15 Japanese Buzzwords of 2017 (2017の流行語)


Just as Oxford or Collins update their respective dictionaries with additions of the year’s trendy words or phrases, Japan too has its own set of annual 流行語 or buzzwords. These are fashionable slogans or terms which have become popular in their own right, usually with an infamous backstory to explain their sudden claim to fame. We have included the following list of 15 of 2017’s most notorious Japanese references below:

1. 〇〇ファースト (ふぁーすと or Faasuto) – Probably the most well known and repeated phrase from both Trump’s political campaign and Presidency is ‘America First’. Even for non-Americans, it would have been difficult to dodge the hype, and alas that nationalistic tone has found its influence over in Tokyo too. The Tokyo Governor Ms Yuriko Koike has also embraced the phrase, naturally for her own agenda, using ‘Tomin Faasuto’ (Tokyo citizens come first), to build up her local support.

The phrase itself, however, is very versatile, lending itself to other variations such as ‘レイディズファースト’ (Ladies First) used to describe gentlemen or general rules of respect.

2. インスタ映え (いんすたばえ or Insutabae) – Referring specifically to the Social Network addicts of Instagram, who will go to the nth degree to ensure their precious photo will be remembered for the rest of time. Of course, i exaggerate, but these people are motivated by ensuring their mobile work of art is as aesthetic as possible, through a choice of filters, and even colour settings, like hue, contrast, saturation levels and more. Maybe you know a person or 3 like this …

3. うんこ漢字ドリル (うんこかんじどりる or Unko Kanji Doriru) – These contemporary, yet highly enjoyable exercises for elementary students introduce various kinds of Kanji (Chinese Characters) via references to ‘うんこ’ (poo) in example sentences or phrases.  The attempt to match the syllabus with this particular demographic through toilet humour, they are trying to make the exercises more engaging. And if popularity is any indicator, apparently it has been successful in its endeavour to educate children in one of the Japanese writing systems.

4. 共謀罪 (きょうぼうざい or Kyoubouzai) – Literally translated into English it means ‘conspiracy’, but in the context of 2017, it relates to a recent change in regulations granting additional powers to police in relation to terrorist plots and activity. The latest change gives police the ability to detain (and potentially arrest) an individual or group of people, even if they are only planning a terror attack, without actually following through with their intentions.

5. Ginza Six – The newly constructed and glitzy mall situated in the fashionable shopping district in Ginza, Tokyo. Decked from top to bottom in premium brand outlet stores and flashy restaurants, the centre can be found on the sixth block of the Ginza area (銀座6丁目). It is generally viewed as an exclusive place for the richer echelons of society or tourists with cash to burn.

6. Jアラート (Jあらーと or Jaraato) – The warning system established by the Japanese Government to notify its citizens in the event of impending danger. Its main purpose was to alert the public of incoming North Korean missile’s, but it also serves to inform the community about other natural disasters including earthquakes, floods, typhoons, tsunamis and more. The technology is meant to provide a warning via TV and Radio broadcast and via mobile phone message alerts too.

7. 忖度 (そんたく or Sontaku) – A simple reference to people who try to guess other people’s desires or expectations, usually with the intention of pleasing someone more senior (usually a manager or superior). 

8. 人生100年時代 (じんせい100ねんじだい or Jinsei 100 Nen Jidai) – This refers to the record number of Japanese aged 100 or above. Perhaps you have heard about Japan’s ageing population or exceptionally long life expectancy, well combine these two factors and the result is a whopping 67,000+ people aged either a century or more. This record even surpasses the number from the previous year which was said to be around the 65,000 mark.

9. 睡眠負債 (すいみんふさい or Suimin Fusai) – Is the common name for ‘Sleep debt’ or ‘Sleep Deficit’, that is the lack of sleep one accumulates over time if they continue to cut short the amount of slumber they get per night. More recently, it became a book released by the Stanford University warning of the dangers of continued sleep deficit, and the long-term impacts it can have on the body and its’ eventual vulnerability to serious disease.

10. 働き方改革 (はたらきかたかいかく or Hatarakikata Kaikaku) – Recently, the Federal Government and broader business community have been pushing for better working conditions. This includes improvements in reducing overtime, increasing wages and encouraging greater investment into innovation and development. The government have been partially successful in capping overtime, but it is easy to argue that there is still a long road ahead.

11. プレミアムフライデー (ぷれみあむふらいでー or Puremiamu Furaidee) – The highly ambitious campaign designed to encourage employees to leave their workplaces at 3 pm on the last Friday of every month. The campaign was almost over before it began, drawing in little support from the corporate sector, as it failed to reinvigorate the consumer sector and help ease the burden on stressed and overworked staff.

12. ハンドスピナー (はんどすぴなー or Handosupinaa) – Popular toys or spinning gadgets have been quite the rage for young and old, referred to as ‘Finger Spinners’ in English. Many even took to Social Networking to debut their latest designs and iterations from simple spinners to dangerously close replicas of Shuriken (sharp ninja stars) and more. This simple invention is a fidgeters dream gadget, keeping one amused for hours at a time, particularly during extended periods of boredom or long meetings/lectures.

13. フェイクニュース (ふぇいくにゅーす or Feiku Nyuusu) – Yet another term picked from Trump’s overused word bank, it relates to not only respectable media outlets but basically anyone with a website or blog creating fictional or untrue stories for the sake of attracting attention. It is probably safe to say that no one is safe out there…

14. ユーチューバー (ゆーちゅーばー or Yuuchuu Baa) – The popular name given to personalities who have found fame and fortune through Google’s online video platform. As a YouTube personality, you are responsible for your own content, but through affiliate advertising, sponsorship, product placement and more, there is money to be made. Now an aspiring career for the younger generation of Japan, the desirability could now be comparable to that of a famous Movie or TV star.

15. ワンオペ育児 (わんおぺいくじ or One Ope Ikuji) – Originating from the term describing a single person who single-handedly operates every aspect of their own business. The definition now extends to single or independent parents who raise their children on their own. Symbolic of the increasing trend towards single-parent families, or married mothers and fathers who take on responsibility for caring for their children without any help from their partner.


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