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…

Uniquely Japanese- Yoshoku 洋食

Yoshoku is Japanese western style cooking. In my experience, every dish that the Japanese adopt and alter ends up being more delicious than the dish they started with. Yoshoku translates literally as “Western style cuisine”, as opposed to Washoku 和食 which translates to Japanese style cuisine. During the Meiji period (1868-1912) after more than 200…

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- 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- Shinrinyoku 森林浴

Shinrinyoku literally means “forest bathing” in Japanese. I live in a magical part of the world, surrounded by lush forest. I live in amongst the National Park and I work on the edge of Sherbrooke Forest. Not a day goes by when I am not grateful for my amazing environment. I walk in the forest….

Uniquely Japanese- Sakoku 鎖国

Featured image credit The final shogun family in Japan was the Tokugawa Shogunate, also called the Bakafu. Under the rule of the Tokugawa, Japan entered into a period of isolation, called the Sakoku Jidai, translating to time of national isolation or exclusion of foreigners. The policy was enacted between 1633-39 by Tokugawa Iemitsu, and relations…

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…

Uniquely Japanese- Yugen 幽玄

Like many Japanese words for which there is no direct translation, yugen is dificult to translate. I just finished reading a very funny thread on reddit asking advice on kanji for a tattoo. The person wanted to tattoo yugen onto his shoulder. A respondent to the thread suggested that unless the person fully understood the…