Uniquely Japanese- Ukiyo 浮世

In the last couple of weeks I have written a couple of blogs about ukiyo. One about ukiyo-e, woodblock prints of the Edo Period and one about Ukiyo, an excellent experience of story-telling and adventure in Melbourne. (Follow the links to read the blogs). During my research for these two stories I read quite a…

Uniquely Japanese- Omoiyari 思いやり

You may have heard the story about the Japanese fans at the World Cup match who remained after the game to clean the stadium. It made the news around the world. This kind of behaviour is not rare in Japan. A tiny country, with LOTS of mountains and a huge population that has little crime…

Uniquely Japanese- Omou 思う

Omou means, literally, to think, the verb. This is not uniquely Japanese, although maybe thinking is different in different languages and different cultures? It is however the root of many other Japanese words and several of them are unique to the Japanese language. I decided to write about omou first, so as to completely understand…

The Enduring Exploits of Super Sake Boy and Nihonshu Girl

It has been nearly a year since COVID put a big, fat STOP sign on nearly all international travel. Being obsessed Japanophiles, Super Sake Boy and I have tried to take the travel ban graciously, while feeding our need for Japanese food, sake, culture and connection with the language. We were last in Japan in…

Uniquely Japanese- Kanreki 還暦

Kanreki is the Japanese word used to describe someone’s 60th birthday celebration. In Japan, this particular birthday has a lot of symbolic significance and meaning, beyond our Western idea of an age of retirement. It is quite a magical time and is as much a beginning or rebirth as a completion. Kanreki literally translates to…

Uniquely Japanese- Komorebi 木漏れ日

I started this blog a long time ago. I have been waiting for the perfect photo for it. Finally, the other morning, I got my photo. When you read the meaning of the word, you will understand why this has taken some time to achieve. “The interplay between light and leaves when sunlight shines through…

Uniquely Japanese- Kuchisabishii 口寂しい

This unique Japanese word may be more relevant at the moment, as we are all spending a lot of time at home and some of us are struggling with lack of social contact and boredom. I was tagged in a kuchisabishii meme by a lovely friend of mine, who is in an apartment in Manhattan,…

Uniquely Japanese- Kodawari こだわり

Google translate translates kodawari as meaning commitment, but this simple translation certainly lacks understanding of the nuance of the word. Kodawari is an uncompromising and relentless pursuit of perfection. In craftsmanship, in skill, in creativity, in the everyday. This is an attribute you can witness in every aspect of life in Japan. One that can…

Uniquely Japanese- Gochisousamadesu ご馳走様です

When people finish eating in Japan they will usually say ご馳走様です(gochisousamadesu) or ご馳走様でした (gochisousamadeshita) as a way of saying thank you for the food. Like itadakimasu, (read about that here) this saying is a way of showing gratitude to all involved in the preparation of your meal. Again, the farmers, fisherman and so forth. The kanji…

Uniquely Japanese- Itadakimasu 頂きます

Anywhere you are in Japan, at any meal, with any person, you will hear them clap their hands together and say itadakimasu 頂きます which translates, roughly, to “I humbly receive” before they begin eating. This is such an ingrained aspect of their culture that you will see people do it even when alone. These days…

Marie Kondo and the “Spark Joy” phenomenon

Alternate Name: Uniquely Japanese- Tokimeku Featured image credit New York Times ときめくor tokimeku is the Japanese word that is translated in English to “sparks joy”. If you are not living under a rock you will surely have seen the Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, that is if you missed her New York Times…

Uniquely Japanese- Kintsugi 金継ぎ or Kintsukuroi 金繕い

One of my favourite uniquely Japanese words is Kintsugi. The first kanji (syllable) means gold, and the direct translation is “gold splicing”… when a piece of pottery gets broken, the Japanese fix it, not trying to make the repair invisible, but by making the repair gold, and very noticeable. The reasoning is that they believe…