Japanese Buzzwords of 2013 Announced and Explained

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On December 2,  the U-Can 2013 Japanese Buzzword winners were announced.

Every year, the Japanese publisher Jiyukokuminsha creates a list of popular words for that year and then decides on the most popular to announce as winners” In 2013, four words were announced as the winners of the 30th annual Japanese buzzword competition. This is the most winners to have been announced in a single year since the contest was established in 1984.

Last year, in 2012, the winning Japanese buzzword was “wild darou” (ワイルドだろぉ), which means something like, “Isn’t that wild/crazy?” This buzzword was made popular by the Japanese comedian Sugi-chan. During his act, he’d tell a story about a crazy (or ironically not-so-crazy) exploit. Then, he’d end the story with “wild darou” (“I’m pretty wild, right?”)

Sugi-chan is shown in the video below talking about a back injury sustained after jumping from a pool diving board. He is wearing a “corset” and his signature jean jacket and shorts.

As for the 2013 Japanese buzzwords, they were announced on December 2, so I’m a bit behind the times here. I hold fond memories of some of these Japanese buzzwords, though, so I’d like to give you a bit of an explanation of these popular words. If you use them in conversation, you are sure to extract a laugh or, more likely, a groan.

Following is the list of the top ten 2013 Japanese buzzwords, ending with the four winners.

2013 U-Can Top Ten Japanese Buzzwords

10. Heito Supichi (hate speech / ヘイトスピーチ)

This word was made popular by Takachiho University’s Professor Ikuo Gonoi, who studies demonstrations around the world. Professor Gonoi spoke in particular about the anti-Korean demonstrations in Shin-Okubo (Tokyo’s Korean Town) and the prevalence of anti-Korean sentiments expressed over the Internet.

Professor Gonoi is quoted as saying:

[If hate speech is ignored,] society will come to accept words which damage others as normal. Hostility will be out in the open. This is a grave problem.

9. Black Kigyo (Black Corporations / ブラック企業)

The word “black kigyo” was made popular by Haruki Konno of the non-profit organization POSSE, which is a labor consultation group that in particular helps younger workers. A “black kigyo” is a business that exploits its workers, most of whom are younger. Such corporations subject workers to inferior working conditions that include long hours and power harassment. Turnover rate is typically high, but the company profits through its overworked employees.

8. PM2.5

Pronounced “pee em ni ten go” in Japanese, PM2.5 is particulate matter which can be dangerous to human health. Recently, PM2.5 levels have been unusually high in Japan. This air pollutant has a number sources, but much of the PM2.5 in Japan has been blamed on China (and, more recently, on a Kyushu volcano).

7. Tokutei Himitsu Hogohou (Designated Secrets Protection Law / 特定秘密保護法)

I’m not very well-informed about this topic, so your best bet is to read about it on the NY Times website and Bloomberg News. The basic gist seems to be that the Japanese government has enacted a controversial law that would allow any Japanese ministry to designate defense information as secret. In addition, the Designated Secrets Protection Law apparently leaves the definition of “defense information” fairly loose and makes punishment of those who leak secrets even more severe.

6. Gotouchi Kyara (Regional Characters / ご当地キャラ)

In the past few years, local mascot characters, both official and unofficial, have become very popular. Characters such as Fukkachan, Funasshi, and Kumamon promote their respective areas and enjoy immense popularity throughout Japan.

5. Abenomics (アベノミックス)

Abenomics is the name given to the policies of the current prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe. For more information about the “three arrows” of Abenomics,  see this Forbes article.

The Four Japanese Buzzword Winners of 2013

4. Baigaeshi (Double revenge / 倍返し)

The word “baigaeshi” was coined in the TBS drama “Hanzawa Naoki.”

In the series, the main character, Naoki Hanzawa (played by the actor Masato Sakai), becomes angry at the tendency for the mistakes of the upper management to become the responsibility of the subordinates. In response to this, he utters the line:

「やられたらやりかえす。倍返しだ!」

 

If you’re screwed over, you screw them over in return. That’s double revenge!

According to my coworker, even her grade-school son was using this phrase on the playground, despite the fact he’d never seen the show.

3. Je je je (じぇじぇじぇ)

The wildly popular NHK drama “Ama-chan” made this exclamation of surprise popular. The expression originally comes from Iwate Prefecture. In the drama, Aki works to become an idol. Whenever she encounters something surprising, she exclaims, “Je je je!”

In the video below, Reina Nounen, the actress who plays the heroine, says “Je je je” at 1:48.

 

I first heard this word uttered at a drinking party. One of the older attendees said “Je je je!” in response to commercial for Ama-chan on TV. Everyone laughed. Except me. Now I know, but somehow I feel embarrassed for missing out on a meme that even someone about 35 years my senior seemed to know.

2. O mo te na shi (お・も・て・な・し)

The word “omotenashi” is a commonly used word which means “hospitality.”

The television announcer Christel Takigawa made “omotenashi” into a “2013 buzzword.”

During Ms. Takigawa’s speech in French at the Tokyo bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics, she introduced the Japanese word “omotenashi.” Her slow, staccato pronunciation of the word caught the attention of Japan. Below, you can see a video of her speech. She says “omotenashi” at 0:09.

1. Ima desho! (Now! / 今でしょ!)

The last winning buzzword I’m going to introduce would probably be my pick for the top Japanese buzzword for 2013.

“Ima desho” means something like “Now, right!?”

This phrase was made popular by commercial for Toshin High School. In the commercial, the prep school teacher Hayashi Osamu asks,

いつやるか?今でしょ!

When are you going to do it? Now!

This phrase has been overwhelmingly popular in the past year. You can see the commercial below. Mr. Osamu says his famous line at 0:22.

One of my favorite encounters with this phrase was when I was an ALT. The head teacher asked the students, “When you are going to return this permission form?”

You could see the students get really excited, and some of them shout out, “NOW! (ima desho!)”

The teacher then quips, “No! Tomorrow after your parents have signed it!”

With that, we have the 2013 top Japanese buzzwords. Have you encountered any of these phrases?

 

Sources

U-Can Official Website

Yahoo Japan | 2013 Japanese Buzzwords article

Omirocon Style | 2013 Japanese Buzzwords article 

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