Let’s Chat – the Japanese Way ^^

Posted on February 27, 2017 | genkijacs

Have you ever caught yourself boasting that you are fluent in a language and then suddenly feeling ashamed when your friends ask you to help them translate what their foreign exchange partner had texted them online? – You are not the only one.

Among all the possible grammar, expressions and vocabulary, internet slang is often the most difficult to understand for non-native speakers as it develops and changes incredibly fast. To some it may seem as though there are new words and expressions every day. Japanese is no exception to that.

Like in many European languages, abbreviations are often used on chatrooms, blogs etc. These abbreviations may be short for English words as well as Japanese ones. Here are a few examples:

→ コピペ – "kopipe" → copy and paste
→ GJ → Good Job
→ うp – uppu → upload
→ おk → OK
→ wwww – equivalent to LOL

Inventing new words on the internet is also just as popular among Japanese people as it is nearly everywhere else. Just have a look at the following examples:

→ ググる – "guguru" → to research something on Google
→ ゆうつべ – "yuutsube" → Youtube
→ カワユス – "kawayusu" → (derived from kawaii) to be cute

However, there is one aspect about Japanese internet slang that will never appear in European languages: Using different kanji to abbreviate the writing progress. This part might be the most troublesome for foreigners since we have a tendency of trying to make out the meaning first before thinking of the bigger picture. Yet, in order to understand these slang words, knowing the reading comes in handy. Would you recognize the following expressions?

→ 今北 (now north???) – "ima kita" → 今来た。 (I just got here.)
→ 裏山C (backside mountain C???) – "urayamashii" → 羨ましい (to envy)

Of course, there is a lot more to learn about internet slang words in Japanese as e.g. the kaomoji that you might have read about in one of our previous entries.

If you really want to master your Japanese friends’ online messages, tweets etc. the best way to learn all of it is to ask either them or another native speaker. (Though even Japanese people might not understand all of the expressions used online.)

Japan Fever!

Posted on February 13, 2017 | genkijacs

As much as this country, its amazing culture and wonderful people always warm our hearts, it can still get very cold in winter. That means illness is likely to spread and we might get sick. (… Please don’t !…) In that case, even as a complete beginner, some “medical phrases” might be helpful to describe your condition. Here are some words/phrases that will get you through 救急 (kyuukyuu = emergency) situations or a visit at the 病院 (byouin = hospital, doctor’s practice):

医者 (isha) Doctor
救急車 (kyuukyuusha) Ambulance
救急車を呼んでください! (kyuukyuusha wo yonde kundesai!) Please call an ambulance!

けが (kega) Injury
気分が悪いです。 (kibun ga warui desu.) I don’t feel well.

頭 (atama) Head
のど (nodo) Throat
おなか (onaka) Stomach
腕 (ude) Arm
足, 脚 (ashi) Foot, leg
肩 (kata) Shoulder
痛い (itai) To be in pain.
頭 / のど/ おなか / 腕 / 足 / 肩 が痛いです。(atama/nodo / onaka/ude/ashi/kata ga itai desu.) My head/ throat/ stomach/ arm/ foot/ shoulder hurts.
ここが痛いです。(koko ga itai desu.) It hurts here.
風邪 (kaze) Cold
インフルエンザ (infuruenza) Flu
風邪 / インフルエンザをひいたようです。(kaze / infuruenza wo hiita you desu.) I think I have a cold/ flu.
熱 (netsu) Fever
熱があります。(netsu ga arimasu.) I have a fever.
咳 (seki) Cough
鼻水 (hanamizu) Mucus
咳 / 鼻水が出ます。(seki / hanamizu ga demasu.) I have a cough. / My nose is running.
下痢 (geri)Diarrhea
下痢をしています。(geri wo shite imasu.) I have diarrhea.
吐く (haku) To vomit
吐きそうです。(hakisou desu.) I feel like vomiting.
食欲 (shokuyoku) Appetite
食欲がありません。 I have no appetite.

アレルギー (arerugi-) Allergy
花粉症 (kafunshou) Hay fever
花粉症です。( kafunshou desu.) I have hay fever.
生理 (seiri) Period
生理です。(seiri desu.) I have my period.

薬 (kusuri) Medicine
風邪薬 (kazegusuri) Cold medicine
胃腸薬 (ichouyaku) Digestive medicine
解熱剤 (genetsuzai) Antipyretic (fever-reducing medicine)
抗菌剤 (koukinzai) Antibiotics
注射 (chuusha) Injection
薬局 (yakkyoku) Pharmacy

Should you ever need an ambulance, call #119. The fire brigade will answer the phone and ask you whether your calling about a 火事 (kaji = fire) or a 救急 (kyuukyuu = emergency). Stay calm and answer 救急 before than describing the your location and the nature of your emergency as detailed as possible. (Maybe ask for help from surrounding native speakers if you feel insecure about your Japanese.) An ambulance will be on its way.

健康保険 (kenkou hoken) Health Insurance

Furthermore, please make sure, you are health insured while you’re staying in Japan! You can either join an international health insurance in your own country, get travel insurance through GenkiJACS, or (highly required for long-term stays) enter the National Health Insurance system. If you are uninsured many illnesses and wounds will not be treated.

English Origin?

Posted on January 30, 2017 | genkijacs

When learning a new language, there is happily always some vocabulary incorporated that we already know from other languages. Japanese offers a lot of terms that derived from the English language. However, as a non-native English speaker, you should beware unless you want British or American people making funny expressions when you talk to them. Some Japanese expressions that appear to be English may in fact just be modern Japanese. Here are some examples:

→ キーホルダー (ki-ho-ruda; key holder): key ring, key chain
→ ベビーカー (bebi-ka; baby car): stroller
→ ポテトフライ (poteto furai; potato fry): french fries (US), chips (UK)
→ ジェットコースター (jetto ko-suta-; jet coaster): roller coaster
→ カージャック (ka-jakku: car-jacking): hijacking a car

The Legendary Turtle Shell – How Kanji Came to Life

Posted on January 23, 2017 | genkijacs

Whoever studies the Japanese language will eventually come across the complex writing system based on the Chinese characters called Kanji. Memorizing them is probably the hardest part when studying Japanese. However, it can also be quite interesting learning about their origin and their development.

There are several theories about how they first came to life. One of them is particularly interesting:

It all began around 4,000 years ago somewhere in China. Back then, people had a lot of questions; Questions that only the heavens could answer. For only the heavens had the power of divination and could foresee whether it was going to rain or if a big disaster lay ahead. So the people sacrificed animals and offered them their bones along with turtle shells. When burned, these shells formed cracks illustrating the heavens’ forecast. Comparing the cracks to real-life things, the people could analyze them and understand the heavens’ messages.
After a while, the people realized that they had discovered a good way to communicate with the heavens and soon receiving messages was not enough for them anymore. So they replicated the cracks and wrote them on unburned turtle shells asking for things they needed.
Many years later, during the Zhou dynasty, these turtle shells were found and then became the foundation of a new writing system in China.

Of course, this was only the beginning. Chinese scribes added a lot of characters or made up new ones when they did not know the original meaning. Moreover, the characters changed over time, simplifying the writing but solidifying their meaning.
By the way, it wasn’t until 500 AD that Kanji came to Japan. Until then, Japanese had not had its own writing system. In other terms, it had been a pure spoken language before that.

Should you want to learn more about Kanji history, here are some sources that you might find interesting:

Japanese “Cat-phrases”

Posted on January 16, 2017 | genkijacs

Every language has sayings in which animals play an important role. However, in Japanese, the cat appears particularly often. Here are some “cat-phrases” that will make you smile. (Unless, of course, you are allergic to these cute pets.)

Do you know the feeling of impatiently waiting for your nice hot coffee to cool down because your tongue will get burned if you don’t? Then you may have a 猫舌 (neko jita) a cat’s tongue. This means you cannot drink or eat if you’re meal is too hot.

Maybe, you drink it anyway and spill the hot coffee all over the table in pain. If you don’t want anyone to find out it was you, you might want to look as innocent as possible and 猫を被る(neko wo kaburu), dress up as a cat. This term is more than fitting, don’t you agree? Let’s be honest. Cats look cute but they sure aren’t completely innocent .

The next phrase emphasizes this fact. 猫に鰹節 (neko ni katsuobushi). Just imagine putting some delicious fish-shaped flakes directly next to a cat. You will have to pay great attention. Otherwise, you will find yourself in an incredible mess. That is exactly what this phrase intends to describe: a situation where you mustn’t lose focus.

However, if you did lose focus, you will need a lot of help cleaning up the mess. You will be so busy you would even 猫の手も借りたい (neko no te mo karitai), want to borrow a cat’s paw.

Still, you might then find yourself with 猫の子一匹いない(neko no ko ippiki inai), not even one kitten there.

The Japanese language is full of cat-related expressions. If you like these cute little animals, do some research and thereby safe your day.
By the way, did you know that Japanese cats do not say “meow” but “にゃん” (“nyan”)?

早言葉(はやことば) Tongue Twisters

Posted on January 09, 2017 | genkijacs

They do exist in the Japanese language as well: the loved and feared tongue twisters. They help us make a fool of ourselves but that is exactly why it is fun to try.
Japanese has a grand variety of these 早言葉(はやことば). Some are more difficult than others. Here are some examples. Practice them and impress your Japanese friends.

→ 李も桃も桃のうち。(すもももももももものうち。) "sumomo mo momo mo momo no uchi" (that's a record 8 "momo"s in a row!)
It means: Both plums and peaches belong to the peach family.

→ 隣の客はよく柿食う客だ。(となりのきゃくはよくかきくうきゃくだ。) "tonari no kyaku wa yoku kaki kuu kyaku da"
The customer next to me is a customer who often eats khaki.

→ 二羽の庭には二羽鶏にワニを食べた。(にわのにわにはにわにわとりにワニをたべた。) "niwa no niwa ni wa niwatori ni wani o tabeta"
In (Mr.) Niwa’s garden, two chickens ate a crocodile.

→ 赤巻紙、黄巻紙、青巻紙(あかまきがみ、きまきがみ、あおまきがみ) "akamakigami, kimakigami, aomakigaki"
Red scroll, yellow scroll, blue scroll.

Shiritori (しりとり)

Posted on December 19, 2016 | genkijacs

This game is a fun way of memorizing vocabulary. Shiritori means “taking the end”, which is exactly what this fun Japanese word game is about. The players take turns saying words that start with the last kana character of the previous one. Of course, there are similar games in other languages but the challenge becomes even greater when played with kana instead of letters.

Why don’t you go ahead and try this game with your friends? These are the basic rules:

1. Of course, the word has to start with the previous word’s last syllable.
2. A word can only be used once.
3. If the word ends in ん, the next player loses.
4. If a word’s last kana has a “long sound” (chuon), there are three different possibilities. (ex.: きょうとう):
4.I. Use the chuon as a vowel. (In the example, オcould be used as the beginning of the following word; e.g.オレンジ.)
4.II. Ignore the chuon. (In the example, the next word could begin with ト; e.g. トマト. )
4.III. Let the next word begin with a chuon. (e.g. とうきょう)

Gesshuku Ishiyama mother passed away

Posted on December 14, 2016 | evankirby

Sachiko Ishiyama funeral

At GenkiJACS, we offer a few different types of dormitories for our students. One of those is the 月宿 (gesshuku), which is like the owner’s house opened up into a dorm. Two of the gesshuku we offer in Fukuoka are 月宿朋 (Gesshuku Tomo) and 月宿石山 (Gesshuku Ishiyama). A lot of our students, in particular under-20 students, stay at these two dorms.
Traditionally, university and high school students often stay in gesshuku, and the owner, called 月宿のおばさん (Gesshuku no obasan) cooks and cleans for the students, and helps them with their problems. She acts as a kind of second mother for the students in her care.
On Sunday the 11th of December, the Obasan of Gesshuku Ishiyama, Sachiko Ishiyama, passed away suddenly from a brain hemorrhage. She was still young, and had seemed healthy just shortly before she was found in her room. It was a very sudden, surprising and sad event for everyone.
When we talked to her, she often said “I always worry whether we can take good enough care of students in our small dorm. It makes us very happy and proud when GenkiJACS students say 「おばさん、楽しかった!」(I had fun, Obasan!) as they leave.” She was a warm-hearted and lovely person. Our accommodation coordinator Aya says that seeing how Ms. Ishiyama felt about her job made Aya feel more proud of her own job too.
The Gesshuku is run by the whole family, including Ms. Ishiyama’s husband, son and daughter. They would arrange many events for our students, including taking them on day trips, BBQs, and others. The living room of the dorm was covered in photos of former students, and they loved to talk about what students are doing now. Gesshuku Ishiyama was exemplified by the care they gave to each student.
We used Gesshuku Ishiyama for younger students specifically because of the great care they gave to each student. Younger students who came with their parents to see the dorm first would often say, after eating dinner with the Ishiyamas, that this is where they wanted their child to live. Even with only limited communication in English, the essential goodness of Ms Ishiyama was easy to see.
At GenkiJACS too, we feel that we have lost an important and special person. The staff and teachers here know that accommodation is almost as important as the school for our students, and that our school is only a success because of the support of people like Ms. Ishiyama. We learn from her about Japanese hospitality.
Ms. Ishiyama, thank you for taking in so many of our students over the years, and for taking such good care of them. Now is your turn to rest. The thoughts of all of us at GenkiJACS are with you and your family.

GenkiJACS Staff representative, Yuuki Yamazaki

We Have a Winner

Posted on December 12, 2016 | genkijacs

This year`s winning 流行語 (りゅうこうご) have been announced on December 1st. And 2016’s “word of the year” is …


This phrase is based on the Japanese word 神(かみ)(=god), which has been turned into a verb describing the receipt of the gods’ spirit. It characterizes miraculous or rather superhuman behavior.
This year, the phrase suddenly gained popularity after it had been used by the manager of the Hiroshima Toyo Carps, referring to his baseball team’s performance in June. One of the players, Seiya Suzuki, had shown “god-like” skills during Central League Championship. According to the manager, he had picked up this phrase from his children.

Apart from 「神ってる」, the following other 流行語 have made it to the TOP 10:

→ 「ゲス不倫」(ゲスフリン)(= “Gesu Affair”)
→ 「聖地純利」(せいちじゅんり)(=”Pilgrimage”)
→ 「トランプ現象」(トランプげんしょう)(=”the Trump Issue”)
→ 「PPAP」
→ 「保育園落ちた日本死ね」(ほいくえんおちたにほんしね)(=”day care failed, Japan die”)
→ 「(僕の)アモーレ」((ぼくの)あもーれ)(=”my amore”)
→ 「ポケモンGO」(=”Pokemon GO”)
→ 「マイナス金利」(マイナスきんり)(=”negative interest”)
→ 「盛り土」(もりど)(=”raising the ground level”)

With the announcement of the top buzzwords, the year is about to end. So enjoy the celebrations and forget all the past year worries. However, more than anything, don’t be sad that awaiting 2016 流行後 is over now (though we would totally understand if you were). 2017 might hold even more exciting new buzzwords.

Kaomoji – Let us know what you feel

Posted on December 05, 2016 | genkijacs

A language does not only consist of grammar and words. Particularly in social media, an emoticon can say more than 1,000 words. In Japan, young people have gone to great effort inventing thousands of cute "kaomojis" (literally "face letters") over time. For foreigners, they are not always easy to recognize. However, once your eyes are trained to see the art behind the strokes and signs, it is very easy to tell your opponent’s feelings.
Here are a few examples:

(۶ૈ ᵒ̌ Дᵒ̌)۶ૈ=͟͟͞͞

( ง ᵒ̌皿ᵒ̌)ง⁼³₌₃

These ones are really angry. Can you see how they are raising their fists? The first one is even throwing things at you. Maybe it is time to apologize?


This poor fellow has a guilty conscience. He is bowing to the ground feeling ashamed. The English letter “m” represents a hand lying on the ground.

⊹⋛⋋( ՞ਊ ՞)⋌⋚⊹

Birds are very popular among the Kaomojis. Can you see the little wings going up and down in pure joy?


This one is excited about something, don’t you think?

໒( ♥ ◡ ♥ )७

Can’t you feel his love?


Oh no! You made the emoticon feel sad and now he is crying.

ヾ( ๑´д`๑)ツ

This one is fleeing in fear.

There is great variety of all kinds of kaomoji emoticons representing many different emotions but also animals or actions. As you can see, they are more than just simple emojis, they are small pieces of art.
If you want to know more, you can find a collection of all sorts of emoticons on: japaneseemoticons.me/