You may already be aware that there is a subculture of train fanatics in Japan known as densha otaku, or train nerds. But did you know that there are loads of sub-subcultures within the densha otakus? From those obsessed with train noises to experts in train lunch boxes, we’ve got them all covered for you.
A little while ago, we introduced you to the Japanese expression “hana yori dango” (dumplings over flowers), using a picture of one of our capybara friends at the Ueno Zoo as a living example of the phrase. Well, that article got us thinking about Japanese idioms/expressions that may sound strange or funny in a different language when translated literally, and we thought it might be interesting to share a few of them with you. Here are some common phrases that we use in the Japanese language as a matter of course, but could make you laugh if you visualize their literal meaning in your mind. And yes, some of them involve cats!
- Philip Kendall
6 days ago
Anyone who has spent any length of time in Japan will tell you that onomatopoeia is not just common, but an integral part of the Japanese language. While English speakers might find sentences peppered with additional ‘sound effects’ somewhat inelegant, in Japanese onomatopoeic words are not only considered perfectly normal, but there are mimicking sounds for every possible occasion – including states of being where there is no sound to mimic – and most people know exactly how to write them.
We’d wager than few native Japanese have ever come across an instruction manual that uses mimicking words to explain potential problems with a washing machine, though…
- Philip Kendall
Apr 11, 2014
There are some Japanese words that, no matter how many textbooks you read, you’ll simply never encounter. As we’ve seen, the Japanese love a good pun, and cheesy wordplay on TV and the media in general is far more commonplace than it is in English. So it’s surprising that the owners of this Tokyo-based computer school didn’t choose the name of their establishment – and the wording on their sign, for that matter – a little more carefully.
If you can already see why so many Japanese netizens are chuckling, then congratulations – you’re clearly a Japanese slang master. The rest of you? We’ll see you after the jump.
As we’ve said before, Japanese isn’t actually as hard to learn as it’s often made out to be. Unlike English, for example, Japanese follows its own grammatical rules far more rigidly, pronunciation is easy because there is only one variant of each vowel sound to choose from (none of this tomayto/tomahto business), and it’s possible to create entire, perfectly meaningful and valid sentences without uttering a single pronoun or bothering to conjugate a verb.
Nevertheless, the language will not magically seep into you through a desire to speak it alone — you still need to encounter and study it as often as possible. With that in mind, we’d like to present to you the six and a half resources that no dedicated student of the Japanese language should ever be without. Oh, and the good news is some of them are completely free.
Japan’s favourite cartoon dog continues his quest for country-wide domination this month with a brand new Snoopy-themed cafe scheduled to open in Oita Prefecture on April 19th. The cafe’s theme fuses Snoopy cartoons and traditional Japanese style, or wa (和). The new venture comes hot on the tails of Snoopy x Japanesque, a collaboration last year that saw the cute line-drawn character from Charles M. Schulz’s comics combined with traditional Japanese artisan works.
Well, good afternoon/evening/morning/day everyone! Today we’re going to talk about Japanese greetings and what they really mean.
Just as in English, “Konnichiwa” or “Good day” is a greeting that is technically an idiom with a complex and near-forgotten past. Just as English language greetings tend to stem from bastardizations of foreign loan words and/or full sentences that have been gradually shortened over the years, “konnichiwa” is actually a shortened version of a full and meaningful greeting, because, if anything, human beings are a lazy sort with a bad habit of cutting corners whenever possible.
It’s no secret that you can buy whale meat in Japan. It’s served in schools to young children and even offered up 16 different ways at this shop in Tokyo. In fact, the Japanese have had a history of whaling that dates back to the 12th century. In recent history, however, Japan’s whaling program has been condemned by the international community and its practice of consuming whale meat proven unhealthy. But both whaling and the eating of whale meat, whether you agree with it or not, may be a thing of the past as a result of a recent ruling by the International Court of Justice.
Getting a haircut in another country – in a foreign language – can be a daunting experience. We’ve all heard stories about that one unfortunate soul who, just wanting a trim, indicated a few centimetres between thumb and forefinger, only for the hairdresser to think that was how much they wanted to remain on their head and start lopping off hair left, right and centre.
Japan being Japan, of course there are a few surprising and funny things they do at salons that are different from back home too! But with some simple words and phrases under your belt, you can visit a Japanese hair salon with confidence. Join us after the jump for a guide to surviving – and hopefully enjoying – a haircut in Japan!
- Michelle Lynn Dinh
Mar 21, 2014
A photo of what appears to be an entry in a Japanese textbook tweeted by Kurita as been surprising netizens across the country. It shows a list of foreign loan words that had been turned into Japanese during the early 1940s. Most surprising of the list, as pointed out by netizens, was the word for “saxophone,” which was transformed into an awkward 19-character-long mouthful. Let’s take a closer look at why this happened and the results of English being deemed an “enemy language” during WWII.
It’s no secret the Japan is home to a vast array of flavors for the popular chocolate covered wafer. From Grape, Chili, and Wasbi flavors to bake-able Custard Pudding Kit Kats, there’s a seemingly never-ending stream of possible varieties for the popular sweet snack.
This time we’ve stumbled upon some Zunda Flavored Kit Kats. After a brief explanation on what zunda is for those of us not schooled in Tohoku region cuisine, an attempt will be made at describing how these deceptively deep candies taste.
- Master Blaster
Mar 17, 2014
As we’ve seen before, with many international releases the names of films can sometimes be vastly different from the original. The changes are made for a variety of reasons due to language, culture, or style. This begs the question: How much of an impact do these title changes make on the people who see them?
Just for fun, we took 19 movies from other countries that have had their names changed for Japanese audiences, translated them back to English and put them in their original posters.
So join us after the jump for such gems as Academy Award-nominated Nairobi Bees, Love is Deja Vu with Bill Murray, and cult classic Captain Supermarket. What, never heard of them!?
Mar 6, 2014
Everyone loves Engrish, and everyone enjoys lampooning the machines that create it and the silly humans who wear it.
But is it as funny when the tables are turned? What happens when non-Japanese deck themselves out in clothing with unintelligible characters on it, only to have the true meaning outed on the web for all to see?
- Philip Kendall
Mar 4, 2014
YouTuber and full-time Japan fan Sharla is back this week with a brand new video. After bringing us exploding condom ice cream and giving us a peek inside one of Japan’s typical love hotels, she’s currently back in her native Canada and just for kicks decided to try out a few English loan words that appear in the Japanese language on her non-Japanese-speaking friend.
As we’re about to see, despite the majority of these words originally coming from English, once pumped through the Japanese lexicon and read back to a native English speaker they make almost zero sense. The full, laugh-out-loud video after the jump.
- Fran Wrigley
Feb 21, 2014
The Japanese language is peppered with zippy onomatopoeia that allow you to express the sound of just about anything. Website Netallica recently surveyed readers to find the fastest-sounding words in the Japanese language. As you’d expect, WHIZZ, BANG and SHWOOP are nowhere to be seen!
We explore the top five fastest words, what exactly is so speedy about them, and what kind of images they conjure up for Japanese people.
High school is a drag, especially in Japan. Along with all the typical tests and homework that come with being a student, there’s a seemingly never-ending list of rules (you must wear special indoor shoes, wear a mask if you’re sick, open all the windows in the dead of winter to ventilate the room) that are enough to make even the most diligent of students want to scream. That’s why these Japanese students are really nailing this high school thing. Not only have they found a way to have a little fun amongst the stress and pressure of school life, they’re pulling it off with style and creativity that not only brings a smile to their own faces, but the faces of procrastinating netizens all over the world. Nailed it!
Google Translate, the tech giant’s online language translation service, is not always perfect (for example, translating “twenty” from English to Japanese gives us “20″), but it’s a nice, not to mention free, tool that’s available to anyone with an internet connection. Aside from being very useful, the site is also entertaining with plenty of funny tricks to be found, like how to make Google Translate beatbox.
Here’s another trick to add to the list! Just translate a bunch of dots into Japanese and you’ll be treated to a hilarious, and somewhat melodic, interpretation of those little round symbols that perch at the end of our sentences.
Not so long ago, a friend of mine from the UK came to visit me here in Japan. After showing him around town and making sure to take him to all of the most popular tourist spots, he remarked that quite a few of the subtle behaviours Japanese people exhibit seemed, while in no way offensive, remarkably different to those of our own countrymen. As we worked through a couple of the more unusual customs and behaviours that my friend had noticed, it struck me that at some point during my eight years of living here I had come to accept the everyday quirks of the people around me as entirely normal and not in the slightest bit odd.
Last year, we discussed the 10 things that we love and the 10 things we just can’t stomach about Japan, but today we at RocketNews24 felt it was time to present you with a list of random but genuine observations, from the peculiar to the downright endearing, about the Japanese people themselves. Enjoy!
- Casey Baseel
Jan 23, 2014
It’s pretty well known that lovers in Japan aren’t quite as direct in expressing their affection as their Western counterparts. It’s not that the feeling isn’t there, though, just that putting them into words isn’t, culturally speaking, seen as being as necessary or meaningful as in some other countries.
Likewise, Japanese couples’ communication isn’t characterized by two people lobbing insults at each other, either. A put-down is a put-down in any language, and no one appreciates being told something hurtful, as illustrated by a survey of the most hurtful things Japanese men and women have been told by their romantic partners.
While Japan’s bank of English loan words has grown to the point where “context” and even “paradigm” can be understood by most people, there seems to be only a handful of Japanese words that have been sprinkled into the modern English vocabulary. Of course, there’s things like “manga”, “sushi,” and “karate,” which English speakers can instantly recognize as comics, a Japanese food, and a way to kick ass (in that respective order), but there are also some sleeper agent Japanese words traipsing about our English conversations. Let’s take a look at Japanese words, like “honcho” (as in “head honcho”) and “tycoon” (as in “oil tycoon”), that we use in English.
- Japanese Twitter users and the tale of the broken battery1
- Japanese women dish about being betrayed by their female friends2
- Photos of women with and without make-up show that reality is what you make it3
- Japanese high school student becomes Twitter sensation showing difference between time with boyfriend and friends4
- Poster for Ghibli’s new movie under fire … from the big guru himself!5
- Here are the weirdest things you can buy on Alibaba’s English site6
- Miss Todai/weather forecaster Ayaka Sawada’s adorable drawings7
- “How many freakin’ CDs do I have to buy?” Fans displeased with idol group’s debut single8
- 10 Japanese expressions that sound delightfully strange and funny when translated9
- Chinese “porn identification officer” has seen over 600,000 adult videos, threw up after watching some10
- The extreme lengths Samsung must go to make sure your Galaxy phone works perfectly1
- 10 things Japan gets horribly wrong2
- 12 gender-bent Disney and Ghibli characters that are utter perfection3
- 10 Japanese expressions that sound delightfully strange and funny when translated4
- So, the Dalai Lama walks into a convenience store in rural Japan… 【Photos】5
- Lady Gaga goes gaga for Hatsune Miku, makes virtual idol her opening act6
- Advice from Japanese women on dealing with your boyfriend’s anime girlfriend7
- Real-life barbie bares real-life face in minimal makeup selfies【Photos】8
- “Racist” Air France geisha poster prompts satirical home-made fixes9
- Cat greets its returning owner with so much warmth we’d swear it was puppy love10
- Chinese Photoshop Trolls and the Half-Blood Prisoner of the Deathly Phoenix Goblet (Part 6)1
- Unfortunate Google employee forced to wander alone on eerie abandoned island for Street View photos2
- Daughter of Osamu Tezuka, God of Manga, discovers his stash of hand-drawn sexy mouse artwork3
- Little store managers take over FamilyMart in Taiwan, hilarity and tons of cute in store【Video】4
- 【TBT】China’s Photoshop experts will fix your bad photos, but be careful what you wish for5
- The extreme lengths Samsung must go to make sure your Galaxy phone works perfectly6
- Japanese netizens put reality on hold for a moment, fall in love with new attorney general of Crimea7
- 10 incredible tiny houses in Japan: a photo tour8
- Attack on Titan’s studio head talks sequels, keys to the hit anime’s success9
- 10 things Japan gets horribly wrong10
- Korean high schools allow “anything goes” yearbook photos, with hilarious results1
- Taiwan’s Gravity Max – Quite possibly the scariest roller coaster in the world2
- Don’t call them fat, call them Marshmallow Girls!3
- Beautiful gym babe impresses Chinese netizens with her incredible fitness!【Pics & GIFs】4
- Japanese netizens put reality on hold for a moment, fall in love with new attorney general of Crimea5
- Picture perfect siblings of 18 years apart melt the hearts of Chinese netizens【Photos】6
- Attack on Titan’s studio head talks sequels, keys to the hit anime’s success7
- Unfortunate Google employee forced to wander alone on eerie abandoned island for Street View photos8
- Chinese Photoshop Trolls and the Half-Blood Prisoner of the Deathly Phoenix Goblet (Part 6)9
- Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki says the anime industry’s problem is that it’s full of anime fans10
- Here are the weirdest things you can buy on Alibaba’s English site
- Miss Todai/weather forecaster Ayaka Sawada’s adorable drawings
- “How many freakin’ CDs do I have to buy?” Fans displeased with idol group’s debut single
- 10 Japanese expressions that sound delightfully strange and funny when translated
- Chinese “porn identification officer” has seen over 600,000 adult videos, threw up after watching some
- Better know a train nerd: 36 different classifications for Japan’s “densha otaku”
- 12 gender-bent Disney and Ghibli characters that are utter perfection
- Japan Self-Defense Force’s elite Central Band performs Hatsune Miku song Senbonzakura
- Five foods you should never feed to your cat
- Enjoy a view of Mt Fuji from anywhere in the world with these new ice souvenirs
- Japanese driver fails to stop at a yellow light, turns herself in to the police
- Japan continues to invent items it thinks you want!
- Visit Kiki’s Bakery at a unique fairytale village in Japan
- Advice from Japanese women on dealing with your boyfriend’s anime girlfriend