzzzz zzzzzzz z zzzzz zz zzz zzzzz.

Japan vuvuzela --

58. Sorry, Oka-chan [Oka-chan, gomen ne - 岡ちゃん、ごめんね]: Japan's national soccer team coach Takeshi Okada took a beating from fans and the media for the team's poor performance prior to the World Cup, but after the team advanced to the Round of 16, the internet was flooded with apologies.

59. Paul-kun [Pauru-kun - パウル君]: Paul the Octopus was known as Paul-kun in Japan. [More]

Paul the Octoups --
Paul-kun (January 2008 - October 26, 2010)

60. Danshari [断捨離]: Danshari -- a self-help philosophy developed by author Hideko Yamashita -- is based on the idea of reducing physical clutter (as well as the emotional baggage that builds up with the accumulation of unnecessary things). Adherence to the core danshari concepts of refusal (dan - 断), disposal (sha - 捨) and separation (ri - 離) can lead to a more simple, fulfilling and productive life. [More]

Mojibakeru kanji-animal transformers

11 May 2010

Moji-bakeru kanji-animal transformer toys --

Japanese toy giant Bandai is set to release a series of nifty kanji figures that transform into the shapes of the animals they represent. The shape-shifting critters, called Mojibakeru (moji means "character" and bakeru means "to change"), come in six varieties -- 犬 (dog), 虎 (tiger), 魚 (fish), 馬 (horse), 鳥 (bird) and 竜 (dragon) -- and are available in black, white, yellow and blue.

Inu-bakeru moji-bakeru kanji-animal transformer -- Inu-bakeru moji-bakeru kanji-animal transformer --
Inubakeru - The 犬 (inu, "dog") kanji transforms into a dog

Tora-bakeru moji-bakeru kanji-animal transformer  -- Tora-bakeru moji-bakeru kanji-animal transformer --
Torabakeru - The 虎 (tora, "tiger") kanji transforms into a tiger

Uo-bakeru moji-bakeru kanji-animal transformer -- Uo-bakeru moji-bakeru kanji-animal transformer --
Uobakeru - The 魚 (uo/sakana, "fish") kanji transforms into a fish

Uma-bakeru moji-bakeru kanji-animal transformer -- Uma-bakeru moji-bakeru kanji-animal transformer --
Umabakeru - The 馬 (uma, "horse") kanji transforms into a horse

Tori-bakeru moji-bakeru kanji-animal transformer -- Tori-bakeru moji-bakeru kanji-animal transformer --
Toribakeru - The 鳥 (tori, "bird") kanji transforms into a bird

Ryū-bakeru moji-bakeru kanji-animal transformer -- Ryū-bakeru moji-bakeru kanji-animal transformer --
Ryūbakeru - The 竜 (ryū, "dragon") kanji transforms into a dragon

The collectible toys will be priced at 100 yen (about $1) each when they hit shelves in Japan next week.

Want to buy Mojibakeru? Email shop@pinktentacle.com for details.

[Source: Mainichi via dannychoo]

50 Japanese town logos with kanji

22 Apr 2010

Here is a collection of 50 Japanese town logos that incorporate stylized kanji characters into the design.

Kanji municipal flag, Japan --
Fujinomiya (Shizuoka): The kanji 宮 (miya) inside a cherry blossom with Mt Fuji petals

Kanji town logo, Japan --
Fukuyama (Hiroshima): Bat-shaped 山 (yama) denotes old name of Kōmoriyama ("Bat Mountain")

Kanji town symbol, Japan --
Ibaraki (Ōsaka): The kanji 茨 (ibara) in the shape of a pigeon

Kanji municipal icon, Japan --
Nishino-omote (Kagoshima): The kanji 西 (nishi)

Kanji city emblem, Japan --
Ōme (Tōkyō): The kanji 青 (ao) and plum blossom (ume) signify 青梅 (Ōme)

Kanji municipal symbol, Japan --
Kanazawa (Ishikawa): The kanji 金 (kana) inside a plum blossom, the Maeda clan symbol

Kanji municipal icon, Japan --
Okutama (Tōkyō): The kanji 奥 (oku)

Kanji city symbol, Japan --
Hachinohe (Aomori): The kanji 八戸 (Hachinohe) in the shape of a crane (head and wings)

Kanji town flag, Japan --
Kitami (Hokkaidō): The kanji 北 (kita) shaped like a sash weight

Kanji municipal symbol, Japan --
Yūbari (Hokkaidō): The kanji 夕 () inside a hexagon representing coal

Kanji city logo, Japan --
Hitachi (Ibaraki): A flower-shaped 立 (tachi) kanji inside a circle representing the kanji 日 (hi)

Kanji municipal icon, Japan --
Seto (Aichi): The kanji 土 (tsuchi, or "soil") in a clay pot represents the local pottery industry

Kanji municipal symbol, Japan --
Shibuya (Tōkyō): The kanji 渋 (shibu)

Kanji town logo, Japan --
Yonago (Tottori): The kanji 米 (yona)

Kanji municipal flag, Japan --
Beppu (Ōita): The kanji 別 (betsu), the first character in 別府 (Beppu)

Kanji town icon, Japan --
Akita: The kanji 田 (ta) symbolizing arrows, a reference to Akita Castle

Kanji municipal symbol, Japan --
Azumino (Nagano): The kanji 安 (an), the first character in 安曇野 (Azumino)

Kanji city badge, Japan --
Fujiyoshida (Yamanashi): Mt Fuji and the kanji 吉 (yoshi)

Kanji town badge, Japan --
Shinagawa (Tōkyō): The kanji 品 (shina)

Kanji municipal badge, Japan --
Kōchi (Kōchi): The kanji 高 ()

Kanji municipal icon, Japan --
Funabashi (Chiba): The kanji 舟 (funa, or "boat")

Kanji municipal symbol, Japan --
Kakamigahara (Gifu): The kanji 各 (kaku), the first character in 各務原 (Kakamigahara)

Kanji municipal flag, Japan --
Izumo (Shimane): The kanji 出 (i)

Kanji town logo, Japan --
Ishinomaki (Miyagi): The kanji 石 (ishi)

Kanji town symbol, Japan --
Karatsu (Saga): The kanji 唐 (kara)

Kanji town logo, Japan --
Kōka (Shiga): The kanji 甲 ()

Kanji town flag, Japan --
Shinjuku (Tōkyō): The kanji 新 (shin)

Kanji town emblem, Japan --
Uji (Kyōto): The kanji 宇 (u)

Kanji municipal symbol, Japan --
Nagareyama (Chiba): Seal script style kanji 流 (nagare), representing the Edogawa River

Kanji municipal flag, Japan --
Nabari (Mie): The kanji 名 (na)

Kanji municipal icon, Japan --
Kasuga (Fukuoka): 春 (haru), the first character in 春日 (Kasuga), shaped like local ancient tombs

Kanji city emblem, Japan --
Otaru (Hokkaidō): The kanji 小 (o) inside a six-pointed star symbolizing snow

Kanji town symbol, Japan --
Matsumoto (Nagano): Pine (matsu) needles encircle the kanji 本 (moto)

Kanji town logo, Japan --
Tachikawa (Tōkyō): The kanji 立 (tachi) and 川 (kawa)

Kanji municipal flag, Japan --
Koganei (Tōkyō): The kanji 小 (ko) shaped like a cherry blossom

Kanji town flag, Japan --
Tajimi (Gifu): The kanji 多 (ta) and a Chinese bellflower

Kanji municipal icon, Japan --
Tama (Tōkyō): The kanji 多 (ta) shaped like a pigeon

Kanji municipal symbol, Japan --
Kodaira (Tōkyō): The kanji 小平 (Kodaira)

Kanji town logo, Japan --
Tenri (Nara): The plum blossom-shaped 天 (ten) is similar to the symbol of the Tenrikyo religion

Kanji town flag, Japan --
Yonaguni (Okinawa): The kanji 与 (yo)

Kanji town logo, Japan --
Monbetsu (Hokkaidō): The kanji 紋 (mon)

Kanji town emblem, Japan --
Sendai (Miyagi): The kanji 仙 (sen)

Kanji municipal symbol, Japan --
Suzuka (Mie): The kanji 鈴 (suzu) shaped like a bell

Kanji municipal flag, Japan --
Takatsuki (Ōsaka): The kanji 高 (taka)

Kanji town logo, Japan --
Taketomi (Okinawa): The kanji 竹 (take)

Kanji town icon, Japan --
Yokkaichi (Mie): The kanji 四日 (yokka)

Kanji municipal flag, Japan --
Tsuchiura (Ibaraki): The kanji 土 (tsuchi) represents a flower and the waves on Lake Kasumigaura

Kanji municipal emblem, Japan --
Utsunomiya (Tochigi): The kanji 宮 (miya) looks like a turtle shell, a reference to Utsunomiya Castle

Kanji municipal flag, Japan --
Yamaguchi (Yamaguchi): The kanji 山口 (Yamaguchi)

Kanji municipal emblem, Japan --
Hachijō (Tōkyō): The kanji 八丈 (Hachijō) arranged in the shape of a bird

Related: Hiragana/katakana town logos

[Link: Wikipedia]

Top 60 Japanese words/phrases of 2009

16 Nov 2009

Publisher Jiyu Kokuminsha has released its annual list of the 60 most popular Japanese expressions of the year. The words and phrases (listed below in no particular order) reflect some of the major trends, events, and people that captured the attention of the Japanese mass media in 2009. Included are plenty of references to Japan's recent political shake-up, the ailing economy, and the blurring of traditional gender roles. From this list, a panel of judges will select the 10 trendiest Japanese expressions of 2009 and announce the results in early December.

* * * * *

UPDATE (Dec 2, 2009): The top 10 most popular words/phrases of 2009:

1. Regime change (see #1 below)
2. Child store manager (see #56 below)
3. Sorting out operations (see #40 below)
4. New flu (see #30 below)
5. Herbivorous men (see #4 below)
6. De-bureaucratization (see #28 below)
7. Temp worker cutbacks (see #20 below)
8. Fast fashion (see #7 below)
9. Complaints (see #45 below)
10. History girls (see #60 below)

* * * * *

1. Regime change [seiken kōtai - 政権交代]: The landslide election victory of the Democratic Party of Japan brought an abrupt end to 54 years of Liberal Democratic Party rule. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has promised a host of political and economic reforms and may open a new era in foreign and security policy. [More]

* * * * *

2. The Alien [uchūjin - 宇宙人]: Because of his quirky hairstyle, prominent eyes, and eccentric manner, Prime Minister Hatoyama is known by his supporters and opposition as "The Alien," a nickname his wife says he earned because of how different he is from old-style Japanese politicians.

Hatoyama sable cookie box --
Box of Hatoyama Sable Cookies on sale at Tokyo Station

In his book Seicho no Genkai ni Manabu (Learning from the Limits of Growth) published in 2000, Hatoyama claims he is happy to be called an alien. "All humans are aliens. We are earthlings, and at the same time, we are aliens, one existing part in the universe," Hatoyama writes. "As a human being, I think it is very important to go beyond the bounds of global awareness into universal consciousness." [More]

* * * * *

3. "...to Venus in a UFO" [UFO de kinsei ni - UFOで金星に]: Colorful first lady Miyuki Hatoyama drew worldwide attention with her claim to have traveled to Venus aboard a UFO. Her account first appeared in a book entitled "Most Bizarre Things I’ve Encountered," which features interviews with prominent people about unusual experiences. “While my body was sleeping, I think my spirit flew on a triangular-shaped UFO to Venus,” she said. “It was an extremely beautiful place and was very green.” [More]

* * * * *

4. Herbivorous men [sōshoku danshi - 草食男子]: Coined in 2006 by author Maki Fukasawa, this term refers to an emerging breed of man whose passive nature stands in stark contrast to conventional notions of masculinity. Typically in his 20s or 30s, the herbivore doesn't earn much money, spends little, takes a keen interest in fashion and his personal appearance, and does not aggressively pursue "flesh" (i.e. romance and sex). Friendly and home-oriented, he tends to favor cosmetics over deluxe cars and would rather eat sweets at home than treat his girlfriend to dinner at a fancy restaurant. [More]

* * * * *

5. Herbivorous/carnivorous [sōshoku-kei/nikushoku-kei - 草食系/肉食系]: Where the herbivorous man is passive, the so-called "carnivorous woman" is aggressive. The words "herbivorous" and "carnivorous" have come to denote one's level of passiveness or aggressiveness, particularly with respect to sex and romance.

* * * * *

6. Nogyaru [nogyaru - ノギャル]: Nogyaru -- a combination of the words nōgyō (agriculture) and gyaru (gal) -- is the name of a rice-farming project started by young Shibuya gal entrepreneur Shiho Fujita.

Nogal, Shibuya rice --

The crops are grown in Akita prefecture with the help of Shibuya gals and marketed under the brand name "Shibuya Rice." [More]

* * * * *

7. Fast fashion [ファストファッション]: The weak economy appears to have impacted Japan's fashion world by pushing consumers toward the cheaper end of the market. A "fast fashion" boom has erupted in Tokyo's trend-setting Harajuku area, where a crowd of cheap chic European and US retailers such as H&M, Forever 21, Topshop, Zara, and Gap are now competing in close proximity to one another. [More]

* * * * *

8. 990-yen jeans [990円ジーンズ]: Fast Retailing, which operates the Uniqlo casual fashion chain, attracted attention in March when it began selling blue jeans for a surprisingly cheap 990 yen (about $11) at its g.u. stores. In addition to driving up sales at g.u., the bargain jeans touched off a denim price war as competitors slashed prices in response. [More]

* * * * *

9. 25% reduction [25% sakugen - 25%削減]: At a climate change symposium in Tokyo in September, Prime Minister Hatoyama pledged big cuts in Japan's greenhouse gas emissions, saying he will aim for a 25% reduction by 2020 compared with 1990 levels. [More]

* * * * *

10. State-run manga cafe [kokuei manga kissa - 国営マンガ喫茶]: In April, the government fast-tracked plans to construct an 11.7 billion yen ($130 million) National Center for Media Arts -- a museum for manga, anime, video games, and other technology-based art.

National manga cafe --
Illustration of proposed "state-run manga cafe"

In a debate with the now former Prime Minister Taro Aso, new Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama criticized the planned facility as a waste of taxpayer money, referring to it mockingly as a "state-run manga cafe." After assuming office, Prime Minister Hatoyama put a halt to the project. [More]

* * * * *

11. Eco-car tax breaks [eco-kaa genzei - エコカー減税]: In April, the government began offering consumers a series of tax breaks and subsidies designed to encourage more eco-friendly car purchases. Under the scheme, consumers who buy new electric, hybrid and clean diesel cars are exempted from automobile acquisition and weight taxes, and those who purchase gasoline-fueled cars that meet certain fuel efficiency and emissions criteria are entitled to a 50% to 75% tax reduction. In addition, subsidies of up to 250,000 yen ($2,700) are available to people replacing older vehicles with eco-friendly cars that meet certain criteria. [More]

* * * * *

12. Eco-points [エコポイント]: To stimulate consumption and promote the use of energy-efficient home appliances, the government set up a massive subsidy program based on eco-points, a type of currency that consumers earn by purchasing government-designated air conditioners, refrigerators and TVs. Accumulated eco-points can later be used toward the purchase of other goods. [More]

* * * * *

13. 1000-yen expressways [sen-en kōsoku - 1000円高速]: To help stimulate the economy, the government reduced the maximum toll for passenger cars on expressways across most of Japan to 1,000 yen ($11) for unlimited distances on weekends and national holidays. [More]

* * * * *

14. Convenience store medical treatment [conbini jushin - コンビニ受診]: This expression refers to a growing problem in which patients with busy schedules seek minor medical attention at hospitals during off-hours, when only the emergency room facilities are available. By popping into the hospital late at night as if it were a 24-hour convenience store, these patients end up placing undue strain on emergency room facilities.

* * * * *

15. Change [チェンジ]: Echoes of Obama's mantra of "change" could be heard during this year's historic general election in Japan.

* * * * *

16. Ozawa girls [小沢ガールズ]: The Democratic Party of Japan's landslide election victory in August brought 26 new female members -- many of them young and attractive -- to the legislature. Japanese reporters and political commentators have nicknamed these women the "Ozawa girls" after former party boss Ichiro Ozawa, who spearheaded the campaign.

Ozawa girls --

A few of the more well-known Ozawa girls include Kayoko Isogai (a 43-year-old unemployed woman), Mieko Tanaka (a former sex-industry reporter who has appeared in provocative photo spreads and starred in the erotic horror cult flick "Blind Beast vs. Killer Dwarf"), Ai Aoki (a former late-night television reporter), and Eriko Fukuda (a 28-year-old activist who became famous by leading a high-profile legal battle against the government after contracting hepatitis from a tainted blood transfusion).

+ Scene from "Blind Beast vs. Killer Dwarf," starring Mieko Tanaka

Opponents have criticized the DPJ for recruiting unqualified female candidates who they say will never actually be given the power to make important decisions. Party leaders have dismissed the criticism. [More]

* * * * *

17. Supplementary income payments [teigaku kyūfukin - 定額給付金]: To help stimulate spending in the sluggish economy, the government offered supplementary income payments to the residents of Japan. Payments amounted to 12,000 yen ($130) per person (20,000 yen, or $180, for children and seniors). [More]

* * * * *

18. Life-sized Gundam [jitsubutsudai gandamu - 実物大ガンダム]: For a few weeks this summer, an 18-meter-tall "life-sized" Gundam statue was erected in Tokyo's Shiokaze Park to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the "Mobile Suit Gundam" animated television series and to draw attention to Tokyo's bid for the 2016 Olympics.

Odaiba Gundam at sunset --

Over a million people are estimated to have visited the statue while it was on display. [More]

* * * * *

19. Poverty [hinkon - 貧困]: According to a recent survey by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, nearly one in six Japanese people are living in poverty -- one of the highest rates in the developed world. [More]

* * * * *

20. Temp worker cutbacks [haken-giri - 派遣切り]: When struggling companies are forced to make cuts, temp workers are among the first to lose their jobs.

* * * * *

21. Temp Workers' New Year Village [toshikoshi haken mura - 年越し派遣村]: To draw attention to the plight of Japan's haken-giri poor, a group of 20 organizations set up a temporary emergency camp in Hibiya Park next to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare building. From December 31, 2008 to January 5, 2009, the village provided meals and sleeping facilities to the needy, as well as recreational events and entertainment to help ring in the New Year. [More]

* * * * *

22. Housing poor [housing poor - ハウジングプア]: Japan's social safety net has come under increasing criticism for its inability to handle the growing ranks of people at risk of becoming homeless. Particularly vulnerable are people in their 20s and 30s who live in company-provided housing. When these workers lose their jobs, they often end up sleeping in Internet cafes and restaurants before ending up on the streets. [More]

* * * * *

23. Zero/zero apartments [zero zero bukken - ゼロゼロ物件]: Rental properties requiring zero security deposit and zero "key money" are an attractive option for young people on a budget. However, the unfair practices of some zero/zero apartment agents -- particularly with respect to the way late payments are handled -- have come to light, resulting in a series of legal battles. Tokyo-based zero/zero agent "Smile Service" has been accused of barging into tenants' apartments in the middle of the night to demand money, charging outrageous penalty fees, changing the locks and confiscating belongings, even when rental payments were a day late.

* * * * *

24. Sexy buchō [sekushii buchō - セクスィー部長]: Sexy Buchō ("department chief") is a popular character with humorously exaggerated masculine sex appeal who appears in skits on the NHK sketch-comedy show "Salaryman NEO."

Sexy bucho --
Sexy Buchō, played by actor Ikki Sawamura

* * * * *

25. Home appliance entertainers [kaden geinin - 家電芸人]: Group discussions with famous comedian guests on the weekly late-night variety TV show "Ame Talk" sometimes revolve around the latest in consumer electronics and home appliances. The comedian guests participating in these episodes are referred to as "home appliance entertainers." Due to the show's popularity, various electronics makers have reported significant spikes in sales after their products were discussed.

* * * * *

26. "Doll stand" entertainers [hinadan geinin - ひな壇芸人]: This expression refers to the small groups of comedians frequently seen on variety TV shows, who typically occupy a set of tiered seats (resembling a traditional hina-doll stand).

* * * * *

27. Obama administration [Obama seiken - オバマ政権]: The Obama administration grabbed its fair share of headlines in Japan this year.

* * * * *

28. De-bureaucratization [datsu kanryō - 脱官僚]: The new government has promised to break up the entrenched relationships between bureaucrats, big business and the LDP by decentralizing the bureaucracy and filling high-ranking civil-service posts with political appointments. [More]

* * * * *

29. Donations from dead people [kojin kenkin - 故人献金]: This refers to a scandal in which dozens of people, including those deceased, were falsely listed as donors in political funding reports filed by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's fund-raising organization. In June, Hatoyama acknowledged that the bogus lists included 193 donations from 94 people, many of them dead, totaling 21.8 million yen ($240,000). The matter is still under investigation. [More]

* * * * *

30. New flu [shingata infuruenza - 新型インフルエンザ]: About 6 million people in Japan have been infected with the new strain of influenza A virus subtype H1N1 since early July. [More]

* * * * *

31. Pandemic [パンデミック]: In June, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of H1N1 to be a pandemic. [More]

* * * * *

32. 1Q84 [pronunciation - 日本語]: The first two volumes of 1Q84, a three-part novel by Haruki Murakami, were published in Japan in late May (the third volume is scheduled for release in summer 2010). The much-anticipated novel rocketed onto the best-seller list, selling out the first printing on the first day of release. Over two million copies were sold in the first six weeks of publication.

1Q84 --

1Q84 is described as a complex and surreal tale that touches on themes of murder, history, cult religion, violence, family ties and love. The title of the work is a reference to the year 1984, which the characters experience in an alternate reality. It is also a nod to Orwell's 1984, as the Japanese word for the number nine is pronounced "kyū." But unlike Orwell's 1984, which concerned the future, Murakami's 1Q84 approaches the year from the opposite direction, creating an alternate past. [More]

* * * * *

33. Lay judge trials [saibanin saiban - 裁判員裁判]: Japan's new "lay jury system" -- which requires randomly selected citizens to participate as jurors in trials for certain serious crimes -- went into effect this year. In the first trial under the new system in August, lay jurors found 72-year-old Katsuyoshi Fuji guilty of stabbing to death his 66-year-old neighbor and sentenced him to 15 years in jail. [More]

* * * * *

34. DNA evidence [DNA kantei - DNA鑑定]: In June, a Japanese man who spent over 17 years in jail for the murder of a four-year-old girl in 1990 was released after fresh DNA tests showed he was not the perpetrator. The 63-year-old man had been sentenced to life in jail after confessing to the crime, but he later retracted his confession, saying it was forced. The case has prompted fresh criticism of Japan's system of police interrogations, in which suspects can be detained and questioned for up to 23 days without the presence of a lawyer. [More]

* * * * *

35. "It happens" [aru to omoimasu - あると思います]: "Aru to omoimasu" -- loosely translated as "it happens" -- is a line used by comedian Tenshin Kimura each time he finishes singing one of his humorously erotic shigin poems.

* * * * *

36. Tuusu! [トゥース]: This is a popular greeting used by comedian Toshiaki Kasuga of the owarai duo Audrey. [More]

* * * * *

37. Otomen [otomen - 乙男]: Otomen -- a play on the word "otome" (乙女), meaning "young lady" or "mistress," and the English word "men" -- is the title of a popular romantic comedy manga centered around a cool, masculine student who excels at martial arts but harbors a secret girlish love for sweets, cute things, cooking, shōjo manga, and sewing. [More]

* * * * *

38. Pork-barrel politics [baramaki - ばらまき]: The Hatoyama government has pledged to put a stop to wasteful government spending.

* * * * *

39. Yamba Dam [八ッ場ダム]: As promised during the campaign, the new government quickly halted construction of the $5.2 billion Yamba Dam in the town of Naganohara, north of Tokyo. Somewhat surprisingly, many residents opposed the government's decision to cancel the dam because they depend on the construction jobs and compensation payments for their livelihood (even though the dam would ultimately submerge their town under water). Halting the project is seen as a test of the Hatoyama government's ability to fulfill its promise to revitalize the economy and end Japan's addiction to massive, often wasteful, government-funded construction projects. [More]

* * * * *

40. Sorting out operations [jigyō shiwake - 事業仕分け]: To eliminate wasteful government spending and trim the budget before next April, the new government is employing an innovative method of reassessment called jigyō shiwake (sorting out operations). Developed by Japan Initiative, a private-sector think tank, the jigyō shiwake method has been used for seven years to streamline budgets and boost efficiency at the local government level. These budget-cutting panels involve teams of government employees and outside evaluators -- called shiwake-nin -- who work together to prioritize government projects and services one by one. The teams assess the necessity of each service, decide whether to keep it or outsource it, and determine whether to change the scale of the service and the way it is provided. [More]

* * * * *

41. Ashuraa [アシュラー]: In spring, a popular exhibit entitled “The National Treasure Ashura and Masterpieces from Kohfukuji” was held at the Tokyo National Museum. The centerpiece of the exhibit was a 8th-century statue of Ashura, a Buddhist deity.

Asura --

This exhibit attracted over 940,00 visitors -- the most ever for a Japanese art exhibit at the Tokyo National Museum. Female fans of this and other Ashura statues came to be known as "Ashuraa." [More]

* * * * *

42. King of Pop [キング・オブ・ポップ]: Japanese fans of Michael Jackson mourned his death in June. [More]

* * * * *

43. Flying object [hishōtai - 飛翔体]: Despite international appeals, North Korea proceeded with a long-publicized rocket launch on April 5. After the rocket passed over Japan and fell into the Pacific, the Japanese government issued a statement that read: "A short time ago a flying object appeared to have been launched from North Korea." A strong message of protest was delivered to North Korea following the incident. [More]

* * * * *

44. World without nuclear weapons [kakunaki sekai - 核なき世界]: On April 5, just hours after North Korea launched a "flying object" over Japan, US President Barack Obama spoke in Prague and called for "a world without nuclear weapons."

Obama English books and CDs --
CDs of Obama's Prague speech, a popular English learning tool in Japan

In mid-November, after a summit meeting with Prime Minister Hatoyama in Tokyo, the two leaders issued a joint statement expressing their determination to realize a nuclear-free world and urge other nations to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in their security strategies. [More]

* * * * *

45. Complaints [boyaki - ぼやき]: Katsuya Nomura, 74-year-old manager of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles professional baseball team, attracted attention this year for his habit of voicing colorful complaints during post-game interviews. Nomura was replaced as manager by American baseballer Marty Brown after the season ended. [More]

* * * * *

46. Mā-kun, child of god [maa-kun kami no ko - マー君神の子]: "Mā-kun" is the nickname of Masahiro Tanaka, a starting pitcher for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. Manager Katsuya Nomura has called him "kami-no-ko" (child of god) for his remarkable ability to help the team win when he is in the lineup. [More]

* * * * *

47. Players under development [ikusei senshu - 育成選手]: Under the new player development system adopted by the Nippon Professional Baseball League, teams with more than 65 contracted members can sign players to ikusei contracts and allow them to develop at the minor league level. [More]

* * * * *

48. Samurai Japan [侍ジャパン]: Japan's national baseball team -- nicknamed "Samurai Japan" -- successfully defended their championship title at the 2009 World Baseball Classic. [More]

* * * * *

49. Katsumaa [katsumaa - カツマー]: "Katsumaa" are fans of Kazuyo Katsuma, a charismatic businesswoman, working mother and author of several best-selling books that have sold millions of copies. She writes mostly about self-management, work-life balance, gender equality, and how women can achieve greater success. [More]

* * * * *

50. Marriage hunting [konkatsu - 婚活]: Konkatsu ("marriage hunting"), which refers to the desperate marriage quest activities among people in their 30s and 40s, was included in this same list of popular phrases last year. This year the phenomenon became the theme of a few TV dramas, such as Fuji TV's "Konkatsu!" about an out-of-work 30-something man whose family owns a tonkatsu (pork cutlet) restaurant. The character pretends to be married in order to obtain a city hall job devoted to reversing the town's declining birth rate. [More]

* * * * *

51. Seeking divorce [rikatsu - 離活]: On the flip side of the konkatsu marriage-hunting phenomenon is rikatsu (divorce-seeking activities). The two phenomena became the theme of an 8-episode NHK comedy drama series entitled "Konkatsu Rikatsu" (Seeking Marriage, Seeking Divorce).

Konkatsu Rikatsu --

The story revolves around the desperate quests of two 40ish-year-old women rivals -- one who seeks marriage and one who seeks divorce. [More]

* * * * *

52. Nori-P shock [nori pii shokku - のりピーショック]: Pop idol-turned-actress Noriko Sakai (a.k.a. Nori-P) shocked the celebrity world after she was busted for possessing and using stimulant drugs. [More]

* * * * *

53. "Seaweed salt" incident [nori-shio jiken - のり塩事件]: Nori-shio (seaweed salt) is a play on the names of Noriko Sakai (nori - "seaweed") and singer/actor Manabu Oshio (shio - "salt"), both of whom were arrested on separate drug charges in early August. The celebrity drug arrests together came to be known as the "nori-shio incident."

* * * * *

54. Aburi [aburi - あぶり]: Aburi, which ordinarily refers to the act of lightly roasting food, is street-slang for smoking amphetamines. Following her arrest in August, Noriko Sakai confessed to doing aburi with her husband.

* * * * *

55. "I didn't want to come to this place" [konna tokoro kitou wa nakatta - こんなところ来とうはなかった]: This is a memorable line from the first episode of "Tenchijin," a 47-part weekly drama about the life of 16th-century samurai Naoe Kanetsugu, which aired on NHK from January 4 to November 22, 2009. The famous line belongs to the very upset 5-year-old Kanetsugu (known as "Yoroku" in his youth), who has been separated from his family and sent to a temple to be educated as a samurai. The young Kanetsugu is played by child actor Seishiro Kato. [More]

* * * * *

56. Child store manager [kodomo tenchō - こども店長]: In addition to playing the boy samurai in "Tenchijin," child actor Seishiro Kato starred as a young store manager in a series of commercials for Toyota. [More]

* * * * *

57. Silver Week [シルバーウィーク]: In the third week of September, Japan enjoyed a 5-day holiday due to the unusual occurrence of a weekend followed by three public holidays -- Respect for the Aged Day (third Monday in September), Autumnal Equinox Day (usually September 23, on Wednesday this year), and the "freebie" national holiday that occurs in between two holidays when spaced a day apart. This string of holidays came to be known as "Silver Week" in reference to the Golden Week holidays in April/May.

* * * * *

58. Girl power [joshi-ryoku - 女子力]: The young women's fashion magazine (a la JJ and CanCam) version of "girl power" involves the skilled use of makeup, fashion and taste to boost one's self-image and feminine appeal.

* * * * *

59. Bento men [bentō danshi - 弁当男子]: A trend sparked by the recession is the rise of so-called "bento men" -- salarymen who prepare bento box lunches at home and take them to the office. According to a recent survey conducted by a Japanese bank, nearly 10% of Japanese salarymen now take homemade bentos to work to save money. [More]

* * * * *

60. History girls [reki-jo - 歴女]: Japanese history -- particularly that of the Warring States period (mid-15th to early 17th century) -- has become a hot topic among many young women in Japan. Called reki-jo (history girls), these newfangled history buffs are reportedly flocking to important historical landmarks and buying up history books, magazines, and samurai-themed knickknacks.

Samurai undewear --
Rogin's "Oda Nobunaga" underwear sells for 9,240 yen ($100) a pair

Tokyo-based underwear manufacturer Rogin, which sales a line of samurai-themed underwear, has also reported consistently strong sales. About 80% of buyers are women, according to the company.

Researcher Tetsuaki Higashida of the Dentsu Communication Institute suggests history girls may be attracted to samurai for their powerful masculinity -- something many women may find lacking in their modern male counterparts. "Gender role reversals have been taking place, with men cooking and women playing golf," he says. "It's not unacceptable nowadays for women to take an interest in warlords, which used to be an area of interest reserved for men." [More]

‘Tele Scouter’ retinal-display translation glasses

26 Oct 2009

Tele Scouter retinal display --

Electronics giant NEC has reportedly developed a wearable optical device that interprets foreign languages and projects a real-time translation directly onto the retina, enabling the wearer to communicate with other language speakers without an interpreter.

The prototype device — called “Tele Scouter” — consists of a tiny retinal display and microphone mounted on an eyeglass frame. The microphone picks up the conversation and transmits it to a small computer worn on the waist, which converts the speech to text and translates it into the user’s native language.

The retinal display projects the text directly into the user’s peripheral vision, allowing them to maintain eye contact with their conversation partner while reading the translation. According to the developers, the Tele Scouter can be used for hours on end without eye strain, because the wearer does not have to focus their eye on the displayed text.

Although NEC plans to put a version of the Tele Scouter on the market in 2010, the company admits the device’s translation capabilities are insufficient for real-world applications. So for now, the initial plan is to market the device as a wearable data display for employees in factories and shops.

According to the company, the device can provide instant hands-free access to data such as diagrams and operating instructions, allowing workers to perform tasks more efficiently and accurately. Other possible future applications include car navigation systems and video games.

[Source: Yomiuri]

Typographic town logos in hiragana/katakana

18 Sep 2009

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Typographic logo for Kamagaya (Chiba) spells town name in katakana]

Japanese town logos -- official symbols designed to communicate the identity of each municipality -- come in a vast array of shapes and colors. Many of these municipal symbols incorporate typographical elements (particularly kanji, hiragana, katakana, and Roman letters) into their designs. In most cases, the stylized characters are straightforward and easy to spot (even if you don't read Japanese), but sometimes you have to bend your eyes to see them. The more complex logos encode the name of the town into a puzzle-like symbol that begs to be deciphered. Here are a few typographic town logos that make clever use of hiragana and katakana characters. (The examples are arranged in Japanese alphabetical order and include a mixture of both alphabets.)

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Abiko, Chiba]

A: Abiko's logo uses a stylized katakana ア (a) that symbolizes Lake Tega.

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Itabashi, Tokyo]

I: The picture-puzzle logo for Tokyo's Itabashi ward consists of the katakana イタ (ita) surrounded by four (shi) katakana ハ (ha) -- the katakana ハ (ha) is a variant of バ (ba). Together, the elements express the name "Itabashi" ("ita" + "ha" + "shi").

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Urakawa, Hokkaido]

U: In Urakawa's design, a stylized kanji 河 (kawa) is surrounded by four sets of the katakana ウラ (ura), which represent the four municipalities that joined together in 1902 to form the current town.

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Ebino, Miyazaki]

E: Ebino's hiragana え (e) is in the shape of Mt. Kirishima.

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Owase, Mie]

O: Owase's town logo consists of a katakana オ (o) in the shape of an eagle (pronounced "wase" in the local dialect).

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Kanoya, Kagoshima]

Ka: The blue shape represents the Osumi peninsula, and the red circle with the gold katakana カノヤ (Kanoya) represents the city.

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Kikai, Kagoshima]

Ki: The logo for Kikai consists of a stylized hiragana き (ki).

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Kumamoto, Kumamoto]

Ku: Kumamoto's logo is a rounded hiragana く (ku).

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Kesennuma, Miyagi]

Ke: The logo for Kesennuma consists of a hiragana け (ke).

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Komaki, Aichi]

Ko: The katakana コマキ (komaki) in this logo is designed to represent an airplane engine.

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Misawa, Aomori]

Sa: In Misawa's picture-puzzle logo, the three (mi) katakana サ (sa) form a ring (wa). The Y-shaped objects are pine needles.

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi]

Shi: Shimonoseki's logo consists of the hiragana しも (shimo) in the shape of a puffer fish.

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Sumida, Tokyo]

Su: This symbol for Tokyo's Sumida ward is composed of the katakana ス (su).

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Setana, Hokkaido]

Se: The katakana せ (se) is in the shape of Hokkaido, and the circle represents the town's location on the map.

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Urasoe, Okinawa]

So: The logo for Urasoe is said to incorporate the katakana ウラソエ (Urasoe), though the ソ (so) and エ (e) are difficult to see.

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Tateyama, Chiba]

Ta: Tateyama's logo consists of the katakana タ (ta) on the left, テ (te) on the right, and the kanji 山 (yama) in the center.

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Chitose, Hokkaido]

Chi: In Chitose's logo, the hiragana ち (chi) is shaped like an airplane.

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Tsushima, Nagasaki]

Tsu: The six hiragana つ (tsu) in this logo represent the six municipalities that merged in 2004 to form the current city.

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Toride, Ibaraki]

Te: Toride's logo incorporates the katakana トリテ (torite). デ (de) is a variant of テ (te).

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Tōkai, Aichi]

To: The logo for Tōkai uses the hiragana とう (tō).

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Nankoku, Kochi]

Na: In Nankoku's logo, the katakana ナ (na) resembles a pair of wings.

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Niiza, Saitama]

Ni: Niiza's logo incorporates the katakana ニ (ni) and ザ (za).

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Numazu, Shizuoka]

Nu: The logo for Numazu depicts the katakana ヌ (nu) with pine needles.

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Nerima, Tokyo]

Ne: The logo for Tokyo's Nerima ward consists of a katakana ネ (ne) with a horseshoe-shaped center -- a reference to the "horse" kanji 馬 (ma) in Nerima.

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Minoo, Osaka]

No: Minoo's picture-puzzle logo consists of three (mi) katakana ノ (no).

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Hadano, Kanagawa]

Ha: The logo for Hadano consists of the katakana ハタノ (hatano) drawn to resemble wings. ダ (da) is a variant of タ (ta).

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Biei, Hokkaido]

Hi: Biei's logo design features the hiragana び (bi) in the shape of Mt. Tokachi. び (bi) is a variant of ひ (hi).

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --

Fu: The picture-puzzle logo for Fukuchiyama incorporates nine (ku) katakana フ (fu).

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Sasebo, Nagasaki]

Ho: Sasebo's logo is drawn with the katakana サセホ (Saseho). ホ (bo) is a variant of ボ (ho).

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Higashi-Matsuyama, Saitama]

Ma: This logo design consists of three katakana マ (ma). The symbol as a whole is meant to represent the kanji 東 (higashi), as well as the kanji 山 (yama).

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Minato, Tokyo]

Mi: The design for Tokyo's Minato ward features a stylized version of the hiragana み (mi).

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Mutsu, Aomori]

Mu: Mutsu's symbol consists of the hiragana むつ (mutsu).

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Kameoka, Kyoto]

Me: Kameoka's logo design is said to incorporate letters from three alphabets, including the hiragana かめ (kame), the katakana カメ (kame), the roman letters KA, and others.

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Mobara, Chiba]

Mo: Mobara's town symbol is said to incorporate a stylized version of the hiragana も (mo), though it is difficult to make out.

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Yachiyo, Chiba]

Ya: The logo for Yachiyo consists of the hiragana や (ya).

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Yokosuka, Kanagawa]

Yo: Yokosuka's symbol, which represents a mariner's compass, incorporates the katakana ヨコ (yoko) styled like the Miura clan symbol.

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Omura, Nagasaki]

Ra: Omura's picture-puzzle logo features the kanji 大 (oh) surrounded by six (mu) katakana ラ (ra).

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Rishiri, Hokkaido]

Ri: Rishiri's symbol is said to incorporate the hiragana り (ri), which representing ocean waves, along with the hiragana し (shi), which represents Mt. Rishiri.

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Rumei, Hokkaido]

Ru: The logo for Rumei consists of the katakana ル (ru) surrounded by four seagulls.

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Rebun, Hokkaido]

Re: Rebun's town symbol incorporates the katakana レ (re).

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Muroran, Hokkaido]

Ro: Muroran's picture-puzzle logo consists of six (mu) katakana ロ (ro) surrounding an orchid (ran).

* * * * *

Municipal flag, Japan --
[Tokorozawa, Saitama]

Wa: The picture-puzzle logo for Tokorozawa features a yam (tokoro) surrounded by three katakana ワ (wa). In Japanese, "three" is pronounced "san," which sounds similar to "za."


Top 60 popular Japanese words/phrases of 2008

17 Nov 2008

Publishing company Jiyu Kokuminsha has released its annual list of the 60 most popular Japanese words and phrases of the year. This diverse collection of expressions highlights many of the events, trends and people that caught the attention of the Japanese mass media in 2008.

From this list, a panel of judges will select the 10 trendiest Japanese words of 2008 and announce the results on December 1. The expressions are listed below in no particular order.

* * * * * * * * * *

UPDATE (Dec 1, 2008): Jiyu Kokuminsha's top 10 words/phrases of the year:

1. "gu~!" (#25 below)
2. Arafo (#14 below)
3. Ueno's 413 pitches (#58 below)
4. Izakaya taxi (#34 below)
5. Manager in name only (#41 below)
6. Buried treasure (#35 below)
7. The Crab Cannery Ship (#17 below)
8. Guerrilla rainstorm (#1 below)
9. Late-stage elderly (#43 below)
10. "I'm different from you" (#54 below)

* * * * * * * * * *

1. Guerrilla rainstorm (gōu - ゲリラ豪雨): Sudden, unpredictable rainstorms struck Japan with alarming frequency and intensity this year. Although the expression "guerrilla rainstorm" has been in use for about 30 years, this summer's abnormally unstable weather really hammered home the meaning.

2. Dumb characters (obaka-kyara - おバカキャラ): "Dumb characters," a.k.a. "dumb idols" (obaka-aidoru - おバカアイドル), are entertainers loved for their lack of brains. Nobody better embodies this phenomenon than clueless TV talents Mai Satoda, Suzanne and Yukina Kinoshita, who, as regular guests on Fuji TV's "Quiz! Hexagon" trivia show, made a name for themselves by consistently displaying a stunning lack of basic knowledge.

Pabo --

The trio recently formed a musical group called "Pabo" (which means "idiot" in Korean) and released their first CD in September.

3. Subprime (sabupuraimu - サブプライム): The word "subprime" began seeping into the public consciousness last year, but it was relatively easy to ignore because the problem remained confined to the other side of the Pacific. The word took on greater significance this year as the mess washed up on Japan's shores.

4. Morning banana (asa banana - 朝バナナ): Years of online discussion between weight-conscious Mixi users resulted in the creation of the "Morning Banana Diet," a simple diet program which, among other things, involves eating bananas for breakfast. The diet program took the nation and mainstream media by storm after it was featured on a popular TV show. Sporadic banana shortages occurred at some supermarkets as suppliers struggled to keep up with demand. [More]

5. Change (チェンジ): While Obama brought a message of "change" to the United States, Fuji TV delivered a hit drama, entitled "Change," starring SMAP idol Kimutaku (Takuya Kimura) as a school teacher who reluctantly becomes prime minister.

6. Crystal jelly (owan kurage - オワンクラゲ): The crystal jelly, a.k.a. Aequorea victoria, is a bioluminescent jellyfish found off the west coast of North America.

Crystal jelly, a.k.a. Aequorea victoria --

The creature was thrust into the spotlight this year after marine biologist and organic chemist Osamu Shimomura, along with Martin Chalfie and Roger Y. Tsien, were awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering green fluorescent protein (GFP) in the jellyfish and developing it as an important biological research tool. [More]

7. Rozen Aso (ローゼン麻生): "Rozen Aso" is the nickname of current prime minister Taro Aso, a manga fan who was once reportedly seen reading "Rozen Maiden" at Haneda Airport. In 2007, as foreign affairs minister, Aso established the International Manga Award for non-Japanese manga artists. When he announced his candidacy for prime minister after the resignation of Shinzo Abe in 2007, the stock prices of some manga publishers and manga-related companies rose sharply.

8. Akiba-kei (アキバ系): "Akiba-kei" (lit. "Akihabara style") refers to the geek culture of Tokyo's Akihabara district, the otaku capital of the world. Synonymous with "otaku," the expression generally applies to young men who frequent Akihabara and harbor a deep interest in idols, erotic PC games, model figurines and manga, although it can refer to geeky women as well.

9. Hime-den (姫電): This abbreviation of hime-denwa (lit. "princess phone") describes a garish style of mobile phone decoration popular with junior high and high school girls.

Hime-den --

Hime-den are typically decorated with glitter, fake jewels, ribbons, lace, and little teddy bears.

10. Marriage hunting (konkatsu - 婚活): "Konkatsu-Jidai'' ("The Times of Marriage-Hunting"), a recent best-selling book by Toko Shirakawa, looks at Japan's declining marriage rate and the growing difficulty that people in their 30s and 40s face when seeking marriage partners. Recent statistics indicate that 47 percent of men and 32 percent of women in their early 30s are unmarried. These figures appear to be on the rise as people focus more on career than on family, and as more and more people view marriage as a personal preference, not an essential part of life. [More]

11. Air performance (ea-gei - エア芸): This refers to a recent twist on the Japanese art of monomane (impersonation). Unlike conventional monomane artists who do voice impressions, air performers lip sync their imitations to recordings while incorporating well-timed dance moves, gestures and facial expressions. Transsexual entertainer Ai Haruna is well known for her "Air Ayaya" performance, an imitation of idol Aya Matsūra (a.k.a. Ayaya).

12. "You say?" (Iu yo ne? - 言うよね?): Transsexual entertainer Ai Haruna frequently uses this pet expression as a retort when berated. "I U YO NE-" is also the title of her upcoming single.

13. Onee-mans - (onee-manzu - オネエマンズ): Onee-mans ("sister man") is a popular prime-time NTV variety show featuring a cast of effeminate gay men and transgenders who get together to discuss topics ranging from fashion to cooking.

14. Arafo (アラフォー): "Arafo" -- a word coined to refer to females between the ages of 35 to 45 -- is an abbreviation of "Around 40," which also happens to be the title of a popular TV drama that depicts the worries and conflicts of the Arafo generation, particularly with respect to career, love, marriage, childbirth and child rearing.

Arafo, Around 40 --

Incidentally, the word "arasa" ("around 30"), which is used in the fashion industry to refer to females around 30, was derived from this word. [More]

15. "Lost Generation" (rosu jene (sengen) - ロスジェネ(宣言)): In June, Kamogawa Publishing Co. started a new biannual magazine entitled "Lost Generation," a self-proclaimed ultra-leftist journal focusing on the themes of "anguish, unease and the absurdities the young people of today face in everyday life." The magazine takes its name from the so-called Lost Generation of people now in their late 20s and early 30s who came of age during Japan's lost decade, a period of economic stagnation that followed the collapse of the bubble economy in the early 1990s. [More]

16. Taste for middle-aged men (karesen - カレセン): An abbreviation of "kareta ojisan senmon" (lit. "specialty in withered old men"), "karesen" refers to the particular preference some young women have for middle-aged or older men who are calm, unassuming, and lack sex appeal. This type of man is the subject of a photo-heavy book entitled "Karesen," which profiles a host of dandy gents and extols their virtues.

17. The Crab Cannery Ship (Kanikōsen - 蟹工船): This year saw the surprise revival of "Kanikōsen," a 1929 novel by Takiji Kobayashi that follows the proletarian struggle of exploited workers on a crab cannery ship. The book sold over 600,000 copies this year, and a contemporary film adaptation (scheduled for release in 2009) is reportedly in the works. [More]

18. Millennial anniversary of the Tale of Genji (genji monogatari sen-nen-ki - 源氏物語千年紀): In 2008, special events were held across Japan to mark the 1,000th anniversary of the Tale of Genji, the world's oldest novel.

19. "The Homeless Junior High School Student" (hōmuresu chūgakusei/kaisan - ホームレス中学生/解散!): "The Homeless Junior High School Student" is a best-selling memoir by comedian Hiroshi Tamura, who became homeless as a 10-year-old after the death of his mother and the break-up of his family. Some of the hardships Tamura recounts include spending nights in public parks and eating cardboard and grass to survive. The book sold over 1 million copies within two months of its release, making it the fastest selling non-fiction book on record in Japan. The story was adapted to the screen this year as "Homeless Chugakusei" ("The Homeless Student").

20. "Ponyo, ponyo ponyo, the fish kid" (ponyo, ponyo ponyo, sakana no ko - ポ~ニョ、ポニョポニョ、さかなの子~): This is a line from the theme song for anime filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki's "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea." Performed by Fujioka-Fujimaki (famous duo Takaaki Fujioka and Naoya Fujimaki) and eight-year-old Nozomi Ohashi, the song reached No.3 on the Oricon Weekly Charts in August.

21. Michelin (mishuran - ミシュラン): The first Tokyo edition of the Michelin Restaurant Guide was published in 2008, and the city's eateries received a record number of coveted stars.

Tokyo Michelin Guide 2008 --

Despite some criticism, the guide sold over 300,000 copies the first year. The 2009 edition is due out shortly.

22. "I am one of your works" (watashi wa anata no sakuhin no hitotsu desu - 私もあなたの作品の一つです): Following the death of legendary manga artist Fujio Akatsuka on August 2, comedian and TV personality Tamori (a.k.a. Kazuyoshi Morita) delivered a eulogy, in which he said, "I am one of your multitude of works." Akatsuka was instrumental in helping Tamori during his early years in show business.

23. "It's all good." (kore de ii no da - これでいいのだ): In the eulogy, Tamori also borrowed a phrase used frequently by a character in Akatsuka's Tensai Bakabon manga series, when he said: "Your liberating ideas helped us accept and affirm the way things really are. That is, you taught us, 'It's all good.'"

24. Sekai no Nabeatsu (世界のナベアツ): Sekai no Nabeatsu is the nickname of comedian Atsumu Watanabe, whose inane number-counting gag involves having a conniption fit every time he comes to a multiple of three or a number that has a three in it.

25. "gu~!" (グ~!): "Guu" -- a bastardization of the English word "good" -- is the signature line of comedienne Edo Harumi, which she usually delivers while giving an exaggerated thumbs-up gesture. She often incorporates the gag into everyday conversation by over-emphasizing the "guu" sound at the end of words. Edo Harumi also received a lot attention as the celebrity marathon runner at this year's NTV 24-hour charity telethon, which aims to bring-guu in donations from viewers tuning-guu in to enjoy the spectacle of a celebrity in pain.

26. Kitaaa! (キターー!!): Comedian Takahiro Yamamoto repopularized the expression "kitaaa!" ("relief!") after imitating the way actor Yuji Oda used to scream it in eyedrop commercials years ago.

27. "A woman's life is like walking on a long one-way path." (Onago no michi wa ippon-michi ni gozaimasu. - おなごの道は一本道にございます。): This is a famous line from episode 6 of "Atsuhime" (lit. "Princess Atsu"), a 50-part NHK drama that chronicles the life of Tensho-in, the wife of 13th Edo shogun Tokugawa Iesada. [More]

28. Kuidaore Taro (くいだおれ太郎): For 60 years, the bespectacled clown mannequin known as Kuidaore Taro played drums and served as mascot outside the famous Kuidaore restaurant in Osaka's Dotonbori district. Unfortunately, the local icon lost his job when the restaurant shut down this year.

Kuidaore Taro --
Kuidaore Taro

Instead of putting the clown mascot up for sale, the owner has decided to rent him out as a celebrity for promotional purposes. Expect to see Taro in commercials, festivals and other events in the future. [More]

29. Kimotiiiii (キモティー): Seibu Lions outfielder G.G. Sato is known for driving fans wild with antics like the "Kimotiii!" ("Feels good!") he belted out on countless occasions this year.

30. Make Legend (meiku rejendo - メーク・レジェンド): This is the slogan of the 2008 Yomiuri Giants baseball team under manager Tatsunori Hara, who beat the odds to win the 2008 Central League Championship. The slogan is reminiscent of the team's 1996 slogan of "Make Drama" (which, in hybridized Japanese-English, means to achieve success after a dramatic turnaround). That season, the Giants under manager Nagashima captured the Central League pennant and "Make Drama" was recognized as the trendiest expression of 1996.

31. "It was nothing" (he no tsuppari demo nai desu kara - 屁の突っ張りでもないですから): After judo star Satoshi Ishii won gold at the Beijing Olympics, reporters asked him to describe the pressure he felt. Notorious for making bold statements to the press, Ishii said, "It was nothing [compared to what his coach felt]." The champ later shocked the judo world at a garden party hosted by the Emperor, where he announced his intent to quit judo for a career in the burgeoning field of mixed martial arts.

32. Recurrence Prevention Committee (saihatsu bōshi kentō iinkai - 再発防止検討委員会): The sumo world found itself embroiled in scandal again this year after Tokyo police arrested Russian wrestler Wakanoho for marijuana possession. In response, the Japan Sumo Association's Recurrence Prevention Committee, which was established last year to investigate questionable training practices after the hazing death of a teenage wrestler, conducted a series of random urine tests. Two more Russian sumo wrestlers, Roho and Hakurozan, tested positive for cannabis. To make matters worse, after Wakanoho was permanently banned from the sport in August, he went public with details (and names) that appear to substantiate the allegations of bout rigging that have haunted the Sumo Association for years. [More]

33. Sento-kun/ Manto-kun (せんとくん/まんとくん): Sento-kun, the official mascot character for the Commemorative Events of the 1,300th Anniversary of the Nara-Heijokyo Capital, garnered widespread criticism from the media, religious groups and the blogosphere after he was unveiled in February. A Buddhist child monk with a rack of deer antlers sprouting from his head, Sento-kun is supposed to evoke the image of Nara's rich Buddhist history and the wild deer that roam freely around town. But some citizens were angry at officials for shutting them out of the decision-making process and wasting 5 million yen (about $50,000) of taxpayer money on what they saw as an ugly mascot.

Sento-kun, Manto-kun --
Sento-kun (left) and Manto-kun (right)

A group of Nara-area designers took matters into their own hands and came up with their own mascot that more closely represents the will of the people and the true spirit of Nara. That mascot is Manto-kun. [More]

34. Izakaya taxi (居酒屋タクシー): In June, about 450 Japanese government bureaucrats admitted to receiving beer, snacks and cash from taxi drivers hired for official journeys at taxpayer expense. Taxi fare from central Tokyo to outlying areas can easily cost 10,000 to 20,000 yen ($100 to $200) per trip, which is good money for the driver. To ensure repeat business and get the leg up on the competition, some drivers started keeping coolers stocked with goodies for their big-spending bureaucrat passengers. When the scandal broke, these taxis came to be referred to as izakaya ("pub") taxis. [More]

35. Kasumigaseki's buried treasure (kasumigaseki maizōkin - 霞ヶ関埋蔵金): The "treasure" buried in Tokyo's Kasumigaseki district (home to Japanese government buildings and institutions) is not the legendary trove of riches the Tokugawa shogunate government is rumored to have hidden during the closing days of the Edo period (1603-1867) as they faced defeat by Meiji government forces. Instead, it consists of reserve funds and surpluses in the central government's special accounts. With an estimated value of 187 trillion yen ($1.9 trillion), some politicians believe that this "treasure" could be used to fund economic stimulus measures and social welfare plans. Arguments over how (and whether) to use this money and whether or not it can effectively bail out the Japanese government are intensifying as Japan's economic situation worsens. [More]

36. Twisted Diet (nejire kokkai - ねじれ国会): "Twisted Diet" refers to the parliamentary gridlock resulting from the Democratic Party's majority in the Upper House and the Liberal Democratic Party's overwhelming majority in the Lower House.

37. Gasoline Diet (gasorin kokkai - ガソリン国会): Political wrangling over gasoline taxes took center stage in the 150-day Diet session that convened in January, earning it the nickname of the "Gasoline Diet." While the ruling Liberal Democratic Party wanted to extend the "temporary" (30-year-old) gasoline tax hike to maintain funding for road and highway projects, the opposition Democratic Party of Japan wanted to let it expire to provide consumers relief at the pump.

38. Temporary tax (zantei zeiritsu - 暫定税率): The so-called "temporary" gasoline tax hike -- which is actually over 30 years old -- expired at the end of March after the parties failed to reach a compromise. However, it was reinstated one month later after a revote, and prices at the pump returned to their previous levels, jumping about 25 yen per liter ($1 per gallon) overnight.

39. Fuel surcharge (nenryō saachaaji - 燃料サーチャージ): This refers to the de facto surcharge tacked on to various goods and services as a result of skyrocketing oil prices.

40. Fishermen strikes (issei kyūryō - 一斉休漁): Fishing unions held a pair of token nationwide strikes this summer to protest rising fuel prices. Squid fishermen held a two-day strike in June. And in July, the nation's fishermen held a massive one-day strike involving about 200,000 boats from all of Japan's major fishing unions.

41. Manager in name only (nabakari kanrishoku - 名ばかり管理職): "Managers in name only" are company employees who put in lots of overtime but do not get paid for their extra work because they are called "managers," even though in fact they have no administrative authority. One of these "managers in name only" at the McDonald's fast-food chain filed a lawsuit against the company for unfair labor practices. In January, the Tokyo District Court ruled in his favor, ordering McDonald's to pay its outlet "managers" for overtime because they are given no administrative authority. (The law is designed so that companies in Japan do not have to pay overtime to real managers with actual administrative authority.) [More]

42. Choriiissu (チョリ~ッス): Shibuya slang for "hello."

43. Late-stage elderly (kōki kōreisha - 後期高齢者): "Late-stage elderly" -- those aged 75 or older -- now account for nearly 10% of the Japanese population, according to an annual survey by the Cabinet Office. The same report, which warned of an imminent pension crisis as the number of retirees reached a record 27 million (21.5% of the population), added that Japan has become a "full-fledged aged society." In April, the government rolled out the Late-stage Elderly Health Insurance System to better cover people aged 75 and older. While the scheme has been criticized for various administrative shortcomings, the name itself also came under fire. Many found the phrase "late-stage elderly" offensive, so the government renamed the scheme as the more palatable "Long-Life Medical Health Insurance System." [More]

44. Yuru-kyara (ゆるキャラ): With the buzz generated by Sento-kun (see #33 above), the mainstream media began to bandy about the term "yuru-kyara." The expression was coined years ago by artist Jun Miura to describe the amateurish mascots frequently employed by local governments and others in grassroots PR campaigns. "Yuru" means "loose" or "weak," while "kyara" means "character."

Yuru-chara in Shiga prefecture --
Yuru-kyara in Shiga prefecture

The fact that yuru-kyara are poorly designed is a key element of their charm. [More]

45. Saiban Inko (サイバンインコ): To help promote the citizen jury system that starts in Japan next year, the justice ministry encouraged local prosecutors to come up with original ideas for yuru-kyara. One suggestion was a green parakeet named "Saiban Inko," which is a play on the words saibanin (juror) and inko (parakeet).

Saiban Inko --

Former justice minister Kunio Hatoyama helped spread the word about the jury system by parading around in a Saiban Inko costume for the press.

46. Free Tibet (フリーチベット): The "Free Tibet" rallying cry echoed across the world ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

47. Tainted rice (osen-mai/ jiko-mai - 汚染米/事故米): In September, it was revealed that tons of moldy, pesticide-tainted rice had been served up at more than 100 hospitals, homes for the elderly, and dozens of schools, and had been used as an ingredient in sake, shochu and rice crackers. Osaka-based wholesaler Mikasa Foods, which had originally purchased the contaminated rice for use in industrial products such as glue, ended up selling it to hundreds of companies across Japan to boost profits. The scandal forced the resignation of gaffe-prone farm minister Seiichi Ota, who had come under fire only weeks earlier for saying the government was forced to pay close attention to food safety because Japanese consumers are "fussy" (yakamashii - やかましい). [More]

48. Poison gyoza (doku-iri gyōza - 毒入りギョーザ): In January, 10 people in Japan fell seriously ill after eating frozen gyoza dumplings produced in China. Tests revealed extremely high levels of the pesticide methamidophos (see #49 below), prompting a full-blown food scare. Investigators suspect the poison was intentionally mixed into the food at the company's factory in Hubei, China. The poisonings deepened consumer distrust toward Chinese food products and aggravated public sentiment toward China. [More]

49. Methamidophos (メタミドホス): Methamidophos, an organophosphate insecticide, became a household name in the wake of the the poison gyoza dumpling scare. Unhealthy amounts of the toxic pesticide were also discovered in the tainted rice that came to light in September. Methamidophos is not to be confused with melamine, a toxic substance that turned up in a host of other products imported from China this year, including powdered milk, chocolate, frozen dough, pastries and pizza.

50. Whispering matron (sasayaki okami - ささやき女将): The "whispering matron" is 70-year-old Sachiko Yuki, former president of upscale restaurant chain Senba Kitcho K.K., which closed down in May after a series of labeling scandals and revelations that it served expired and leftover food to customers. At a press conference held last December to apologize for wrongdoing, Yuki answered questions alongside her son Kikuo Yuki, also a Senba Kitcho executive. Each time reporters directed questions to him, Ms. Yuki could be heard muttering under her breath, telling him what to say and how to act. [Video]

51. Zero carbohydrates (toshitsu zero - 糖質ゼロ): As a result of the zero-carb trend that took off last year, the "zero" label is a common sight on drink shelves in Japan. The major breweries now offer a range of zero-carb alternatives.

Kirin Zero --
Kirin Zero

Incidentally, anything less than 0.5 gram per 100 milliliters qualifies as zero.

52. Relaxed generation/ Unrelaxed education (yutori sedai/ datsu-yutori kyōiku - ゆとり世代/脱ゆとり教育): Japan's yutori ("relaxed") education policy is designed to reduce the amount of class time and content of the national primary education curriculum. In recent years, the mass media and others in Japan have blamed this policy of pressure-free education for the drops in scholastic ability. In a sign that attitudes are changing, new teaching guidelines released in March of this year advocated a policy of "unrelaxed" education. [More]

53. Pension Coverage Special Notice (nenkin tokubetsu bin - ねんきん特別便): Japan's Social Insurance Agency unleashed a massive headache on pensioners this year in the form of the Pension Coverage Special Notice -- a personalized statement outlining the details of each pensioner's coverage history. Pensioners were instructed to carefully review their statements for errors and call the Social Insurance Agency if they found any discrepancies. In addition to finding the statement difficult to decipher, people complained of busy phone lines, having to wait their turn for hours, and operators that were unable to provide straight answers to questions.

54. "I'm different from you" (anata to wa chigau n desu - あなたとは違うんです): At a press conference following former prime minister Yasuo Fukuda's sudden resignation in September, a reporter confronted Fukuda about his seeming detachment from the problems facing Japan and his resignation. Agitated, Fukuda fired back: "You said I sounded detached, but I am able to see myself objectively. I'm different from you."

Im not like you --
Fukuda-inspired ASCII art

Japan's online community mocked Fukuda's uncharacteristically blunt outburst for weeks. [More]

55. Filtering (フィルタリング): Major political parties within the Japanese government cooperated to draft legislation to regulate access to Internet content deemed "harmful" to minors. The bill requires mobile phone companies and Internet providers to offer filtering services that restrict access to websites on mobile phones and computers used by minors, but also ensures that parents have the option to refuse such services. The bill also calls for the government to provide financial support to private organizations that develop or promote the use of filtering software. [More]

56. Age-age (あげあげ): Shibuya slang for "exciting" or "fun."

57. "I've got nothing to say" (nani mo ienee - 何も言えねー): When a TV reporter asked Olympic swimmer Kosuke Kitajima for a comment immediately after winning the 100-meter breaststroke gold, he buried his face in a towel and said, "Sorry, I've got nothing to say."

58. Ueno's 413 pitches (ueno no 413-kyū - 上野の413球): Women's softball pitcher Yukiko Ueno led Japan to a gold medal victory by throwing an astounding 413 pitches in three games over two days.

59. Kami-sama, Hotoke-sama, Ueno-sama (神様 仏様 上野様): Yukiko Ueno is from Fukuoka, the hometown of legendary 1950s-1960s Nishitetsu Lions pitcher Kazuhisa Inao, who long ago was praised as "Kami-sama, Hotoke-sama, Inao-sama" (lit. "God, Buddha, Inao"). Fukuoka fans recycled and updated the old expression following Ueno's stellar Olympic performance.

60. "Yes, YES, YEEESSSS!" (yoshi, yoshi, yoooshi! - よし、よし、よーし!): Olympic TV commentator Taeko Utsugi (a former Olympic softball coach) lost her bearings while covering the women's softball final. The moment Japan secured the gold medal, she burst out screaming, "Yes, YES, YEEESSSS!" before becoming completely unintelligible and breaking down in tears of joy. Later, after watching a tape of the broadcast, she admitted feeling a little embarrassed with herself.

‘Anata to wa chigau n desu’

04 Sep 2008

Anata to wa chigaun desu --

Anata to wa chigau n desu ("I am different from you"). In the few short days since Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda uttered these words to a pesky reporter after his shock resignation, Japan has witnessed the birth of a new buzz phrase online.

At the end of the press conference following Fukuda's resignation, a Chugoku Shimbun reporter told the Prime Minister that many people thought he often seemed detached when he spoke, almost as if the problems facing Japan were none of his business. The reporter suggested that Fukuda also sounded distant in his resignation announcement and asked what impact he thought his sudden resignation (which comes just one year after previous Prime Minister Abe suddenly resigned) would have on the country. Seemingly perturbed, Fukuda fired back at the reporter: "You said I sounded detached, but I am able to see myself objectively. I'm different from you."

Fukuda's jarringly out-of-character words came as an awkward exclamation point to his resignation and threw some people for an extra loop. The phrase has been percolating for days on 2-channel, where dozens of popular threads with the words "anata to wa chigau n desu" (??????????) in the title have been posted, many containing Fukuda-inspired ASCII art.

Anata to ha chigau --

I'm not like you --

I'm different from you --

I'm different than you --

Anata to wa chigau --

The Asobit City otaku department store in Akihabara is cashing in on the buzz, too. A sidewalk display for what appears to be some sort of "Sayonara Fukuda Sale" features a stack of Fukuda-themed sweets. The subheading on the poster reads: "I'm different from you."

Anata to wa chigau n desu --

Anata to wa chigau n desu --

Anata to wa chigau n desu --

Club T is also jumping on the bandwagon with a line of Fukuda resignation memorabilia that includes T-shirts, coffee mugs, caps and more imprinted with the popular phrase.

Anata to wa chigau n desu --

[Sources: Akiba Blog, IT Media, FG]

High School Girl® meat products?

07 Feb 2008

High School Girl (R) --

Meat product manufacturer Ito Ham has taken the Japanese schoolgirl obsession to the next level by applying for the trademark rights to the word "High School Girl" (女子高生/Joshi-Kosei).

A pair of trademark applications (via the INPIT database) indicate that Ito Ham is planning a line of High School Girl® meat products, including meat pies, gyoza dumplings, pizza, curry and more. Either that, or someone in the office is just having fun.

Given that "high school girl" is a commonly used phrase, it seems unlikely -- though not impossible -- that the Japan Patent Office would grant a trademark registration. One thing's for sure, though: if the company could manage to remove the word from the public domain, license it and charge royalties for its use, they will be sitting on a gold mine worth more than any meat product out there.

[Source: CNET Japan via Slashdot Japan]