3 Interesting Japanese Phrases That Have Different Meanings in Tokyo and Osaka

  • LANGUAGE
  • We all know that the two famous cities of Japan, Tokyo and Osaka, are totally different when it comes to food, language, and so on. When you start learning Japanese, the first dialect people like to point out as different is “Osaka-ben” aka “Kansai-ben.” People often say that Osakans are a bit more chilled out, and are often misunderstood because of their language usage. Regional differences are common in any country, however, there are some Japanese phrases that have totally different meanings in Tokyo and Osaka. To find out more about this unique aspect of Japanese, read on!

    1. Iketara iku

    “Iketara iku” is a phrase that you would see people of all ages and backgrounds commonly use, especially in the event of being invited. It is a proper response to any kind of invitation. “Iku” is a Japanese verb that indicates the action of going; in other words, it simply means “to go.” However, the word “iketara” adds the willingness to the verb, which would translate to “if I can go” in English. So by saying “iketara” after the original verb “iku,” you are suggesting that you might or might not go i.e., “If I can, I will be there,” and that is open for the receiver’s interpretation.

    A popular Japanese TV show called Chichin Puipui, aired by MBS (Mainichi Broadcasting System), sent its reporters to both East and West Japan to find out what exactly “iketara iku” means to them. And the results suggest that they mean exactly the opposite to people from Kanto and Kansai, where the major cities Tokyo and Osaka lie, respectively. An overwhelming majority of Kantoites said that the phrase indicates that the person who uttered it will most likely show up, while Osakans think he/she will probably not be seen.

    2. Mokarimakka?

    When someone asks about your financial prospects instead of saying hello when they meet you, how would you react? Would you say that you are earning well or just say “Pardon me,” reluctantly? When in Osaka, be prepared to hear the greeting “Mokarimakka?”, which roughly translates to “Paid well?” or “Is your fortune bright?”

    The word “mokari” usually refers to “payments” or “borrowings,” while “makka” is Osakan for “~masu ka.” The perfect reply to this kind of greeting is “bochi bochi” or “bochi bochi denna,” which means “more or less” or “neither good nor bad.” This is a typical way of beginning conversations in Osaka, similar to using “How are you doing?”

    However, if you use the phrase “Mokarimakka?” in East Japan, you would most likely get a laugh, an eyebrow raise, or a simple “I’m fine.” The usual reply “bochi bochi” is less common in Tokyo and is pronounced “botsu botsu.” But since most Japanese are familiar with Osaka-ben, it is not that uncommon to see people speaking it in the middle of Kanto.

    3. Chau chau

    Many Westerners try to connect to Osaka-ben as it is seen as honest yet unharmful. The dialect is also seen with a bit of romanticism, similar to that of Latin culture.

    In Osaka, people are quite open about how they feel while still making their words peaceful. For example, the phrase “chigau chigau” is usually understood in Tokyo as a strong disapproval, like you going “No, no!” or “That’s not right!” However, when you use “chau chau” as Osakans do, you are telling the other person that they are wrong while also showing your friendly side. It is a bit less aggressive and if used in Tokyo, people would most likely appreciate it rather than get offended.

    There are several other Japanese phrases that would differentiate people from Tokyo and Osaka. However, one thing seems to be more common in the usage of Japanese language in Osaka, and that is nonchalance.

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