What Are They Saying? – 10 Practical Japanese Onomatopoeias

  • Learning a new language can be tough, especially when people speak fast and use a lot of local lingo. Japanese, as complicated as it may seem, can be picked up easily if you have the dedication and the know how.

    One of the more difficult things to get are the sounds. There are a lot of Onomatopoeias in Japan, usually spoken at rapid speed. Here are a few to get you through conversations.

    1. Doki-Doki – Excited/Nervous

    Often translated as “with a throbbing heart” you use this when you are excited or nervous about something. For example, OMG! Watanabe Ken just walked past me!!! I am so Doki-Doki right now! Or – My exam is tomorrow, I am all Doki-Doki to find out the result!

    2. Pari-Pari – Crispy

    This is used to describe something that is thin, a little hard, and crispy.

    For Example: Wow, these potato chips are so pari-pari, when I eat them with pari-pari dried seaweed they are delicious! It is a pari-pari paradise!

    3. Kin-Kin – Very Cold

    This means something is ice-cold, usually used for drinks.

    For example, This beer is Kin-Kin, let’s drink it! Drink it now! Or – Wow! It is freezing outside, my car is Kin-Kin right now! Turn on the heat!

    4. Bata-Bata – Busy AF

    This is the expression you use when you are multitasking like Oprah, and just can’t keep up. The phone is ringing, the fax is buzzing (if you are in the 80’s, or in an old-fashioned Japanese company, and still have a fax) and everything is all cray cray.

    For example, today was such a Bata-Bata day at the office, I didn’t have time to pee! I hope tomorrow will be less Bata-Bata because I have a lot of Pari-Pari potato chips to eat!

    5. Yobo-Yobo – Wobbly

    We use this expression to show something that is unstable, people drunk off their head, or a house about to fall over.

    For example: Hey! You see that drunk Yobo-Yobo ojisan, holding onto the Yobo-Yobo fence? Yea, he has had one too many. Go help him. Be his friend.

    More Onomatopoeias – Related to Health

    So, you’ve mastered a few basics. You know how to tell your drunken yobo yobo friends all about you being doki doki for your big date tonight.

    Now, let’s explore some onomatopoeias related to pain! Because, you know, telling your doctor where it hurts and how it hurts is important!

    6. Hiri-Hiri – Stinging or Burning

    Think about sunburn. A nasty sunburn you got while relaxing after a particularly bata bata week, and now your skin is not only pari pari, but stingy. Hurts to touch. That, my friends, is hiri hiri skin. If you’re me, you will make yourself a nice margarita to cure the skin, but then, cut your finger a little, only to find it drenched in lime juice. Now you have a hiri hiri finger to go with your hiri hiri skin. More margaritas for everyone.

    7. Gan-Gan – Pounding

    Sadly, the margaritas made everyone yobo yobo. Thus, hangovers are in full swing. How can you explain the pain to a friend? Gan Gan. Pounding. Ironically, it can also be used to express pounding back the booze. I gan gan drank margaritas to get over my hiri hiri finger, and now my head is gan gan hurting. A vicious cycle, these onomatopoeias!

    8. Chiku-Chiku – Prickly / Scratchy

    Everyone survived the margarita fest, and the hangovers have passed. Too bad you all slept in slightly old, unwashed futons covered in cat hair, so everyone now is feeling all chiku chiku. You know, that feeling when your skin is scratchy or prickly painful because you are wearing underwear from the 100 Yen shop, or poked your finger with a sewing needle. The word you are looking for is chiku chiku. Don’t poke your fingers with sewing needles, that is simply stupid.

    9. Zuki-Zuki – Throbbing

    This word is quite useful for those that play sports or are accident prone. Throbbing. Throbbing nasty pain, like after stubbing your toe running to the shower to clean your chiku chiku skin, or eating slightly suspect very discounted sushi. Now you are sitting on the toilet with a zuki zuki toe, nursing your zuki zuki stomach, dreaming of getting yobo yobo by gan gan drinking margaritas.

    10. Jin Jin – Tingly

    You rested your zuki zuki toe, by raising your legs on a pillow, and now they have fallen asleep and are feeling jin jin. You decide to wake yourself up and go for a run outside, in search of margaritas, of course, only to find it is minus 2, you have no gloves, and now your hands are jin jin in the cold air.

    Have fun impressing your Japanese friends with onomatapea, they will be very waku waku if you can use them correctly!

    Happy Speaking!

    Related Articles:
    Japanese Onomatopoeia: How many words do you know?
    Why do the Japanese Sound So Cute When They’re Talking?