What’s your favourite Japanese word?

Words are magic. They grow up from thin air to form a thick web of meaning and memory.

20 years ago I didn’t know a word of Japanese. Sitting in the middle of conversations was like being blown around in a storm. Words give me rails to hang onto.

There are so many great Japanese words as well.

ゆっくり YUKKURI (slowly/at ease) has to be one of my favourite. The very word itself seems to slow life down. Even just that gentle pause held before the K sound triggers an endorphin-rush.

爽やか SAWAYAKA (refreshing/pleasant) this both looks and sounds like a beautiful word. I associate it with a refreshing breeze or a fine day and feeling, as well as with cheerful people who seem magically generate good feeling.

そうですか SOU DESU KA (oh, is that right?) Perhaps this isn’t a beautiful word, but it’s an invaluable expression in conversation. It’s the stick that keeps me upright in the storm. If you don’t understand what somebody has said, or you forgot to listen, or have long since lost interest in listening, a SOU DESU KA is the safest thing to say.

無茶 MUCHA (absurd) The 無 MU represents no, the 茶 CHA represents tea. No tea. You are right, it’s an absurd suggestion. But a brilliant word.

気配りKIKUBARI (care/attentiveness) 気 here represents attention, and 配り KUBARI means to give out. The word encompasses the many small, but significant and often silent and unnoticed actions that many Japanese (and non-Japanese) take to assist other people.

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