Since Nishikyō is seventy percent Japanese, most of the people speak Japanese as part of their daily life whether they are Japanese or not. It was important, therefore, to keep some of the dialogue Japanese without explaining too much and interrupting the story. Below, you’ll find a list of terms and phrases that are used in the Nogiku book.
Akemashite omedetō – Happy New Year!
Ame – rain
Arigatō gozaimashita (or just Arigatō) – thank you. Combined with domo it means “thank you very much.”
Baka na toko – stupid or silly boys
Bō – a staff or rod used for Japanese martial arts fighting that’s approximately six feet long
Bōjutsu – the art of fighting with the bō
Bunka no hi – Culture Day. Celebrated on November 2nd every year, it is a national holiday for Japan
Chapatsu – (slang) refers to the distinct brown color of Asian hair when it is bleached. Literally, “brown hair.”
Chashitsu – a tea house used for performing the Japanese tea ceremony
Chuhai – a Japanese alcoholic beverage of shochu (a liquor similar to vodka) mixed with sparkling water and juice
Coming of Age Day (Seijin no hi) – celebrated on the second Monday in January to honor those who have turned twenty the previous year. Twenty is the age of adulthood in Japan and Nishikyō. Typical celebrations include trips to the local shrine and parties with family and friends. Typical dress is kimono.
Daiginjo – a high grade of sake
Daijōbu desu – It’s ok
Daimyō – a territorial lord in pre-modern Japan. They ruled over their vast land holdings and reported directly to the Shogun
Daishō – Matched pair of long and short swords
Dare ga imasu ka? – “Is anyone there?”
Dō itashimashite. – You’re welcome
Dokumiyaku – a food taster. Tastes food for poisons.
Dōjō – a hall or place used for martial arts training
Dōmo – thanks
Dōzo – please, kindly, by all means. Usually used to indicate that someone should sit, proceed, or carry-on.
Edamame – boiled soybeans in the shells
Eto – a stammer much like “Um” in English. It is often drawn out (i.e. Etooooooo…) when one is thinking
Futsukayoi – hungover. Literally, “drunk for the second day.”
Ganbatte – Good luck
Gaijin – Literally means outsider but generally refers to people not of Japanese descent
Geisha – female Japanese entertainers that are skilled in traditional singing, dancing, and, other Japanese-specific events such as tea ceremonies
Genkan – entrance hall or vestibule
Genki – well (as in “I am well.”)
Genmaicha – a mild green tea with toasted rice puffs
Geta – Japanese wooden footwear similar to western flip-flops
Gome – rice
Gomen nasai (Gomen) – “I beg your pardon” or “excuse me” or “sorry.”
Hai – yes
Hakama – wide legged pants for either a man or woman usually worn over a kimono
Hana – flower
Hanko – a seal or signature stamp
Haori – a hip length, kimono type jacket
Hatsumōde – first temple visit of the year
Hayaku – quickly, swiftly, rapidly
Hinamatsuri – Girls’ Day. Celebrated in Japan every March 3rd
Hiragana – Japanese syllabary, cursive, used primarily for native Japanese words and phrases
Hontō ni – Really. Truly.
Horigotatsu – a low, covered table placed over a hole in the floor of a Japanese-style room
Iaido – art of drawing the Japanese sword
Ii desu ne – That’s nice! (or “That’s good!”)
Iie – no
Ikimasho – Let’s go
Ima – now
Inarizushi – flavored boiled rice wrapped in thin, fried tofu
Irasshaimase – “Welcome!” Used in shops, restaurants, businesses, etc.
Itadakimasu – “I humbly receive.” Said at the beginning of meals, it is similar to saying “bon appetite” or saying grace
Izakaya – a Japanese style bar where food and alcoholic beverages are served
Jihi – lady-in-waiting. Personal assistant
Jō – a staff or rod used for Japanese martial arts fighting that’s approximately four feet long
Jōjutsu – the art of fighting with the jō
Jya ne – later
Jyunkyōsha – martyr
Kabuki – Japanese classical drama
Kaiseki – a traditional, multi-course Japanese meal that highlights different styles and flavors of Japanese cuisine. It is analogous to gourmet or haute cuisine.
Kamon – family crest
Kanchō (-kanchō) – Cabinet Head. Superintendent.
Kanpai – a drinking toast
Karate – a Japanese martial art that does not involve weapons. Hand-to-hand combat and self-defense.
Kata – forms. In iaido and karate, this refers to forms or stances.
Katabami – oxalis or wood sorrel plant
Katakana – a Japanese syllabary used primarily in the transcription of foreign words. Different from both hiragana and kanji, katakana is characterized by shorter, straighter, more angular strokes. It is also used to write Japanese words when emphasis needs to be given, Japanese company names, names of plants, animals, and minerals, and onomatopoeia.
Katana – a Japanese sword usually around 60cm long with a curved blade
Kawaii – cute
Kendo – swordsmanship. Japanese fencing
Kiku – chrysanthemum
Kimono – traditional Japanese robes worn by men, women, and children. Kimono are T-shaped, straight-hemmed, with wide sleeves that vary in length. They are usually made from silk and embroidered. They are secured around the waist using an obi (sash.)
Kiotsukete – “take care” or “be safe.”
Kirei desu ne – “how beautiful!”
Kirei kore – “this is pretty.”
Kitsune – foxes
Kodama – a tree spirit
Kokeshi – a small, traditional wooden doll
Konbanwa – good evening
Konnichiwa – good day
Kudasai – please
Kusokurae – fuck off
Maiko – an apprentice geisha
Maneki-neko – beckoning cat statue, usually white with one paw raised. Commonly seen in front of businesses because they are believed to bring good luck and fortune to an establishment.
Mata ne – later
Mei – inscription or signature
Minka – a Japanese farmhouse
Minna-sama dōmo arigatō gozaimashita – Thank you everyone very much
Minna-san, ikimasho! – Let’s go everyone!
Mizu – water
Mo – also, too
Mochi – Japanese rice cake made of glutinous rice, pounded into a paste, then molded into any one of a dozen shapes. Mochi is very sticky and chewy and can be easily choked on. A number of deaths happen every year in Japan due to mochi choking.
Mochiron – of course
Montsuki – a black kimono usually adorned with a family crest
Mōshiwake gozaimasen – a very polite apology. The masculine form is Mōshiwake nai.
Nani – what?
Nantekotta – What the fuck? WTF? What the hell?
Natsukashii – nostalgia or nostalgic
Na – sentence ending similar to ne (see below) but used by men
Ne – used at the end of a sentence indicates emphasis, agreement, or request for confirmation
Nihongo – the Japanese language
Ninja – person who uses ninjutsu (skills in secrecy and stealth) for the purposes of espionage, assassination, etc.
Ninjutsu – the art of ninja skills and fighting
Nogiku – wild chrysanthemum
Noh – a form of classical Japanese musical drama in which many of the characters (played by men) are masked
Nomikai – a drinking party or get together
Noren – a sign curtain hung at a shop or restaurant entrance
Nori – seaweed, usually in sheets
Nunchaku – also known in English as “nunchucks” these are ninja fighting weapons, two sticks connected at their ends by a short chain
Obasan – aunt
Obi – a wide piece of cloth wrapped around one’s midsection as a belt or sash
Obijime – a long cord that is wrapped around and tied over an obi
Ofuro – Japanese style deep bath used primarily for soaking, not for washing. Washing is done first separately
Ogenki desu ka? – How are you? Are you well?
Ohayo gozaimasu (or Ohayo) – Good morning (or morning). Meant as a greeting.
Ohisashiburi – “it’s been a long time.”
Oi – hey!
Oishii – delicious
Okaasan – in reference to an okiya, this is the house mother who runs the geisha establishment. Also means mother.
Okaeri nasai – Welcome home
Okiya-Ochaya – This is a combination of two terms unique to the Nishikyō world. An okiya is a Geisha house. A place where geisha live during the length of their contract. An ochaya is a tea house where the geisha entertain their clients. In Nishikyō, these places are combined with the ochaya being on the first two or three floors, and the rest of the building’s upper floors are the okiya where the geisha live. For the sake of brevity, most people call them just an okiya.
Okobo – wooden platform shoes usually several inches high and worn by maiko
Omedetō gozaimashita (or just Omedetō) – congratulations (or congrats)
Omedetai koto desu na – “I wanted to give my congratulations.”
Ometase itashimashita – “Sorry I kept you waiting.”
Omiai – a Japanese matchmaker
Omikuji – a small piece of paper given out at temples around the New Year. Each has either a blessing or a curse (of varying degrees and kinds) written on it. If it’s a curse, one folds it up and ties it to a wire or tree set outside the temple. If it’s a blessing, one may keep the paper to keep the good luck close to them all year.
Omiyage – gifts
Omuraisu – omelet with a filling of ketchup-seasoned fried rice
Onigiri – rice balls usually stuffed with fish or vegetables and wrapped in nori. They can also be grilled
Onsen – a traditional Japanese bath house
Osaki ni – to go ahead or in front of
Otanjōbi omedetō – happy birthday
Owari – “The end” or “all done.”
Oyasumi-nasai (Oyasumi) – “Good night” or “night.”
Pachinko – a Japanese gaming device similar to pinball but vertical instead of horizontal
Renai – romantic relationship
Ronin – wandering samurai without a master
Ryokan – a Japanese inn similar to a bed-and-breakfast
Sake – a Japanese alcoholic beverage brewed from rice
Samurai – warrior, especially military retainers of daimyos in the Edo period
San-san-kudo – a part of the Japanese wedding ceremony considered to be the “exchange of the nuptial cups.” The bride and groom take three sips of rice wine (sake) from a series of three cups totaling nine sips.
Saya – a scabbard, or covering, for a Japanese katana sword
Seiza – a way of sitting where one kneels on the floor and brings one’s buttocks down upon the heels of one’s feet. The feet are then relaxed so that the outer soles rest on the floor and the feet form a V-shape.
Sensei – teacher
Shamisen – a three-stringed Japanese instrument similar to a guitar or banjo
Shinobi – an alternate reading of the word “ninja” meaning “spy”
Shinobijō – a short staff with weapons in each end used by ninjas
Shiromuku – a white kimono, usually silk and extravagantly stitched and handmade. Worn by brides on their wedding day.
Shitsurei itashimasu – a polite form of saying “my apologies.”
Shochu – a liquor similar to vodka distilled from rice
Shodō – Asian calligraphy based on Chinese characters
Shōgun (Shōgunate) – a ruling military general. During pre-modern Japan, the shogun ruled Japan divvying out responsibilities to his subordinates (the daimyōs).
Shuriken – throwing weapons that comes in many shapes the most popular being a star shape
Sō desu ne or Sō desu yo or Sō deshō- an interjection that means “That is right”, “It looks to me…”, or “That is so.”
Sōdanyaku – advisor or consigliere
Subarashii desu yo – “It’s magnificent!”
Sukoshi – a little bit, a small amount
Sugoi – terrible or dreadful
Sumimasen – “Excuse me” or “sorry.”
Suware na (Suwaru) – from the verb “to sit” but said here in a casual manner.
Tabi – white socks with a separation between the big and next toe. Commonly wore with sandals.
Taiko – drum. Outside of Japan, taiko refers to Japanese style drums.
Tamari – dark soy sauce
Tanabata – a Japanese holiday that takes place on July 7th every year celebrating the meeting of two gods (a man and woman who are lovers) in the heavens
Tempura – deep fried vegetables or fish in a light batter
Tenchō – bar manager. Barkeep.
Tenkyo – moving, changing residence
Tokonoma – an alcove where art and/or flowers are displayed
Tonde mo nai – unthinkable, outrageous
Torii – a large gate usually over the entrance to a temple. They can be any color but red is popular
Torinozoku – to remove, take away, or set apart
Totemo – very
Tsuba – handgrip on a katana sword
Udon – a thick, wheat-based noodle, usually served in a hot, salty broth
Udonya – a place that sells udon (the -ya suffix means “store, restaurant, or place of business.”)
Usagi – rabbit
Utuskushii – beautiful
Wakarimasu ka? – Understand?
Wakarimasu – Understand (or “I understand.”)
Wakizashi – short sword
Yakuza – Japanese mafia or crime syndicate
Yama – mountain
Yasai – vegetable
Yasai gyoza – vegetable dumplings
Yukata – a light summer kimono made of cotton
…desu ne! – Sentence ending that conveys imperative