Survey reveals Japan’s 'Top 10 Words' - all remarkably positive

TOKYO —

In a survey carried out late last year, Japan’s Shonan Beauty Clinic asked 1,400 Japanese men and women what their favourite words were. The results were remarkably wholesome.

If you ever wondered how Japanese people truly think, or thought for a second that the stern expressions worn on busy commuter trains each morning were accurate representations of passengers’ inner feelings, you were way off the mark.

The survey was carried out between Dec 22-24, with people from all over the country aged 15-77 asked to give their favourite word in the Japanese language.

While we’d definitely agree that Japan is a great place to live and that its people are, on the whole, very positive, we can’t help but wonder whether those who took part in this survey were feeling unusually chipper that day or simply aiming to please, since there isn’t a negative or childishly rude word among them.

Here are the top 10 results, complete with their English counterparts:

1. ありがとう arigato - thank you (76 votes)

2. 努力 doryoku - exertion/great effort (74 votes)

3. 愛 ai - love (72 votes)

4. 思いやり omoiyari - consideration (55 votes)

5. 前向き maemuki - looking forward (33 votes)

6. 一期一会 ichigo ichie - once in a lifetime opportunity (32 votes)

7. 笑い・笑顔 warai/egao - laugh/smiling face (18 votes)

8. 健康 kenko - health (16 votes)

9. 平和 heiwa - peace (13 votes)

10. なんとかなる nantoka ni naru - ”We’ll get by some way or other.” (12 votes)

Perhaps I’m just being cynical here. Perhaps, as I sit in my candle-lit drawingroom, stabbing at the keys on my vintage typewriter and yelling at local children for playing too close to my wrought iron gates, the rest of the world is all sunshine, smiles and free refills. Or perhaps the folks at the clinic who conducted this survey sought only to interview people who have personalities similar to Barbie from the Toy Story movies? Either way, this is by far the most wholesome set of “favorite words” that this writer has ever seen.

Japan, you bring warmth to my otherwise cold, unfeeling heart.

Source: Niconico News

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  • 4

    Tamarama

    As a rule, most Japanese people I have anything to do with are pretty positive folk.

  • 5

    FredDomino

    its a surprise がんばって is not on the list

  • 16

    Mocheake

    The term I hear the most is 'shoganai.'

  • 2

    oikawa

    its people are, on the whole, very positive,

    Not really. Very often outwardly chirpy, yes, but often with very negative and critical ingrained attitudes.

  • 2

    gaijinfo

    Nobody tells the truth in surveys. This has been a known fact in psychological and sociological research for decades.

    Any marketer with half a brain will tell you there are much more covert ways of getting peoples "true" opinions. If you ask them straight out, they'll only give an answer that makes them look good.

    Besides, asking people what their favorite word is is like asking them what they like to think about. Nobody is going to say anything negative to that.

    This is one of those studies where little kids can pretend to be grown up journalists.

  • 4

    smithinjapan

    There's something a little odd about this list. It says that these words all got certain amounts of votes, which suggests to me there was a list of pre-selected words to choose from, not that they were randomly chosen words. If that's the case I'd like to know what all of the choices were. It's still nice to see that even if they chose these ten out of 20 or more words they were all positive ones, but I'm sure if they were freely chosen words there would be 'kawaii' and 'ganbare' in there, as well as the trendy katakana catch-phrases.

  • 6

    smithinjapan

    Plus, "Once in a lifetime opportunity" is a bit of a spin on 一期一会, in my opinion, which is closer to "Treat every encounter as though it were the last", especially given the original of the idiom.

  • 4

    tkoind2

    In a survey, depending upon how the people were asked, the favorite words would typically be positive. I don't think it is a real reflection upon Japan. Certainly not of Tokyo.

    I hear "Shoganai" constantly. "Taihen" is probably number two. Tokyo is the least positive, friendly and warm city I have ever lived in. And absolutely not a positive place.

    Now get outside of Tokyo and things change. I find the people in the countryside to be extremely warm and positive. But Tokyo?!? No way.

  • 3

    Zybster

    Some of you are mentioning words you "often hear." That's not the target of the survey, they are talking about "favorite words."

    smithinjapan, if you notice that the top word has 76 votes out of 1400 respondents, then I don't think they were given any list. Otherwise, the response rate would have been higher.

    If you think that the survey was done at the end of December, "thank you" may have been the most common word. If they asked the same question in mid-April, "ganbatte" could appear here. But, right now it does not.

  • 1

    tkoind2

    But the article does suggest that favorite words somehow demonstrate the positive outlook of respondents. When in reality, it does not.

    I have a favorite food, but does not represent what I eat every day. The same concept applies here Zybster. Despite denizens of Japan having a warm and fuzzy list of happy words that qualify as their favorites, the daily diet of vocabulary includes "shoganai", "taihen" and "tsukareta" in far greater frequency and accuracy in defining how people actually feel and live in Japan.

  • 0

    tkoind2

    And let's not forget one of the really big hitter words. "ishogashi".

  • 3

    Jechan

    Gaman. Taihen. Kawaii.

  • 0

    humanrights

    Obviously 'words are not enough' I see the sad faces everyday in JP, words are just a mask for business.

  • 5

    Jimizo

    'Mendokusai' is a word that illustrates Japan for me - a sense of not wishing to be a burden and where convenience is king.

  • 1

    LiveInTokyo

    I think the survey was quite dogmatic. The words that got the votes are the ones I've heard during political speeches, on posters in a workplace, speeches from teachers, the words of encouragement that celebrities will use for people who live in the areas affected by the tsunami/earthquake of 2011. They are very idealistic of how Japanese society seems to view itself.

    The words that were most chosen are not the ones that I hear during daily conversation. Even though they might be "favourite", words there is no context for it, therefore I find this survey to be essentially meaningless.

  • -2

    cracaphat

    A lot of nitpickers concerning this survey eh?

  • 2

    smithinjapan

    Zybster: "If you think that the survey was done at the end of December, "thank you" may have been the most common word. If they asked the same question in mid-April, "ganbatte" could appear here. But, right now it does not."

    So in other words the "Top-10 Words" are whimsical and change according to the season and not really indicative of the people's character at all? And it doesn't have to be a list of 20 words to mean the top ten were only 'voted on' 76 times out of 1400 people -- it could have been a list with hundreds of words. Point is you VOTE on options presented to you.

    Anyway, this sounds like one of those articles that was written by someone who has just set foot here a short time ago. It is a nice thought, and perhaps these are the favourite words of 76 or so people, but they are not the words that represent the reality for most. Heck, maybe that's WHY such words were chosen -- reality is a stark contrast.

  • -3

    lachatamber

    do people not know how to read? it says favorite words, not most commonly used words.

  • 1

    Konsta

    Anyone can expect anything remarkably negative and cranky among the 10 Most favorite words of anyone (especially anyone among 1400 respondents of a beauty clinic)? Heh. I love polls.

  • 0

    nandakandamanda

    Daily life is generally a hard grind for people. They like to have something to aim for. These are ideals, things that will improve society if everyone tries hard to aim for them, proverbs even. By aiming at them, looking up to them, they can forget what is around and behind them.

    Words sometimes have different functions here than in the west.

    Actions speak louder than words, for example, is probably extra true here in Japan.

  • 0

    oikawa

    Like usual here it seems the people thumbing up and down are not the people actually bothering to write anything so it's hard to gauge the mood exactly, but the precise point is is that there is such a discrepancy between what are very commonly used words and what people claim are their favourite words. You have a favourite word but never use it? Or use words that you hate all the time? Doesn't make sense when you think about it. It's not that people have misunderstood the poll, it just doesn't tally with the evidence people hear all around them.

  • 0

    letsberealistic

    Someone calls you, apologises politely for disturbing you and taking up your time and is it okay if I ask one question; what is your favourite word? Would YOU say something negative like cr#p?, bull#hit?,hate? Silly survey.

  • 1

    gokai_wo_maneku

    The survey asked for their "favorite words", not the words that best reflect the reality of your existence, however miserable and pitiful it may be, or however hopeless, pointless, and meaningless it may be. Please read the article more carefully.

  • 0

    Simona Stanzani

    the word chosen by 76 people out of 1400 is #1 and #10 counts only 12...? how many words did these people come up? this survey sounds a bit like rubbish to me.

  • 0

    jonobugs

    If anyone asked me what my favourite word was, I am pretty sure it would be a positive one. Why in the world would I want my favourite word to be a negative one even if I had a negative attitude. This is a whimsical survey, and no where does it state that it's a scientific one and as such was not carried out like one. I imagine it would be carried out without any thought of accuracy or validity but just to get a sense of people's thoughts at the moment.

  • 0

    OrangeXenon54

    Whoah, I thought the only word in the vocabulary of Japanese people under 25 was やばい

  • 2

    choiwaruoyaji

    Just on a point of style...

    Why, in the past few years, have people started using "we" in articles... "We'd definitely agree...", "We like...", "We think..."

    Is the article written by a panel of people who have all agreed on the contents?

    Somehow it kind of makes me cringe.

  • 0

    gokai_wo_maneku

    OrangeXenon54, actually we say やべーーーー. Well, I'm a few years older than 25. Usually I don't like what happens after I say it.

  • 0

    gokai_wo_maneku

    Sorry, that should have been やっべーーーー.

  • -3

    nedinjapan

    Let me say what I keep hearing a lot from young Japanese reacting to the environment, people and situations around them: "Yabai", "Kimoi" (means kimochi warui), "Hidoi", "Mecha samui", "Sugoi", "Oishii", "Mazui", "Takai", "Yasui" ....

  • -2

    nedinjapan

    Oh, I forgot the most frequent word: "iran" (means iranai, I am not interested, I don't want or need it ...)

  • 0

    Takahiro Katsumi

    Japan, you bring warmth to my otherwise cold, unfeeling heart.

    My response to this closing line says it all, coming from a native Japanese in Tokyo:

    I wish I feel the same.

  • -1

    Riceland

    two words peer pressure.

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