We all know there is no such thing as a miracle cure for our ailments, but sometimes small changes bring about big changes. Use the expression kouka-tekimen to describe something that is instantly and visibly effective.

Kouka-tekimen (効果覿面)

Meaning: Be immediately effective, bring instant relief, give instant results, be extremely effective.

Literal translation and kanji breakdown: Kouka (効果) combines the characters for efficacy and achieve to give us result, effects and general effectiveness. Tekimen uses the character teki (覿), which means eyes but also a display of something and is paired with men (面), meaning face. Together, this means an immediate result that appears right before your eyes.

Kouka-tekimen: The Origins

There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer on where and when this expression first appeared, but Yukio Mishima uses it in his 1949 novel, Confessions of a Mask.

「代用品も使い馴れると、使い心地のわるいものではないからね。ことにこいつは効果覿面の睡眠剤だからね。」 (Mishima, Confessions of a Mask)

Meredith Weatherby’s 1958 translation:

“Even a substitute is not unpleasant once you get used to it, especially when you find it to be such an instantly effective sleeping draught.” (Mishima, p.174)

Kouka-tekimen: Related Expressions

天罰覿面 Tenbatsu-tekimen The certainty of divine punishment, swift is Heaven’s vengeance

因果覿面 Inga-tekimen The swiftness of retributive justice

効果抜群 Kouka-batsugun Extremely effective, overwhelmingly effective

即効性がある Sokkousei ga aru It has immediate efficacy

Using “kouka-tekimen” in a sentence

Used more in spoken language than written, kouka-tekimen is often used in relation to medicinal effectiveness.

この薬は思ったより効果覿面だった。Kono kusuri wa omotta yori kouka-tekimen datta. This medicine was more effective than I thought.

週に3回ジムに行くことと食事制限を組み合わせたら、ダイエットに効果覿面だった。Shu ni sankai gym ni iku koto to shokuji seigen wo kumiawasetara, diet ni kouka-tekimen datta. The combination of going to the gym three times a week and dieting worked wonders for my weight loss.

頑張ったらボーナスを弾むという約束を社員とした。その約束は、やる気を引き出すのに効果覿面だった。 Gambattara bonus wo hazumu to iu yakusoku wo shain to shita. Sono yakusoku wa, yaruki wo hikidasu no ni kouka-tekimen datta. I made a promise to my employees that I would give them a bonus if they worked hard. The promise was an extraordinary motivator.

Want more? Follow our weekly Yojijukugo Japanese Idiom series, published every Friday. Learn the meaning of “happoubijin” here, “yudantaiteki” here and “shikuhakku” here.