Here
and
Now

kuchikomi

Too much katakana contributing to Japan's malaise

121 Comments

After World War II, Japan spent decades propelling itself to the summit of economic and technological achievement – for what, demands writer and psychiatrist Otohiko Kaga. Approximately 30,000 Japanese a year commit suicide; a million suffer from clinical depression.

Writing in Shukan Post (Oct 22), Kaga, 81, proposes for this frequently noted anomaly an unexpected explanation. Sixty-five years of postwar progress and economic triumph have not altered – but may even have deepened – a fatal flaw in Japan’s circumstances, namely its virtual colonial dependence on its former occupier, the United States.

If anyone had doubted it before, it’s harder to do so now in the wake of the rather blunt way Japan was put in its place this summer, when the now-defunct Hatoyama administration sought to revise terms governing the relocation of a U.S. air base in Okinawa. The existence of foreign military bases itself symbolizes an ongoing occupation, in fact if not in name. Does no one protest? No, laments Kaga, no one does, apart from those living in the bases’ immediate proximity – the protesting impulse having evidently spent itself back in the furious 1960s and ‘70s. What’s left, he says, is the resignation of despair.

The occupation is not just military, in his view, but economic – witness Japan’s economic paralysis on the heels of the American “subprime” crisis and “Lehman shock.”

Another symptom, more ubiquitous and in a sense more insidious, though more often thought of with a smile than a shudder, is that bane of so many English-speaking foreigners here, “katakana English.”

Are we still on the same subject? We are, for “people who lose their sensitivity to language,” says Kaga, “become empty-headed.” Case in point: politicians who “pepper their speeches with katakana English to show off their erudition.”

There are any number of examples he could have raised to demonstrate the grating ugliness of this verbal tic; he confines himself to one: "Sky Tree," the new broadcasting tower now under construction in Tokyo.

Imagine “Japanese, the language of the [11th-century] 'Tale of Genji,' the language of the [8th-century poetry anthology] Manyoshu, so rich in native expressions,” stooping to such a “banal name” for the nation’s tallest architectural structure!

“Sky Tree,” to Kaga, suggests nothing so much as loss of pride, which helps account for the despair he notes at the outset of his article. Think of cleansing the language, he says, as “a first step toward making this unhappy country happy.”

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

121 Comments
Login to comment

Katakana English is a symptom, not a cause. There are a few countries in the world who consistently spread their influence to others. Then there are the vast majority of those who have no choice but soak it up. It has always been this way, and it will always be this way. Rome, England, U.S., and whoever is next.

Japan tried to be one of those countries and failed miserably. This article is nothing more than sour grapes. You are not a superpower Japan. Your unique and special history only matters to the nihonjinron types. The world isn't interested in your your ancient poetic phrases of the Genji.

Japan tried to take over the world and failed. Now she is complaining about those that are.

Japan is repeating the same thing that happened at the beginning of the Edo Period. She is realizing she can't compete on the global scale, and wants to take her marbles and go home and pout in isolation, all the while creating a fantasy of Japanese superiority.

That strategy worked in the 1600's, but it ain't gonna work today.

Step aside, Butch.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ah yes! Ban Katakana! That will solve all the economic and social issues in Japan! Why didn`t anyone think of that before??!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sixty-five years of postwar progress and economic triumph have not altered – but may even have deepened – a fatal flaw in Japan’s circumstances, namely its virtual colonial dependence on its former occupier, the United States

He hits it right on the head !

0 ( +1 / -1 )

kira :

Ban Katakana! That will solve all the economic and social issues in Japan!

The point he is making . . .language is a reflection of the psycho-cultural consciousness of a people. Japan with its profoundly rich cultural heritage and beautiful disciplines is losing connection with its identity. This is reflected in the absurdly over-abundant use of English converted to katakana.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Are we still on the same subject? We are, for “people who lose their sensitivity to language,” says Kaga, “become empty-headed.”

Gotta agree with that. Just watch a night of variety shows here if you have any doubt. But IMO what the article inplies is that Japan has sort of become half-pregnant. Younger people are less and less "fluent" in Japanese due to the influence of things like the Internet, but, they also "speak" lousy English, so they really cannot provide value to the economy as it tries to become more international. I guess if you really wanted to stretch, you could liken this to the ebonics issue in the U.S.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some of the most loony people are psychiatrists. The US isn't the only country that speaks English and loan words aren't confined to English(although they make up the majority). Some day Kaga,81, will go to that big Tree in the Sky.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Agree with the guy but what is the alternative? Let China rule East Asia? Have fun with them!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I need to point out that katakana is not English (or any other non-Japanese language.) If you say sekuhara to a speaker of English, they will not know what on god's earth you're talking about unless they have studied.....wait for it..... Japanese.

Modeditors,

of so many English-speaking foreigner here

Since there is probably more than one English-speaking foreigner in Japan I suggest adding the missing 'S' but congratulations on including the hyphen. You could also erase the 'so' and add an 'an' in front of 'English' if you so desired.

Moderator: It has been corrected. Thank you.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This guy is doing yet another repackaging of the old isolationism and nationalism with the pretext of removing katakana and the US military bases in Japan. You might be marginally successful with the katakana and have a slim chance of pushing the other through, but is he even considering China? This guy is basically advocating the removal of military protection for Japan, is he just dumb or an agent provocateur?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

witness Japan’s economic paralysis on the heels of the American “subprime” crisis and “Lehman shock.”

Yes. The Japanese economy was moving along swimmingly before that.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yup sour grapes, he sounds more like one of those nationalist that feels he missed his chance in the war and that Japan should be number one.

Katakana isn't the problem Japanese in general is the problem, the Kanji is inflexible and in order to find Japanese equivalence using Kanji and or Hiragana for modern words would create massive confusion and probably take years just to figure one out.

If you take a Roman character based language then you have an easier time and more choices.

For example "email" the French language purist objected to the word as being English so the solution was simple "email" is basically "electronic mail" so do the same "courrier électronique" and you get "courriel", simple but trying that with only "pure" Japanese even for such a simple word would be a monumental task now let try it with medical words and medication and all hell will break loose.

As for his virtual colonial dependence the USA needs Japan just as much as Japan needs the USA it's more symbiotic than anything else, Japan needs the easy access to the USA market and the protection form crazy neighbors and the USA needs a strong friend and presence in Asia.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If he wants to know the society's problems in Japan, he just need to turn on the tv for few minutes and now why people r committing suicide and why this country is losing its values.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Reaching for things that are not there.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

katakana is okay, but i cant stand romaji... elementary schools shouldn't teach romaji, instead, they should just teach kids alphabets and simple english spelling.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

TV -- terebi, while it should be televi(sion).. radio -- rajio, computer -- conpyuta, camera -- kamera.... See how much romaji screws up the spellings?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If Japan were to get rid of kanji altogether and only use hiragana, they could solve a whole lot of social issues. There would be no need for cram schools because children would have thousands of in school hours to study that are now spent learning kanji. This would save parents millions of yen. It would also cut child suicides. It would make it easier for foriegners to work here, guaranteeing an influx of overseas talent to re-energize the economy and put billions of yen into the pension system. Kanji could continue to be studied as a specialized subject, much like Latin and Greek are, for the tiny percentage of Japanese people who are interested in reading the Tale of Genji.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

laconic.

The cram-schools are there to pass the entrance exams not to give the kids an education.

There have been publications that announced they will only publish in Romaji or Hirakana. Heard them startup with a big noise and than SILENCE.

Kanji are not that hard but you can't simply learnt them by rote, you need to read them a lot as well as use them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yes, we know it's all the US's fault... Japan could leave the dependent state any time they want. There's a lack of willingness to make the sacrifices necessary to do it. Dump katakana? Sure, what replaces it? Does anybody have the will to do that? We already know the answers don't we???

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Pretty lame to blame mass suicides and weakness on katakana and a prior occupation. Blaming others isntead of looking at your own internal reasons is ridiculous. We aren't forcing them to use katakana. Katakana actually confuses me more than original Japanese words sometimes. This Kaga reaks of old man racism and hate

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If Japan were to get rid of kanji altogether and only use hiragana, they could solve a whole lot of social issues.

Have you ever tried reading stuff written only in hiragana? Not the learning-to-read kiddies' books, but real grown-up stuff like a novel or a newspaper or a scientific report? Sheer hell, virtually incomprehensible. I think scrapping kanji would lead to a rise in suicides as people suddenly find themselves having to work out what umpteen different homophones actually mean. And cutting off the whole culture and literature of the past is not something to be done lightly. Just because you don't understand something, don't mean it has no worth.

I think Mr Kaga is barking up the wrong tree. Japanese is a constantly evolving language, and since the end of WW2 it has evolved to include a whole lot more imported words and expressions. Why not call a computer a konpyuta? Or a pasokon? Would you prefer denshi-keisanki-ken-joho-hozon-sochi? What's wrong with terebi? It's easier and quicker to say than terebijion. Personally I find the wholesale import of foreign words to describe foreign or new ideas and objects a whole lot healthier than the old nationalistic way where imported words had to be made 'Japanese', like baseball became yakyu (Ignoring the fact that ya and kyu were also imported, a long time ago) instead of besuboru.

Nothing more than a taifu in a yunomi.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If Japan were to get rid of kanji altogether and only use hiragana, they could solve a whole lot of social issues

if Japan were to get rid of Kanji, it would cause so much problems, and i am sure this comment above comes from a person who does not know the concept of kanji.

each kanji character has its own meaning and unlike western languages, the meaning of the kanji is VERY important in the japanese language.

getting rid of katakana would be one thing, but getting rid of kanji... well, i say NO WAY.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

cleo-

Have you ever tried reading stuff written only in hiragana? Not the learning-to-read kiddies' books, but real grown-up stuff like a novel or a newspaper or a scientific report? Sheer hell, virtually incomprehensible

yes yes! i am so glad someone understands :)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yes to kanji!!! Long katakana strings give me a headache!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Many of us old-timers learned that using Kanji is actually easier and quicker than trying to read pure Hirakana, etc.

Guess we all felt at one stage why use those "stupid" Kanji and make it easier for us(My son is there now). I started to appreciate Kanji more and more as I learned and the subleties they can represent in the Japanese language.

Getting rid of Katakana might end us up in the same mess as Chinese is now. They use now the readings(phonetics) to string random Kanji together to represent a foreigner word = a meaning less string of Kanji just to use the phonetics.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Kanji could continue to be studied as a specialized subject, much like Latin and Greek are, for the tiny percentage of Japanese people who are interested in reading the Tale of Genji.

just FYI.. tale of Genji was written all in hiragana by the way.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This doesn't seem to be a problem with Katakana itself, but Katakana English. I mean, in other countries, we continue to refer to foreign words in their native tongue. Some slip into English usage, some do not. I don't think it's necessary to make a translated equivalent of every word you want to refer to, and it can dilute the meaning if you try.

I don't think the problem is with katakana. It's with a people who don't converse in the same way we do in English, and so they can't grasp English well, eventually leading to a mystique around 'impossible' English which is in fact just another thing you can master to sufficient degree. But the mystique has meant katakana English has a separate function to meaning as listed above, and that does contribute to thinness of native language skill.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

katakana is okay, but i cant stand romaji... elementary schools shouldn't teach romaji, instead, they should just teach kids alphabets and simple english spelling.

Totally agree. It's even worse when they son't even get the Romaji right.

People spelling "shio" as "sio" and getting F's and H's wrong (Saddam Fusein anyone?). "Chi" as "di" "tzu" as "du". And it's not even uniform, some people write one way, some the other.

Also, if they started spelling foreign words as they are in the foreign alphabet (where applicable) it might lessen the L / R and B / V mistakes and stop people sounding non-existant vowels at the end of words because of the katakana way of pronouncing them that they get drilled into them by their Engrish teachers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So Japanese are depressed and commit suicide because of the symbolic meaning of US military bases and English loan words. Did I understand the article?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

tale of Genji was written all in hiragana by the way

And is hell to read in the original. - though that's partly to do with the language of the Heian court, as much as the lack of kanji. Most modern Japanese, if they read it at all, read it in translation and with annotations. Schoolkids usually get to read a bit of it in the original at school, and that puts them off for life. :-)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I hardly think Katakana causes people to commit suicide... But, katakana does cause trouble in the sense that its excessive use disconnects people from their native tongue. The Sky Tree is actually a good example—why not use a kanji name that evokes the beauty/spirit of the real Japanese, there must be thousands of incredibly beautiful kanji names to pick? "Sora no ki" is faaaar more beautiful and evocative than the tired Sky Tree...

Second, apart from the effect that katakana has on English levels in this country, katakana-izing buzzwords simply means that a lot of people won't know what the heck you are talking about. Yes, it may be "cool" or impart an "international funiki" but does the reader/listener actually understand? Why not use other perfectly suitable hiragana-kanji expressions (of which there are many) instead?

I for one advocate immediate abolition of katakana.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Being dependent on America causes suicide? Why is the UK's so low then Mr Kaga?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

katakana was apparently a form of shorthand used by the scribes in the royal household, so it is actually derived from kanji,,,, as a written form, i think hiragana looks nicer, but without kanji to punctuate as it were, there would be no idea of nouns, verbs or general understanding of the written word, once learnt it is not to difficult to remember my 4 year old can already read most kanji for the first year of school, the brain is an amazing thing!

i think the problem is that even most Japanese view katakana words that are borrowed from other languages as always being english and expect me to understand,,,,for example 'arubaito' ,,,it is not an english word,,,,, or 'pan' for bread,,,,the list goes on

i think sometimes katakana complicates things in the sense of misunderstandings but definitely hiragana and kanji are needed

i agree with the point of romanji should be equivalent to ABC alphabet way or reading and writing when refering to english words

0 ( +0 / -0 )

cleo-

And is hell to read in the original

yeah, and i think if you ask 100 japanese people, i bet 100 of them would say it'd be easier to mix hiragana and kanji :)

MrDog-

People spelling "shio" as "sio" and getting F's and H's wrong (Saddam Fusein anyone?).

that's funny... ask rondom japanese people and see if they can pronounce Hussein, i bet majority of them can't. in fact, most japanese people cannot hear the difference between Fussein and Hussein... japanese people focus on the sound R, V when learning English, but F and H is another tough sound for japanese speakers (including myself, actually) :)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

MrDog.

Also there are different systems of ramonanization, If you check you can still find many examples of the previous one being used.

The system I learned 14yrs ago is different from what current students learn at the same school, still hasn't replaced current system though.

Also some countries overseas use a different romanization system(older) than what is taught in Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@semperfi

This is reflected in the absurdly over-abundant use of English converted to katakana.

No, it isn`t. There are many reasons for Japans loss of cultural identity, but using Katakana is definitely NOT one of them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The point he is making . . .language is a reflection of the psycho-cultural consciousness of a people. Japan with its profoundly rich cultural heritage and beautiful disciplines is losing connection with its identity. This is reflected in the absurdly over-abundant use of English converted to katakana.

Well then, English with its ~40% of vocabulary having French roots and seeing (hearing) people who like to pretend they are from Ivy and Oxbridge universities unnecessarily use French words when English words are perfectly available, must mean Anglophone culture is doomed!

That Norman yoke must weigh really heavy on us all.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

m5c32,,,we could all start spelling things as in olde england,,,putting e on the end of words like skye etc interesting many words were spelt very different in old english,,,,bird was brid for example i personally like butterfly as an old english word,,,, makes sense instead of being a borrowed word

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What I find interesting about the "let's ditch kanji" thing is: If you say, "Let's ditch kanji!" people will say it's so hard to understand what you're reading. But when people are speaking to you, there's no kanji and there are no subtitles. So what is the difference?

Katakana ... I wish they would just write out the English word. It bugs me that some katakana words are based on spelling and some on pronunciation. There's no standard and then you get people pronouncing English words in a weird way because that's how it's pronounced as katakana.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

MonkeyZ.

Written and Japanese often use different words/phrases to express the same thing and in written language you are also missing the visual, vocal, etc cues you get from a speaker.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Written and Spoken

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@mrskit

My point was that English (Norman) aristocracy foisted French on the locals. The locals learned that learning the language of the new dominant economic class was to their advantage, so they picked it up in bits and integrated it into English.

Anglophone society, from what I can tell, has done pretty well for itself despite that; therefore I think the original author is full of nonsense and is looking to make some money by peddling fear.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What a bunch of BS! Every time I hear that Japan has this or that problem and that it is all America's fault? It really makes me sick!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's time the Japanese took it on the chin for once instead of finger-pointing.

Time to step up to the plate Japan...hungry for it? No, didn't think so.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Monkeyz-

What I find interesting about the "let's ditch kanji" thing is: If you say, "Let's ditch kanji!" people will say it's so hard to understand what you're reading. But when people are speaking to you, there's no kanji and there are no subtitles. So what is the difference?

here's some example for you... the word ame .. if you write it in hiragana, it is あめ.. you wouldn't know if it means rain or candy, but if you use kanji, you'd instantly know it. and when you are speaking, you can hear the different intonation so you can tell if ame means rain or candy.

same thing for many other words, and also people's names. Let's say there is a boy named Yu. His name could be 悠、有、夕、勇、優 ... these kanjis all pronounce Yu but they all have different meanings.

also, depending on which kanji character to use, the writer can actually express many things by not using the sound of the character but simply by the choice of the kanji.

hard to explain, but kanji is necessary to understand the full meaning of japanese writing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

and by the way, if people think all katakana words are from English, that is wrong. Here are a couple of examples. let's say the word arubaito (part-time work) アルバイト, it is not an English word, it is from German Arbeit. Pan (bread).. パン、comes from Spanish word.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

thanks fishy for your post, always interesting read, and opening of new ideas i agree,,,just because some foreigners shy away from reading kanji,,,doesnt mean it is necessary to get rid off it

m5c32,,,yes,,,sorry,,,, i was agreeing with you,,,it just came out wrong,,,good points

language is always growing, and people will grow with it it makes life interesting

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I don't know the solution or if there even needs to be any but I find it interesting how so many here on JT have little or no idea about the roman alphabet or the origins of many Katakana words and why when Japanese write things in "Romaji" the spell thing the way they do.

@Fishy as a french speaker I would have thought you of all people would understand.

The Japanese do not use the English forms when using the Roman alphabet but use what was the original pronunciation brought here by the Portuguese and seeing that Japan like most of the world borrows words it is actually easier to spell those borrowed words due to the more uniform system as opposed to using the English way for and word perceived as English and the Portuguese way for a Portuguese words, French way, etc... I think you get the point.

A clear example of confusion is "Resona" that for some reason is written in Anglicized alphabet it should clearly be "Rissona or Risona" in accordance with the Japanese Roman alphabet and most of the Latin based world.

As for the idea of dropping Kanji as some have stated and others came up with the standard Japanese reply as to why that is not possible well I would agree if you limit your choice of change to Hiragana then yes that would be difficult but getting rid of Kanji has been done before just look at Vietnam they did it and it made the Vietnamese language way more simple to teach and learn as well as out of the 3 countries that comprised to former French Indo-China the most educated and advance and the fact they chose a form of the Roman alphabet has also made it that learning another language that much easier, I have rarely met a Vietnamese that did not speak read and write a second language quite well (far above those with the same level of education in any other Asian country).

Now don't take this as if I am advocating getting rid of Kanji,Hiragana and Katakana, all I'm saying is that it is not as difficult as some would like us to think.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

We are, for “people who lose their sensitivity to language,” says Kaga, “become empty-headed.”

Sadly empty-headed is the very characteristic of Japan. For those who seriously tried to get to the heart of Japan it is like peeling an onion; after peeling and peeling all one has left is peelings.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

kirakira :

There are many reasons for Japans loss of cultural identity, but using Katakana is definitely NOT one of them.

READ the sentence again. It does NOT say the over-use of Katakana is a CAUSE. IT says the overuse is a REFLECTION of a deeper issue. Which is the writers point in the article BTW.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

limbo-

The Japanese do not use the English forms when using the Roman alphabet but use what was the original pronunciation brought here

i understand, and i know what you mean, but yet, i'm frustrated with romaji.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@semperfi

OK then, let me rephrase:

Language evolves, and Japan`s use of Katakana is simple evolution, not a deeper reflection of a loss of cultural identity. Indeed, most Katakana words sound more Japanese than they do English anyway. Running around not using 14th century Japanese does not indicate a loss of cultural identity.

Japans loss of cultural identity is reflected in the malaise and general resignation of its people. It sometimes feels like the country has "given up" on itself. I dont think that has anything to do with the internationalisation of Japan, it has to do with Japans inability to develop and change to meet the challenges of a modern world.

To me, this guy seems to be nothing more that a nationalist hellbent on blaming America and anything foreign in general for all Japan`s problems.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

kirakira:

To me, this guy seems to be nothing more that a nationalist hellbent on blaming America and anything foreign in general for all Japan`s problems.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . . interesting. And I feel he did not go far enough. Though, i think the phenomena surrounding this change in language have a lot to do with globalization . . .Marshall McLuhan wrote that when a people change their mode of technology there is a ripple effect in other aspects of their culture and communication.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

OMG, this annoys the hell out of me. It's not so bad with average Japanese speaker, just people who think they're in "cool" industries.

For example, my girlfriend is in fashion industry and whenever we go into a high end boutique, more than half of the words that come out of her mouth are katakana English. It's just so bizarre. She thinks it's cool and uses the excuse "this is how people in the industry speak". Well, my response is that it doesn't seem cool or fashionable at all. My impression is that I'm hearing either deaf or mentally handicapped English speakers.

If you're gonna throw English words to look cool or worldly, why go half-assed about it, butchering the pronunciation?

Happens in the computer world all the time too. Try saying "uindozu nana", those snide sales staff will correct you saying "uindozu seh-bin". Oh you mean "seven"? If you're gonna pull that crap, then actually say "seven"...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

zentraedi,

Shouldn't that be "mado nana?" I tried to buy a Toyota RAV once and called it an R - A - V but the salesman corrected me with ラブ . Yes, as in I rabu you. So I bought something else instead.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

limbo-

thanx for the post.. i still don't like romaji and believe it screws kids up when it comes to learning english AFTER learning romaji. when they teach romaji, they don't teach the sound/letter L. instead, all the れ sound becomes R. some thing about the letter B and V. In Romaji, they don't teach the letter/sound V.

japanese elementary school trying to teach kids english at an early age trying to teach romaji.. i don't like that.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The argument Kaga puts forward that loan words and katakana is causing Japan's woes is weak at best. Many languages, including English make heavy use of loan words, but I don't see any connection there. And I agree that Kanji makes reading Japanese easier, but I'm going to talk about something different.

I think Kaga is trying to say something but in typical fashion these days, espically among Nihonjonron crowds, simply can't figure out what it is and is lashing out at the most convienent target, foriengers, or Americans.

That said I think he does have a point but it's not language. Japanese culture has lost it's spiritual centre. Now, before people lash out, I'm not talking about religion, I'm talking about something different. Japan has not always been this way and has seen some great thinkers, artists and writers in it's history. It's ironic that he brings up The Tales of Genji, because I doubt anyone could come up with something like that now.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Japan, after World War 2, sacrified any kind of intellectual culture it had to become an economic power. It's built into the school system, the work culture, the media, everything. And now it's backfiring. So Doshin, the founder of Shirinji Kempo, wrote a lot about his feeling about the direction Japanese society was going, spiritually, in the 50's and 60's.

Just listen to the current music, watch the current movies or watch TV and I think you'll see where I'm going with this. Scientists too, in fact anyone who expresses a deeply thought perspective on the world. The one's that are known, pretty much have to leave Japan to get anywhere.

Japanese are people just like anyone else and they need that side of life, not just money, jobs and fashion. Whether or not this is completely Japan's fault or if America has something to do with it, I'll leave other posters to debate.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

borscht,

Nope. Windows is the formal name and those are normally butchered in every language, using the local phonetic equivalents. Seven is just a version number. They wouldn't say Linux kernel 2.6.32 with the version number Japanese.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A very thinly tied together set of weak or irrelevant theories.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some times I have to wonder about the Japanese language in general!

Was out tonight for diner with the children and at the next table a group of young people were having a conversation an at several points in this conversation they had to stop to explain what they were trying to say and to do that they were gesturing Kanji in the air.

I have found my self having to do this so many times while having even simple conversation, something I don't think I have ever had to do in any other language.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I agree with what Jay Jay E posted. As to whether Japan or America is to blame for this loss in cultural pride or identity, Japan has only itself to blame. Nobody forced them to adopt western culture, dress, food, etc. They did it because they didn't want to be seen as a bunch of sandal-wearing goldfish tenders. they wanted to be seen as modern, whatever the hell that means. They still feel this way.

The idea that using a butchered sounding form of English is somehow cool is just stupid. It sounds lazy, ignorant, foolish, and uncultured, something I tend to point out to those who think they're impressing me with their "knowledge of Engrish."

Katakana is not necessary and I would argue never was. I for one am going to refer to the Sky Tree as , someone earlier posted, Sora no ki.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sky Tree (Sora no ki!?) is the epitome of Japanese having no self respect for their own language or sense of history. Since they are not allowed to think about history, thus language history is taken along with it. If Japanese aren't interested, then why should anyone else be? This points to a dying language as it loses its usefulness and utility to describe the world around it and gets dumbed down more and more.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

バカ! Ha ha ha! 

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This guy is just a frustrated want to be soldier angry at Japan losing the war and missing his chance to get in it, just make the calculation he was less than a year away from being allowed to join up when it ended.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

although katakana doesn't bother me per say, there are some problems with it. 1 being that the japanese don't know the actual meaning of many of the words being used. they'll tell you it has no meaning in japanese only to look in the dictionary & find an exact translation of the katakana word being used. also, they could change the way they write out the katakana to make it sound more natural. like ハロ (pronounced ha-ro ) instead of the more natural ヘロ (pronounced he-ro ) very simple adjustment . although not perfect, closer . also, is japan being "occupied" by the u.s.a. or being "protected" from its evil neighbors?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@jinjapan

I completely agree. Using katakana is fine, but at least get it right. Some of the words used when Japanese first encountered foreign languages should be updated.

For example the hideous イギリス, what is "Igirisu"?? I mispronounciation of "English"? There are loads more but my mind isn't working yet.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

MrDog, the Sri Lankan pronounciation of English is even worse; they say "ingireesi". My ears twitch when i hear that.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

MrDog-

Kanji version of England was being used in Japan first --- 英吉利, and then they used katakana to read it. After Japan opened up to other countries, they used Kanji for all those countries, but it was more practical to use katakana.

whether we like katakana or not, the history of Katakana is pretty interesting to me :)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My God. How absolutely awful. This writer seems to blame the United States for suicides in Japan? How trivializing and wrongheaded and... what else to say about this? I have had to recently deal with the suicide death of one of my closest loved-ones, a girl whom I fell in love with, only 28 years old, beautiful, smart, delightful yet deeply affected by a sadness that seemed to permeate her life. Her name was Alie and she died - took her own life - mid July this year. To deal with the grief - there was no wake there was no funeral, she was just cremated... I visited my beloved Japan from the USA, and with my one other closest friend in the world, a Japanese lady who is my only dearest friend left, we held a two person 49 day ceremony for Alie along the seaside of Kamakura, facing Mt Fuji which was visible from the shoreline on that early evening, after visiting the Daibutsu. We chanted 3 times, said prayers for her soul to go to heaven. Her Mom and Dad, back in the USA, were and still are so grief strcken and heart broken. She was their only child. From that time, I have thought, how can I do something to address this problem which is so prevalent in Japan and strikes at so many yound people in the US as well? It is something that, over time, I will dedicate myself to. Those without hope, for that terrible moment, need to know that there are people out there that do and will love them. Death is not the answer and it brings terrible sadness to those who actually love them. But, to read this article, blaming "too much katakana??" Well,its just too much. Its so dishonorable to say such a thing, casting linguistic and pychological blame at "colonial America", so to the author I say, shame on you, grow up, and do something to help alleviate the hopelessness of potential suicide victims - those who die and those who love them. Blame America and American words? Jeez. Words can't describe my reaction to that, not hiragana, not katakana, not kanji, nor English. Please, do something positive. Not what you have done.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I despise Katakana, the less its used the better. China make a new kanji for new words, why cant Japan? Katakana makes learning English much harder, it butchers other language, though it does provide a opportunity for thousands of ESL teachers work as Japanese cling desperately to katakana slowing impeding their acquisition of English - it's catch 22 is some ways!

Contributing Japans malaise/ who knows? wouldnt surprise me, if it were

1 ( +1 / -0 )

All languages are cool and so are accents. You should hear my NY accent while spaking Japanese, and I have been here for almost 30 years. yeah gonna get sum kaufee

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Tale of Genji my a***. Just because it was used to write (a frankly pretty ordinary) book a long time ago, doesn't make Japanese somehow elegant or clever. Lots of Japanese names for things are puerile and nonsensical, so kanji is not the reason.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Mittsu-

Lots of Japanese names for things are puerile and nonsensical, so kanji is not the reason.

huh~????

approximately 50% of Japanese words are/were constructed from Chinese (you see how Japanese and Chinese cannot speak to each other to understand but when they see kanji characters they know the basic meaning of what each other is intending to communicate?).

Tale of Genji my a***. Just because it was used to write (a frankly pretty ordinary) book a long time ago, doesn't make Japanese somehow elegant or clever

who said the Tale of Genji makes japanese elegant or clever????????? besides, when the tale of genji was written, japanese people used different kind of japanese language (it's called WAGO, or/and YAMATO-GO).

After Japan opened up its port to foreign countries, they started borrowing words from those countries.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

fishy:"After Japan opened up its port to foreign countries, they started borrowing words from those countries."

Oh come on this guys rant is just that a rant and any attempt to put Japan's problems on the influence of Foreign words and Katakana is a joke.

Just take France for example, try getting the French ( in France ) to stop using words like "email", "parking", "shop ping" and "weekend" despite having real French words like "courriel", "stationnement", "magasiner", "fin de semaine"!

Can or are the French blaming all their problems on American colonialism and foreign words?

Lets get real young Japanese like young people everywhere have their own vocabulary, back home McDonald's is McD's in Japan Mr. Donuts is "misudo" and so on that is just evolution and trying to roll back the clock to the Edo period will not stop it, in fact some places have tried and it inevitably backfires!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I can't believe the criticism of "katakana English". Every language basterdizes borrowed words, and English is probably the worst offender. Try using the English pronunciation of our borrowed words to their original owners and watch the blank expressions... Also, it's entirely up to the speaker/writer whether they use the native word or an "import".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Kanji words pronounced in a Chinese-derived way (on-yomi) are similar to katakana words into which foreign words are transliterated. They are not foreign words but "Japanized" foreign words. Igirisu, for example, comes from Portuguese Inglez which must have sounded as "inguresu" to our ancestors' ear. And it became a Japanese word. (It has scarcely anything to do with the word England.) So basically katakana words are not pernicious to the Japanese language. They are sort of interface by which we can adopt foreignness (new words, new ideas) safely within the framework of the native tongue. So don't worry, it does not mean a loss of self pride whatsoever. Rather a heritage if anything.

What the writer to Shukan Post wanted to say is the stupidity that Japan piles up trade surplus, much part of which was invested back in the U.S. and vanished with the spendthrift habit of Americans beguiled by financial engineering that imploded with the American “subprime” crisis. And yet Japanese (the bureaucrats of the Finance Ministry) cannot stop investing in America to finance their huge federal deficit. And while we are at it, the worth of the paper we buy is rapidly dwindling. He calls it malaise.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@semperfi

Thank you for your intelligent comeback (and no, I am not being sarcastic, I think what you are saying is genuinely interesting!) When you say you think he hasnt gone far enough, do you mean that you think the west IS entirely to blame for Japans problems, and if so, why exactly?

How nice to meet someone who can respectfully be at completely opposite ends of the debate from me! You make me WANT to understand your point of view!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The horror of having to read and even pronounce imported words which have been transcribed with the same alphabet you use to convey a dog's barking or a pig's squealing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

limbo-

Can or are the French blaming all their problems on American colonialism and foreign words?

no, French people don't blame their problems on other languages, and I'd say most Japanese don't, either. Just this writer has some problems in his head I suppose...

I'd care less about a writer like him but it's just an interesting thread here and i enjoy reading people's comments!

I have no problems Japan or French or any other countries borrowing words from other languages and using them.

I guess my only problem here is romaji (I know I know.. I am still talking about it lol)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It all sounds pretty far fetched to me but I can't help but agree that it is a bit sad that the new TV mast/tower thingy has been called スカイツリ. I don't think that it would ever cross anyones mind in the UK, US etc to call a significant structure sora no ki. So it does seem to say something about the Japanese mind set that they will do this.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

**denwa, denki, densha

Does anyone feel that it was a mistake to create alternatives to the standard English terms in Meiji Japan? I like these words and do not think that Japan should have gone with "terefon" or "re-a-ruwei". Japan got stuck with "terebi", but something along the lines of "電画" might have been nicer.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Quote: that bane of so many English-speaking foreigners here, “katakana English.”

My Chinese friends hate it a lot more, cuz they don't know the English words, and have no way to find out what they are and look them up in a dictionary, rendering many sentences illegible.

So, as English speakers, we are a lot luckier than most foreigners in Japan. Just substitute romaji, put in the original words! Get rid of Katakana totally.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

bcbrownboy: "So, as English speakers, we are a lot luckier than most foreigners in Japan. Just substitute romaji, put in the original words! Get rid of Katakana totally."

I think you missed the fact that many of the Katakana words are not English and that is the point of Katakana it is a means to add new words to the Japanese language in a quick and ease way!

To get rid of it in favor of Roman characters would be fine for words for languages that use Roman characters what would you do the words that come from non-Roman character languages like Greek, Russian, Arabic, etc...?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I find words that are entered as katakana lose their meaning almost by design, as by losing the spelling you also lose the history of the word. Losing history though is why it inevitably becomes lost in meaning after a few years. Adjectives into verbs, all to replace Japanese words that were in fact far richer in meaning and that really did have a history to them. Why this perchance to abandon history? It would seem that the real legacy of the war was to never look at history again. This comes out now in the language, just shadows and ghosts of words that once existed

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Nah, the REAL problem is using katakana when they teach English at school.

It has the same effect as foreigners using Romaji when they learn Japanese. Viz. Instead of learning the new sounds they substitute something from their own sound set.

At least the older loan words in Japanese tended to be written as they were heard: nowadays the tendency is to translate the spelling into Kana. :-(

I think it may be true of loan words from Japanese too.

I'm curious. How do you pronounce "cliché", BTW?

Or "niche"?

Or "Tokyo"? Do you say it with three syllables; "Toe-key-oh" or two; "Talk-yaw"?

Does "Kyoto" really rhyme with "my photo"? I've heard it that way on reputable foreign TV networks.

While a Japanese astronaut gets her name mutilated into "Nay-oh-ko" (Yamazaki) a certain model is always addressed here as "Now-me" (Campbell), but at least it's not "Camp-bell"

Heigh ho! :-D

0 ( +0 / -0 )

sf2k at 02:43 PM JST - 16th October:

And in English you can tell by the Roman spelling the origins of the words?

Lets see; Hurricane: Any idea? well it has nothing to do with a storm and the spelling has nothing to do with its origin!

Typhoon: Again looking at the spelling can anyone tell where it came from?

The only times in English and most Roman Character bases languages you can sort of figure out the origin is if the word was Latin based or possibly Greek bases other then that the spelling and pronunciation rarely have much connection with the origin, even simple words like Metre/Meter = Greek Metron, Centre/Cemter = Greek kentron.

So the origin or original meaning of a Katakana word is meaningless as long as it has a practical meaning that the JAPANESE understand.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I totally agree with this guy because, as an American, all of our current troubles are the direct result of us borrowing too many words from foreigners. Because it starts with words, but soon turns to money. China is now the largest creditor of the US government and this all started with the Kung Pao chicken. When everyday people started ordering Kung Pao chicken instead of using the American term "MSG laden heartburn in a box" everything went to hell. Likewise I think, just to be safe, we should Call burritos "bunch of sh?t wrapped in flat bread", sushi "weird crap on sour rice" and a ménage a tois a "two drunks chicks and a really lucky guy".

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This is the most illogical nonsense I've read in quite some time. The author's connection between the high suicide rate and U.S. occupation and katakana English displays such a staggering lack of knowledge of Japan's history and culture that I actually had to re-read the article several times.

The role of suicide in Japan has its roots in traditional Japanese culture, and has been aggravated by traditional Japanese culture, like the necessity of maintaining tatemae (one's public face). In western psychology one would consider tatemae to be institutionalised national disassociative identity disorder (known in layman's terms as multiple personality disorder). Without belabouring the point it is clear that the suicide rate is mostly the result of traditional Japanese cultural phenomena that have NOT been discarded in order to adapt to a changing world.

As for the criticism of politicians who use katakana, well, the phenomenon can be seen in English, with phrases like faux pas, and raise d'etre from French, spannungsbogen and schadenfreude from German being used because English lacks a word that captures the precise meaning that the person wishes to convey. This is the mark of a language and people who are evolving, and is not reason for criticism.

The author is clearly one of those who would much prefer to retreat back in to a cave and reduce the complexities of dating to picking out which club he'd like to use to knock the woman over the head with.

If anything Japan needs more linguistic exchange, more cultural changes and to generally evolve more as a society, then perhaps the suicide rate would go down and people would be happier. It might even improve pronunciation if people were aware that these were foreign words and which language they came from, because Japan is currently in massive denial and avoids acknowledging that there was a deficiency in Japanese that needed to be addressed.

... and people call Americans arrogant? My goodness, the mind boggles.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The problem with Japanese isn't the FOREIGN words, it's the system of Katakana itself. Katakana completely obscurs the foreign words origins because of Japan's clumsy syllable system. Also, the word forever remains 'foreign' because it is in Kanji creating a psychological seperation between new and old words from overseas.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Kana is good - kanji is the problem. The Koreans did away with kanji and they are much better off for it. Japan should do the same. Why force people to learn 2,000 kanji imposed from China? A huge waste of time and energy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Wolfpack

How are the Koreans "much better for it?" They can't read Hanja/Kanji and have lost the knowledge of a large part of their cultural history. They can't even read their simple maps or documents from 70 years ago, including those that include disputed territory. They have to rely on their government's "official" translation. How is that "much better off for it?"

And why should Japan do the same? As someone said Nihongo is easier to read if there are kanji. Using the excuse that it's a waste of time and energy is just sheer laziness.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

That's why people retire at the age of 65, enjoy their morning walks and afternoon snacks, grow plants in the backyard and don't push themselves for another research.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This article is utter nonsense.

Japan's problems are coming from the following.

Inefficiency in nearly every sector of Japanese life. It is a wonder that anything ever gets done here with all the red tape, approvals and policies creating a culture of obstruction.

Intransigence in business, government and world view has Japan's feet nailed to the ground while more innovative competitors gain distance.

Lack of Leadership: No strong leaders are driving Japan to the future.

Geriatric Vision: Japan needs more young involved people taking the helm.

Apathy: How many activist Japanese do you know in labor, world issues, social concerns or anything?

Shoganai Culture: Too many people give up without a fight and believe that nothing can be changed.

The Kawaii Plague: Too many Japanese care more about Kawaii than they do reality. If the money and attention that went into making everything cute went into making everything better, Japan would rule the world.

Otaku Culture: Too many people here have withdrawn into fantacy worlds, online worlds or some other Otaku escape rather than dealing with Japan's reality.

Blame the Other Guy: Japan never cops to her own problems, choosing instead to point fingers at everyone else. Japan needs to take a long hard look in the mirror and say the following phrase "I have a problem that I am responsible for."

Quit blaming the world Japan, leave that behavior to alcoholics and drug addics. Show some courage and face your problems honestly.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Blame the Other Guy: Japan never cops to her own problems, choosing instead to point fingers at everyone else. Japan needs to take a long hard look in the mirror and say the following phrase "I have a problem that I am responsible for."

One of the best things that I have read here On JT!! You nailed it.

Quit blaming the world Japan, leave that behavior to alcoholics and drug addics. Show some courage and face your problems honestly.

Should be up on billdoards all over Japan!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Counter-point: Katakana, relatively simple characters compare to Hiragana and Kanji, saves hundreds of millions of yen per year in the reduction of ink usage and is more environmentally friendly.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Myself, a self-proclaimed gaijin fan of kanji (one of oooh sooo few...), I do admit that 1) kanji and native Japanese words perhaps sound more elegant, and 2) I do find katakana English (和製英語) annoying. BUT this is a phenomenon that affects all languages, right? Japan is not the only country that finds it abhorrent to have so much English infiltrating their 'pure' language (take France for example - a country who says 'le weekend' but doesn't officially allow the term 'e-mail'). Second, this is a phenomenon that you can't really control. Such reforms documented during WWII failed to hold and probably wouldn't last if done today either. Moreover, it's 和製ed 英語 - which in and of itself is linguistically fascinating, right? The Japanese are doing exactly what they did to kanji 1500 years ago to English now: taking foreign words and making them their own.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

taking foreign words and making them their own.

and that's what japanese are good at in other industries as well (like auto industries and etc) :)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

just wanted to mention this as some people commented about France banning some English words such as e-mail.

Some originally english words are very well integrated into the French language.. and the thing is that because those words are so well integrated, people don't really consider those words as foreign or borrowed. But French reacts quickly when it comes to new words such as E-mail. English words that have been used for many years are being used among regular French people on a daily basis and even the word E-mail, people use the word when they speak to each other, but they do not use the word in official documentations.

I think it is great that French take pride in their own language, but it is also not natural to deny or ban foreign words because the reality is that the world has become one big place now especially that there is internet and etc.. It is hard not to use foreign words on an every-day basis.

As for Katakana.. I think it is perfectly fine for Japanese to use Katakana as well as Hiragana and Kanji, though sometimes it is hard for non-japanese speakers to understand what japanese are saying when they use katakana because sometimes the usage of the original words are completely different -- for example, japanese say fight ファイト!when they really mean go for it! and etc... I think, when they teach Katakana to kids, it is also important to teach them where the original words came from and that the original meanings are, so that they know how the original meanings have changed to Japanese way (it isn't necessarily a bad thing because katakana is part of Japanese and i dont think it is wrong to japanize words when using them in the Japanese language :)

Now, when it comes to Romaji, I have some issues, but I guess it is kind of off topic..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This article is 100% dead on.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Genjuro...... how many japanese can read anything written before Meiji?... same situation as Korea. Pre-meiji written japanese is a completely different language...... Contemporary japanese language is a creation of bureaucrats..... and that is why it is so complex and obtuse

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@susano What's your point? It's NOT the same situation in Korea. The two countries, while being close neighbors, have different histories and cultures. Don't assume it's the same situation. Japan simplified many characters after the war but still use many to this day. Whereas, the majority of Koreans are hanja/kanji-illiterate, even of basic characters. As recent as 40-50 some-odd years ago they were still writing their names in hanja. Now this current generation can read nothing and is alienated from their east asian cultural heritage. Sad, since they've been using it for thousands of years and is a vital part of their history.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I wonder if our pronounciation of karate ("ka-ra-ti") and kareoke "ka-ri-o-ki" land just as hard on a Japanese national's ears as some of the katakana equivalents of English words? My Japanese text book gives us a bunch of words in katakana and the assignment is to guess what the word is in English. Some of them were pretty hard to decipher and even harder to say. One I thought odd was "host family". Our sensei tells us that there is no Japanese equivilent for that concept so it is printed in katakana as "hosuto famire".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm glad I speak a language that everyone in the world wants to learn and that has sensible writing and isn't worried about protecting it's purity.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@tkoind2-My man. If that wasn't the best summarization, I don't know what is. You got my vote for a Nobel! Excellent!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The day a language stops evolving to meet new needs is the day the language becomes a "dead" language. In Japan's case, they differentiate foreign words by using katakana. For us English speakers, we're SUPPOSED to differentiate foreign words by putting them in italics so that it it obvious that the word is not from the English language. So me and my friends were in the backyard singing kareoke while grilling up burgers on the hibachi... until John knocked it over while demonstrating his latest karate move.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

For us English speakers, we're SUPPOSED to differentiate foreign words by putting them in italics so that it it obvious that the word is not from the English language.

I've never head of this rule before... From what I've seen, we simply give the best phonetic approximation (usually) and fully integrate it into the English language. Sometimes it's changed, sometimes it stays exactly the same as the origin.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

For us English speakers, we're SUPPOSED to differentiate foreign words by putting them in italics so that it it obvious that the word is not from the English language

Just to clarify, italics are only used for words that are not a part of English but not for words that have already been adopted into English. For example if I were to suddenly say "This phenomena of wasei eigo is changing Japanese..." etc. Words like karaoke and karate (and taco and resume for that matter) have been adopted and are fully incorporated into English and there is no need to italicize them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In the 70s and 80s Japan, Inc. was conquering the world with its economic juggernaut. It had confidence bordering on arrogance and was buying up America trophy properties such as movie studios, Rockefeller Center, Pebble Beach golf course. Americans were flocking to Japan for management courses. MBA students were taking Japanese language classes. A whole cottage industry arose in the US to emulate Japanese business practices. It was the world's number two economy. In 1991 economists were predicting that Japan would overtake the United States as the world's largest economy by 2010. Since that time, Japan's economy has remained in 1991 levels. The US, despite its problems, has doubled. And 2010 China overtook Japan as the world's second-largest economy. What happened?

I generation of deflation, lowered expectations, and I will say it, xenophobia. Japan has lost its vitality and has surrendered industry after industry to South Korea and Chinese rivals. With decades of deflation, the smart thing to do is hold your money not spend it. Insane Tokyo property prices and multi generational loans have saddled Japanese homeowners with mortgages worth far less than the market value of their homes. Living standards have you voted, and the population is not increasing – decreasing? Your stock market is worth one quarter of what it was in 1983. The Japanese youth do not see a future, are delaying starting families or just plain not. The Japanese are in survival mode. Something is desperately wrong, but no one seems to be asking why. The easy answer is that it is the fault of the US. After all, who are these English-speaking foreigners that Dr. Kaga is talking about? Citizens of the UK? Somehow I doubt it.

It is unbelievable that you paying so much attention to an 81-year-old psychiatrist. Psychiatry is not even a science. And you really believe that the infiltration of English into your language is because of all these problems? And blaming the United States for colonialism? It costs a lot of money to keep those airbases or army bases or whatever kind they are there in Japan. I can tell you that most people in the US would pull them out and save the money in a hot second. We would love a strong, vibrant Japan to balance China. But basically, Japan still treats "foreigners" as second-class citizens believing that they are ethnically and culturally superior. Does anyone deny this? Get rid of the geriatric mindset: embracing innovative ideas of your youth. I know people who have been to Japan. They say they would never go back. And to complain about foreigners speaking English in Japan? Are they tourists? And they don't speak Japanese? They speak English? I am shocked! Spending money? What's to complain about? Open your borders to immigration. Who else is going to take care of your elderly?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

da5id-

wow, you said a lot and you sure sound like you've got so much to complain about japan.. but guess what!! if japanese people read this article, i would say than 9 out of 10 would not agree with the writer. this article/writer does not represent the majority of japanese.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

da5id --

Some valid points, and well expressed, but here's my suggestion for "the easy answer", from Jonah Goldberg in National Review:

"Japan’s economic rise coincided with a small government sector, and its economic fall has coincided with the growth of government. In 1984, in terms of spending and taxing, Japan had just about the smallest government of the top 23 developed countries. Since the early 1990s, when its “lost decade” began, it has pursued a massive Keynesian spending spree and the government has grown to European levels."

I think that pretty much explains it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan's malaise is not from America, it's from several generations of Japanese right-wingers controlling their culture and media. This produces a culture that does not encourage imagination or individuality or analytical thinking. Non-intellectualism is a permanent feature of Japanese culture now. Blaming things on America is just crybaby whining.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan's economic turning point was the Plaza Accord in 1985 and the easy-money policy that followed gave birth to a bubble economy that had to burst in time. Then the financial Big Bang ushered in global standard. Produce at the most efficient (cheapest) place and enter the most affluent (richest or resilient) market and invest the profit with leverage in the most proficient place. It's a system that lets world money inflow into America by making the handful of people still richer (kachigumi or winners) and the majority of people including Americans poorer (makegumi or losers). And its fallout is the disappearance of the middle class and increase of haken-shain or dispatched workers. As well he may call it malaise.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"I wonder if our pronounciation of karate ("ka-ra-ti") and kareoke "ka-ri-o-ki" land just as hard on a Japanese national's ears as some of the katakana equivalents of English words?" great question. The thing is we mess up two JApanese words. They mess up about 5,000 English words. ALSO if we say ka ra ti they know I mean karate. If I say "test" I get absolutely blank stares. They are not able to figure out I mean "testo"

I will just say it. I hate katakana English. I hate it when Japanese people use it. I hate haveing to read it. I hate EVEN more trying to say it. Have you ever tried to say Whittany Houston or White in katakana English. I would rather pull out my finger nails. white: "u i to". im sorry. but don't you have the "wa" sound in Japanese? oh you do? so why use "u" instead. Oh you want to make it sound more Japanese. I see.so do you know what "white" is. no. oh... I see... wait you want the entire country to be able to speak English. oh that's cool, but you still try to make English words more Japanese sounding and then you teach English using Katakana and wonder why 8 year old Korean and Chinese kids can speak better English than 22 year College Students.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

kujiranikusuki, you must have not been around a lot of Chinese kids and Korean kids if you think they are 'good' at English. To be fair, a lot of Chinese kids are better at English most likely thanks to the grammar of English being near identical to Chinese.

Meanwhile, you'd THINK that Hangul being an alphabet would make Koreans better at English... the fact they can pronounce CONSONANTS at the end of words unlike Japanese people... but they really can't sometimes.

I'm not trying to disagree that Japanese people SUCK at English probably the MOST in the world. But trying to say they suck at English because they pronounce TEST as "Tesuto" is stupid. That's an English originated word, NOT ENGLISH.

Americans constantly are screwing up other peoples languages too, like all the 'Gringo's' that have god awful Spanish, Italian mispronounciations, nevermind Japanese speakers from the South with a terrible southern draw (although it is very funny)

Karati, Karaoke? How about Sake (Saki), Sushi, Tempura, Fujiyama, Tokyo, Osaka, Mr Inoue san, Ohayou Gozaimasy, Konnichiwa, Hashi, Bushido, Wasabi, "Kawaii", so on so forth.

In fact, Americans can't pronounce Japanese at all. Not that it matters really, but on the other hand you make it sound like a consonant less country not being able to pronounce consonants as a mortal crime.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hangul is always a possible alternative...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The restrictions imposed by Japanese kana make speaking English very difficult. "Uiteni Hyusuton" actually is pretty close to her actual name, but someone spell out Shakespeare for me. ;) "Sheekusupia" was one of those words in our textbook that had me scratching my head for about five minutes.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The Americans really came out in force to bash this old man. Otohiko Kaga has every right to his views and as Americans you really have no frame of reference for living under foreign occupation for decades, so how can you pretend to know what effects it would have on the national psyche? Then there are those who express their own contempt for katakana and idignation of the "butchering" of English pronunciation. If you removed all the words from English that are pronounced differently from the words they are derived from, you would have no language left. Some even trotted out the tired old term "Engrish" which is really just thinly veiled biggotry and ethnocentrism at its worst. You seem to be riduculing a people for mispronouncing sounds that don't even exist in their native language. I think the way Japanese people have combined half sized kana with regular characters to produce new sounds is quite ingenious and I am very sure if you attempt to learn Japanese language you will "butcher" the pronunciation no matter how long you live here, or how many people tell you how great you can speak the language. Sorry I went off on a tangent, but the most vocal posts on this article seem to be from people in the worst posistion to judge its validity. Japan is an isolated nation and contact with foreigners has historically been somewhat traumatic for them. I don't see this article's views as much different from a lot of American's ideas that social ills in America can be blamed on illegal immigrants, outsourcing to China etc....

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japanese should stop destroying English and simply learn how to say things the Western way. The extra vowels that katakana produce kill any understanding and make Japanese look stupid in any business setting.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

noborito they are using loan words not trying to abandon their language and adopt English. it is japanese language and makes you look stupid for not understanding this. please check the eytomology of your beloved english. practically none of the words sound like the original. really you just sound like a racist ethnocentric with this line of argument. you might as well say, stop speaking japanese and speak perfect english, because it doesnt sound like the original word and makes you look dumb. it makes as much sense to say, stop speaking english, you should speak a hodgepodge of latin, greek, middle english, french, spanish etc...you look foolish in the business world because you are mispronouncing other languages...come on now

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The extra vowels that katakana produce kill any understanding and make Japanese look stupid in any business setting.

We have almost no other ways to say it in one word other than by, for example, "defure" or "infure". And they don't kill any understanding of the original words though they may look stupid to foreigners. As for the extra vowels, unless you put them to consonants, I'm sorry you kill the sound system of Japanese. You are not supposed to disturb the system (it's called "kototama" 言霊) when speaking Japanese. So you cannot say "trio" but you always have to say "torio". As for "howaito" for white, the aspirated sound (often pronounced by the phonetic sign "h") at the beginning of the word also has to go with a vowel. You may say it "huwait", but somehow aspirated sounds came to be expressed by "ho ホ" in this language. Anyway it's a matter of how to let them function safely in the Japanese language, however stupid they may sound to the outsiders. So don't bother, it's a Japanese business pure and simple.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japanese are inhibited by their kana. Because most of the kana require consonant/vowel combinations, they run into issues when a word contains two consonants side-by-side or ends in a consonant other than "n". Short of totally overhauling their written language, this is a problem they are just going to have to live with.

@dissident, Americans don't own the English language. I'm sure there are English people who also have to bear with having to decipher the "Engrish" spoken to them.

There's even differences between how a word is spoken in England and in America ("schedule" comes to mind: It's "shed-djule" in Great Britain and "sked-djule" in America), but the same number of syllables make the "translation" a lot easier than when additional syllables are thrown in when an English word gets converted to katakana.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

For a country whose language is so profusely influenced by Chinese, it's pretty odd to blame modern social woes on Katakana loan words. Suicide and depression are the issue that they are because of lack of belief in religion or any sort of higher power, a continuously stagnant economy, and the romanticization of suicide in the culture. I'd wager that the incredibly low birth rate is related as well.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites