When stores turn off Bobby Pickett’s Monster Mash and have Mariah Carey tune in, it dawns on you–––the year is soon over.
The Japanese get the reminder from Christmas jingles and a 39-year tradition by the educational publisher U-CAN (ユーキャン) that releases its anticipated list of the top 30 Japanese hot and new buzzwords, or ryukougo (流行語).
Tracking newly coined words and popular expressions on social media and mainstream news, the U-CAN has annually compiled popular expressions and newly coined words since 1984.
Awards go out to individuals and groups involved in starting each lingual trend after the grand prize and the top 10 come out on December 1st.
The number one contender: I’m wearing pants! (アイム・ウェアリング・パンツ)
A Japanese comedian who goes by the stage name Tonikaku Akarui Yasumura (とにかく明るい安村), 41, made hadaka gei (裸芸), or naked acts his signature over the past decade. He achieved international fame this June when he became the first Japanese performer to compete in the final of “Britain’s Got Talent.”
Wearing nothing but a pair of salmon pink bikini cut underwear–––with an aloha pattern–––the Hokkaido-born comedian had been giving Japanese audiences big laughs with a two-part routine.
Turning his torso and concealing his only garment with one thigh, he says anshin shite kudasai (安心してください), or “Don’t worry” in English.
He unfolds his body like he’s about to flash the audience. But no, he is haitemasuyo (はいてますよ), or “wearing (underwear).”
But he had to translate the signature act from Japanese to English for BGT judges.
And in less than five minutes, he got the whole stadium to help him.
He would say “Don’t worry, I’m wearing…” which the audience and four judges completed with shouting “PANTS!”
And that wholesome moment of cross-cultural exchange between a Japanese nude(-ish) comedian and the Simon Cowell cult of BGT was when Japan’s top runner for this year’s buzzword was born.
Runner-up: Akogareru no wo Yamemashou (憧れるのをやめましょう)
Given that it is an unofficial custom for the top prize to go to a sports-related expression, this quote by the Los Angeles pitcher Otani Shohei, 29, who has become the face of Japanese sports has a good chance of overtaking that less-clothed Japanese representative to the U.K.
Last year’s list crowned the word Murakami-sama (村神様)–––a pun in reference to an infielder for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows baseball team–––as the number one trending word. In 2021, the winner was Sho-time (ショータイム), a play on words with the name baseball professional Otani Shohei.
Before Otani and his fellow players on the Japan National Baseball Team won the title at this March’s World Baseball Classic against Team USA 3-2 at LoanDepot Park in Miami, he gave a powerful pep talk that inspired the June-release documentary about the championship.
It went like this:
“For us, we need to do only one thing. Let’s stop idolizing them. Look at who’s in first, there’s Goldschmidt. Look at who’s in center, there’s Mike Trout. Outfield? Mookie Betts. Anybody who’s played baseball knows these players. But just for today, if we idolize them, we can’t beat them. We came here today to outdo them and become the best. So just for today, let’s forget about our idolization of them and only think about winning. Alright, let’s go!”
The words Let’s stop idolizing them left a strong enough impression on audiences that it went viral. Soon, it might give Otani a second award from coming out of the WBC this year.
Third: Atarashii Gakko no Leaders (新しい学校のリーダーズ) / Kubifuri Dance (首振りダンス)
A quartet of Japanese girl dancers and vocalists took social media by storm with their neck-slide dance, or kubifuri dance in the music video for their song Otona Blue (オトナブルー).
The group named Atarashii Gakko no Leaders jointly managed by Asobisystem, Twin Planet and TV Asahi Music began performing in 2015 and has since amassed a following of 6.7M followers on TikTok and over 14M in total across all their social media platforms.
Wearing formal Japanese school uniforms, their mission is ironically to challenge social norms.
They claim to “represent a new generation of Japanese youth” that embraces personal expression and pushes against traditional boundaries–––breaking through lines of genre by “mixing elements of pop, jazz, hip-hop, rock, and more, delivered with punk energy and featuring frantic dance moves” they choreograph themselves.
Chief Writer’s Picks
Another baseball word: アレ(A.R.E.)
The Hanshin Tigers professional baseball team had 18 years between them and their last championship title in the Central League.
That’s why when Okada Akinobu became the team manager last fall, he refused to ever say the word victory–––replacing it with the Japanese are (アレ), or that in English.
The message: Don’t talk until you walk.
Are inspired the 2023 season slogan for the Tigers: A.R.E. standing for Aim, Respect, and Empower.
When the Tigers reclaimed the title on September 14th, marking the team’s 6th-ever league win, Okada lifted his restriction on the word “victory.”
Sugar baby: Itadaki Joshi (頂き女子)
Itadaki might sound familiar if you’ve spent mealtime around Japanese folks.
Itadaki-masu (honorific) is what people say to give thanks before eating. It means to “receive,” and alludes to the expression of gratitude for the sacrificed life and effortful work put into the meal.
Itadaki Joshi, or Itadaki Girl – or, more commonly, “Sugar Baby” – pertains to an appetite of sorts. But instead of a hunger for food, this girl wanted money.
Behind the username Itadaki Joshi Riri-chan is the indicted Watanabe Mai, 25, who now faces charges of aiding and abetting fraud as well as committing fraud.
Watanabe appeared in court on Thursday and admitted to the prosecutor’s charges against her for authoring and selling her books The Manual That Makes You All Money by Sugar Baby Riri-chan Who Receives 10M a Month and The Manual for Sugar Babies last June to a Nagoya woman, 21, instructing her how to scam men out of their money by manipulating their romantic emotions.
The woman to whom Watanabe sold her books was apparently a good student and scammed two men and got in ¥10.6M in cash.
Watanabe also faces fraud charges for scamming an Ibaraki male, 50, out of ¥38.5M in cash between April and August this year. The trial is set to begin next month.
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