Top 10 Buzzwords of 2011 in Japan: 1

Publisher Jiyu Kokuminsha just released the year’s top 10 buzzwords. Selected by a panel of judges, they encapsulate the major trends throughout 2011. You can view the full list of 60 that were candidates here on and read more about the top 10 below. Naturally, as a Japanese lesson!

Here’s part one then, terms 1-5 from the list of the top 10 buzzwords and the explanations from the publisher. Note though that only the winner (Nadeshiko Japan) has a number. The rest of the terms were not ordered. I’ve provided some background information to the terms, but have not translated the brief explanations in Japanese. Good luck!



Nadeshiko Japan


The interesting part to note here is the word なでしこ which means ‘pink carnation’ (a flower). It comes from the word Yamato Nadeshiko (大和撫子) – Yamato being an ancient word for Japan, and Nadeshiko the flower. It represents the ideal Japanese woman – one with traditional manners and grace. Think of the typical ‘Japanese’ girl you see wearing a kimono, being shy, humble and polite and you’re pretty close. The term ‘Nadeshiko Japan’ then is a nickname for the Japanese women’s football team which one the Fifa World Cup this year and helped bring back some happiness following the Great East Japan Earthquake.




絆 is the word representing ‘human bonds’, alluding to cooperation, support and empathy towards fellow human beings. It can also represent the emotional ties between people (especially in relationships).





スマホ is an abbreviation of スマートフォーン and is in the top 10 list of buzzwords this years because of the surge in popularity of smartphones, particularly Apple’s iPhone and Google Android devices. Interesting term on the end is 占める – to take over or capture. In this case, since we’re talking about smartphones and lots of sales, we’re referring to capturing a part of the market – in this case, over half the mobile phones sold over summer were smartphones!


どじょう ないかく

Loach Cabinet

8月29日の民主党代表選で、野田佳彦候補が相田みつをの詩「どじょうがさ 金魚のまねすることねんだよなあ」を引用、地味だが実直な政治を目指すことをアピールして当選した。メディアはこの演説を「どじょう演説」と呼び、野田内閣のことも「どじょう内閣」と呼ぶようになった。

どじょう is the word for loach – a bottom-feeding fish. 内閣 is the word for the Cabinet – the top-ranked members of the government, closest to the Prime Minister. The term became popular after new DPJ Prime Minister Noda cited his favourite poem by Mitsuo Aida, “A loach does not have to emulate a goldfish.” His politics will not be glamourous like a goldfish, but more like a loach – maintaining a low-profile and working hard to move politics forward for the people.



Stuck-up Face


This one has long been used by comedians in Kansai. The どや comes from どうだ? when one has done something impressive. A rough translation might be ‘how about that, eh?’ with the feeling of ‘aren’t I great?’. As such, the term どや顔 refers to the facial expression one makes when boasting about something or looking pleased with oneself.

Done with those? Head on to part 2 then!


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