Japan’s top four buzzwords of the year—2013

This year’s phrases run from the words made famous in an Olympic bid to an expression of revenge on a hit TV show.

We can look back at the year through the top stories, pictures or songs, but one of the best ways to be reminded of the year that was is to think about the buzzwords that were on everybody’s lips. The Japanese publishing company Jiyu Kokuminsha has been creating lists of Japan’s yearly buzzwords since 1948. The company began selecting its top one or two words or phrases in 1984, but this year, four phrases were selected as the phrases of the year: “omotenashi,” “jejeje,” “bai-gaeshi,” and “imadesho!” Unless you’re an avid Japanese TV fan, you’re not likely to be familiar with most of these phrases. The one that would be most familiar to international views is omotenashi, delivered with Christel Takigawa’s signature pronunciation at her Olympic bid presentation in Buenos Aires.

“Jejeje” is a phrase used to express surprise in the northeastern Japanese dialect featured on the hit TV Amachan, which follows the adventures of a girl who moves between being a traditional ama diver and a teen idol. The phrase “bai-gaeshi” means “double payback,” and it was popularized as an expression of promised revenge by the banker Naoki Hanzawa from the TV show of the same name. And “imadesho!” (roughly translated as “now or never!”) is the catchphrase used by Osamu Hayashi, a well-known cram school teacher. Some of the other phrases to make the list were “Abenomics,” PM2.5 (a type of air pollution that reached high levels several times during the year), and a phrase relating to the recent Secrets Act that is making its way through Parliament. As quickly as pop culture moves these days, it’s unlikely that many of these buzzwords will continue being used well into the next year. So try to sprinkle them into your conversation while you can . . .

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