All You Need to Know About Kigurumi

All You Need to Know About Kigurumi

I bet you’ve seen the pictures on social media. Heck, I bet you’ve seen it in real life. Everything from animals to cartoon characters, it’s in the form of a onesie. This trend has been catching on even more worldwide, but did you know that it originated in Japan?

Yup, that’s right. These pyjama onesies started in Japan and now it’s a worldwide phenomenon, some say. And they’re called “kigurumi”. Now, I bet you have more questions than answers. But you’ve come to the right place. We have all the answers you have about kigurumi here. All you have to do is read on!

What is Kigurumi?

Cute Harajuku Kigurumi

The word kigurumi (着ぐるみ) comes from combining two words. The first word is kiru (着る) which means “to wear”. The other word is nuigurumi (ぬいぐるみ) which means “stuffed toy”. Kigurumi refers to costumed characters, like mascots. They’re a huge part of Japanese culture, similar to how cosplay is.

Kigurumi is originally used for promotional purposes and by cosplayers. Most of the time, you get an oversized headgear in the chibi (チビ) style. Basically, you’re going to look like an anime character. You’re dressed from head to toe in a full bodysuit.

Nowadays, especially outside of Japan, it’s more widely known as animal onesies. They look and feel way more comfier than the former. If you’re invited to a kigurumi party, you’re expected to look like an animal, not an anime character.

Kigurumi, whichever type it is, is everywhere on the streets of Japan nowadays. It’s so common that it’s normal. It could be a green dinosaur onesie or a schoolgirl anime character. No one would really bat an eye at the sight.

Types of Kigurumi

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So we briefly mentioned the two common variations of kigurumi. Kigurumi comes in various types: kigurumi cosplay, kigurumi masks and kigurumi pyjamas.

Kigurumi cosplay, or kigurumi kosupure (着ぐるみコスプレ) in Japanese, focuses on Japanese pop culture. People dress up in kigurumi-style costumes in the character they like. This includes anime characters as well as some American fictional characters. Common kigurumi cosplay includes Pikachu, Hello Kitty, Pokemon and anime characters. 

Sometimes, kigurumi cosplay can revolve around sex appeal, especially when it comes to anime characters. Not all the time, though. This type of kigurumi is also used for stage shows of anime both in Japan and overseas. 

Another type of kigurumi is kigurumi masks. In Japanese, this type of kigurumi is called animegao (アニメ顔) to mean “anime face”. It’s similar to the previous type we mentioned. The only difference is that this kigurumi involves only the face. The body is then dressed up in normal clothes.

Kigurumi masks started off as masquerade masks, but now has evolved to be anime characters. Now, kigurumi masks have included other types of cartoon characters like Frozen and other Disney shows.

The last type of kigurumi is kigurumi pyjamas. It involves pyjamas usually in the style of a onesie. Most of the time, the kigurumi pyjamas are in the shape of animals. This type of kigurumi is the one we see often on social media. It has become a hit in countries outside of Japan. Europe and America have embraced kigurumi pyjamas with open arms.

Kigurumi Origins

Kigurumi

Kigurumi began in the mid-1990s. It’s said that a company called SAZAC started it all in the fashionable streets of Harajuku and Shibuya, where most Japanese subcultures are born. It was used as a simple way out of cosplay. All you had to do was wear the mascot-like outfit and you’re a walking anime character!

Some say that kigurumi could be traced back to the 1600s when kabuki (歌舞伎) and bunraku (文楽) were formed. Kabuki is a traditional and theatrical dance-drama that is still performed today. Performers wore masks and elaborate makeup to look like creatures and ghosts. Bunraku is a traditional puppet theatre performance. Puppeteers would be in black clothes with hand-made masks on.

When kigurumi took off in the 90s, so did the manufacturing of masks. Japanese entertainers like musicians and celebrities started following this trend. By the time the mid-2000s rolled around, kigurumi was the norm.

Despite the media reporting on kigurumi, it wasn’t until the early 2010s that the Western countries caught onto the trend. Now, even though kigurumi isn’t interpreted as it was originally, it’s a hyped-up Japanese trend worldwide! 

The Boom of Kigurumi Outside of Japan 

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Before the late 2000s, kigurumi was merely an underground trend. The hype of the kigurumi trend in America and Europe boomed when anime and manga started to spread in these countries. People started loving Japanese media. People wanted to dress up as their favourite anime characters. 

Comic and anime conventions started becoming a regular occurrence in the West. Cosplay, the act of dressing up, started to grow. And what better way to dress up as anime characters than embracing the original kigurumi type of animegao?

Around the same time, popular shops in Japan like Don Quixote started selling “hot” and “must-have” souvenir items that include kigurumi onesies. Travellers from the West brought them back home to share with friends and family. Bloggers and influencers wrote about and posted them all over the web. 

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Kigurumi seems to have undergone a couple of changes throughout time. And it seems like it’s going to undergo a few more changes. Now they’re Halloween costumes, toddler sleepwear and even kigurumi accessories. What can’t this hot Japanese trend do? 

Learn Essential Okinawan Language Phrases helpful in your travels!

Learn Essential Okinawan Language Phrases helpful in your travels!

Okinawa World park lion statues

You can find island heaven in the southernmost part of Japan. Okinawa is where locals escape the city life of the mainland and foreign tourists go for a taste of paradise. 

The sun, sand and sea aren’t the only things that make the island so great. Okinawa has its own unique language that makes the heart of its culture. And surprisingly, it’s not your average Japanese! No matter how good your Nihongo is, you’re going to struggle a bit with the Okinawan language.
Let’s get you started with a few essential Okinawan words and phrases. Here’s a list of them to get you through day-to-day interactions and a few unique ones! 

Mensore (めんそーれー)

We know that in Japanese, to say “welcome”, it’s “youkoso” (ようこそ). While the Okinawans can still understand that, they have a different way of greeting. In Okinawan language, it’s “mensore” (めんそーれー). It’s similar to how we use “aloha”.
If you are lucky enough to visit Okinawa, you’ll be hearing a lot of this. The locals say this to welcome tourists to their islands.

Haisai (はいさい)

If you want to greet an Okinawan, say “haisai” (はいさい). This can mean “good day”, “good morning” or “good afternoon”. It’s used as a universal greeting for all day round. It’s kind of like “konnichiwa” (こんにちは). 

The feminine version to this is “haitai” (はいたい). It has a more polite and softer tone to the greeting.

Ganjuu yami? (頑丈やみ)

Another greeting in the Okinawan language is “ganjuu yami?” (頑丈やみ?) This can be translated as “how are you?” This is the informal way of this greeting. If you want to greet someone formally, you change it to “ganjuu yaibiimi?” (頑丈やいびーみ?)

Nageesayaa (長ーさやー)

This next one is one I like personally. To say “long time no see” or “it’s been a while”, say “nageesayaa” (長ーさやー). It’s kind of like the equivalent of the Japanese “hisashiburi” (久しぶり).

There are a few ways to say this. The rest aren’t as common, but here’s a list of them:
Wuganduu saibiitan (拝ん遠さいびーたん)
Wuganduu sanu (拝ん遠さぬ)
Wuganduusa (拝ん遠ーさ)
Wugandii saibiiyaa (拝ん遠さいびーやー)
Miiduu sanyaa (見ー遠さんやー)
Miiduu saibiinyaa (見ー遠さいびーんやー)

Okinawan store front

Hajimiti wuganabira (初みてぃ拝なびら)

When you meet a new Okinawan person and want to say “please to meet you”, you can say this phrase. “Hajimiti wagunabira” (初みてぃ拝なびら) is kind of like the Japanese “hajimemashite” (初めまして). If you look closely, it kind of sounds the same. They both use the same kanji in the beginning.

Wassaibiin (悪さいびーん)

This next one is important. If you did something wrong and want to apologise, say “wassaibiin” (悪さいびーん). This is how you say “sorry” in the Okinawan language. You can definitely say “sumimasen” (すみません) or “gomennasai” (ごめんなさい), but how about trying this new phrase? It might be even more sincere if it’s in their own language.

Karii (かりー)

We have “cheers”, “salute” and “kanpai” (乾杯), and so many more worldwide. In Okinawa, you say “karii” (かりー) when raising a glass and toasting. Don’t forget to do this before taking a swig of your refreshing, cold Orion beer! 

Nifee Debiru (御拝でーびーる)

Now, how do you thank someone in Okinawa? Sure, you can say “thank you” or “arigatou” (ありがとう). But in Okinawan language, it’s “niffee debiru” (御拝でーびーる). It’s how you show appreciation to someone. Sometimes, they phrase is followed by “ippee”. It’s like the extension of “very much” to make “thank you very much”.

Some say that back in the 60s, thanking someone was “nihee debiru” instead. Okinawan language is ever-evolving.

Conversely, “you’re welcome” in Okinawan is “ぐぶりーさびたん” (guburii sabitan). It’s good to know both, just incase!

Wakayabiran (分かやびらん)

“Wakayabiran” (分かやびらん) is useful because it means “I don’t understand”. When I was in Okinawa, I sometimes couldn’t understand what they were saying. So, I used this phrase a lot! It’s similar to “wakarimasen” (分かりません). They’re even using the same kanji!

Kwachii sabitan (くぁちいさびたん)

After a meal, you’d want to show your appreciation for the delicious meal. In Japanese, you’d say “gochisousamadeshita” (ご馳走様でした). In the Okinawan language, it’s “kwachii sabitan”. They’ll be even more convinced you loved the food now that you express it in their language!

red gate of Okinawan temple

Uchinanchu (うちなんちゅ)

Okinawan people are known as uchinanchu. This describes those who are born in Okinawa as Okinawan natives. Some said the name came from the word “Okinawa” itself. “Okinawa” became “okina”, which then changed into “uchina”.

Okinawan people refer to themselves as uchinanchu. They refer to people from mainland Japan as “naichi”.

Uchinaaguchi (うちなあぐち)

So, uchinanchu is the people. The Okinawan language is then ”uchinaaguchi”. Uchinaaguchi compromises words and phrases used during the Ryukyu Kingdom. There are influences of various types of dialect including Yaeyama and Miyako dialects.

Back in the day, uchinaaguchi had the name of “hogan” instead, to refer to the Okinawan language.

Nankurunaisa (なんくるないさ)

This next phrase has the meaning of “don’t worry, it’ll be alright”. Nankurunaisa (なんくるないさ) symbolises the relaxed vibes of Okinawan people. The phrase has a heavier connotation than that. It’s not really used in daily conversation as much as “daijoubu” (大丈夫).

It’s a way of expressing optimism and it was part of the phrase “makuto soke nankurunaisa”. That phrase has the same meaning as the English proverb “Man proposes, God disposes”. If someone does their best and is done right, then something will come of it.

Churasan (美さん)

To describe something beautiful and gorgeous, you can say it as “churasan” (美さん). It’s a word often used in Okinawa. You can see many things described with the adjective “chura”. For example, “chura sandal” is the name of a type of sandal that fused the words “churasan” and “sandal”.

It uses the same kanji as “utsukushii” (美しい).

Deeji (でーじ)

Last but not least, we have “deeji” (でーじ). This word is like the word “very”. It’s used the same way as “meccha” (めっちゃ) and “totemo” (とても).

You can one-up your game by using “shini”. It’s a step above “deeji”. It’s like saying “extremely”.

temple with red lanterns

With these essential Okinawan words and phrases, you’ve already got your foot in the door. The only way is up from here. Now, when you go to Okinawa, you can start to practice using these words with the Okinawan natives!

20 Cute Japanese Words to Make Your Heart Melt!

20 Cute Japanese Words to Make Your Heart Melt!

When you learn Japanese from a textbook, you get all the useful words and phrases for communication. It can sometimes be a bit dry without the fun stuff. The Japanese language has an abundance of cute and fun words that aren’t always introduced when you first start learning Japanese. But that doesn’t mean they’re not worth knowing. Here is a list of the top 20 cute Japanese words that are definitely going to make your heart melt!

1. Doki doki (ドキドキ)

Do you remember the feeling of nervousness when you see your crush? Or when your heart beats fast as if it’s thumping to get out of your chest? In Japanese, you can describe this feeling as “doki doki” (ドキドキ). The word itself is like the sound of a fast heartbeat. You can use this word as a verb, too, by adding ”suru” (する) to make “doki doki suru” (ドキドキする). This translates to be excited (with a racing heart) or when you have butterflies in your stomach. 

Make sure not to mix it up with “toki doki” (時々), which means ”sometimes”.

2. Kura kura (クラクラ)

When you feel dizzy or giddy, you can describe the feeling as “kura kura” (クラクラ). Even though the act of being dizzy itself isn’t all that fun, at least the word has a cute ring to it. Use it as a verb by adding ”suru” (する) to make “kura kura suru” (クラクラする)

3. Kawaii (かわいい)

What’s a list of cute Japanese words without the Japanese word for “cute” in it, and that is “kawaii” (かわいい). While it translates to “adorable” and “cute”, this word covers a wider range than just that. You can call a kitty or puppy “kawaii”, but you can also refer to an action as “kawaii”. This is when the word holds the meaning of “adorable” that makes you want to show your affection. 

“Kawaii” can also be written in kanji as 可愛い, but it’s more common to spell it out in hiragana. 

4. Kirei (綺麗)

While “kawaii” is a common compliment, a step up from it is “kirei” (綺麗). This Japanese word means “pretty”. Not only does the word sound cute when spoken, but it’s also considered as a sweet compliment. You can say this to your girlfriend or among your group of friends (for the ladies). Since it has a more feminine tone, I don’t think it’s best to say this to your guy pals. They might even take it the wrong way, who knows!

5. Niko niko (ニコニコ)

The Japanese word for smile is “emi” (笑み). The same kanji is used for the verb “to laugh” (笑う). Those are the common ways to express those feelings, but why not try a new word for “smile”? “Niko niko” (ニコニコ) is a cute alternative to refer to your or someone else’s smile in Japanese. 

6. Utsukushii (美しい)

So we have a word for “cute” and a word for “pretty”. What if you want to take it up another notch? The Japanese word “utsukushii” (美しい) translates to “beautiful”. I think it’s such a lovely way to compliment your girlfriend or friends. When said, the word sounds extremely cute. It’ll melt her heart more than it’ll melt yours!

7. Momo (もも)

This next cute Japanese word is quite common to use as a nickname for someone. In fact, some people have their real names as this, too! “Momo” (もも) in Japanese means “peach”. Because it’s such a cute and endearing word, a lot of Japanese people would name their children or pets as “momo”.

8. Mago mago (まごまご)

Have you ever been confused, it’s like your head is spinning trying to process the information? “Mago mago” (まごまご) is the Japanese word to mean “confused”. Similar to dizziness, being confused is not the most pleasant thing. But at least the word is cute to say. Who knows, the pleasantry of it might even help with your confusion!

9. Bara (ばら)

There’s a word in Japanese that translates to “scattered” or “disperse” and that is “bara bara” (バラバラ). However, if you only take half of the word, “bara” (ばら) actually is referred to a rose. You might want to be careful when referring to the beautiful flower a couple of times. If you say “rose, rose”, which is “bara, bara”, you might actually be conveying a whole different meaning!

10. Hoshi (ほし)

I find this next word extremely cute. “Hoshi” (ほし) is the Japanese word for “star”. I think it’s adorable because, not only is the pronunciation itself is cute, but it’s also because it’s close to the word for “desire” which is “hoshii” (欲しい). Try saying “hoshi ga hoshii” (ほしが欲しい): “I want a star”.

11. Momonga (モモンガ)

In Honshu, Japan, you can find flying squirrels in the forest. If you’ve ever seen one before, you know that they’re incredibly cute animals! And so is their name: momonga (モモンガ). This word can refer to flying squirrels in general, but it’s more commonly used to refer to the Japanese dwarf flying squirrel. I don’t know about you, but that extra fact just made this Japanese word even cuter!

12. Gaki (ガキ)

If you have a young sibling or any little kids around you, call them this when they’re whining: gaki (ガキ). This word has the meaning of “brat”, but in an endearing way and not too negative. It’s best to only use it with someone you’re familiar with and not a stranger.

13. Koneko (子猫)

Can anything beat the cuteness of kittens? Except for puppies, not really. “Cat” in Japanese is “neko” (猫), so what about kittens? We add the kanji for “young” or “child” at the start and that is “ko” (子), to make “koneko” (子猫). Even the Japanese word for “kitten” is cute. Very befitting.

14. Chou Chou (蝶々)

Whether big or small, butterflies are super cute. What’s even cuter is the name for it: chou chou (蝶々). You can even shorten it to just “chou” when referring to them. Either way, it’s still a cute word, especially if you see a kid pointing to a butterfly and saying “chou chou!”

15. Kisu (キス) 

I don’t know about you, but I like the word “kiss”. In Japanese, they also use the word but in katakana form: “kisu” (キス). When someone asks their partner for a kiss, they would say: “kisu shite” (キスして), which is like saying “let’s kiss”. Isn’t that the cutest?

Do take note that this word should be used with only your partner. It can be quite inappropriate otherwise.

16. Tamago (卵)

One of the first few words in Japanese that we learn is “tamago” (卵), which means “egg”. And it really does just mean “egg” most of the time. However, in Japanese culture, it can be used to have a different meaning. On its own, it can have the meaning of “rookie” or “noobie”. If you attach it to something else, it can mean that you’re a beginner of that skill. “Dezainā no tamago” (デザイナーの卵) means that you’re a rookie designer. 

17. Bigaku (美学)

One of the most popular words that people like to use in English is “aesthetics”. The Japanese equivalent is “bigaku” (美学), but this word has a cuter connotation to it. When you describe someone as “bigaku”, it’s describing their love of cute and adorable things. It’s common for people who are into Harajuku fashion to describe younger people dressing up in cutesy styles.

18. Aikyou (愛郷)

Not only is this word cute but it’s also quite heartwarming. “Aikyou” (愛郷) translates to “love for one’s hometown”. Literally, it means “love town” but when used, it’s always to describe the feeling of homesickness of the place you grew up in. 

19. Koi (恋)

Nothing can make your heart melt more than the word for “love” itself: “koi” (恋). I think it’s beautiful in meaning and in the kanji used. But not only that, it has a cute pronunciation that you can’t help but to smile when it’s said.

20. Mamoru (守)

Last but not least, we have “mamoru” (守). Other than the word sounding cute itself, the meaning is simply magnificent. “Mamoru” means “to protect” or “to cherish”, and if someone says to you that they want to “mamoru” you, you’re definitely going to feel like your heart skipped a beat (or “doki doki”).

Which word is the cutest?

There are definitely loads more cute Japanese words. The list is endless. But hopefully, these 20 highlighted ones are more than enough to make your heart melt for now. Which do you think is the cutest Japanese word? Let us know in the comments if you plan on using any of these words in the near future!

7 Unique Types of Seatings At Japanese Restaurants

7 Unique Types of Seatings At Japanese Restaurants

Introduction

It’s no secret that Japanese culture is rich and abundant. When we visit the country, it’s like stepping into a whole new universe. That includes restaurants and the various types of seatings available. 

What do you notice when you walk past the noren (暖簾) curtains at the restaurant entrance? You might notice a few seating arrangements that aren’t available in your home country. Don’t panic yet. Here’s a list of the most common types of seatings you can find at restaurants in Japan!

Counter seating (Kauntaseki)

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The most common type of seating arrangement you can find in Japan is the counter seating. It’s known as “kaunta seki” (カウンター席) in Japanese. You’ll find counter seats in various types of restaurants. Both formal and informal dining have them. It’s not exclusive to one or the other.


You get them at fast food chains like ramen shops (ラーメン屋, ramen shop) and izakaya (居酒屋, Japanese gastropub). More formal restaurants include kappo (割烹) type restaurants. This is a kind of dining where the chef crafts your dishes right in front of you. 


These counter seatings are effective in a few ways. The first is to accomodate more individual diners, which is common in Japan. Restaurants don’t have to set up entire tables. This saves space as well. Another way is making high-class dining establishments more informal in atmosphere. On top of kappo cuisine, there’s obanzai ryori (おばんざい料理). This type of cuisine offers home-style food in a relaxed atmosphere. Customers are usually seated at counter tables.


The counter seating gives the opportunity for customers to chat with the chef. That’s one of the best ways to get insights about Japanese cuisine and culture!

Table seating (Teburuseki)

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Moving on, we have the table seating. In Japanese, you can say it as “teburu seki” (テーブル席).This is a type of seating that’s influenced by the West. And as the name suggests, you’re going to sit at a normal table. Table seating is common in both casual and formal restaurants.

And it’s your standard table seating arrangement. Usually, the staff member will ask the number of people dining in at the restaurant entrance. The staff member will show you to your table afterwards. If the restaurant offers both counter and table seating, they might give you the option to choose. 

In some restaurants, you can find a big central table that’s shared by a few different groups of people. I have never dined at a shared table before. But I heard it’s customary to acknowledge the other diners with a nod before sitting down.

Booth seating (Boosuseki)

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Our next type of seating is also influenced by the West, and that is booth seating. It’s like those diner seats. In Japanese, it’s called “boosu seki” (ブース席). With this type of seating arrangement, you get a normal table with benches on either side of it. 

Booth seating arrangement is common in casual dining places like family restaurants (ファミレス). Some izakayas and stalls offer booth seating, too. Most of the time, Restaurants that specialise in group dining will have booth seating. Yakiniku (焼肉) barbecue or shabu shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ) restaurants definitely have them. That’s when everyone at the table is sharing a single grill or pot in the middle of the table.

Recessed Floor Seating (Horigotatsu)

The next type of seating in Japan is the horigotatsu (掘り炬燵). This is a traditional type of seating arrangement where the table is low to the ground. The floor beneath it is lower than the floor level so people can have their legs there. Horigotatsu seating can be traditional or modernised to cater to the foreign tourists. You can experience sitting on a tatami area without having to cross your legs. It’s like sitting on a chair! 

Most of the time, you can get horigotatsu seating arrangements in Japanese restaurants. Those establishments for group dining will have them more than the others. 

Heated Table Seating (Kotatsu)

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This next type of seating features a heated table. Kotatsu (こたつ) is also used in Japanese homes but also in restaurant. There’s electric heating built into the bottom of the table. Not only that, you’ll be able to find a special type of quilt cover over the table frame. This is so the heat stays beneath the table to warm your legs.

You won’t be eating on the quilt covers, don’t worry. There’s usually a tabletop placed on top of the quilt cover as a surface for eating and drinking. This type of seating was common back in the days before the development of other types of heating. Nowadays, this is less common in homes. There are still some restaurants that offer kotatsu for a unique local experience.

Tatami Seating (Zashiki)

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We mentioned tatami seating earlier. In Japanese, it’s called zashiki (座敷). This is a traditional type of seating arrangement that features a low table on top of tatami flooring. You’ll get this type of arrangement in more traditional Japanese restaurants. 

Tatami seating is available in open dining and private dining rooms. When dining at a tatami seating, you’re expected to take off your shoes before stepping onto the tatami. It’s customary to place the shoes facing away from the tatami, too. This is so that when you do put your shoes back on, it’s easier. This type of seating arrangement is one of the most authentic Japanese dining experiences.

Private Room Seating (Koshitsu)

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Last but not least, there’s the private room seating. We mentioned in the tatami seating section. It’s called “koshitsu” (個室) in Japanese. You can find private room seating in both traditional and Westernised restaurants. 

This type of seating arrangement is best for gatherings, business dinners and parties. The most common place you can find koshitsu is at an izakaya. As a group of people can get rather loud and noisy. The private room seating arrangement is good for privacy for the group without disturbing the other guests at the restaurant. 
A fun fact to note is that the seat of honour at this type of seating arrangement is the one furthest away from the door!

Conclusion

At Japanese restaurants, you get a mix of familiarity and authenticity. There are some seating arrangements which you can only experience in Japan. Sit on tatami while slurping down a bowl of noodles and much on sushi bites!

The Ultimate Japanese Words for Summer

The Ultimate Japanese Words for Summer

I can feel the humidity and heat coming in quick! Summer is just around the corner. How confident are you with your summer vocabulary? If you’re familiar with kigo (季語), your summer seasonal words list should be a long one. Kigo refers to seasonal words used in Haiku to describe the seasons.

If you’re not all too happy with your list, don’t worry. You’ve come to the right place to build that up. We’ve compiled a list of common and unique summer seasonal words for you to lock into memory! 

Natsu (夏)

Of course, the first on our list is “natsu” (夏). This translates to “summer”. The days leading up to summer are usually bright and warm. This phase of time is called “natsumeku” (夏めく). “Meku” is a suffix that loosely translates to “becoming like”. When you combine it with the Japanese word for summer, it means “beginning to look like summer”.

On the first day of summer (known as rikka, 立夏), everyone welcomes it with open arms. We’re past the cold and dry. Hello, heat and humidity. I don’t know about you, but I’m half-and-half when it comes to summer.

Anyway, after a few weeks into summer, we’ll feel natsubate (夏ばて). This is the fatigue and exhaustion you feel from the summer heat and humidity. “Bate” comes from the verb “bateru” (ばてる), which means “to be exhausted”. Combat natsubate with bottles of water and a sensu (扇子, folding fan).

Let’s not forget the natsumatsuri (夏祭り). The summer festivals are what keeps the spirits up during this humid season. You get everything from music and camping festivals to traditional street marches and food stalls.

For the students, you have natsuyasumi (夏休み) to look forward to! We all need that summer holiday, don’t we?

Fuurin (風鈴)

Come summer, you’ll hear chiming everywhere. That’s all because of the fuurin (風鈴). They are glass wind chimes that symbolises summer in Japan. Fuurins are made of glass bells with a string and a piece of paper hanging down underneath them. You’ll see these glass wind chimes on doors, windows and gates all throughout summer.

Sometimes, people write wishes on the piece of paper as well. When you hear the chimes of the glass bells, you’ll know there’s wind in the air to help with the humid heat!

Tsuyu (梅雨)

Before we get the hot sun, we get tsuyu (梅雨). Tsuyu is the rainy season that comes at the start of summer in Japan. Usually, it’s around the start or middle of June and lasts till the middle of July. They’re not heavy rain and it’s usually mild showers in general. However, Japan does get heavy rainstorms as well as typhoons. 

You won’t get the humidity as much during this time. Instead, you get tsuyuzamu (梅雨寒), which is the chill from the rain.

Kakigoori (かき氷)

shaved ice / イチゴミルク

Japanese people combat the Japanese summer with kakigoori (かき氷). This is a type of Japanese dessert made from shaved ice and topped with syrup and condensed milk. It’s really sweet, so those of you who have a sweet tooth will absolutely love it!

When summer comes, pop up stalls selling kakigoori appear everywhere! You can have your pick from street kakigoori to ones from specialist shops. Get an ice-shaving machine yourself and try it at home!

Hanabi (花火)

Epcot - All of Illuminations

Remember when we said there are summer festivals? What’s a festival without fireworks. Hanabi (花火) is one of the highlights of Japanese summer. Every town in the country throws some sort of event for a firework show. Couples, friends and family would bring their mats and find a spot to watch the show.

Mushiatsui (蒸し暑い)

We’ve been mentioning “humid” a couple of times. What is it in Japanese? It’s “mushiatsui” (蒸し暑い). When the air is moist and damp (or shimetta, 湿った) during the hot weather, that’s when you know it’s peak Japanese summer. I don’t think I’ve experienced a hotter and more humid summer than in Japan. So brace yourselves!

Minazuki (水無月)

According to the old calendar, there’s another way to refer to the month of June. It’s called “minazuki” (水無月). If you look at the kanji’s used, it combines the word for “water” (水) and “month” (月). The “mu” (無) character doesn’t hold any meaning. If you combine the other two, it translates to “the month of water”.

June is the start of the rainy season, after all. Minazuki is an appropriate name for the month.

Ramune (ラムネ)

Vendor selling Ramune in bottles

There’s a type of soda that comes in glass bottles. They’re called “ramune” (ラムネ). These bottled sodas have curved necks and a glass ball in the middle, referred to as bidama (ビー玉). This type of soda is so popular during the season of summer that it has now become a symbol of the season.

Shochu mimai (暑中見舞い)

Japanese people love sending greeting cards to friends and family during occasions. In summer, they send shochu mimai (暑中見舞い) to check in on their loved ones’ health and wellbeing. They can also send gifts, too!

If you send a greeting card at the end of summer, it’s then referred to as zansho mimai (残暑見舞い).

Hiyake (日焼け)

Summer calls for the sun, sand and sea! If you love going to the beach, you’ve got to brace yourself for the hiyake (日焼け). Hiyake translates to sunburn. Make sure you put on a lot of sunscreen with high SPF content! The sunlight in Japan is no joke!

Has your summer season vocabulary expanded? Prepare for summer with not only bikini bodies and new swimsuits but also a load of new Japanese vocabulary! 

From Kyoto to Tokyo: the amazing story behind Japan’s changing capital city!

From Kyoto to Tokyo: the amazing story behind Japan’s changing capital city!

We know Tokyo as the capital city of Japan. The bright, neon-lit city is the first image that pops in our head at the mention of the country’s modern vibes. But at the mention of authentic Japan and Japanese culture, Kyoto is where we think of. These are the reputations of the two cities. But did you know, Tokyo wasn’t always the capital city? Back in the day, Kyoto was the one that held the title. So why was there a switch from Kyoto to Tokyo as the capital city of Japan? We have the answers you’re looking for.

Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan

Kyoto wasn’t called Kyoto back in the day. Just like other Japanese cities, it had a few names. One of it was “Heian-kyo” (平安京). This translates to “metropolis of peace or seat” in Japanese. Another name for Kyoto was “Saikyo” (西京), which means Western capital.

Originally, Kyoto only consisted of the Imperial Palace and the areas surrounding it. But now, as we know it, it’s grown much bigger. Some believe that Kyoto’s architecture was designed to resemble Xi’an City during the Tang Dynasty. The grid-like streets and rectangular enclosures were hints of that.

Kyoto was the capital city of Japan for more than a millennium, after its inception in 794AD. It’s one of the oldest cities of Japan, after all, so it only made sense that leaders have settled down there and created history. In the 8th century, Emperor Kanmu was the one that decided Kyoto to be the capital. Rulers after him would have the city as the seat of the Imperial Court for centuries, until the 19th century. Kyoto was gradually losing its prominence as an administrate centre. A change was required.

How the oligarchy influenced the change

Now, we’re not going to delve deep into history. We’re going to just touch on it. The Tokugawa Shogunate, as we know, was the last feudal Japanese military government. They reigned from 1600 to 1969. In the early years, then-Edo now-Tokyo was the spot for their military government. The Tokugawa Shogunate became so powerful to the extent that the Emperor was below them.

The Meiji Restoration got back the Emperor’s position in politics and culture. In 1968, the Tokugawa Shogunate was no more. At the time, the ruling emperor was merely 15, so the power was given to the oligarchs. They decided to stay in Edo instead of going back to the then-capital city Kyoto because of its convenient location and easy access to the West for trade. Edo was given a new name: Tokyo, the “Eastern Capital”.

Edo, from village to castle town

Credit: Lilac and Honey on Flickr Creative Commons

The name “Edo” means “estuary”. It was originally a mere village during the Kamakura Period (1185 to 1333). The village’s location was perfect for the establishment of headquarters. It had access to busy lands and sea routes. When the Tokugawa Shogunate established in Edo, it was the beginning of Edo’s rapid growth. Edo Castle became their base, with moats and bridges surrounding it. By 1720s, Edo’s population drastically boomed and had a major economic growth.

Today’s Tokyo

And we skip to today. The emperor wasn’t the one that decided the change of capital city to Tokyo, but this incident marks a crucial time in Japan’s history. It was inevitable that Tokyo became the main area for trade due to its accessibility. From there, technology, Western clothing and architecture began to influence the city. Just like how Kyoto grew in size, so did Tokyo to include its surrounding regions.

Capital city: Kyoto or Tokyo?

Now, Kyoto is still known as the “Western Capital” and Tokyo as the “Eastern Capital”. The move of capital city to Tokyo affected Kyoto deeply, but now the city’s thriving with its own unique personality that contrasts that of Tokyo. Kyoto will always be a symbol of old Japan, and Tokyo’s a symbol of the country’s evolution and development. Kyoto will always be thought of as the heart of Japan for it’s storied and important history.

The Best 10 Fun Things You Can Do in Japan for the Summer!

The Best 10 Fun Things You Can Do in Japan for the Summer!

Say goodbye to knits and cardigans, and hello to linen dresses and straw hats! Summer is just around the corner. The weather has warmed up enough for us to have picnics in the park and midday strolls. 
Japan’s natsu (夏, summer) has more to offer than that. In fact, this is the season where all the festivities and events happen. Sure, it gets pretty humid and hot during Japanese summer, but it’s all worth it when you know what you’re going to get. Here are the 10 best things you can do in Japan in summer!

1. Go to the beach

Shinto torii gat at a beach

What’s summer without the beach? If you’re wondering what to do in Japan during the summer season, one of the best things is going to the beach. In Japanese, beach is hama (浜), but people understand when you say bīchi (ビーチ)
Regardless of which city you’re in in Japan, there’s always a lovely beach nearby. But if you’re really looking for the best beaches in the country, the southernmost part is where you should go. Okinawa’s beaches are top quality. The umi (海, sea) is crystal blue and the suna (砂, sand) is soft like a pillow.

2. Attend local festivals

Orange lanterns in Japan

The best part about Japan’s summer is the local festivals. You wouldn’t even be wondering what to do in Japan when every other street has rows of yatai (屋台, shop stand). These street stalls have everything from street food to local games. You can participate in them to win prizes! 
These local matsuri (祭り, festival) can go on all day for a weekend or even weeks. If the heat is too much for you to bear, you can pop by in the evening when it’s cooler. A lot of locals would attend these festivals wearing traditional clothes. It’s both entertainment and cultural immersion! 

3. Watch the fireworks

fire works over water

Summer is when you can buy fire crackers in stores for yourself, and watch the firework shows on display. There’s nothing quite like watching hanabi (花火, fireworks) in Japan during the summer. They’re a big deal here. Families, friends, couples and colleagues come together to watch this spectacular show. 
Usually, Japanese people watch the firework show after visiting the local festival. If you’re planning to watch the fireworks in Japan during the summer, be sure to bring a mat and some snacks!

4. Refresh yourself at a beer garden

Beer Garden Maiami
Credit: S.Brickman on Flickr Creative Commons

The heat and humidity during Japanese summer can get rather rough. But don’t worry, Japan has thought of a solution for that. In summer, beer gardens pop up everywhere in the country so you can refresh yourself with a swig of bīru (ビール).
These beer gardens don’t only sell beer. There are other alcoholic beverages like cocktails. For non-drinkers, there are non-alcoholic drinks like soft drinks as well. They’re very family-friendly as well, so parents out there, you’re welcome to join the beer garden party!

5. Swim at water parks

Little girl splashing at a water park.
Credit: Hideya HAMANO on Flickr Creative Commons

If you’re not much of a beach person but still want a soak, go to the water parks in Japan in summer! Wōtā pāku (ワォーター・パーク) is a huge activity that the Japanese locals do during the summer in Japan. You can not only swim (泳ぐ) but also slide down the fun water slides, lie down on big floaties and enjoy the wavepool!
Because it’s such a popular thing to do in Japan in summer, it can get pretty crowded. I would advise to go during a weekday instead of a holiday or weekend.

6. Jam at music events

Music stage with balloons
Credit: Risa Ikeda on Flickr Creative Commons

Whether you’re a music lover or not, you have to attend a music event in Japan during the summer. They’re all anyone ever raves about. These エベント can be both indoors and outdoors. The ones I’ve attended have been in the mountains or at big open spaces.
Music events are the best for making new friends and enjoying the summer nature. And, of course, enjoy the ongaku (音楽). Who knows, you might discover a new artist or two while you’re at it.

7. Beat the heat in Hokkaido

field of flowers in Hokkaido
Credit: Hideya HAMANO on Flickr Creative Commons

Not all of us are fans of the heat and humidity. I know I’m one of them. I have some news for you: you can beat the heat by going up north to Hokkaido. This prefecture is the furthest away from the equator compared to the rest of the country.

It’s much cooler up there. Some even say it’s not humid at all!

When in Hokkaido during the summer, you can go around the hana (花) gardens and parks. The field of bloomed flowers is a sight just as spectacular as the powdered snow Hokkaido is known for.

8. Cool down with shaved ice  

Shaved ice with Azuki
Credit: Hideya HAMANO on Flickr Creative Commons

Other than beer, there’s another way to refresh yourself: kakigōri (かき氷). Translated to shaved ice, locals love this summer dessert. There’s bound to be a store or two at the street stalls at festivals that sell this. 
You can get any kind of flavour and topping for your kakigōri. There’s usually syrup poured on top of the shaved ice with common toppings like corn. Depending on the store, you can get interesting ones!

9. Watch fireflies

fireflies
Credit: Koichi Hayakawa on Flickr Creative Commons

Head out of the city centres in Japan to the countryside. These areas are best for firefly watching. Both locals and travellers alike head out to inaka (田舎), or rural areas, to catch some fireflies in action. If you’re not sure exactly where to go and how to get there, you can book a tour that’ll do the heavy lifting for you.

10. Wear a yukata

two people in kimono walking down a narrow Japanese street with parasols.

Last but not least, the activity you can do in Japan during summer is wearing a yukata (浴衣). This is a version of the kimono (着物), the traditional wear of Japan. It’s made from a lightweight cotton fabric that’s used only during the summer.
You can wear a yukata to a local festival, any temple or shrine. Or you can just walk around the street to immerse yourself in the Japanese culture. What better way to experience a country than to put yourself in their shoes.

Get ready for Japanese summer!

These ten activities are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more you can do in Japan in summer. You might even think you don’t have enough time to do them all! Which summer activity are you excited to do in Japan?

Want to Work in Japan? Top 10 Most Popular Jobs for Foreigners

Want to Work in Japan? Top 10 Most Popular Jobs for Foreigners

Some of us dream of working in Japan. It’s like an unachievable fantasy. What if I told you that working in Japan is not that far-fetched of a dream at all? In fact, it’s totally possible! There are more and more job openings for foreigners in Japan as we speak. Some of these jobs won’t even require you to have fluent Japanese!

Of course, if you do have a higher level of Japanese, you have more job opportunities. But don’t let that bring your hopes down. You still have options. Let’s take a look at the top 19 most popular jobs for foreigners working in Japan.

1. English Teacher

A red-haired woman teaches english.
Credit: ThisisEngineering RAEing on Unsplash

The easiest job to land in Japan for a foreigner is teaching. More specifically, teaching English. I think most of the foreigners I’ve met in Japan have been there, done that – including me. There are so many positions available throughout the country, and job postings pop up all year round. 

For this job position, you don’t need to know Japanese at all. Because you’re teaching English, your lessons are going to be fully in English. All you need is to have at least a bachelor’s degree. It would definitely help if you know a bit of Japanese, as well as prior teaching experience, but it’s not a requirement.

The downside to this is that it’s not the best-paying job. But hey, you’ll get a working visa and live in the country of your dreams. 

2. Interpreter/Translator

A speech being translated.
Credit: Aigars Mahinovs on Flickr Creative Commons

If you’re bilingual, you’ll find that it’s easy to get a translation job in Japan, especially if one of the languages you speak is Japanese. There’s a huge demand in the interpretation and translation industry. The gaming industry in Japan is huge, as we all know from our hours of playing video games and watching animation. Game companies require their works to be translated into other languages when they release it internationally. 

While there’s opportunities for full-time employment, you can also find part-time positions and contract work. This can include assisting businessmen when they travel for work and also translating written works.

3. IT Professional

Two women trouble shooting a computer.
Credit: Christina on Unsplash

After English-teaching, the IT professional job is the most common job in Japan. Positions like software developers and programmers are always in demand. The talent pool among Japanese locals for programmers is rather small. Companies are looking to international talents to fill these roles. 

You can most definitely find positions that require minimal to zero Japanese language ability. However, your options are multiplied when you can speak a bit of Japanese. 

4. Military Personnel 

A woman military person sitting on a doorstep.
Credit: Jessica Radanavong on Unsplash

If you’re American, you’re in luck. One of the most common ways to work in Japan is to be stationed at one of the US military bases in the country. Japan has the largest number of military personnel based here than in any other foreign country. Cities that have large bases like Okinawa have a large international population. Because of that, the area might be more English-friendly than other parts of the country. 

5. Engineer

A person looking at blueprints
Credit: ThisisEngineering RAEing on Unsplash

Engineering is significant in Japan, and engineer job positions are as common as IT professional job positions. Japan is known for its advanced engineering, from automobile to computer. If you’re skilled in any aspect of engineering, your chances of landing a job as an engineer in Japan is high. 

Japanese companies are looking to foreign talent for their expansion of their engineering industry. A lot of these job positions require no Japanese. In fact, you’ll be dealing with more foreign clients than local ones most of the time. 

6. Tourism Roles

a tour guide showing a crowd around..
Credit: Bernie Almanzar on Unsplash

The boom in tourism in Japan calls for demand in tourism related roles. It’s increasing so rapidly that the locals can’t keep up with it. Travel agencies and tourism-related businesses need foreigners to fill in some roles, especially when those roles involve dealing with non-Japanese clients. A common job is a tour guide. 

For these kinds of roles, you’d be required to know at least conversational Japanese so you can communicate fairly well with your company and clients. How much you can earn depends on your skills and experience, too. But the best part about tourism related roles is that you get to travel while on the job! 

7. Investment Banking

a laptop with stock measurements.
Credit: Tech Daily on Unsplash

Large investment banking companies are relocating their workers and also hiring foreign workers. Japan is an ideal place for these banks to locate. Because of this progression, you wouldn’t need Japanese language skills for this job. The banking industry also supports other jobs like IT professionals, too. 

8. Service Staff

people working behind computers
Credit: Arlington Research on Unsplash

An easy job to land if you have adequate Japanese language skills is service staff. If you’re on a Working Holiday visa or other valid visa like a spousal visa, this is an ideal opportunity. Look at the tourism industry – for example, hotels, resorts and restaurants in tourist destinations are more willing to hire foreign staff since bilinguality can be an asset to their business. 

9. Sales staff

a woman checking out at an ipad cash register.
Credit: Christiann Koepke on Unsplash

Similar to service staff, the sales staff job is also an easy job to land if you’re bilingual with Japanese. However, it’s not limited to that. Some local companies are trying to reach the international market, especially those in the automobile and banking industries. Because of that, they are opening up positions for foreign workers to assist in that reach. 

10. Modelling

Credit: Pooja Chaudhary on Unsplash

You might not think this is a possible job for most of the world, but in Japan, it’s rather easy. Modelling is more often taken as a part time or freelance job because of its instability, but it’s a job that’s extremely common and popular. Japanese companies are using non-Japanese models more and more to promote their business, so it’s in high demand right now.

The pay depends on the job, and it also depends on the frequency of jobs you get a month. Modelling agencies might provide you with a valid working visa if you’re working as a model full-time. Tokyo, especially, has a lot of modelling agencies that are foreigner-friendly. 

Which job is for you?

As you can see, there’s quite a range of job opportunities in Japan for foreigners. Everything from technical to artistic, there’s a position for you. You can browse your opportunities on job-hunting websites like Gaijinpot and Jobs in Japan, but a simple Google search does the trick, too. So what are you waiting for – get searching and applying! 

16 Weird and Strange Japanese Culture Facts

16 Weird and Strange Japanese Culture Facts

Interesting is an underrated way to describe Japanese culture. We all know it’s a rich culture full of customs and beliefs far different from ours. No matter how much we read up on it, there’s always going to be another fact popping up that we didn’t know about before.

And among these cultural facts, there’s a fair share of them that can be considered weird and strange. If you’ve visited Japan, you would’ve experienced some things that are just uniquely Japanese. Here, we’re going to look at 16 weird and strange cultural facts of the Japanese culture.

1. Vending machines in Japan sell adult toys 

Vending machines are big in Japan. There are about 5 million of them in Japan alone! While the most common product offered at these vending machines is beverages, don’t be surprised if you come across ones offering unusual products…like adult toys. 

When the first adult toy vending machine opened in Sapporo City in Hokkaido, the news went viral. Nowadays, it’s not as uncommon as when it first popped up. There are even gachapons (ガチャポン) similar to these vending machines. Walk down the streets of Shibuya and you’ll see a few amongst the cartoon keychains and souvenir ones.

2. Kids had epileptic seizures from a Pokemon episode

Pokemon was big in a lot of people’s childhoods. This well-loved anime series is not only popular in Japan but also internationally. Before the show made it to the US, back in 1997, an episode of Pokemon induced epileptic seizures in 685 children. They were rushed to hospitals all around Japan. 

The episode is called Dennō Senshi Porygon. It had intense flashing red and blue strobe lights that went at a rate of 12 flashes per second. These lighting effects are more common in older anime. However, it went on for almost 6 seconds, long enough to trigger photosensitive epilepsy in some children. There were reports of other kids experiencing milder symptoms like temporary blindness, seizures and nausea. 

3. Phones made in Japan are waterproof

Credit: Crystal Jo on Unsplash

If you’ve bought a phone in Japan before, the first thing you’d notice is that the shutter sound for taking photos can’t be turned off. That’s a unique feature only in Japan. Another one is that almost all phones sold here are waterproof. This has been the case for over a decade now.

Some people link this to the bathing culture in Japan. It’s common for Japanese people to soak in bathtubs after a long day’s work and use their phones while at it. The waterproof function might be just in case phones slip into the water.

4. Indoor smoking is made illegal only recently

Credit: Julian Lozano on Unsplash

Not too long ago, smoking indoors was quite the norm. Whether it was in a cafe, bar or restaurant, there were designated areas for smokers (kitsuen, 喫煙). This was a huge part of Japanese culture.

In April 2020, there was a ban on smoking indoors going around in Japan, starting with a city-wide ban in Tokyo. The response has been 50-50. Some are against it as they claim it’s part of their culture, and others strongly support this decision to increase non-smoking areas.

5. Before 2015, late-night dancing was illegal

Credit: Pawel Janiak on Unsplash

Japan’s capital city Tokyo is known for its entertaining late-night nightlife in bars, pubs and clubs. Little did you know that, not too long ago, late-night dancing was made illegal. Before 2015, you’re not allowed to dance in areas that didn’t have a dance license past midnight. 

This was imposed after World War II to regular prostitution since dance halls were popular destinations for that. In the early 21st century, there was a spike in celebrity-related drug busts. There was a reinforcement of the ban then.  
Now, you’re allowed to dance till the sun comes up. There’s new legislation which allows clubs to operate 24 hours. Clubss are able to do that as long as they have brighter lighting than 10 lux. 

6. There are more adult diapers sold than baby diapers

Credit: DLKR Life on Unsplash

Japan’s facing a rapidly ageing population. More than a quarter of the country’s population is over the age of 65. Birth rates are at an ultimate low. Research shows that the production of adult diapers is more than baby diapers. The ageing population is likely the cause for this. 

7. There’s a festival dedicated to the phallus

Credit: Takanori on Flickr Creative Commons

Japanese people will never say no to a festival. There’s probably a festival every other weekend throughout the year. There’s even a festival for the phallus, called Kanamara Matsuri (かなまら祭り). This literally translates to “Festival of the Steel Phallus”. Everything in the festival is shaped as the phallus, from floats to snacks. This Shinto festival is celebrated in Kawasaki City on the first Sunday of April every year. 

An old Shinto legend has it that a demon hid in the private parts of a goddess. The demon bit off two of her suitor’s phallus on their wedding night. Because of those incidents, a blacksmith created an iron phallus that broke the demon’s teeth. 

The shrine associated with this festival is a haven for prostitutes and those suffering from STDs. They seek protection and pray here. Others also pray for marriage and fertility. Nowadays, this festival is an LGBTQ-friendly event that promotes inclusiveness. Money that’s raised from this festival is donated to HIV research. 

8. Sumos compete to make the other baby cry first

Credit: Maria del Carmen Calatrava on Flickr Creative Commons

Most of us know about sumo wrestling. But do you know about sumos carrying babies and trying to make their opponent’s baby cry first? This festival is called Naki Sumo Baby Crying Festival. This 400-year-old occasion takes place every April in Sensoji Temple, Tokyo. 

Parents bring their children to the festival and sumos will carry them on stage and make them cry by making scary faces, yelling or wearing a scary mask. It’s believed that making a baby wail can chase off demons lurking around. Some believe that the best crier is blessed with a healthy, long life. 

9. A lot more paper is used to print manga than make toilet paper

Credit: Miika Laaksonen on Unsplash

The Japanese comic (manga, 漫画) is, without a doubt, extremely popular in Japan. It’s used as comic strips in magazines back in the Meiji Era to encourage literacy in the youngsters. Because of the extreme use, they’re printed more than toilet papers are made. The hi-tech, futuristic bidet toilets also play a part in the lack of toilet paper usage. 

10. The original geishas were men

Credit: Jie on Unsplash

Whether you’ve been to the ancient capital city Kyoto or seen pictures of it, you’ve definitely heard of geisha (芸者). A geisha is a refined woman with skilled in the traditional Japanese performing arts. They’re usually pictures of dolled-up Japanese ladies dressed in luxurious kimono (着物).

But did you know that the original geishas weren’t women; they were men. Taikomochi (太鼓持) were male entertainers who performed for feudal lords in the 1730s. They’re like the jesters of the West. 8 years later women would emerge as “odoriko” (踊り子) and shamisen players. It wasn’t until 1751 that female geishas became the talk of the people. 

11. Crooked teeth are cute

Credit: Alli Stancil on Flickr Creative Commons

Some of us have spent thousands of dollars on braces and dental care to get our teeth straightened. For the Japanese, they wouldn’t do that. Because crooked teeth are considered cute among people. While it’s always been the case, it’s becoming a big trend recently.

In fact, some dental clinics in Japan are offering their customers a crooked smile. This involves glueing artificial (or permanent) canines to the customer’s real teeth.

12. Adult adoption

It’s the norm to adopt kids when they’re young, but in Japan, it’s the opposite. Adopting adults is a bigger practice than adopting kids, and it’s common in families with no children. This usually happens when a Japanese family needs an heir for their business or fortune. 

Sometimes, this is also used as an alternative to the illegalisation of same-sex marriage. 

13. Japanese students clean their own classrooms

Credit: Sara on Fickr Creative Commons

Having janitors and cleaners at school is common in most countries. In Japan, these aren’t jobs offered in high school and universities. The school students are the ones that take on the role. Japanese students clean their own classrooms as part of their school day. This also includes bathrooms, hallways and other public facilities.

14. Social withdrawal is common among Japanese

Credit: Annie Spratt on Unsplash

There are approximately 700,000 Japanese people that live in social isolation. This is known as hikikomori (引きこもり) in Japanese. Adults are still living in their parent’s house or their own houses, but don’t go to work or hang out with friends. 

It’s said that some people can be socially withdrawn for up to 20 years. The most common cause of hikikomori is the high expectations of Japanese society. 

15. The number 4 is unlucky

Credit: Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

In Japanese, the number 4 is pronounced as “shi” which is the same as the Japanese word for “death” (死). It’s considered as an unlucky number. Some other countries in Asia also have similar beliefs. If you can’t find floor number 4 in apartment buildings, hotels and malls, don’t be surprised. This is probably the reason why.

16. Black cats are lucky

Credit: Mark Richards on Flickr Creative Commons

Contrary to popular belief, black cats are lucky according to the Japanese. In Japanese culture, instead of bringing bad luck, black cats bring good luck. You’ll see them in the shape of the beckoning cat, or known as maneki neko (招き猫). They’re believed to bring wealth and prosperity. 

Which fact is the weirdest? 

Just as how it is enriching, Japanese culture can also be pretty strange. Which one of these 16 cultural facts did you find the weirdest? There’s always something new you can learn about a culture, whether it’s an enlightening one or one that makes you think twice. 

Should you use Anime To Learn Japanese? The Answer May Surprise You!

Should you use Anime To Learn Japanese? The Answer May Surprise You!

I love anime and I’m willing to bet that if you’re reading this article, you at least have a passing interest in it as well. Learning to speak Japanese via any form of popular media can be quite daunting and challenging. However, it can also be very rewarding as you can learn some great new vocabulary from it as well as formal and informal uses of those same words.

That being said, it stands to reason that you shouldn’t use anime, manga, or any other form of pop culture as a strong basis for learning by itself but rather as a supplement to your regular learning habits. It should also be noted that viewers are encouraged to watch their pop culture actively complete with taking notes on new vocab words rather than passively since it won’t do you any good to only catch the gist of what the characters are actually saying.

Most of the anime on this list were chosen because they have simple sentences and words that are suitable for learners who aren’t as advanced in their studies yet. For that reason, I’m not guaranteeing that you’re going to find the titles on this list to be masterpieces of the medium.

While many experts feel that learning from pop culture should be reserved for intermediate learners, I know that there are plenty of you out there who are itching to jump right in and start learning from the media that you’re actively consuming anyway. With all, that out of the way here are some titles that you can watch right now to help you master Japanese!

© NHK

Bottom Biting Bug (Oshiri Kajiri Mushi – おしりかじり虫

Aimed at a MUCH younger audience, this series of shorts (each episode only lasts about 5 minutes) originally started airing in 2012 and features a young bottom biting bug who helps people feel better both physically and emotionally by — you guessed it — biting them on the bottom. This is going to give you very basic vocab and grammar lessons but don’t expect any significantly deep plots.

© Madhouse · Broccoli / Panyo Panyo Di Gi Charat Production Committee

Panyo Panyo Di Gi Charat (ぱにょぱにょ デ・ジ・キャラット)

Another series of shorts aimed at a younger audience (though not quite as young as the first entry on this list), this adorable series first started airing in 2002 and ran for 48 episodes. Featuring very easy to understand plots, this is a good series to watch so long as you remember that Dejiko and her friends don’t always speak normal, everyday Japanese.

© Pierrot – Aloha Higa

Polar Bear Cafe (Shirokuma Cafe – しろくまカフェ)

The first entry on this list that isn’t a short but rather made up of full-length episodes, this 50 episode series first aired in 2012. What makes this series so good to watch isn’t just that the characters are adorable and stories are simple but the puns! Every so often, Polar Bear will break out a string of Japanese puns which are not only hilarious but also great for picking up new vocab that comes complete with visual cues.

© Madhouse – Kanata Konami

Chi’s Sweet Home (チーズスイートホーム)

A cute seinen (a genre aimed at adult men) series about a kitty cat? Sign me up! First appearing in anime form back in 2008, this title features many short sentences that are easy to pick up on so even beginner Japanese learners should be able to pick up valuable new words from this series.

© Doga Koba – Takayuki Mizushina

Lovely Muuuuuuuco! (ラブリームービー いとしのムーコ)

Not a cat person? Got you covered! This series is all about an adorable pet dog named Muco. Originally airing in 2013, this anime is similar to Chi’s Sweet Home in that it has a lot of simple, short dialogue.

© Nippon Animation – Momoko Sakura

Chibi Maruko-chan (ちびまる子ちゃん)

This slice of life comedy series has been running almost solidly since 1990! A family series, it follows the daily life of elementary school student Maruko-chan. Conversational Japanese is what you’re going to get from this series the most so be sure to jot down those notes with this one.

© SILVER LINK – Atto

Non Non Biyori (のんのんびより)

Another relaxing slice of life series from recent history (it first started airing in 2013), this is a series that has become pretty popular among fans of the genre. Featuring a group of young girls of various ages who live far out in the country, this is another series to pick up light-hearted conversational Japanese.

©Toei Animation – Izumi Todo

Pretty Cure (Futari wa PreCure – ふたりはプリキュア)

No list is ever complete without at least one mahou shoujo (magical girl) series and this is one of the most popular in Japan! First airing in 2004, this series has spawned literally over a dozen sequels and movies. Aimed at young girls (though it’s famous for appealing to older fans as well), this might not provide you with tons of useful new vocabulary words (unless you plan on moving to Japan to become a crime-fighting magical girl. No judgment.) this is still a good series to pick up some basic conversation skills.

There you go, learners! Eight titles that you can go forth right now and check out for yourselves! Have a fantastic rest of your month everyone and join me again next month when I reveal even more anime titles that you can use to supplement your studies.