Popular Japanese Words (2005)

(from the 2005 editions of Imidas and Gendai Yougo no Kiso Chishiki)

Terms with Kanji (some also include katakana/hiragana words):

‚΅‚­‚΅‚­Ό‹\ (boo-hoo-swindle, shikushiku-sagi)
Yet another form of telephone fraud, in which a male swindler telephones a female target and convinces her to transfer large sums of money into a bank account. (See last year's ƒIƒŒƒIƒŒΌ‹\). Sobbing, the man pretends to be her husband and relays some shocking news: He has just caused a traffic accident; she must immediately send money to the victimfs bank account for a private settlement or there will be dire consequences for the family. One resident of Yokohama was swindled out of 9,990,000 yen in June, 2004 through this scam.

‰·ς‹^˜f (hot springs-suspicion, onsen-giwaku)
Several well-known hot springs resorts were caught last year adding chemicals to supplement the supposed healing power/natural white color of their waters. The scandal reached even larger proportions when it was revealed that other ghot springsh resorts were actually pumping mere tap water into their bathtubs.

ŽŽ‚΅oŽΠ (trial-come to the office, tameshi-shussha)
By last year, approximately one in every four Japanese companies had this system in place. It allows employees who have taken extended leave from work because of mental stress to return to work gradually, beginning with shorter hours and lessened responsibilities.

Ω”»ˆυ§“x (court-member-system, saiban-in-seido)
Japanese citizens, long accustomed to judges handing down decisions in criminal cases, will finally have a quasi-jury system, beginning in 2009. Jurors will be drawn from voting lists, and will work with judges to hand down court decisions. Registered voters will have a one in seventy chance of being called to jury duty in their lifetime.

‘γ‚ν‚θ˜₯@(substitute-bowl of rice with food on top, kawari-don)
Faced with a ban on American beef imports imposed by the Japanese government in December, 2003, following the first case of mad cow disease in the United States, chain restaurants specializing in gyuudon (rice in a bowl with beef on top) had to get creative with their offerings in order to keep customers coming in. They came up with a variety of substitutes, using pork and chicken, and some chains eventually turned to Australian or Chinese beef. Yoshinoya, which operates 1,250 outlets, announced that its net profit plunged 53 percent in the first half of 2004.

ΐƒPƒƒ“ (die-face, ike-men)
This is a play on the popular katakana word ƒCƒPƒƒ“ (ikemen), used to describe a man with a handsome face (–Κ men means gfaceh). The newly-created homonym ΐƒPƒƒ“ denotes a man with an unattractive face. Since ΐ is a euphemistic substitute for Ž€@(die), ΐƒPƒƒ“could be translated as gthe face of the dearly departed.h

—βƒ^[(chill-er, rei-taa)
Rei-taa are folks who freeze foods (such as bananas, yoghurt, and pudding) before eating them. gTaah means ga person who does something,h and comes from the g-erh in English words like gsmoker.h

•@ƒs (nose-pierce, hana-pi)
gPih is short for "pierced." Other variations on the theme include ƒwƒ\ƒs (navel-pierce, heso-pi) and ƒxƒƒs (tongue-pierce, bero-pi). .

”ό”’(beautiful-white, bi-haku)
Used by young people to describe a woman with light skin.

‰ΨŽ‚X‚P‚P(Fahrenheit-911, kashi-kyuu-ichi-ichi)
The Japanese title for Michael Moorefs controversial documentary is a literal translation of the original, without a slash to separate the month and day (i.e., 9/11). The film opened in Japan in August to long lines and enthusiastic audiences, and caused a considerable stir in the media, with some openly pro-Bush Japanese newspapers publishing the claims of Web sites devoted to debunking Moore's claims.

And finally, a new word that can be written in either romaji or katakana:

NEET (ƒj[ƒg)

NEET is an acronym for: Not in Education, Employment, or Training. This refers to the increasing number of Japanese young people who are not in school or working full-time, and who have no concrete plans for the future.


Did you miss last year's new popular kanji words? Check them out here.

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