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Goin’ Japanesque!

Japanese Language: 3 Phrases that Speak of Trust

The three phrases we’ll look at today have been transformed by tradition and history to have meanings that differ from their constituent words. Moreover, they’re in common use even now, so be sure to learn them well enough to not confuse their nuances. You’ll also find these phrases quite handy when you’re out hunting souvenirs! Photo


“Taikoban o osu”


Meaning: to give a sure guarantee for something or someone (“osu” means “to press, to stamp”)
Common mistake: “taikoban” does not refer to a stamp (“hanko”) on a drum (“taiko”).


The taikoban was a type of coinage produced in the Kai Province (modern day Yamanashi) of ancient Japan. To demonstrate authenticity, these coins would have a pattern pressed into their surfaces. As a result, people began to associate this pressed pattern with authentic taikoban currency, and in time a connection was created where a pressed pattern meant an authentic item. Thus, “to press a taikoban” came to mean “to guarantee as reliable.”

Nowadays, there are indeed huge taiko drum-sized stamps used to give the “seal of approval” on products. This has even made it to online shopping, where web stores will have the image of those goods they recommend with confidence “stamped” with a seal.




Meaning: for someone’s character or something’s quality to be recognized by an authority or by experts (“-tsuki” means “attached, together with”)
Common mistake: there’s no connection with the more famous art of origami

origami-tsuki , An origami below a Japanese sword

The origami (folded paper) in this phrase refers to the written assurance certifying that an item, be it a painting or a sword, was made by a master. Since having this paper means a product is truly what it is said to be, the phrase “origami-tsuki” came to mean “something reliably authentic” in everyday speech.

…origami cranes not included.




Meaning: granted permission or approval from a superior
Common mistake: not a term from shodō, the art of Japanese calligraphy

kaou-japanese-sign , An osumi-tsuki (inside the red circle)

This phrase originally meant a lord writing their name (osumi-tsuki, also called kaō) to authenticate a document sent with a servant. In fact, even historical figures like Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu had these traditional “signatures.”

“Osumi-tsuki” is a little different from the two phrases we looked at earlier. Their definitions refer to the reliability of something, whereas “osumi-tsuki” implies permission or approval from a person or place of authority. However, you’ll find that all of them ultimately mean “this is a thing that can be trusted.”


Now you’re equipped to use these three common Japanese phrases without any fear of error! We’ll be continuing with the Japanese Language series, so stay tuned for our next article!

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