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“Japan’s Cultural Code Words” by De Monte (2011)

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De Mente (2011)’s book “Japan’s Cultural Code Words” presents one-page descriptions for various keywords to understand “the emotional and traditional side of Japanese attitudes and behavior.” The keywords cover both contemporary and historical cultural practices in Japan, including relatively well-known concepts (such as 相槌 “aizuchi” (synchronizing your movements)) as well as somewhat unique concepts (such as ほめ殺し “homegoroshi” (praising to death)).

De Mente, Boye Lafayette (2011). Japan’s Cultural Code Words: Key Terms That Explain the Attitudes and Behavior of the Japanese. Tokyo, Japan: Tuttle Publishing. .

The 233 keywords included in this book are:

  1. 揚げ足 “ageashi” (tripping on your own tongue)
  2. 論う “age tsurau” (finding endless fault)
  3. 愛想笑い “aiso warai” (beware of fake smiles)
  4. 相槌 “aizuchi” (synchronizing your movements)
  5. 垢抜けした “akanukeshita” (the power of polished manners)
  6. 諦めが悪い “akirame ga warui” (we don’t know how to quit!)
  7. 諦めない “akiramenai” (do or die)
  8. 悪循環 “akujunkan” (the great runaround)
  9. 甘い、甘く “amai/amaku” (spreading on the sugar)
  10. 飴と鞭 “ame to muchi” (candy or the whip)
  11. 暗黙の了解 “anmoku no ryokai” (unspoken understanding)
  12. 安心感 “anshinkan” (building peace of mind)
  13. 洗いざらい “araizarai” (letting it all out)
  14. 粗探し “arasagashi” (a nation of nitpickers)
  15. 有難迷惑 “arigata meiwaku” (too much of a good thing)
  16. 足きり “ashikiri” (cutting off the legs)
  17. あしらう “ashirau” (the diplomatic brush-off)
  18. 当たり前 “atarimae” (it goes without saying)
  19. 後味 “ato aji” (a foreign aftertaste)
  20. 阿吽の呼吸 “aun no kokyu” (the Japanese sixth sense)
  21. 番記者 “ban kisha” (the way of the Japanese press)
  22. バッティング “batting” (driving prices down)
  23. 防災パック “bosai pakku” (preparing for survival)
  24. 仏教 “bukkyo” (the wellspring of Japaneseness)
  25. 分衆 “bunshu” (the country divided)
  26. 武士道 “bushido” (the fighting knight way)
  27. 平等 “byodo” (Japanese-style fairness)
  28. 忠誠心 “chusei shin” (loyal to the last)
  29. 大感 “daikan” (mind over matter)
  30. 談合 “dango” (dividing up the spoils)
  31. 弾力的運営 “danryokuteki un’ei” (run it up the pole)
  32. 男尊女卑 “danson johi” (men over women)
  33. 団体 “dantai” (the three musketeers syndrome)
  34. 丼勘定 “donburi kanjo” (calculations in a bucket)
  35. 縁、情 “en/jyo” (a wet Japanese thing)
  36. 円高ドル安 “endaka – doruyasu” (high yen, low dollar)
  37. 煙幕を張る “en maku wo haru” (laying smoke screens)
  38. 円満 “enman” (the perils of harmony)
  39. 褌を締める “fundoshi wo shimeru” (tightening your loincloth)
  40. フリーター “furita” (the day of the oddballs)
  41. 故郷 “furusato” (longing for a spiritual home)
  42. 外人くさい “gaijin kusai” (smelling like a foreigner)
  43. 外柔内剛 “gai ju nai go” (soft outside, hard inside)
  44. 外来語 “gairaigo” (words from the outside)
  45. 我慢比べ “gaman kurabe” (a test of wills)
  46. 我慢強い “gamanzuyoi” (suffering the unbearable)
  47. 元号 “gengo” (keeping track of the years)
  48. 議事録 “gijiroku” (keeping things flexible)
  49. 互助、互譲 “gohjo/gojoh” (cooperating and compromising)
  50. 五十日 “gotobi” (picking the best days)
  51. 逆輸入 “gyaku yunyu” (reverse importing)
  52. 肌が合う “hada ga au” (our skins meet)
  53. 励ます回 “hagemasu kai” (encouragement parties)
  54. 恥じらい “hajirai” (the shyness syndrome)
  55. 鼻持ちならない “hanamochi naranai” (looking down on foreigners)
  56. 花木 “hanamoku” (debauchery on thursday nights)
  57. 反省 “hansei” (i won’t do it again!)
  58. 八方美人 “happo bijin” (keeping your slate clean)
  59. 腹の虫 “hara no mushi” (a worm told me)
  60. 臍を曲げる “heso wo mageru” (bending the bellybutton)
  61. 被害者意識 “higaisha ishiki” (the victim mentality)
  62. 品格 “hinkaku” (the mark of a gentleman)
  63. 昼行灯 “hiru andon” (no light in the eyes)
  64. ほめ殺し “homegoroshi” (praising to death)
  65. 保証 “hosho” (who is your guarantor?)
  66. 一見の客 “ichigen no kyaku” (turning a blind eye)
  67. 意表を衝く “ihyo wo tsuku” (springing surprises)
  68. いいとこ取り “ii toko tori” (taking only the good)
  69. 一気飲み “ikki-nomi” (playing to your peers)
  70. 一匹狼 “ippiki ookami” (Japan’s lone wolves)
  71. 一歩間違うと “ippo machigau to” (one false step and…the sword!)
  72. 色気 “iroke” (the sensuality of Japanese women)
  73. 一所懸命 “isshokenmei” (putting one’s life on the line)
  74. いただきます、ごちそうさま “itadakimasu/gochisoh sama” (thanks for the hospitality)
  75. 痛み分け “itami wake” (sharing the pain)
  76. 違和感 “iwakan” (allergic to foreigners)
  77. 事情変更 “jijo henko” (the only constant is change)
  78. 自己になる “jiko ni naru” (trying to feel good)
  79. 自己流 “jikoryu” (doing it your way)
  80. 自由学園 “jiyu gakuen” (a new kind of freedom)
  81. 受験地獄 “juken jigoku” (going through hell)
  82. 塾、予備校 “juku/yobiko” (knowledge-cramming schools)
  83. 熟年 “juku nen” (the prime years)
  84. 価格破壊 “kakaku hakai” (the great price fall)
  85. 隠し味 “kakushi aji” (a secret ingredient)
  86. かませる “kamaseru” (sharing the spoils)
  87. 看板 “kanban” (what’s in a name?)
  88. 歓談会 “kandan kai” (let’s have a little chat)
  89. 寒稽古 “kangeiko” (discipline the Japanese way)
  90. 冠婚葬祭 “kankon sosai” (doing things with a flourish)
  91. 関西、関東 “kansai/kanto” (east and west of the barrier)
  92. 官尊民卑 “kanson minpi” (bowing before officials)
  93. 顔が広い “kao ga hiroi” (having a wide face)
  94. 顔を出す “kao wo dasu” (showing your true face)
  95. 体で覚える “karada de oboeru” (matter over mind)
  96. 過当競争 “kato kyoso” (compete or die)
  97. 軽薄短小 “kei-haku-tan-sho” (light, slim, short, small)
  98. けじめ “kejime” (drawing a line)
  99. 嫌米 “kenbei” (dislike of america)
  100. 研修 “kenshu” (having fun at company expense)
  101. 気 “ki” (may the force be with you)
  102. 切っ掛け、攻め “kikkake/seme” (putting on an act)
  103. 帰国子女 “kikoku shijo” (strangers in a strange land)
  104. 気配り “kikubari” (making everybody feel good)
  105. 気持ち “kimochi” (doing things for feeling)
  106. 勤勉性 “kinbensei” (the diligence syndrome)
  107. 禁煙権 “kin’en ken” (nonsmokers’ rights)
  108. 綺麗ごと “kirei goto” (making pretty talk)
  109. 帰省ラッシュ “kisei rasshu” (the homeward rush)
  110. 気を許す “ki wo yurusu” (letting your guard down)
  111. こじんまり “kojinmari” (as snug as a bug in a rug)
  112. 心構え “kokorogamae” (attitude is everything)
  113. 国際化 “kokusaika” (becoming less Japanese)
  114. 小回りがきく “komawari ga kiku” (bypassing the bureaucracy)
  115. 顧問 “komon” (the importance of connections)
  116. コミュニケーションギャップ “komyunikeshon gyappu” (the communication gap)
  117. 懇談会 “kondan kai” (personalizing the business process)
  118. コネ “kone” (the importance of connections)
  119. 混乱 “konran” (keeping things under control)
  120. コピー商品 “kopi shokuhin” (imitation food)
  121. 凝り性 “korisho” (dealing with perfection)
  122. 腰掛け “koshikake” (watching out for chairs)
  123. 交渉 “kosho” (coming out fighting)
  124. 口コミ “kuchi-komi” (by word of mouth)
  125. 黒子 “kuroko” (the men in black)
  126. 玄人 “kuroto” (professionalism in Japan)
  127. 空気 “kuuki” (the Japanese atmosphere)
  128. 競争 “kyoso” (the ultimate competitors)
  129. 競争と強調 “kyoso to kyocho” (doing business with enemies)
  130. 休養 “kyuyo” (getting away from it all)
  131. 目利き “mekiki” (made to please the eye)
  132. 女々しい “memeshii” (who’s a wimp?)
  133. 面目丸潰れ “menmoku maru tsubure” (losing one’s face)
  134. 見込み発注 “mikomi hatchuu” (anticipating customer needs)
  135. 禊 “misogi” (wiping the slate clean)
  136. 身内 “miuchi” (insider logic)
  137. 雅 “miyabi” (elegance in things Japanese)
  138. 紋 “mon” (wearing company colors)
  139. 物の道理 “mono no dori” (something new in Japan)
  140. 猛烈社員 “moretsu shain” (working with violence)
  141. 無駄、ムラ、無理 “muda, mura, muri” (waste not, want not)
  142. 内定 “naitei” (hitting the glass celing)
  143. 仲間 “nakama” (the personal relations room)
  144. 握り潰す “nigiritsubusu” (crushing people’s projects)
  145. 日本人論 “nihonjinron” (psyching out the Japanese)
  146. 日本的 “nihonteki” (being Japanese-like)
  147. ノーミス “no misu” (second best isn’t good enough)
  148. 乗り気 “noriki” (a Japanese ingredient)
  149. 入社式 “nyushashiki” (the new corporate baptism)
  150. 大風呂敷 “oburoshiki” (the big-mouth syndrome)
  151. 煽てる “odateru” (applying soft soap)
  152. 小田原評定 “odawara hyojo” (a delaying tactic)
  153. お彼岸 “ohigan” (keeping in tune)
  154. お見合い “omiai” (love takes a backseat)
  155. お土産 “omiyage” (creating obligations)
  156. 思いやり “omoiyari” (Japanese-style sympathy)
  157. 表、裏 “omote/ura” (telling the front from the back)
  158. 恩、恩返し “on/on gaeshi” (covering with obligation)
  159. お得意さん “o’tokui san” (mr honored customer)
  160. お疲れ様 “otsukare sama” (above and beyond the call)
  161. 羞恥心 “renchishin” (avoiding shame)
  162. 流行 “ryuko” (fashions and fads)
  163. 差別語 “sabetsu go” (taboo language)
  164. サービス “sabisu” (more than service)
  165. 探る “saguru” (probing your partners)
  166. 災害 “saigai” (land of disasters)
  167. 細工 “saiku” (the small-is-cute syndrome)
  168. 盛り場 “sakari ba” (the business of having fun)
  169. 桜前線 “sakura zensen” (the cherry blossom culture)
  170. 産業スパイ “sangyo supai” (industrial espionage)
  171. 三麿の位 “san ma no i” (the three doors to success)
  172. さっぱり、爽やか “sappari/sawayaka” (that oh-so-sexy feeling)
  173. サラ金 “sarakin” (the loan shark business)
  174. 左遷 “sasen” (moving down a step)
  175. 悟り “satori” (seeing the light)
  176. 青春 “seishun” (the trials of youth)
  177. 正座 “seiza” (sitting correctly)
  178. 世間知らず “seken shirazu” (babes in the woods)
  179. 世間ずれした “seken zure shita” (too wise for the world)
  180. 先生 “sensei” (polishing the apple)
  181. 節約 “setsuyaku” (the saving syndrome)
  182. 社畜 “sha chiku” (a nation of corporate sheep)
  183. 借景 “shakkei” (creating Japaneseness)
  184. しぶとさ “shibutosa” (fight to the death)
  185. 指導 “shido” (a word from big brother)
  186. きしたり “shikitari” (the herd instinct)
  187. 仕込む “shikomu” (the spiritual dimension of work)
  188. 指名 “shimei” (picking your bed partner)
  189. 辛抱 “shinbo” (you must have patience)
  190. 審議会 “shingi kai” (Japan’s shadow rulers)
  191. 新発売 “shinhatsubai” (the new product syndrome)
  192. 新人類 “shinjinrui” (Japan’s new aliens)
  193. 信頼 “shinrai” (relying on Japaneseness)
  194. 知らん顔 “shirankao” (keeping a straight face)
  195. 使徒不明金 “shitofumeikin” (company ‘slush’ funds)
  196. 淑やかな “shitoyakana” (gracefulness as morality)
  197. 勝負 “shobu” (a fight to the finish)
  198. 修行 “shugyo” (training for intuitive wisdom)
  199. 就職指導 “shushoku shido” (“long arms of professors”)
  200. 相談役 “sodanyaku” (the quiet advisors)
  201. 袖の下 “sode no shita” (a little something up the sleeve)
  202. 相互依存 “sogo izon” (all in the same boat)
  203. 損して得とれ “sonshite tokutore” (losing to win)
  204. 助っ人 “suketto” (from heroes to helpers)
  205. 素直さ “sunao-sa” (the meek survive)
  206. 摺り合わせ “suri-awase” (grinding off the rough edges)
  207. 大安 “taian” (waiting for lucky days)
  208. 待遇 “taigu” (spreading the red carpet)
  209. 対人恐怖 “taijin kyofu” (fear of getting personal)
  210. 体験入隊 “taiken nyutai” (boot camp for company recruits)
  211. タレント “tarento” (people with talent)
  212. 立役者 “tateyaku sha” (finding the kingpin)
  213. 多様化 “tayoka” (going with the flow)
  214. 手先 “tesaki” (putting up a front man)
  215. つーかー “tsu-ka” (tuned to the same cues)
  216. つき合い “tsukiai” (bonding with your associates)
  217. 腕 “ude” (having a special skill)
  218. 初々しい “uiuishii” (the wiles of naivety)
  219. 馬が合う “uma ga au” (harmonizing your horses)
  220. 裏方 “urakata” (the hidden-person ploy)
  221. 恨みを買う “urami wo kau” (buying into trouble)
  222. 煩い “urusai” (hard to please)
  223. 和解 “wakai” (making honorable concessions)
  224. 和気あいあい “waki aiai” (living in happy harmony)
  225. 和製英語 “wasei eigo” (made-in-Japan english)
  226. 役得 “yakutoku” (a dangerous perk)
  227. やくざ “yakuza” (the honorable gangsters)
  228. やらせ “yarase” (beware of intimidation)
  229. 横並び “yokonarabi” (the copycat syndrome)
  230. 湯舟 “yubune” (the Japanese and hot water)
  231. 財テク “zaiteku” (the high-tech investors)
  232. 前例 “zenrei” (breaking the molds of the past)

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