Japanese varia

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First, as a slightly belated Valentine's present, onomatopoetic / mimetic chocolates:

"Chocolates That Represent Japanese Onomatopoeic Words To Describe Texture", by Johnny, Spoon & Tamago (1/16/15)

Here are the names of eight of the nine chocolates designed by Oki Sato of the Tokyo and Milan-based design studio Nendo:

ツブツブ (tsubu tsubu): a word for small bits or drops
スベスベ (sube sube): smooth edges and corners
トゲトゲ (toge toge): sharp pointed tips
ザラザラ (zara zara): granular like a file
ゴロゴロ (goro goro): cubic, with many edges
フワフワ (fuwa fuwa): soft and airy with many tiny holes
ポキポキ (poki poki): a delicate frame or structure
ザクザク (zaku zaku): makes a crunching sounds, like when you step on ice

You can see exceptionally clear photographs of the ingeniously designed 26x26x26mm chocolates in the article linked above.

[h.t. Becki Kanou]

From Nathan Hopson:

Second, funerary capitalism meets tongue-in-cheek wordplay with my new favorite Japanese word/service: スマ墓 ("smart grave"). Read sumabo, this new-ish service uses what appears to be roughly the same augmented reality technologies as, say, Pokémon Go so that your phone will show prerecorded images and video of deceased loved ones when the application is activated at the correct GPS coordinates. For just ¥500/month, the service provider not only creates and maintains this virtual ("smart") grave, but will also keep for a period of 15 years the cremated ashes that would have gone into a real grave.

What got me about this is not just that it's a clever entry into the ever-expanding perimortuary business here in Japan, the most aged country in world history, but that the service is almost perfectly homophonous with the Japanese contraction of "smart phone." Japanese mobiles are still called by that name as well (携帯電話 keitai denwa), but with the market turnover from the old flip phones — cleverly, if self-deprecatingly, referred to as ガラパゴス系・ガラパゴス携 or ガラ系・ガラ携・ガラケー (Garapagosu-kei / Gara-kei) for short because they have followed a unique evolutionary process on "remote" islands… — almost complete in the past several years, these days one hears sumaho more often. Who knows how often we will hear sumabo in the future?

Articles with good pictures here and here (Japanese only).

Japanese, like Korean, is exceptionally rich in and fond of onomatopoeia.


"Korean refrigerator onomatopoeia" (11/10/18)

"Japanese (and Chinese) Onomatopoeia" (7/21/08)

"Duang" (3/1/15)


  1. Keith said,

    February 17, 2019 @ 3:48 am

    Wonderful, and how typically kawaii!

    And if you take all those chocolates, put them in a bain marie and warm them, they combine. Add a marshmallow on the end of a stick, and you get しゃぶしゃぶ (shabu shabu).

  2. Victor Mair said,

    February 17, 2019 @ 8:15 am

    I was curious about the name bain marie for the warm water bath.

    French Wikipedia:

    Selon le chimiste allemand Lippmann, le médecin et mathématicien grec du Ve siècle av. J.-C. Hippocrate de Chios et le naturaliste Théophraste du IVe siècle av. J.-C. ont les premiers décrit la technique du bain-marie. On attribue la vulgarisation du bain-marie à Albert le Grand ; ainsi, le nom de « bain-marie » proviendrait du vocabulaire alchimique antique, parlant alors de « bain de Marie » en référence à l'alchimiste Marie la Juive (IIIe siècle av. J.-C.), à qui l'on attribue également l'origine de certains ustensiles de laboratoire et l'emploi de la technique comme outil. La première attestation en latin Balneum Mariae date du début du XIVe siècle, dans le Rosarium attribué à Arnaud de Villeneuve


    English Wikpedia:

    The name comes from the medieval-Latin term balneum (or balineum) Mariae—literally, Mary's bath—from which the French bain de Marie, or bain-marie, is derived. The device's invention has been popularly attributed to Mary the Jewess, an ancient alchemist. However, the water bath was known many centuries earlier (Hippocrates and Theophrastus).


  3. Mark Liberman said,

    February 17, 2019 @ 10:37 am

    "Waza waza", 4/20/2008.

  4. Chris Button said,

    February 17, 2019 @ 12:37 pm

    ポキポキ (poki poki): a delicate frame or structure

    Presumably related to the famous "Pocky" ポッキー snack which, according to manufacturer Glico, apparently comes from the ポッキンポッキン sound of eating them (「食べる音のポッキンポッキンからつけられました」)

  5. Alex said,

    February 19, 2019 @ 6:17 pm

    The 9th one is スカスカ, for the cube with the corner sliced off:


  6. Vulcan with a Mullet said,

    February 22, 2019 @ 2:45 pm

    The only one that doesn't resonate onomatopoetically with me is ゴロゴロ (goro goro). All of the others feel perfect!

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