Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Scary Garden

Here is an amusing Kanji meaning for a word in Japanese.

Reading: reien
Meaning: cemetery
Kanji: soul + garden

And if we push it a little, we can say it came from 幽霊 公園 (second Kanji from each word) which means "ghost park".


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Eating in Space!

I just came back from Ikebukuro after spending some time with friends and it turns out that tonight there was a lunar eclipse! Shortly after noticing everyone in the street looking up, I got to learn the words for lunar eclipse and solar eclipse in Japanese, and after I looked those up in the dictionary to find out the Kanji used, I was amused, by the Kanji used... or's just oozed...

Japanese: 月食
Reading: gesshoku
Meaning: moon eclipse
Kanji: moon + eating

Japanese: 日食
Reading: nisshoku
Meaning: solar eclipse
Kanji: sun + eating

Oh My God! The moon is being eaten!!! We're doomed!

Me like :P

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Is that your MY CAR?

Sometimes a word Japanese took from English is hard to recognize because of the weird pronunciation, but sometimes you recognize the word but it has a slightly different meaning then expected...

Japanese: マイカー
Reading: maikaa
Meaning: privately owned car
Literally: from English - my car.

So yeah, I imagine that at some point in time, this conversation in English took place between some English speaking foreigner and a Japanese.

Japanese dude: ee?! sweet ride! Is that your parents car?
English dude: Nope, all mine.
Japanese dude: 'mine'? 何? your company car?
English dude: No man, it's MY CAR, I own it, I bought it.
Japanese dude: Aっ! なるほど!It's your maikaa, ne.

That's why in Japanese now you can say stuff like "my father's my car is cool".

Japanese dude: "I don't have my car and I don't live in my home"
English dude: "Eh? who DOES have your car and where the hell DO you live if not in your home?"

Yeah... it goes for home as well.

Japanese: マイホーム
Reading: maiho-mu
Meaning: privately owned house/home
Literally: from English - my home

A while ago I walked down some street in Tokyo and some person who does marketing for some Internet company asked me: "Do you have my internet?". Nope, I don't use other peoples' internet. I have my own.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

V Neck, T Intersection and the number Ten

You know how in English we sometime use a letter only for the shape of it?
Like, U magnet, V neck, T shirt and even "one Oh one" instead of "one zero one"...
So check out this word in Japanese.

Japanese: 十字
Reading: juuji
Meaning: cross
Literally: the letter (kanji) 十

The meaning of the letter is the number ten, but that's not the point. Clearly it is used here only for it's shape and would have probably been used even if the meaning was fried melon.

In English, we could have called a cross a "straight X" (or "tilted X", depending how you look at it) or maybe a "jumbo plus" :D.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A look into the Horizon

Let's look into the Horizon...
Wait, but which one?
What do you mean which one? There's only one, ne?

Ah Ha! Wrong! In Japanese there are two kinds of horizons and two different words for them.

Japanese: 水平線
Reading: suiheisen
Meaning: horizon, when talking about water
Kanji: water flat line

Japanese: 地平線
Reading: chiheisen
Meaning: horizon, when talking about land
Kanji: ground flat line

Now let's relax and sip some tee while looking at any horizon you can get your eyes on.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


A while ago, I wrote this post right here that you can click and watch with your eyes:

When I was looking at the dictionary I found back then two "tebura"s. One which had the "bura" part in katakana (meaning it probably came from English or some other non Japanese language) and the other which had the "bura" part in hiragana (meaning it originated in a Japanese word). At the time I foolishly dismissed this as a dictionary duplication thingy. Foolishly.

But now thanks to a nice reader, I know better!
So let's break it down, shall we?

Japanese: 手ブラ
Reading: te-bura
Meaning: bra-less, using only one's hands to cover breasts.
Literally: hand bra.

Japanese: 手ぶら
Reading: te-bura
Meaning: empty-handed
Literally: hand empty

And now I'll quote the email I got to prevent any further confusion from me...

「I noticed an inaccuracy in your explanation of 手ぶら.
It comes from 手ぶらっと (teburatto) which means "with your hands hanging limply (empty)." it has a social connotation of not bringing a gift or souvenir (like when you've gone on a trip).

The phrase predates the brassiere in japan, for one, and is used by men and women. it has nothing to do with "being stripped bare" and less to do with having nothing but the shirt on your back than you would think. it means literally "empty-handed" - carrying nothing, but the connotation is not one of poverty but of circumstance or even lacking social graces.

手ぶら is doubly complicated by the fact that the gravure and AV industries have co-opted the homophone 手ブラ to literally mean "hand bra," like when a model poses with only her hands covering her breasts. however, these are different words with different meanings and distinct etymologies. 」

OK! So we got two words in the price of one pronunciation,!
Now everything is clear!

Thank you, mystery reader! :P

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bell Peppers and Fashion Models

There is a word I know for quite some time now.

Japanese: ピーマン
Reading: piiman
Meaning: bell pepper, green pepper

Now, I like this word because I have some Japanese/English jokes about it (since in English is sound like a pee man), and now I just got another reason to like it!

It turns out that there is a slang meaning of the word in Japanese. It is used to refer to people who look good on the outside but have no real content or personality...I would generalize here and say it could describe for instance a fashion model or a not that talented actress or actor.

You can imagine the relation to a bell pepper :P
Me like!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Wheels, Lightbulbs and Poo

OK, so here is a nice one that took me several months to collect...

You know the expression in English, a third wheel? or is it a fifth wheel? well, any unnecessary wheel. So I learned a few month ago that in Chinese the same person is called a "light-bulb", and that is because when you want some privacy with someone, some intimate privacy with that special someone, than a light emitting glass device is not exactly what you want on your side...
That was cool, but it was not Japanese. Yesterday I learnt the same expression but this time, the Japanese version of it.

Japanese: 金魚の糞
Reading: kingyo no fun
Meaning: sort of the same as a third/fifth wheel in English.
Literally: goldfish droppings

Say what?!
Well, apparently when a goldfish poos, his poo is dangling around behind him for quite some time. So this expression means a person who tags along; hanger-on; a person who follows someone around like a shadow; clingy person.

So there, that's an image for you!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Conductor, Literally.

I learned the word for conductor today and the Kanji use was quite amusing to me.

Japanese:  指揮者
Reading: shikisha
Meaning: conductor (musical)
Literally: finger-swinging-person

It can't get more to the point than that :)
I love Kanji!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Rickshaw Pulling Chinaman...

... or an umbrella holding car riding Englishman?

We all know that in Japanese there are a lot of words that sound the same but have a different meaning. Usually also they are written differently.
But usually, in my short experience, those words are compound words which are written using several Kanji letters, and so when other letters are used it sounds the same but has a different meaning.

Recently I stumbled upon two words that use only one Kanji letter and have different meanings using different Kanji letters. But the different meaning in this case is not extremely different, you can see how it is related to the other meaning and in the car case, can also see by the Kanji how the meaning changes.

Reading: kasa
Meaning: umbrella

Reading: kasa
Meaning: a conical hat (east-asian style)

Now, considering an umbrella is pretty much a conical hat that you hold with a stick instead of actually putting on your head, I can see how those got to be the same word.

Here is the other one:

Reading: kuruma
Meaning: car

Reading: kuruma
Meaning: rickshaw

Now here it's also pretty understandable how the same sounding word would be used for a car and a rickshaw as rickshaw is kind of an old style "human propelled" car. And that is also why I liked the Kanji for this which is exactly the kanji for a car preceded by the Kanji for a man.


Me like Kanji Math!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Running Bodyparts...

Once again, an amusing Kanji usage, can't get enough of those!
This time, a verb.

Japanese: 口走る
Reading: kuchibashiru
Meaning: to speak; to tell; to blurt out
Literally: mouth + running

In English, our noses can run as well!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Barbeque Fun!

This is one of the more amusing Kanjis I've learnt.
As opposed to most Kanji, this one looks pretty much what it means!

Meaning: skewer

Do you see the skewer in the Kanji?

Now another interesting one is this Kanji, which has the skewer Kanji as the top part of it.

Meaning: afflicted, disease, suffer from, be ill
Construction: skewer (串)+heart (心)

"Doctor, I am suffering..."
"What's wrong?"
"Barbeque accident..."


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Flintstone Type Faucet

This Kanji usage reminded me of The Flintstones! (Thanks Herouth)

Japanese: 蛇口
Reading: jaguchi
Meaning: faucet, tap
Literally: snake + mouth

If The Flintstones was in Japanese, their faucet would have been "elephant + nose", though, right?
Anyway, amusing Kanji use for this word :)
Me Like!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Racism in Kitchenware

So finally, I stumbled onto a new nice expression (as opposed to just a word) and this time...I didn't even know the English idiom!

So, here we go:

Japanese: 目くそ鼻くそを笑う
Reading: mekuso hanakuso wo warau
Meaning: translates to the English idiom "the pot calling the kettle black", or plainly "look who's talking!"
Literally: for the sleep in one's eyes to laugh at the snot in one's nose

Nothing more really to say about it...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bear, Humans and their Hands

Two nice words.

Japanese: 熊手
Reading: kumade
Literally: bear-hand
Meaning: rake; fork

And another one:

Japanese: 人手
Reading: hitode
Literally: man-hand
Meaning: starfish

I thought it's cool that a bear hand is a rake and a human hand is a starfish :)
Me Like!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Child to be Born

So how would you call the child that is about to be born but hasn't yet?

Japanese: お腹の子
Reasing: onaka-no ko
Meaning: the child one is expecting
Literally: stomach child

As in, the kid who is still in my stomach.
At some point those really logical literal words would stop amusing me...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Surprise Box

I just found this word in the Dictionary, I have no doubt I won't forget it quickly just because of the amusing context.

Japanese: びっくり箱
Reading: bikkuribako
Literally: surprising box; frightening box

Can you guess what does it mean?
Here you go:

Meaning: Jack-in-the-box

In case you don't know, a jack-in-the-box is a children's toy that outwardly consists of a box with a crank. When the crank is turned, it plays a melody. At the end of the tune there is a "surprise", the lid pops open and a figure, usually a clown or jester, pops out of the box.

Yet again, Japanese names for things are pretty much exactly what they are :)
Me Like!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Don't you hate when you get Tinnitus?
I've experienced Tinnitus a few times, luckily not for long, and I think that that is the only reason I even know what Tinnitus is. I have no idea about native English speakers but I don't think many non-native English speakers have any idea what Tinnitus is.
So today, a Japanese word and an English word for the same price :P

Japanese: 耳鳴り
Reading: miminari
Meaning: tinnitus
Literally: ear + ringing

That's right. Tinnitus is that annoying ringing sound you sometimes start to hear in your ear out of nowhere. I don't know if Japanese has a more medical term for it, but it doesn't stop me from getting amused by thinking of the doctor talking to the nurse and saying "Yes, I examined the patient and my educated diagnosis is that he suffers from ear-ringing-ness." :P

Me like!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Two Generations in One Dish

There is a dish in Japanese cuisine which is basically a bowl of rice with some chicken and egg on top. The name of the dish is amusing!
(Thanks Randy for the suggestion)

Japanese: 親子丼
Reading: oyakodon
Meaning: chicken and egg on rice
Literally: parent + child + bowl (of rice)

Today, I'm eating two generations in one bowl!
Seems kinda wrong...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Meaning of Vase

Here's another nice Kanji meaning for a word.

Japanese: 花瓶
Reading: kabin
Meaning: (flower) vase
Kanji: flower + bottle

The image I get is a single flower protruding out of an empty wine bottle...
Definitely not a fancy vase but serves the same function :)
So yeah, put on the bag for your hand (glove), take the flower and put it in this bottle for the flower (vase). We don't need to make a fancy vase from sticky earth (clay)...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Laurel and Hardy

Japanese: 蚤の夫婦
Reading: nomi no fuufu
Meaning: a couple in which the wife is bigger than the husband
Literally: a flea couple

When I first read this expression I knew why it was so immediately, but still thought it's amusing that this expression exists since I haven't heard something similar in English (or Hebrew).
The reasoning behind this is that in nearly all flea species, the female is larger than the male.
There you go, a nice expression and a piece of trivia, all in one!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Meaning of Clay

Here's another amusing Kanji meaning for a word.

Japanese: 粘土
Reading: nendo
Meaning: clay
Kanji: sticky + soil

Well, maybe amusing is not the right word.
But I'm starting to like the way Kanji can make words read small and mean big, if you know what i mean. More on that in a later post.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Meaning of Egg

I like how Kanji (the Chinese characters) can give nice meanings to words. This is a pretty basic word and I knew it a few days after starting to learn Japanese but only recently learned this way of writing it with Kanji.

Japanese: 玉子
Reading: tamago
Meaning: an egg
Kanji: ball + child

And come to think of it, an egg is exactly that - a ball containing a child.
I think it's elegant, this whole meaning into words using Kanji thing.

This word also has it's own Kanji (卵) and honestly, I have no idea when to use which one and whether or not there's a difference, I just liked the ball-child combination for the word.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hand Bag for... your Hand

I'm sorry if sometimes it seems like I write about stupid little things, but this stuff amuses me and that is all that it takes to make it in here. This time, it's just a word. The word for a glove in Japanese is...

Japanese: 手袋
Reading: tebukuro
Meaning: a glove
Kanji: hand + bag

"This is a special bag that we have here, that can contain only ONE hand and nothing else. It fits perfectly! Give it a try!"

While in English a handbag is a bag you carry by hand, in Japanese, a hand-bag is a bag FOR your hand. Of course they have another word for the English handbag meaning.

Japanese: 手提げ袋
Reading: tesagebukuro
Meaning: handbag
Literally: hand carried bag

So, here I was, all cocky and smart-assy, thinking to myself, "Hey, so why does the word for a sock doesn't follow the same logic?" 

Japanese: 靴下
Reading: kutsushita
Meaning: socks
Kanji: shoe + below

So I checked the dictionary and it turns out it freaking DOES! Only it's another word, for the more traditional Japanese socks. Ta Da! 

Japanese: 足袋
Reading: tabi
Meaning: Japanese socks (with split toe)
Kanji: foot + bag

And everything came together nicely. Don't you think?
Me like!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Abbreviation Hall of Fame

OK, so we know Japanese like to abbreviate, but this one... oh boy, this one.

Here is a standard greeting Japanese people say at New Years (meaning not really important for the purpose of this post).

Japanese: あけましておめでとうございます。今年もよろしくおねがいします。
Reading: akemashite omedetou gozaimasu. kotoshi-mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

As you can see, quite a mouthful, but have no fear! Japanese people abbreviated the heck out of this expression and now you can say it ALL just by saying...

Japanese: あけおめことよろ
Reading: ake-ome-koto-yoro

In contrast to the other more standard abbreviations, this is used more colloquially, but still, they pretty much performed a ZIP compression on that expression.

Expression Compression ...hey, I even rhymed in this post :P
Me like!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Contact Me

Don't be a stranger!
If you have any suggestions for amusing Japanese Shticks, or if you just want to shoot me a message for whatever reason, send me an email to:

nihongo dot shticks at gmail dot com

Or you could always just leave a comment on this post.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Living in a Bubble

For some reason I really like expressions that have to do with nature/animals. We already had a Monkey expression and I know of some Horse expressions, but today, we honor the Frog.

Japanese: 井の中の蛙
Reading: i-no naka-no kawazu
Meaning: a person who is ignorant of the real world, similar to the English expression "to live in a bubble"
Literally: a frog in a well

But why a frog in a well?
Actually this is a short version of the longer expression, that will explain everything.

Japanese: 井の中の蛙大海を知らず
Reading: i-no naka-no kawazu taikai-wo shirazu
Literally: a frog in a well is not aware of the ocean

This is used to encourage someone to get a wider perspective.

Aaaa-nyway, to avoid poluting a perfectly great expression with my stupid comments, I will cease typing now.

Wait... Me Likey very much(y)!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Talking about abbreviations, get a hold of the governor's name.
That is one tough cookie even for English speakers.
How many do you think can actually spell that?

And so, I wasn't surprised to find out Japanese people abbreviated his name as well. What was indeed amusing to find out is just how well did they do it :P
First, check out the full name:

Japanese: アーノルド・シュワルツェネッガー
Reading: aanorudo shuwarutseneggaa

No doubt a tongue twister.
And now, the nickname Japan gave the governor!

Japanese: シュワちゃん
Reading: shuwa chan

This is amusing on two layers!
First, they took that mountain of a name and reduced it to only two syllables!
And to top that, they gave him the suffix "chan" as if he was some cute little girl! :P

They totally made a school girl out of his name, and in contrast to the huge mountain of a man he used to be, that's amusing.
Me like!

Friday, May 13, 2011

THAT is empty handed!

In English, "empty-handed" means having acquired or gained nothing; "they returned from the negotiations empty-handed". The literal meaning of course is with nothing in their hands.
The Japanese version of this expression took that concept to the extreme :P

Japanese: 手ブラ
Reading: te-bura
Meaning: empty handed
Literally: "hand bra" as in using only one's hands to cover one's breasts.

The concept of someone coming back with her hands used as a bra not only shows that she didn't bring anything back but most likely everything she had was taken away, and I do mean EVERYTHING. Those are some poor negotiating skills on her part :P

Nice, very much visual, expression.
Me Like!

Update, see correction in this link.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Japanese people very much like to abbreviate words they borrow from other languages and sometimes even their own expressions and words. Because Japanese uses a syllabic script while other languages use alphabets, words borrowed from other languages tend to be even longer in Japanese and so the tendency to abbreviate them is understood.

Take the word for a Personal Computer for instance:

Japanese: パーソナルコンピューター
Reading: paasonaru konpyuutaa

This is shortened to only:

Japanese: パソコン
Reading: pasokon

Which can be understood, even in English it's shortened to PC.
But in Japanese you find that abbreviations are much more common than in English.

Let's see if you can guess the next one :

Japanese: ファミレス
Reading: famiresu

Any guesses?
That's a Family Restaurant for you, right there!

Japanese: ファミリーレストラン
Reading: famirii resutoran

This next one fooled me the first time I laid my eyes on it.
I had no idea what it's supposed to be... you try!

Japanese: パトカー
Reading: patocaa

Any guess?

Now don't you cheat and read the next line!

Ok, you give up? Here it is...

Japanese: パトロールカー
Reading: patorooru caa

Which is a patrol car.
But patocaa just seemed to me at first like some kind of a sledge hammer or something...

There are a lot of those abbreviations.
If you have one which is really hard to guess,
please write it up in a comment!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Death by Tofu

I wasn't sure I should post these two very lovely curse-expressions because they are very rude and obviously should not be used, ever.
Nevertheless, the sheer beauty of the way those curses are integrated with the Japanese cuisine might be sufficient to give them a dedicated post, keeping in mind we use them for amusement purposes only.

Without further ado,

Japanese: 豆腐の角に頭をぶつけて死ね
Reading: toufu-no kado-ni atama-wo butsukete shine
Meaning: curse-expression
Literally: bash your head against a corner of a block of tofu and die

Interestingly enough, tofu is soft so there is a debate about whether or not this way of dying is actually possible. Maybe even in cursing, the Japanese people are still avoiding directness and so the method of dying is left obscure...

Another similar death-wishing-using-Japanese-cuisine expression is:

Japanese: うどんで首吊って死ね
Reading: udon-de  kubi tsutte shine
Meaning: curse-expression
Literally: suspend your neck using Udon noodles and die; hang yourself using Udon noodles and die

Once again we see that the curse "receiver" is given a really hard task as I don't suppose noodles are strong enough to be able to hang yourself from, especially not cooked noodles.

But creative thinking, it is!
Me like!

(Just don't tell anyone where you learned this...)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Your Face, Again!

The last entry, dealing with recognizing people by their faces reminded me of the English expression "What's his face" used to refer to someone whose name you have forgotten. This in turn reminded me of a Japanese word I've seen but haven't quite payed attention to... yet.

Japanese: 誰かさん
Reasing: darekasan
Meaning: a certain somebody (usually it's obvious who is being referred to)
Literally: Mr. Someone, Mr. Somebody

I thought that this word might mean "What's his face" but it turns out that it doesn't. When you use "What's his face" you know who you have in mind but can't relate the information across to anyone else because you don't remember that person's name. Then usually you start a describing game until someone goes "Brad Pitt" and you go "YEEESSSS! THANK  you!"

It turns out that with 誰かさん, the identity of the person is known to everyone and it's just a playful or cynical way to refer to that person. This is actually translated to English as the simple "someone/somebody" but has that special nuance that comes across in those types of sentences:

<looking at your chocolate covered kid's face>
"SOMEONE has been eating my chocolate..."

<and off to a COMPLETELY different scenario>
"SOMEBODY has been a bad girl... come over here!"

<on the more cynical side>
"Well, if a certain SOMEONE would have listened to me, we wouldn't have been stuck in the middle of the woods after sundown, now, would we?"

As for a Japanese word/expression meaning "What's his face", I didn't find one. If you know something that could be considered a translation for that, please let me know!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Face Recognition

A friend of mine doesn't have to enter a username and password combination in order to log into his laptop. His laptop just recognizes his face and lets him in. New technology, right? well, yeah...but people have been doing it long before computers did.

Japanese: 顔パス
Reading: kaopasu
Meaning: free admission for being well known
Literally: face-pass

The translation above is straight from the dictionary but as we all know sometimes the dictionary is not quite right. As I understood it, it doesn't have to be free.

For instance, say you buy a monthly ticket to the train you ride on everyday to commute to work. At some point, the person who is supposed to check that you have a ticket will recognize you (because you ride the train every day) and know that you already have that monthly ticket. Will he ask to see your monthly ticket again? Probably not. You passed the ticket checking procedure on account of him recognizing your face.
Hence, Face-Pass.

Same thing goes for if a club has some age restrictions. They check your ID card at the entrance to make sure you're above or below a certain age. If you become a regular, they'll know you (and your face) and probably don't check your ID card anymore. Face passed this one as well.

"It's not fair! How come YOU don't have to show an ID?"
"I FACE passed, man. In your FACE! "

I think it's a cool word!
Me like.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mr. Weather

This is amusing!

Japanese: 天気屋さん
Reading: tenkiyasan
Meaning:  a moody person; temperamental person; fickle person.
Literally: (kinda) "Mr. Weather" as in his mood changes/is unpredictable like the weather.

Don't go all... weather-y on my now, dude! focus! :P
Me like.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Dessert Anyone?

Japanese: 甘い物は別腹
Reading: amaimono wa betsubara
Meaning: equivalent to the English expression "there's always room for dessert"
Literally: I have another separate stomach for sweet things.

"Oh man! I can't breath... " <unbelting...>
"Well you didn't have to eat to explostion... you revolting pig"
"Na... a few days and I'll be hungry again. <hiccup> Hey, is that chocolate cake over there?"
"I thought you can't breath..."
"It's OK dude! I have a completely different digestive system for sweet things! Room is not an issue. I repeat, <hiccup> NOT an issue."

Friday, April 29, 2011

Stupid Fool

Talking about horses...
This is a word used by Japanese people colloquially to insult someone.
I found the Chinese characters (Kanji) that make up this word interesting.

Japanese: 馬鹿
Reading: baka
Meaning: fool, stupid, idiot
Kanji: "horse" and "deer"

I've heard that this is so because the word describes someone who is so stupid that he can't even perceive the difference between a horse and a deer...

You have to have a special talent for that, or be like, very very drunk :P

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hold Your Horses!

"Oh man, look at that horse they have there in Africa, it has stripes all over it, is it sick or something?"
"No dude, it's a Zebra."
"A Ze-what?"
"Mmm...Striped Horse, for you"

Japanese: 縞馬
Reading: shima-uma
Meaning: Zebra
Kanji: "stripes" and "horse"

"Ha ha! Look at that horse in the pond! I've never seen such a fat horse! What's up with those African horses?!"
"Eeee? Hip Hop-what?"

Japanese: 河馬
Reading: kaba
Meaning: Hippopotamus
Kanji: "river" and "horse"

I was amused to find that the Kanji (Chinese Characters) meanings of Zebra and Hippopotamus in Japanese were striped horse and river horse respectively (river horse? how about sumo wrestler horse!).
There is something similar in English, namely, the sea horse. The Kanji for sea and horse form a word in Japanese as well, only that it's not the word for sea horse...

Japanese: 海馬
Reading: todo
Meaning: Sea Lion
Kanji: "sea" and "horse"

"Oh, that horse over there MUST be sick!"
"NOT A HORSE man, that's a Gira...
yeah, that's a long necked weirdly colored horse..." :P

(No. Actually, giraffes have nothing to do with horses, even in Japanese)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Heavy Eating & Drinking

In English, if you eat and drink a lot and really mess the place up someone might say you're eating like a pig. In Japanese...

Japanese: 牛飲馬食
Reading: gyuu in ba shoku
Meaning: heavy eating and drinking; gorging and swilling
Literally: "cow drinking horse eating" as in, drinking like a cow and eating like a horse.

What about the pig? She's cute, leave her alone!

Another very similar expression in Japanese is:

Japanese: 鯨飲馬食
Reading: gei in ba shoku
Meaning: heavy eating and drinking; eating mountains of food and drinking oceans of liquor
Literally: "fish drinking horse eating" as in, drinking like a fish and eating like a horse.

As you can see, Japanese people are not quite sure who is the bigger drinker, but what is certain, horses eat the most!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Women as Flowers

This expression has no English equivalent, at least not one that I'm aware of.
It describes the situation where you have a beautiful woman on your right arm and another beautiful woman on your left arm.
I found the literal meaning very nice.

Japanese: 両手に花
Reading: ryou te ni hana
Meaning: flanked by two beautiful women; two blessings at once
Literally: a flower in both hands (a flower in each hand)

And if the women have flower names (Lilac, Lily, Daisy, Jasmine etc.) then this is a double fun expression!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


The fact that Japanese has a word for this shows you just how hard Japanese people really work.

Japanese: 過労死
Reading: karoushi
Meaning: death from overwork and mental stress

I mean come on... if you feel like you're about to DIE, please, by all means, stop working!
It's OK! Take a break, drink something...on ME! :P

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Going to France

This whole entry started when I saw this word in the dictionary:

Japanese: 渡仏
Reading: tofutsu
Meaning: going to France

I was thinking to myself that this is weird. Why would Japanese have a special specific word for 'going to France'? I love France and my name (Michel) is French but isn't such a word too specific?
I mean, if we have a word for 'going to France', why not have a word for like...'visiting a shrine', or better yet 'visiting a shrine in winter'! or if we are going all out, why not have a word for 'visiting a shrine NAKED in winter'!

But OH WAIT! Japanese DOES have a word for that...

Japanese: 裸参り
Reading: hadakamairi
Meaning: visiting a shrine naked in winter

OK, so Japanese has some very specific words targeted to very specific situations <cough>, but why France? I asked around and found out that it's not only France. There are quite a few specific words for going/visiting other countries. Here is the list I have now:

Japanese: 渡米
Reading: tobei 
Meaning: going to USA; going to America

Japanese: 渡欧
Reading: toou
Meaning: going to Europe

Japanese: 渡英
Reading: toei
Meaning: going to Britain

Japanese: 渡露
Reading: toro
Meaning: going to Russia

Japanese: 渡伊
Reading: toi
Meaning: going to Italy

Japanese: 渡独
Reading: todoku
Meaning: going to Germany

Japanese: 渡西
Reading: tosei
Meaning: going to Spain

And just when you get used to the whole "TO-something" you get this unexpected turn:

Japanese: 訪中
Reading: houchuu
Meaning: going to China

Japanese: 訪台
Reading: houtai
Meaning: going to Taiwan

Japanese: 訪韓
Reading: houkan
Meaning: going to South Korea

Japanese: 訪朝
Reading: houchou
Meaning: going to North Korea

For a short explanation about how those words were formed just know that each county has a katakana name (katakana is the syllabic script used in Japanese to write foreign vocabulary, including foreign country names) but Japanese also has a way of writing the county names using Chinese characters (Kanji) and so, those words up there are a combination of one Chinese character meaning to transit or to visit and a second Chinese character that symbolizes the specific country.

There is one more word related to this long entry. How about visiting Japan? right? wrong.
Japanese people don't visit Japan, they live there, you are the one coming to visit and that is why the word is:

Japanese: 来日
Reading: rainichi
Meaning: arrival in Japan; coming to Japan; visit to Japan

In this case the first Chinese character's meaning is "come" and the second is "Japan".

Opening up a dictionary can sometime be time consuming.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tasting Soap

A friend of mine, also a Japanese student, thought I'd like this expression.
She was right! (Hi Vera chan!)

Japanese: 泡を食う
Reading: awa wo kuu
Meaning: to be confused
Literally: eat a bubble

Wait... eat a bubble?! I'm confused now...:P
For some reason, this makes me think of the situation when someone is talking or doing some other mouth opening activities and then a soap bubble enters his mouth, a split second before he closes his mouth on it. The bubble bursts inside his mouth and he now faces the reality of tasting soap. Now, there is that split second of not knowing what is the proper procedure to continue with...

"Should I spit it out? should I just not make a big deal out of it? should I laugh...did I just eat a bubble!?"

I can totally see how that split second of being frozen in time and not moving any jaw muscles,  symbolizes confusion.

Me like!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Samurai Days

Here is an interesting word in Japanese that reveals something about the samurai days.

Japanese: 辻斬り
Reading: tsujigiri
Meaning: testing a new sword by killing a passerby.

Well, how ELSE can I know if this sword is worth anything, man.

Holy shit...

Monday, April 11, 2011


Here is another amusing Japanese expression I learned today.

Japanese: 猿も木から落ちる
Reading: saru-mo ki-kara ochiru
Meaning: equivalent to the English expression "No one is perfect" or "Anyone can make a mistake".
Literally:  "Even monkeys fall from trees" :P

Amusing, isn't it?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Freaking EASY

Here's a new Japanese expression I've learned recently.

Japanese: 朝飯前
Reading: asa meshi mae
Meaning: easy as pie, a piece of cake, trivial matter
Literally: "before breakfast" as in, it's so simple that I can wake up, and with my eyes half closed finish doing it before breakfast...

that's freaking easy.
Me like!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Nihongo Shticks is born

Hi Everyone (yeah who will read this later :P)!

So, why am I here?
Well, I have been learning Japanese for the past year or so and found myself stumbling onto a lot of expressions, words, and language bits that very much amused me. Be it a word with a meaning that says something about the Japanese culture, an expression that is so visual and unique it makes me laugh or just a weird thing (for us non Japanese).
I very much wanted to share those little bits, those shticks, with people; and I did. I shared a lot of them in my Facebook status', but being that not all of my Facebook friends are Japanese students or people that may be interested in those shticks, I decided to move the Japanese Shticks to a blog and keep my Facebook status' focused on the boring stuff :P

If you're here, you probably know that "nihongo" is "the Japanese language" in Japanese and so I thought "Nihongo Shticks" is a suitable name for this blog.

I hope to make you smile and be amused as I am when I first find those little shticks :)