Amerika. Itaria. Kanada. The majority of countries are known in Japan by names that sound vaguely similar to their native monikers. So why on earth do the Japanese call the UK ‘Igirisu‘?
There’s no denying McDonald’s Japan has had rough time these past few years, with incidents like the spoiled meat scandal contributing to declining sales. To complicate matters further, some of the fast food chain’s campaigns and initiatives, like the sudden removal of menus from its counters (which have since been reinstated), have been met with confusion if not outright anger from Japanese customers. Now, it seems McDonald’s has captured the Japanese Internet’s attention again with what could well be their strangest campaign ever.
McDonald’s Japan will be releasing a new line of “affordably priced” burgers on October 26. And while that’s all fine and well, it’s their special one-day promotion in which they’ll be giving away these new burgers for free that has been raising eyebrows due to its bizarre catch.
I love business cards, because I’ll admit it, I am not good with names. First names, last names, if you tell me, I will probably forget it. (Kirakira names are usually easier to remember though!) The good thing about living in Japan, however, is that despite there being over 100,000 different surnames, a really high percentage of people use only a few really common names.
To make it even easier for me, different areas of Japan often have higher densities of certain names. For instance, there are about 4,700 people in Japan with surname Maru (丸), but more than 50 percent of them live in southern Chiba. So, if you forget someone’s name in southern Chiba, Maru might be a safe guess.
A website and smartphone application called Myoji-Yurai Net allows you to find out the prevalence, origin and other fun information about the top 3,000 surnames in Japan. It’s actually quite fun!
It might sound strange, but in a lot of Japanese households, the use of first names tends to become increasingly rare after the arrival of children and grandchildren. Although plenty of parents in the western world will also refer to each other as “Mommy” or “Daddy” in an effort to help their newborn or toddler pick up the words, or sometimes just to be cute, a man calling his wife “Mama” or “Okaasan” even after their kids have long flown the nest is perfectly common in Japan.
But what happens when a husband suddenly starts calling his wife by her first name, just like when they first started dating or had not long been married? Japanese cosmetics company Pola recently conducted an experiment to find out how simply being called by their first name can affect the health and physical appearance of young women who have over the years come to be known simply as “Mama”.
Promo or not, the effect was surprisingly powerful.
Nicknames can be confusing things, especially when they’re the only name by which you’ve ever known someone. I can clearly remember the moment when my friend’s Japanese wife looked at me with a mixture of surprise and betrayal, for example, when she found out that Phil (or “Firu” as it’s awkwardly pronounced in Japanese) is in fact short for Philip.
But after learning that the same green dinosaur that I’ve traversed hundreds of levels, raced go-karts and carried baby Mario back to his parents with since I was about 10 years old isn’t actually called Yoshi, I can kind of understand why she was so shocked.
Funny things, names. In Japan, I am lucky enough to share mine with a delicious kind of stick-chocolate treat, which not only means that I can introduce myself as such: “Fran – you know, like Pocky, but not as cheap”, but also means that I often get given chocolates with my name on the packet, which I can confirm is something of a win-win situation.
My family name, however, is a terrifying mix of Rs, Ls, Ys and Ws that tends to provoke confusion and mild panic here in Japan. I have a good stock line for accurately communicating its spelling and pronunciation in the UK (“Wrigley, like the chewing gum”), and another one for Americans and/or baseball fans (“like Wrigley Field”). I’ve never come up with a good line to use on Japanese people, though, except to awkwardly mutter “um… yeah, sorry, it’s kind of a difficult name. Don’t worry, people in England can’t pronounce it either.”
But what if your name means something embarrassing or just downright odd in another language? Today, we bring you five kinds of Japanese names that make English speakers do a double-take, or a little snort into their coffee.
Nobody’s perfect. No matter how deeply you love your significant other, there are bound to be times when you get so frustrated with your partner that you feel like airing out your grievances and revealing all to your best friend. It could be something trivial and even somewhat funny, like how he/she always farts in bed thinking that you’d never realize, or something more depressing like being cheated on.
But even getting cheated on doesn’t sound as bad as having a spouse who can’t even remember how to write your name, does it?
Even though most apartments in Japan are fairly small, many animal lovers still find room to house a dog or cat. Many pet owners choose to dress up their precious pooch or upload hundreds of videos of their beloved cat. That’s why thousands of cat and dog owners visit online pet photo site, “Pacha and my pet” (pacha is the sound a camera makes) to show off their furry friends. The site has just revealed the most popular dog and cat breeds in Japan for 2013. Let’s take a look at the results!
I’m sure we’d all like to think that our friends and loved ones smile whenever they see our names pop up on their phones, and that each text message or email appears alongside a cute nickname or something informal and loving. But if you caught sight of your better half’s mobile phone screen while you were calling them and “Stinky Soy Beans” popped up, you might not be too pleased.
Over at My Navi News Q&A — a service not unlike Yahoo! Answers which, as we saw yesterday, can yield some pretty interesting responses of its own — a 26-year-old woman in Japan shared her worries after discovering that her boyfriend had entered her name on his smartphone as “nattō: GM Free”, fermented soybeans renown and hated by many for their strong smell and extremely gooey texture.
Convenience stores- in Japan: they really do live up to their name.
Pay your bills, pick up stuff you ordered on Amazon, send a FAX, buy concert tickets, withdraw cash, buy milk; whatever you need to do, they’ve usually got you covered.
Although 7-Eleven is Japan’s undisputed king of combinis, as convenience stores are fondly known over here, blue-and-white-striped Lawson is never far behind, and has a special place in many shoppers’ hearts.
So when news surfaced that a foreigner named Lawson is working part-time at a convenience store of the very same name, people understandably went a little bit nuts.