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Popular Japanese Words (2004)

(from the 2004 editions of Imidas and Gendai Yougo no Kiso Chishiki)

Terms with kanji (some also include katakana words):

オレオレ詐欺 (me-me-swindle-fraud) oreoresagi
A new form of fraud in which a young swindler telephones an elderly target and says “It's me!”without providing his name. (オレ"ore" is a masculine first-person pronoun. Women have also been known to try the swindle, and presumably use a different pronoun). Pretending to be a grandchild or other relative of the victim, the swindler then explains that they are in desperate need of money (e.g., for bail, an abortion, loan payment) and pleads with the victim to transfer money into the swindler’s account. Surprisingly successful.

着衣泳 (wear-clothes-swimming) chakuiei
An increasing number of elementary schools (70 percent in the Kanto area) are having students practice swimming with their clothes on in the school pool. The aim is to prepare the children to save themselves from drowning should they ever fall into the water fully clothed.

樹木葬 (standing tree-tree-burial) jumokusou
A new form of burial for nature-lovers, in which their ashes are buried underground and their favorite tree is planted on top. A small nametag is used instead of a gravestone.

小箱ショップ (little-box-shop) kobakoshoppu
A consignment shop where those wanting to sell items rent a locker-sized individual space in the shop. The shop owner contacts the seller as the items are sold.

平成三種の神器 (Heisei-three-types-sacred-vessels) heiseisanshunojingi
In the 1950’s the “Three Sacred Treasures” of Japanese households were the black and white television, the washing machine, and the refrigerator. Heisei Era counterparts are said to be the dish dryer, electromagnetic cooker, and raw garbage disposal machine. Other candidates include: cell phones with cameras, DVD recorders, and high-vision televisions.

誕生死 (born-born-death) tanjoushi
This word first appeared in 2002 on the website of a support group for parents who have lost children to fetal or newborn death. The compound words 流産 (miscarriage), 死産 (stillbirth), and 新生児死 (newborn death) are long-standing. This new word encompasses all three of those, but beyond that, makes the statement that the children these parents grieve for had an existence on this earth before they died.

不払い残業 (not-pay-remaining-work) fuharaizangyou
In these hard economic times, company workers may be asked to work overtime for no pay. A labor union is promoting this straightforward term, which means "unpaid overtime" in response to the more indirect term sometimes used by companies, サービス残業 (service overtime). The union argues that the latter term implies the workers are willingly working overtime for no pay.

満足死 (satisfying death) manzokushi
A Japanese physician came up with this word in 2003 to describe a death, and the medical path leading to it, which has been accepted by the dying patient as well as his/her physician and relatives.

新紙幣 (new-paper-currency) shinshihei
In July, 2004, for the first time in 20 years, Japanese paper currency will see some new faces: on the 1,000 yen note, yellow-fever researcher and physician Hideo Noguchi; and on the 5,000 yen note, Meiji Era (female) writer and poet Ichiyo Higuchi. The new bills will also feature holograms, rendering them more difficult to counterfeit.

プチ断食 (tiny-cut off-eat) puchidanjiki
断食 means “a fast,” and this new term refers to the practice of fasting one or two days a week in order to give the digestive system a rest. This kind of fast is gaining popularity, particularly among young women and businessmen."Puchi" comes from the French word for "small."


Foreign loanwords written in katakana:

10ポケット (10 pockets) juupoketto
These 10 pockets are the pocketbooks of the 10 consumers (on average) who can be counted on to make purchases for a child: 2 parents, 4 grandparents, and 4 aunts/uncles.

ブーツ・オン・ザ・グラウンド (boots on the ground) buutsuonzaguraundo
Refers to the dispatch of Japan’s Self-Defense ground forces (along with their boots) to post-war Iraq.

チャリダー charidaa
A person who takes a trip by bicycle. “Chari” is a slang word for “bicycle.” “Aa” is the closest the Japanese sound system can come to “-er” (someone who does something, e.g., biker).

ウオターバー (water bar) uotaabaa
Bars specializing in serving mineral water from around the world. These bars are gaining popularity among Japanese people who are health-conscious.

スーパースプレッダー (super-spreader) suupaasupureddaa
A person who is capable of spreading a virus easily. This term became popular during the SARS epidemic. (Note: In katakana-free China, the term used is 毒王 “poison-king”).

ドクハラ doku hara
This term was part of the title of a book titled “We Will Not Forgive Harassment by Doctors!” which decried the haughty attitude of doctors who can’t be bothered to give patients any details about their illnesses. “Doku” is short for “doctor” and “hara” comes from “harassment” (as in セクハラ, seku hara, “sexual harassment”).

スモーカー (smoker/smoke car) sumookaa
With more and more public areas and companies becoming smoke-free, mobile smoking areas have been set up by Japan Tobacco. Called スモーカー, they are located in trailers parked on city streets. “Kaa” can mean “car” or “-er” (as in “smoker”). The trailers are equipped with vending machines selling coffee, and, naturally, cigarettes.

グリーンマップ (green map) guriinmappu
Maps that guide cyclists on routes through areas of the city where nature has been preserved.

レセプタント receputanto
A combination of “reception” and “assistant,” this term refers to young women who act as hostesses at parties and banquets. They were formally referred to as コンパンイオン (companions).

トドラー (toddler) todoraa
Has recently begun being used in the apparel industry to describe the clothing size between ベビー (baby) and スクール (school-aged child).