8 Kansai-ben Slang Words and Phrases for Your Trip to Osaka and Beyond
Every language in the world has a variety of dialects (words and phrases spoken) and accents (the intonation and pronunciation of the language). The Chinese and English languages, in particular, are known for having a huge variety of intonations and vocabulary, mostly due to the amount of land the languages cover and the large number of people who speak them.
Though Japan is a relatively small country, it has its own share of accents and unusual slang words. One of the most prevalent and well-known is in the Kansai-ben dialect from the region of the same name in western Japan.
The Kansai Region
The area of Kansai is about 300 miles west of Tokyo, consisting of Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Shiga, Kobe, and Okayama, among other areas.
When people think of "Kansai-ben" (Kansai dialect), they tend to imagine Osaka, one of the largest cities in the country and famous for comedy, friendly locals, and delicious street food. This is probably because a large number of nationally famous comedians, such as Hitoshi Matsumoto, Masatoshi Hamada, and Takeshi Kitano, are from Osaka and talk frequently in Kansai-ben.
If you're paying a visit to these areas, here are eight Kansai-ben slang words and phrases to use!
1. "Honma Ni?"
Standard Japanese: Hontou ni?
English meaning: Really?
People all over Japan will respond to an unbelievable fact or compliment with hontou? or hontou ni? However, you can easily spot someone from Kansai if they instead say honma? This can be said with or without the particle ni.
Have You Been to Kansai Before?
2. "Moukari Makka?"
Standard Japanese: ogenki desu ka?
English meaning: how are you?
The standard Japanese greeting, after konnichiwa (hello) is to ask ogenki desu ka? meaning "how are you?" or literally meaning "are you well?" In Kansai, they're more likely to ask moukari makka? meaning "Are you making money?"
Try this out to any business owner or acquaintance in Kansai. They'll love it!
3. "____ Yarou!"
Standard Japanese: ____ darou!
English meaning: tag question (i.e. "isn't it," "don't they," etc.)
Deshou or the less formal darou are used when you're looking for confirmation or agreement from others. For example, you can say kawaii darou? (mostly men) or kawaii deshou? (usually women) to mean "it's cute, don't you think?"
In Kansai, this is changed to yarou! Kawaii yarou?
Standard Japanese: arigatou
English meaning: thank you
Arigatou or the longer and more formal arigatou gozaimasu are used to express gratitude. In Kansai, you'll sometimes hear ookini or ookini ne used to informally say thanks. Try it out when you're at a bar, shop, or restaurant in Osaka or Kyoto!
Standard Japanese: yabai! / dame!
English meaning: depending on the situation, it can mean "oh my god!" or "don't do that!"
Yabai is used a lot when people want to express shock, amazement, or emphasize a strong feeling. Travel over to west Japan and this might change to akan!
Another meaning for akan is "no" or "forbidden." The short video below offers pronunciation and further explanation for the word.
6. "Houna Ikoka"
Standard Japanese: ikou ka?
English meaning: let's go
Ikou ka is a question translating to "shall we go?" It uses the verb iku and the question marker ka. When you want to go somewhere else, say to someone from Kansai houna ikoka (note the shorter o sound in iko).
7. "Sou Yana"
Standard Japanese: sou da ne
English meaning: yeah, that's right / I see
Sou da ne or the more formal sou desu ne is useful when you agree with what someone is saying. Kansai people are more likely to say sou yana but it means the same thing.
Standard Japanese: Kusuguttai
English meaning: It tickles! / Itchy
It's not likely you'll be using this during your first trip to Japan, but why not learn it anyway? The standard Japanese for "it tickles," "itchy," or possibly "I'm a bit embarrassed" is kusuguttai. In Kansai, if your nose is itching or someone tickles you, yell koshobai!
Learning Japanese is a rewarding experience, as most Japanese people are really happy you've taken the time to learn some of their language! Couple this with using real local dialect, and you'll be super popular in no time. For now, ookini for reading this article!
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