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Buzzwords in Japan 2021: Ohtani and Tokyo Olympics loomed large

  • December 1, 2021
  • , The Japan Times
  • English Press



Shо̄taimu” (“Sho-Time”) and “riaru nitо̄ryu” (“real two-way player”) — two phrases referring to baseball phenom and 2021 American League MVP Shohei Ohtani — topped the list of 2021’s buzzwords of the year on Wednesday.


While the lion’s share of winning buzzwords from 2020 were related to COVID-19, in 2021, many of the top 10 phrases selected from 30 nominations were related to sports and the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.


Among the top 10 words was “Sugimuraijingu” (“Sugimu rising”), the nickname for a technique performed by Paralympic boccia athlete Hidetaka Sugimura. Then there was “gonzeme” (“performing aggressively”) and “bittabita” (“performing perfectly”) — phrases that went viral after NHK broadcaster and skateboarding champion Ryo Sejiri used them while commentating on the skateboard competition at the Games.


Bottakuri danshaku” (“Baron Von Ripper-off”) also made the top 10, referencing International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. The phrase was coined by a Washington Post columnist for what the writer said was his high-handed approach to proceeding with the Games amid increasing public opposition due to the pandemic.


The term “jendā byо̄dо̄ (“gender equality”) also ranked well, becoming popular after former Tokyo Olympics organizing committee chief Yoshiro Mori made sexist remarks, which led to his resignation. Japan is currently ranked 120th out of 156 countries in the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index.


Words relating to COVID-19 weren’t as prominent as in 2020, but “jinryū,” (“flow of people”), and “mokushoku” (“eating silently”), still made the list, as the pandemic is still very much a part of everyday life.


With both the pandemic and climate change considered issues that future generations will have to deal with, “zetto sedai” (“generation Z”) also made the top 10.


Other phrases that made the list include “Usseewa,” (“Shut up”) the hit debut track from Japanese singer Ado. Seen as an anthem of teenage angst, the tune has some parents worried that the eponymous phrase will catch on with their children.


The term “oya gacha” (“parent gachapon“) — a portmanteau that refers to the fact that children can’t pick their parents — also made the list. It combines “oya” (“parents”), and “gachapon,” a small vending machines that dispense plastic capsules with toys inside, which has led to the popularity of phrases such as “I won the oya gacha” or “I lost the oya gacha” to describe the privileges one may or may not have due to their parents.

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