Words made in Japan

I have done a few posts about untranslatable words, including one on the idiosyncrasies of  German. My other favourite is  Japanese. I have been looking through Adam Jacot de Boinod’s I Never Knew There Was a Word For It and here is my selection of Japanese lexical items:


aki ga tatsu a mutual cooling of love (literally, the autumn breeze begins to blow)

arigata-meiwaku an act someone does for you thinking they are doing you a favour, but which you really didn’t want them to do; added to which, social convention now requires you to express suitable gratitude in return

chokuegambo the wish that there were more designer-brand shops on a given street; the desire to buy things at luxury brand shops

harawata o tatsu to break one’s heart (literally, to sever one’s intestines)

hiza o majieru to have an intimate talk (literally, to mingle each other’s knees)

ichigo-ichie the practice of treasuring each moment and trying to make it perfect

ikibari a lively needle, if a man is willing but under-endowed

juubakonosumi o (yoojide) tsutsuku to split hairs (literally, to pick at the corners of a food-serving box with a toothpick)

kakobijin the sort of woman who talks incessantly about how she would have been thought of as a stunner if she had lived in a different era, when men’s tastes in women were different (literally, bygone beauty)

kara-shutcho to pay or receive travel expenses for a trip not actually taken (literally, empty business trip)

katahara itai laughing so much that one side of your abdomen hurts

koro the hysterical belief that one’s penis is shrinking into one’s body

kotsuniku no araso domestic strife (literally, the fight between bones and flesh)

kurisumasu keiki leftover Christmas cake (traditionally applied to women over twenty-five years old)

kyoikumama a woman who crams her children to succeed educationally

masu-kagami( masturbating in front of a mirror). Female masturbation, by contrast, is described as shiko shiko manzuri (ten thousand rubs) and suichi o ireru (flicking the switch).

mono-no-aware appreciating the sadness of existence

mukamuka feeling so angry one feels like throwing up

no-pan kissa coffee shops with mirrored floors to allow customers to look up waitresses’ skirts

okuri-okami a man who feigns thoughtfulness by offering to see a girl home only to try to molest her once he gets in the door (literally, a see-you-home wolf)

potto to be so distracted or preoccupied that you don’t notice what is happening right in front of you

rabu hoteru hotels especially for making love

radudaraifu single women who spend much of their weekends cooking food and deep-freezing it so that it can be reheated in a hurry when they return late from work (literally, camel life)

shiri ni shikareru a husband who is under his wife’s thumb (literally, under her buttocks)

sokozuma a woman who settles for a so-so marriage just to get it out of the way

toirebijutsukan a trend whereby young women moving into an apartment alone for the first time will go to extreme lengths to decorate their lavatory, scent it with perfume and stock it with interesting literature (literally, toilet museum)

utouto to fall into a light sleep without realizing it

utsura-utsura to fluctuate between wakefulness and being half asleep

wabi a flawed detail that enhances the elegance of the whole work of art.


One Response to Words made in Japan

  1. Rob says:

    These are really interesting. I think it might be rakudaraifu. I know this Japanese tongue twister that goes Rakuda no karada ha dorodarake no karada. (the camel’s body is a body, which is covered in dirt)

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