Updated: February 09, 2017
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Interesting Japanese Dialect Words that Make You Japanese Savvy

Hi Japanese learners!! Japan has many dialects that even Japanese can't understand. If you master these dialects, it's super!! Try to pick up some of these more famous Japanese dialect phrases and impress your Japanese friends.

Take your Japanese to the next level

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So you have been working hard at learning Japanese so that you can use it with the Japanese people you meet along your travels and strike up a rapport with them. Why not step up your game a notch further and learn some dialect words to bond with locals who will appreciate you using their localized variety?

Particular to one region, known nation-wide

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To maximize your learning efforts, I will introduce you some dialect words that are commonly known across Japan so that even if you are not visiting the region where these words originate from, you can still use them when you discuss the intricacies of Japanese with Japanese people. So without further ado, let’s pick up some intriguing words!

Shibareru = It’s Cold!

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Hokkaido, the northernmost part of Japan, is famous for its picturesque snow-covered scenery – and its deep, freezing cold. Samui (Japanese word for “cold”) is hardly adequate enough to describe the kind of bone-chilling, spine-tingling cold you feel. Try shibareru instead to express how winter in Hokkaido makes you shiver. Coincidentally, shibareru sounds a bit like “shiver” said in katakana form, which should make it easy for you to remember this word.
In the first part we looked at the Hokkaido dialect for “cold”, shibireru. Let’s start moving down mainland Japan to find out more. Next stop, Tohoku and “namara”!

Namara = Very

Tohoku people, North-Easterns of Japan, use namara (Tohoku dialect for “very”) instead of totemo, its Standard Japanese equivalent. So something that is very kawaii (Japanese word for “cute”) would be described as namara kawaii. Interestingly, namara is used so often by celebrities hailing from Hokkaido that many Japanese actually associate it with Hokkaido dialect. This just goes to show how language use is fluid and transcends across boundaries.

Kansai-ben to come

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In the next part I’ll talk a little about Western Japan’s Kansai-ben dialect. Probably the most well-known dialect in Japan, Kansai-ben is also very popular with Japanese learners. Read on to find out why.

Kansai-ben and Japan’s Western Comedy scene

Thanks to the popularity of comedy shows from Kansai, Japanese people are very attuned to Kansai-ben (Kansai dialect) as they adore the hilarious comedians from this part of Japan. Speaking Kansai-ben will hence go a long way to breaking the ice when you meet new Japanese friends as it boasts the image of being fun and casual.

Honma ni = Really

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So instead of saying hontou ni (Standard Japanese for “really”), you can tickle the funny bone with honma ni, its Kansai ben equivalent. Another phrase that will definitely evoke chuckles: "Yurushite yattara douya" (“Would you forgive me?”). Now, this is a difficult phrase to commit to memory, but as it was popularized by the famous comedian Tsujimoto Shigeo, using this will enable you to let your Japanese friends burst out in laughter.

Heading South

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In the final part of this dialect series, I'll introduce a word from Kyushu and Okinawa! Don't miss the chance to add them to your vocabulary.

batten = however

When you travel in Kyushu, the southwestern part of Japan, you can build up a sense of intimacy with the people there by using batten (Kyushu dialect for “however”) instead of dakedo, its Standard Japanese equivalent.

nankurunaisa = don't worry about it

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Last but not least, mishaps and challenges are bound to crop up during your travels. At times like these, make yourself feel better and impress your Japanese friends with your philosophical attitude by shrugging them off with a nankurunaisa (Okinawa dialect for “Everything will be all right”).

Japanese language diversity

Even though Japan is often referred to as a small island nation, you can see that there are a variety of dialects within the Japanese language. Some people attribute this to the fact that Japan's many mountains and islands made it easy for regional dialects to develop untouched from the influence of other speakers. Whatever the reason, hopefully you had some fun reading and learned some new Japanese. May your expanded repertoire of vocabulary spice up your interactions with Japanese people!
I like writing about traveling around Japan and other things.

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