Hey, y’all! After a comment requesting definitions of some of the subjects I use in my posts, I thought it would be a good idea to offer a section for novices to learn commonly-used terms. I will update this section frequently to provide you with a miniature, Japanese-culture dictionary. Please send me comments about words I should add. Enjoy!
Eikaiwa = privately-owned, English conversation schools in Japan
The largest eikaiwa are known as the “the Big Four.” “The Big Four” is made up of NOVA, AEON, Global Education Opportunities and Services (GEOS), and Education through Communication for the Community (ECC). Several of the eikaiwa are notorious for managerial problems and the low quality of teacher training.
Chindogu = the onslaught of crazy and normally impractical inventions which are introduced into the Japanese consumer market
Chindogu means “queer tools.” (Yes, chin also means “penis” but that’s not the type of tool I’m referring to here.) Kenji Kawakami is the godfather of chindogu. He created hundreds of unusual products. Plus, he developed the concept of “the unuseless idea.” In his eyes, even the zaniest of inventions can lead to better ideas. Check out his book entitled 101 Unuseless Japanese Inventions: The Art of Chindogu.
Gaijin = slightly negative term for foreigners A.K.A. people who don’t belong
The only instance I have read about regarding gaijin being treated bad was on Danny Choo’s blog. He wrote that while he was apartment searching, several landlords rejected him because he was a foreigner. He even mentioned there being “No gaijin or pets” written on apartment floor plans. Several businesses in Japan cater directly to foreigners with gaijin bars and even gaijin sumo.
Kawaii = the cute twist on a wide range of Japanese products such as clothes, food, toys and even transportation
Cute is power in Japan. That’s why you will see Hello Kitty charm bags at shrines and Pikachu headrests in airplanes. Don’t think only Japanese school girls are the ones who care about what’s cute. The cute concept has completely taken over the country. CREA magazine called kawaii “the most widely used, widely loved, habitual word in modern living Japanese.” All of Japan’s prefectures have cute mascots. The Tokyo police have Pepo-Kun, and the fire department has Kyuta-Kun. I’m not saying the Japanese created cute, but they sure know how to market it.
Keitai culture = the popular usage of technologically-advanced cell phones and their accessories; the social phenomenon among the general population of Japan especially the youth to use mobile phones for texting, emailing, surfing the web, playing games, and watching videos
In Japanese, keitai means “carrying something.” Cell phones are called “keitai denwa.” The introduction of cell phones has dramatically shaped Japanese society as most of the population possesses one. Cell phones in Japan are the most advanced in the world with many coming with built-in digital TVs. To many youth, cell phones are considered fashion accessories and portable toys which is shown by the popularity of individual keitai straps and wireless games. Additional evidence of the wide-spread popularity of wireless phones is the fad of text messaging and the way handsets can scan QR codes in advertisements. It is thought of as rude to make a call on a train so many people text.
Otaku = an obsessive fan of manga, anime or another aspect of Japanese popular culture
This word has evolved a lot in the last two decades. The word originally was just a formal way of referring to someone like “usted” is used in Spanish. It literally means “your house.” It now is known in a sort of derogatory way for geeky anime fans, who normally lack social skills and are considered homebodies since they are always on the computer. Click herefor a video clip of the opening song of Densha Otoko, a TV show supposedly based on the true story about a nerdy otaku who saves a woman on the train from being harassed and consequently ends up dating her.
**All photos were found using search on Flickr**