12 May 2006

Japanese for Half-Assed People II

Today’s word is very popular in Japan.

Kawaii: 可愛い かわいい: (ka-wa-iiiii —preferably pronounced with an exaggerated high-pitched squealy emphasis on the ‘iiiiii’): adj. Cute.

Japan is, in fact, a nation of cuteness. Think ‘Hello Kitty’ and ‘Pokémon’. Okay, now think ‘Hello Kitty’ and ‘Pokémon’ painted on the side of a 747 jumbo jet that flies daily to Frankfurt and you’ll begin to understand just how serious people here are about cute. Cute is everything; even the Tokyo Metropolitan Police have a cute little mascot smiling at you from every station —his name is Biibo-kun.

“That handbag is really kawaii.”

“Your pet chihuahua is sugoi kawaii.”

For advanced students only: “Biibo-kun is sugoi sugoi kawaii.”


jase said...

Thanks for the refresher course sweetie...although, as I'm sure you'll find when you go home, you'll be peppering EVERY conversation with the most annoying Japanese possible thus subjecting yourself to bewildering looks from your friends. eg Friend: "I spent all yesterday in bed." Me: "Honto ni?" Friend: "Um...yeah, I was totally spewing all day." Me: "Ehhhh. Sugoi." Friend: "?" Me: "Chigau."

Princess Pessimism said...

In Vegas. Jenifer heard someone say Sugoi. She ran right over to me, and was very excited about it.

Vegas was Sugoi...both definitions.

Miss Ash said...

Brilliant!!! I quite enjoyed the picture of the cat on the subway doors....reminding people to stay clear when they close.

tokyo tintin said...

PP -- was the person who said sugoi japanese? (or asian-looking?) or a whitey cracker who'd been in japan too long like me?

Jennifer said...

TT - No they were Japanese, they were shopping for beer. I'm not sure what was sugoi, but I heard her say it more than once.
Jason - See, the reason that we all need to bone up on our Japanese expressions is so that we can all participate in the annoying banter. Otherwise, we'd all feel left out.

I liked the lego people posters about not knocking people on the subway tracks.

And PP is so right, Vegas was Sugoi - both definitions.

tokyo tintin said...

well jenni, of course she said it more than once --i've heard a conversation on a train between four girls that consisted, basically in it's entirety, of the words "sugoi" and "anna sui". i think they were talking about a new handbag.

A: Sugoi Anna Sui baggu!
B: Sugoi sugoi!
C: Anna Sui wa sugoi!
A: Sugoi.
D: Sugoi!

i'm not joking. jase can back me up.

Jennifer said...

What's Japanese for vacuous and banal?

tokyo tintin said...

jenni-- banal is 凡庸 ぼんよう; bonyo.

i couldn’t find vacuous in my dictionary, but ‘vapid’ is 没趣味 ぼつしゅみ; botsushumi.

however, i think you’d find what japanese people consider to be banal, vapid and vacuous to be very different from what an average westerner would. coversations about politics or issues are rare –people prefer to stick to ‘safe’ topics like the weather or their interests to avoid having to express disagreement. hypothetical questions –e.g. ‘If you could live in any time, past or future, when would you choose?’– are met with much consternation and are often answered with “I can’t imagine” or “Very difficult question”. debate questions –e.g. ‘What causes homelessness?’– are generally best avoided all together.

so, there are a lot of conversations about anna sui handbags, delicious restaurants, or the high humidity because these topics don’t disrupt the wa (harmony, balance) with nasty western things like discord or opposing viewpoints.