A better, more Genki school

Posted on June 20, 2017 | genkijacs

One of the very special things about GenkiJACS compared to other Japanese schools is that we're always actively improving. This month alone, we've added projectors and a digital teaching system to all our Fukuoka classrooms, added a reading library in our Fukuoka lounge, and replaced most of the desks and chairs with much more comfortable ones.

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But today we want to highlight another special thing we do: bringing in guest teachers for special lessons. Since we began offering long-term student visa courses a couple of years ago, we've tried to bring in guest teachers every so often, to give students a bit of extra excitement. In recent weeks, we've had special lessons from some very exciting people:

1. A former sumo wrestler!
Mr. Takahashi Keiji (高橋圭二) came to school to talk about his former life as a sumo wrestler, how he got into the sport, his training regimen, and how eventually he got out. He has since been running a restaurant in Fukuoka called Hakata Tomoki 博多とも喜 (はかたともき). Mr Takahashi also treated our students to Chanko-Nabe (ちゃんこ鍋), the main dish of sumo wrestlers!

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2. A famous TV chef!

Ms. Mako Araki, who appears regularly on the NHK show "はっけんTV", and on RKB's "たべごころ", taught our students how to make some of the most basic and most important of Japan foods, including miso soup and onigiri. After all the cooking was done, our students had a chance to ask her about her journey to becoming a master chef. Ever since she was little, she has been striving to create beautiful and delicious dishes, and the students witnessed her passion for the craft of cooking first-hand! Fun fact: Mako-San`s favourite dish is Tamagoyaki 卵焼き(たまごやき).

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3. The former president of JR Kyushu!
That's right, in a couple of weeks, Mr. Ishii (石井), the former head of JR Kyushu, one of the main train companies of Japan, will visit the school to tell students all about his former job, and about the business world in Japan. It should be extremely informative! We will make sure to update you as soon as we can!

These lessons are an incredibly rare opportunity for our students to meet Japanese people from very different walks of life, learn using real Japanese, and hear about experiences they otherwise might never come across. It's just one more way that Genki Japanese School is different from and, dare we say it, better than most other schools!

Martial arts series 3 - karate

Posted on June 12, 2017 | genkijacs

空手 (からて)空手 or 空手道 (からてど)means the Way of the Empty Hand. It is named that way because traditionally no 空手家 (からてか)or Karate practitioner would use weapons to fight. Another reason for it to be named so is the fact that it was originally written 唐手(からて)or the hand of the Tang Dynasty of China and due to Japan's history this had to be changed.

The art from itself originated in (沖縄)Okinawa in the early stages of its development, which arguably can be traced back all the way to 1300s. But unsurprisingly, it is incredibly difficult find out the real origin of the art form in this era. The reason why there is no real use of weapons in Okinawan 空手, according to the popular belief, is that after the ban on weapons in the 1600s, people were encouraged to learn how defend themselves using just their hands as a weapon.

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There were three distinct styles of 空手and they are believed to have originated from 首里手(しゅりて), 那覇手(なはて)、and 泊手(とまりて)。The styles were named after the cities they were mostly practiced at.

At the turn of 20th century 空手 was allowed to be introduced to public schools in Okinawa. One school that adopted the practise early on in 1902 is 糸洲安恒 (いとすあんこう) school.

船越義珍(ふなこしぎちん), one of Itosu's students, further expanded the art form to the rest of Japan. He is also credited to changing the older name of 唐手 into 空手 as we know it today in order for it to be accepted into the 大日本武徳会(だいにっぽんぶとくかい)or Japanese Martial Arts Association, which was introduced in one of the previous blog posts. These and many other changes have lead 空手 to become accepted as a traditional 武道 (ぶどう)or Martial Art by the Japanese.

Practice

Different styles of 空手 all have various 基本 (きほん)or foundation movements and 型 (かた)which is, like in many martial arts, a set of movements codifying them into a pattern. It is supposed to simulate a defensive and offensive situation. There is also a sparring part of 空手 between two practitioners called 組手(くみて)and it can be seen during a normal practice as well as during competitions.

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Belt System

There are slight variations of belt systems in 空手 but generally if you are beginner, you are expected to wear a while belt or 帯 (おび). As you progress through the ranks you will attain: Red, Yellow, Orange, Blue/Green. Purple, Brown and finally Black. One thing to note is that Black belt has a number of so called 段 (だん)grades that are there to mark the skill of a 空手家 as they progress further.

空手 Now

These days 空手 is practiced as a sport and a martial art all over the world and is even recognised by the Olympic Committee. There are many 空手 organisations and discussing them in detail goes beyond anything that we can realistically discuss on this blog. Millions of people are practicing one or another style of 空手 throughout the world.

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If you are interested in discovering more for yourself, please do check some of the links below. Some of the information was taken from these pages and they are worth a read.

http://www.historyoffighting.com/karate.php
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karate
https://www.wkf.net/
http://jka.or.jp/en/

Vocabulary Covered (Excluding Cities and Names):
空手 (からて)→ Karate, Empty Hand
空手家 (からてか)→ Karate Practitioner
唐手(からて)→ Karate`s Old Name. Meaning the Hand of Tang Dynasty
基本 (きほん)→ Basics, Fundamental Movements
型 (かた)→ Practiced Movement Patterns
組手(くみて)→ Sparring
帯 (おび)→ Obi or a Belt
段 (だん)→ Dan grades will follow after a practitioner attained Black Belt Level.


Martial arts series 2 - archery

Posted on June 05, 2017 | genkijacs

Continuing our series of martial arts, today we will be briefly introducing the subtle and relatively calm art of Japanese archery or 弓道(きゅうどう, "kyuudou"), which literally means the way of the bow. Much like the previously discussed 剣道(けんどう), this particular art form came from the warrior culture of Japan.

※Disclaimer: we do not claim to be experts at any of the martial arts we will be exploring on this blog. This information is to be taken as a guide only.

A bit of history

The bow has been in use in Japan for millennia, with some mentions of this particular tool dating back more than two thousand years. With this it can only be expected that this particular weapon was used in warfare. The bow that the warriors were using was and is called 弓(ゆみ, "yumi").

During the warring period in Japan, the art of the bow or 弓術 (きゅうじゅつ, "kyuujutsu") became a very important part of Samurai training, using 弓 especially while on a horseback. Much like during any time of any conflict, constant warfare during the warring states in Japan, 弓 and 弓術 saw a rapid development, and at that time numerous schools of archery were established.

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As to be expected, when the Portuguese brought matchlock rifles to Japan, the decline of the 弓 began and eventually the newly developed Japanese-style rifles were used in most conflicts in Japan and the bow became obsolete. However during the Edo period when the Tokugawa Shogunate held the power over Japan, the all-out warfare was practically stopped. At this point the Bushi 武士(ぶし) or the warrior class, otherwise referred to as 侍(さむらい), found themselves to be holding more administrative roles in the government and consequently fighting less and less. As a result the practice of archery came to hold more of a ritualistic meaning, slowly integrating the ideas of Zen Buddhism where the inner world of the practitioner was sometimes considered more important than the fact that arrow might not hit the target. Though the views on this differ from school to school.

The development of 弓道 continued uninterrupted until another big step in Japanese history: the Meiji Restoration/Revolution 明治維新(めいじいしん) when the samurai class was banned and as such the number of Martial Arts 武道(ぶどう) practitioners fell significantly. Though according to the International Kyudo Federation, after the establishment of 大日本武徳会 (だいにっぽんぶとくかい)or Greater Japan Martial Virtue Society the practice of 弓道 was encouraged along with other 武道 styles up until the end of WW2.

But shortly after the WW2 the practice of 弓道 was revived and even became a regular extracurricular activity in Japanese schools, alongside with other forms of marital arts.

This brings us to now.

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Practice and Equipment

The principals of modern 弓道 are well established and codified and the same can be said about the equipment that is used in the practice.

The bow 弓 (ゆみ)stands way taller than the person wielding it, which makes it one of the longest bows in the world. It is traditionally made out bamboo and requires a lot of maintenance work. Obviously these days the 弓 can be made out of alternative materials. One remarkable thing about using the Japanese bow, is that unlike it`s counterparts from all over the world, the use of the Japanese bow is asymmetrical which means that the arrow is not placed in the middle of the shaft before release, but rather around 1/3 up the shaft from the bottom nock.

The arrow 矢(や). Also traditionally made of bamboo and requires a lot of maintenance work. It is very similar to arrows that most you have seen before.

The glove 弓掛 (ゆがけ). As expected this particular glove is worn by the practitioner in order to make the drawing of the bow string or 弦 (つる)easier and less stressful for the hand of the archer. The gloves are made of tanned hide and held together by glue and stitching. There are three different types of 弓掛: 三掛(みつがけ)、四掛(よつがけ)and 諸掛(もろがけ). These roughly mean three, four and five finger gloves though there are other variations to choose from.

Traditionally, while practicing 弓道 practitioners tend to wear 弓道着 (きゅどうぎ)a white top and black wide trousers called 稽古着 (けいこぎ)and 袴 (はかま)respectively. However, on more formal occasions, they tend to wear 和服 (わふく)a more formal style of traditional Japanese clothing.

Competition 大会

Competitions in 弓道 are very formal and involve a lot of rules regarding etiquette 礼儀 (れいぎ)very similar to the practice of this martial art. However, unlike the everyday practice goals, where the practitioner is not necessarily hitting the target, but rather working towards achieving the state of oneness with the arrow and the bow. During the competition it is the fact that they hit the target that counts, very similar to archery competitions around the world.

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Words Used in this Article

弓道 (きゅうどう)→Japanese archery
弓(ゆみ.)→Bow
矢(や)→Arrow
弦 (つる)→Bow String
弓掛 (ゆがけ)→The Glove
弓術 (きゅうじゅつ)→The art of the Bow
江戸時代(えどじだい)→Edo Period
徳川時代(とくがわじだい)→Tokugawa Shogunate
武士(ぶし)→Bushi (warrior)
侍(さむらい)→Samurai
明治維新(めいじいしん)→Meiji Restoration/Revolution
武道(ぶどう)→Martial Arts
大日本武徳会(だいにっぽんとくかい)→Organization to promote martial arts.
弓道着 (きゅどうぎ)→Clothing worn during Kyudo practice
稽古着 (けいこぎ)→Practice Clothing
袴 (はかま) →Wide Trousers
和服 (わふく)→Traditional Japanese clothing

For more information check the International Kyudo Federation Web page

Martial arts series 1 - kendo

Posted on May 29, 2017 | genkijacs

Today marks the beginning of GenkiJACS' own martial arts series. Here we will be introducing some of the more famous martial arts that originated in Japan or, at least, the ones that have been practiced here for long enough to become a staple in this country. We will also look into some of the lesser-known ones as they may also be of interest to some of you.

※Disclaimer: we do not claim to be experts at any of the martial arts we will be exploring on this blog. This information is to be taken as a guide only.

We have decided to start with one of the more popular and quintessentially Japanese martial arts (known as "武道" - ぶどう) - Kendo (剣道) which roughly translates into The Way (道) of the Sword (剣).

History

Kendo originated from an older form of sword fighting that was collectively called Kenjutsu (剣術), which means the Art of the Blade. Now, one thing needs to be said: There was no one particular school of fencing in Japan. Rather, there were many schools that taught their own particular way of wielding a sword. Most of the schools were established during the Muromachi Era (室町時代) (1333-1573) as it was one of the more violent periods in Japanese history, and the refinement of fighting styles happened mostly on the actual battlefield. The more effective the style, the more likely it was to be passed, much like the idea of the survival of the fittest.

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Further, during the Edo Period (江戸時代) (1603-1867) the idea of the warrior being more than just a skilled fighter was being developed. That is where the idea of Bushido (武士道) or the Way of the Warrior was born. It is a philosophy that considers the warrior to lead their life in pursuit of service to their master, perfecting of the art of fighting, and most importantly, the art of dying.

As the time moved on, protective practice armor and a bamboo sword were developed, which resulted in a less dangerous way of training. Throughout the years more developments and improvements were made to make practice a little safer.

After Meiji Revolution or Restoration (明治維新) (1968), depending on which side of history you choose to see the world from, the Samurai class was banned and the Bushi's signature long- and short swords (Katana, 刀 and Wakizashi 脇差) were also prohibited, but unsurprisingly the philosophy and practice of 剣術 and 武士道 survived the change.

Ah, the tumultuous 20th century. Here the standardization of the different techniques started happening and we can see a more codified and formal version of Kendo being born. Even with the temporary ban after WWII, Kendo is still practiced by millions of people. Maybe you are one of them?

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How to Kendo

There are a few general striking points:

Top or sides of the head → Men (面)
Wrists/Forearms → Kote (篭手)
Sides of the body → Do(胴)
Thrust to the Throat → Tsuki(突き)
Thrust to the Chest → MuneTsuki(胸突き) Not really used in competitions.

During the competition, two Kendo Practitioners or Kendoka (剣道家) enter the Shiai Jo (試合場) and fence until one of them scores either two points, or wins by Hansoku (反則) or foul play.

That is pretty much it, for more information, please check out numerous resources around the world wide web, but we hope that this little introduction gave you a little taste of what Kendo is like today.

Vocabulary used:
剣道 → Kendo, Way of the Sword
武道 → Budo, Martial Arts
武士道 → Bushido, Way of the Warrior
剣道家 → Kendoka, Person Practicing Kendo
試合場 → Shiajo, Place where competitions take place.
剣術 → Kenjutsu, Art of the Sword
室町時代 → Muromachi Jidai, Muromachi Era
江戸時代 → Edo Jidai, Edo Period
明治維新 → Meiji Ishin, Meiji Restoration/Revolution
刀 → Katana (Need we translate?)
脇差 → Wakizashi, Short sword
面 → Men, Mask
篭手 → Kore, Wrists, Gauntlets
胴 → Do, Body armour
突き → Tsuki, Throat Thrust
胸突き → Mune Tsuki, Thurst to the chest

Please stay tuned for more information about martial arts from this side of the world. We hope that it sparked your interest in Japan and it's many art forms.

Fathers on Wheels

Posted on May 15, 2017 | genkijacs

Ever heard someone mention a "papa-chari" (often followed by a mildly-derisive giggle?)

The term パパチャリ is derived from the combo-word ママチャリ (mama-chari). This particular term refers to the bicycles ridden by primarily mothers with their children sitting in a special child-friendly seat at the back of the bike. These modes of transport tend to be tailored to traditional feminine tastes. They are so widespread that there are bike dealerships that sell exclusively these types of bicycles.

パパチャリ or papa-chari is nothing really mysterious at all, but rather something of a trend that has recently started gaining popularity. To understand what it actually relates to, we first need to see where the word actually comes from.

パパ (Papa) Is pretty self-explanatory. (But just to make sure, it means father.)
チャリ (Chari) Is slightly less clear in its origins. There are a bunch of related words that may have given us this word. It could have derived from the word Chariot (チャリオット) and our further research online produced another interesting result: some evidence suggests it might originated from the word "チャリンコ" (charinko), which is another word for bicycle that originated around the sound of a bicycle bell ("charin"). (In ye olden times, "charinko" was also what you would call a child pick-pocket (a la Oliver Twist), but we don't think this would go over too well with modern mamas).

Now that is the true origin of パパチャリ - basically a ママチャリ converted to appeal to traditionally masculine tastes. (Because of course, no パパ would be caught dead riding a traditional ママチャリ. Gotta look out for that frail masculinity!)

There are also other types of so-called "チャリ":
ババチャリ ("babachari") – Granny Bike.
ジジチャリ ("jijichari") - Grandad Bike.

With this trend, we wouldn't be surprised if we start seeing other types of チャリ in the near future.

How about a 寿司チャリ (sushi chari)?

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Or maybe an 愛犬チャリ (aiken chari/puppy bike)?

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Exciting Literature

Posted on April 03, 2017 | genkijacs

What could possibly be more exciting than Japan or Literature? Exactly! The two of them combined together. This is why we would like to present to you five popular and interesting novels of Japanese origin. Each one of them gives great insight in Japanese culture and history. And, if you even want to undergo the challenge and read them in Japanese, your language skills will improve, too.

1. 源氏物語 (Genji Monogatari)
The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu is sometimes considered the world’s first novel or rather the world’s first classic novel. It tells the story of Hikaru Genji’s life who was born as son to the Emperor Kibitsubo. Following Genji’s family dramas, love affairs and political rise and falls, the reader learns a lot about high-society culture during the Heian period.
Since the author is a woman and also addresses a female audience, the book is mostly written in kana as was custom for women during that period. Still, because of its complex and old grammar and vocabulary, it is extremely difficult to read even for native speakers. (It may be comparable to reading ‘original-language Shakespeare’.) Luckily, there are translations into “modern” Japanese. (And English of course.)

2. 枕草子 (Makura Soshi)
The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon was written around the same time as The Tale of Genji and reflects observations made in the Imperial court during the Heian period. It is basically a collection of thoughts and descriptions represented in poetry. While it is mostly a personal work and therefore does not address a specific audience, it is an important and interesting work of literature due to the author’s poetic writing skills. Yet again, it might be extremely difficult to read in Japanese considering its ancient language. If you want to try so nevertheless, we recommend you have an English version to side-read.

3. 吾輩は猫である (Wahagai wa neko de aru)
I Am a Cat was written Natsume Soseki in the early 20th century during the Meiji period.
It is common knowledge that Japanese people like cats. They adore them. This work even tops this impression as its narrator is… a cat; a supercilious, arrogant pet, who throughout various short stories or “chapters” describes the lives of middle-class Japanese people. These are basically its owner, Kushami Sensei (eng.: Mr. Sneeze) and his family friends.
The novel became known for its hilarious satiric humor and is still considered a classic.

4. 雪国 (Yukiguni)
Snow Country by Kawabata Yasunari follows the love affair between Shimamura, a wealthy loner from Tokyo, and Komako, a hot-spring geisha living in the province. As pointed out throughout the novel, the geishas in provincial hot springs did not enjoy the same high-regarded status as their artistically well-trained colleagues in Kyoto or Tokyo.
Published between 1935 and 1937, the novel focuses not only on the love story itself but also on the exterior factors that led to its outcome. It thereby gives great insight into Japanese culture and provincial society during that time.

5. 1Q84
1Q84 by Murakami Haruki is a series of books with the first one being published in 2009. The title references to George Orwell’s 1984, as the letter Q plays with the Japanese pronunciation of the digit 9.
In the book, the two protagonists Aomame and Tengo find themselves in an alternative reality called “1Q84”. The two enter this mysterious reality separately but are gradually drawn towards each other during their journey towards this “other” 1984; a world that is terrorized and about to be taken over by an evil supernatural force.
The novel is said to be both surreal and exciting just as well as shocking, while some consider it Murakami’s magnum opus. It may be fiction but yet analyzes and depicts Japanese contemporary culture.

Did we get you interested? Go ahead and let these fantastic books transport you to a completely different time or culture.
However, should you decide to read any of these in Japanese, don’t get frustrated if you don’t understand everything at once. Always keep in mind that reading is considered the most difficult skill when it comes to Japanese.

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

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?


m(._.)m


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?


o(〃^▽^〃)o


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


໒( ♥ ◡ ♥ )७


Can’t you feel his love?

。゚(*´□`)゚。


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/

流行語2016 – More Possible Words

Posted on November 21, 2016 | genkijacs

Here are some more possible 流行語(りゅうこうご) that are likely to be among the 2016 nominees:

→ 野球賭博(とばくやきゅう) (Baseball Betting)
In Japan, betting on a sports team is illegal. Still, it is becoming more and more popular throughout the country. The number of people charged with betting on baseball teams has reached record highs this year.

→ SMAP 解散(かいさん) (SMAP break-up)
In January this year, the famous boy band SMAP announced their break-up. As they did not only have fans within the country but abroad as well, this soon became one of the most discussed issues on television.

→ トランプ旋風(つむじかぜ) (Trump whirlwind)
This term describes the harsh expressions and radical performance of the American presidential candidate Donald Trump and the fierce “election war” he is leading against Hilary Clinton. As the outcome of this election will have great influence on the whole world, even Japanese people are impatiently awaiting November 8th.

→ パーフェクト・ヒューマン (Perfect Human)
During one of his jokes on Oriental Radio (オリエンタルラジオ), the comedian Atsuhiko Nakada used the phrase “I’m a perfect human”. This phrase soon became famous via YouTube.

流行語2016 –Changing World, Changing Word

Posted on November 15, 2016 | genkijacs

While the release of this year’s nominees for the top 流行語(りゅうこうご) is coming closer, let us give you some insight about the “history of 流行語” itself.

In 1984, the publishing house 自由国民社(みんしゃじゆうこく) announced the 新語(しんご)・流行語大賞(たいしょうりゅうこうご) (“New word and Buzzword winners”). Since then a ceremony is held annually awarding the year’s top 流行語.

At that time, the 流行語 were mostly originated in recent news or television and radio programs such as the word “オシンドローム” from the TV series and novel “おしん”. Throughout time, the variety of public media has changed.

Today, ads like Line or other online services like YouTube are an equally common source. For example, the popular smartphone game “ポケモンGO” is one of the possible nominees for 2016.