Top 5 Japanese Words You Shouldn’t Use in Japan

As I wait for my connecting flight from Hong Kong to Osaka’s Kansai international airport, I’m thinking it should would be smart to brush up on the critical one-liners I’m going to need in Japan. Those essential, ‘hey, please can you give me directions to the nearest ramen bar’, kind of key phrases needed at a bare minimum in order to survive.

But instead here I am polishing off my Japanese slang of which you definitely shouldn’t be saying so willy-nilly to the kind folks of Japan.

Top 5 phrases that will annoy the Japanese

  1. Oi. – おい!

Might be obvious if if you’re like me and from the UK, or you may be oblivious if you’re like my Portuguese speaking Brazilian girlfriend. In both of those cultures it’s a simple ‘Hey!’. The difference being the Brazilian guy on the other end will give you a fistbump, where as the British guy might give your face a fistbump.

In Japan ‘Oi’ lives somewhere in the middle. A casual greeting between friends, or an overly-familiar, and potentially rude way to approach someone on the street. Moreso if you attach an addressing pronoun to the end such as oi kimi [おい きみ], or other short, sharp attention grabbing words that are a little rough sounding – hora! [ほら!], ne![ねえ!], kore![これ!] .

2. Ossan – おっさん

This word is a derogatory term for an older man, and should be avoided in polite conversation. Yeah, cool, you may have seen it in pop culture fiction from the protagonist addressing an older gentleman. But let me tell you – it isn’t as cute in real life. Don’t do it.

3. Maji? – マジ

This is a commonly used slang word in Japan but it can be perceived as impolite or confrontational if used inappropriately. It roughly translates to “Really?” or “Is that so?” and is often used to express surprise or skepticism. But, if you hit the tone wrong and aren’t reading the room, you might get under someone’s skin with this one.

4. Pronouns – just don’t.

Anta (Anata), teme, kimi, omae, yarou, and the rest. It’s too direct, too familiar or too confrontational. These are all various ways of saying ‘you’ with a boat-load of nuance and context dependent implications. Only use these with a stranger if you really want to be that guy.

5. Mochiron – もちろん

“Mochiron” is a word that is commonly used in Osaka to mean “of course” or “without question.” However, its use can vary depending on the context and the relationship between the speakers.

In some situations, “mochiron” can be seen as overly casual or even rude, as it can come across as dismissive or lacking in consideration. For example, if someone makes a request or suggestion and you respond with “mochiron,” it may be perceived as impolite or lacking in empathy.

It’s important to be aware of the social and cultural norms of the place you are visiting, and to use language that is appropriate for the situation. In formal or polite settings, it may be better to use a more standard or neutral response, such as “hai” (yes) or “ii desu” (that’s fine).

Ultimately, the best approach is to listen carefully to the tone and context of the conversation, and to respond in a way that shows respect for the person you are speaking with. And maybe instead go with a sou desu [そうです] or a naruhodo desu [なるほどです] instead.







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