Autumn in Japan is lovely for many reasons, crisp cool weather, excellent food, a year winding down, but most of all new words and buzzwords! Here’s a summary of the winner and a couple in the top ten for 2016.

November marks when the annual “U-Can New Words and Buzzwords” Japan neologisms list (1) comes out from Jiyukokuminsha Publishing. Changes to language are inevitable, and the Japanese are particularly creative in producing more new words and variants each year.

Let’s take a look at a few of them, and for the nihongo learners among you, check out the brief glossary at the end.

Grand Prix

The 2016 Grand Prize winner was:

  • Kamitteru


Book Cover - Gendai Yougo no Kiso Chishiki
Book Cover: Gendai Yougo no Kiso Chishiki
Book Cover - Gendai Yougo no Kiso Chishiki
Book Cover: Gendai Yougo no Kiso Chishiki

“Kamitteru” (2) was used by the Toyo Carp manager when outfielder Seiya Suzuki hit a second straight game-ending homer to beat the Orix Buffaloes in the early summer. It’s grammatical wordplay on “kami” or a god, describing someone’s god-like performance using the word as a verb.

You might remember one of last year’s grand prix winners was “triple three”, a seasonal baseball record, when a player bats better than .300, hits more than 30 home runs, and steals more than 30 bases, hence 3-3-3 for the triple-three name. Japan’s baseball crazy for sure.

Selections from the Top Ten

Here are some from the top finishers.

Pokemon GO, Aruki Sumaho

Photo - Pokemon No! At the Daibutsu.
Photo: Pokemon No! At the Daibutsu.
Photo - Pokemon No! At the Daibutsu.
Photo: Pokemon No! At the Daibutsu.

I’m not a gamer myself, but it was hard to ignore people playing Pokemon GO. People had always walked and looked at their smartphones, but this brought “aruki sumaho” (one of the nominees, 3) to a new level. Now, we had scores of people in the streets and parks and stations, staring down and swiping.

It prompted announcements on the trains, admonishing riders to not “walk and use your smartphone on the platform” and signs like the one here, which I took at the Great Buddha “Daibutsu” in Kamakura.


Of course, comedian Pikotaro’s “PPAP” made the top ten, even though it trended in late 2016. “Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen” is one of those silly, catchy tunes or rhymes that just stick in your head. Just search for it and its various covers on Youtube. Surely it made an appearance at many, many fall school festivals nationwide.

Gesu Furin

“Gesu Furin” (4) or ugly/sleazy affair was unfortunately one of the winners, highlighting the gaping double standard for women here in Japan. It was so named because Becky, a TV personality, had an affair (furin) with the married singer from the band Gesu no Kiwame Otome. Becky was, ridiculously, ostracized from the entertainment industry for the indiscretion, and has only recently made an appearance, after several months in exile. Plenty of actual talent to celebrate here in Japan, so I’m always shaking my head at this kind of shite.

Hoikuen Ochita, Nihon Shine!

That means “Didn’t get picked for a daycare slot; Die, Japan!” (5) It was an exclamation by a blogger that got picked up everywhere, that highlights a serious problem in direct conflict with the government’s supposed desire to have people reproducing and making babies. A lot of political promises got made because of this slogan. Here’s hoping it can get a little easier for working parents.


Morido (6) is a layer of clean soil, which became a topic of interest when Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike put the kibosh on the Tsukiji wholesale fish market relocation, after finding that the land underneath the proposed site was toxic, and that a layer of fresh soil had not been laid.

All I can say is “Go Koike san!” I’m a fan, because she is kicking ass and taking names. Why would the people in charge of it before do such a thing, since it’s such an vital food supply for Japan. Who knows, but maybe she will be the one to “drain the swamp”.

Didn’t make the Cut

Kind of appropriately, the nominee “SMAP Kaisan” (7) didn’t make the cut. Good riddance already. SMAP’s an almost-elderly boy-band.

I thought nominee “minpaku” was important, because of the blackballing Airbnb received from the Tokyo government.

The Whole Kit and Kaboodle

Nihongo learners, I hope you’ll keep your eyes peeled for this competition every year. You can buy the book these phrases are gleaned from at Amazon; it’s called “現代用語の基礎知識2017”, or “Basic Knowledge on Modern Phrases 2017” (8).

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the post. Cogley-san-dazo, signing off in Dec 2016. Hope to see you again next year!

Reference for Nihongo Learners

  1. ユーキャン新語流行語大賞、しんごりゅうこうごたいしょう、shingo ryuukougo taishou
  2. 神ってる、かみってる、kamitteru
  3. 歩きスマホ、あるきすまほ、aruki sumaho
  4. ゲス不倫、げすふりん、gesufurin
  5. 保育園落ちた。日本死ね!、ほいくえんおちた にほんしね、hoikuen ochita, nihon shine
  6. 盛り土、もりど、morido
  7. 解散、かいさん、kaisan
  8. 現代用語の基礎知識2016、げんだいようごのきそちしき、Gendai Yougo no Kiso Chishiki