More Made in Japan English

05 February, 2012 by

After a long wait, here’s the follow up to our Made In Japan English article on Wasei-eigo, containing even more uniquely Japanese words that have come to adopt as English. It took quite a while to decide what words to feature this time as there are quite literally hundreds of examples, enough for at least dozen such posts!

As usual, some of these words have found such common usage that they have been readopted into the English language.

Hong Kong Shirt
We mentioned in the previous article how formal shirts were called Y-shirts and wearing sleeveless shirts was called “no sleeves”. Short sleeved collared shirts on the other hand are referred to as Hong Kong Shirts.

Base Up
When a company gives a uniform pay raise across all employees this is called a Base Up. To accommodate office whispers, the word is further shortened to just “be-a” (pronounced bay ah).

Hello Work
On a less fortunate note, employment centers (where one goes to get assistance in finding a job) are known as the amusingly positive, Hello Work.

White-collar office workers employed by large corporations. The term Salaryman is now commonly used in other countries too. While originally a prestigious (due to the old Japanese policy of offering “lifetime employment”) title, the name now suggests low pay and long office hours. The female equivalent of Salaryman are referred to as Career Women, a word that comes with the same negative connotations.

A shortened form of Cabaret Club, Kyabakura are the now infamous hostess clubs found in places like Roppongi and Shinjuku. Generally regarded as the Salaryman equivalent of Maid Cafes, patrons can spend time with “Kyaba-jo” (Cabaret Girls) at the cost of overpriced alcohol. Not to be confused with escorts, sexual services are generally prohibited at kyabakura. Instead, money is traded simply for companionship and the fantasy woven by the hostesses.

SDN48 are not shy about their similarities to kyabakura.

Print Club
The name of the first popular machine developed and trademarked by Sega, Japanese photo booths have come to be known universally as Print Clubs or Purikura in short..

Image Club
In contrast, the less innocent “Image Clubs” refer to Japanese “kyabakura” or even brothels where patrons can indulge in companionship with women dressed up as various cliched occupations. Shinoda Mariko acts as a employee of such an establishment in the recent Salaryman NEO movie.

Morning Service
This one’s a little hard to figure since it has nothing to do with church, or even room service. Instead Morning Service is the practice where F&B shops offer discount prices early in the day for those on their way to work. This makes more sense when you consider the rampart use of the word “service” in Japan to refer to just about any act of hospitality. For example, when you are given something on the house, it is simply passed off as service (desu).

Bed Town
Known as Commuter Towns to the rest of the world. Bed Towns are residential sub-urban towns whom residents mostly travel out to cities to work. The people return home only for their beds, thus the term.

Green Car
While hybrid or electric cars are often called Green Cars. Green Cars are actually the name given to first class seating in Japanese transport. The term is popularized by the JR Company’s term for luxury seats in their Shinkansen. Instead, hybrid vehicles are called “Eco Cars” in Japan.

Paper Driver
A Paper Driver is someone who owns a driving license but doesn’t use it, as in a “Driver in Paper only”.

Game Center
Gaming arcades and amusement centers are known simply as Game Centers.

AKB1/48 is a typical Girl Game, albeit with some interesting features.

Girl Game
Contrary to the English meaning, adventure or dating simulation games targeted toward men are called “Girl Games” in Japan. These usually involve a number of (typically) anime female characters which the player can date. Adding to the confusion, the female equivalent of such games (which feature anime young men instead) are called “Otome Games”, which translates to mean the same thing.

There’s a whole grouping of Wasei-eigo words that involve the Japanese taking a normal English word with a wider use and applying a single meaning to it. Here “Revenge” is used as a noun to refer to rematches in any game or sport.

Health Meter
Probably only confusing to geeks. But weighing scales are actually called Health Meters in Japan.

Grade Up
The Japanese word for upgrades, or when one needs to “grade up” themselves to stay more competitive.

Image Down
This wasei-eigo seems to had been invented purely to explain the feeling one gets when their perception of someone else has been ruined. An example sentence would be “The frequent scandals have caused the public’s view of the idols to image down”.

No Make
Being without makeup grants you the condition of “no make”. But if you are wearing makeup, the act of touching it up at particular points is known as “point make”.

Japanese Beauty.

Charm Point
One’s most attractive features are known as their “charm points”. This is a commonly discussed topic both in real life and in the media, with dimples, yaeba (crooked “double” teeth) and moles all being touted as charm points.

Old Miss
Like the proper English equivalent, spinster, Old Miss is a derogatory term for older unmarried woman. On a completely unrelated note, typos are called a Type Miss. If you find any “Type Misses” or have any other interesting Wasei-eigo examples to add, do leave us a comment below!


Supermerlion's Webmaster and Editor-in-Chief. Singaporean Nikkeijin with over 12 years of experience in the media industry. Producer at a Japanese entertainment company. Former Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Multimedia Programmer, Manager and Consultant. Shoots with a Canon 5Dmk2 and Sony RX100-2.