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Goin’ Japanesque!

Japanese Language: 3 Funny Regional Dialects –Introduction–

There are distinct accents by country or by region around the world. Japan also has dialects by region. From Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south, Japan truly has a variety in dialects. Among these, we have picked up a select few that we feel are funny.


Dialect 1: “Miyasui” – Chugoku Region–

*Means “easy to see” in standard Japanese.

In prefectures of the Chugoku Region such as Hiroshima Prefecture and Yamaguchi Prefecture something that is “easy” or “done without difficulty” is sometimes expressed as “miyasui”. This seems to be an expression that is used quite often and is even used by local television newscasters. 

However, as with other regional dialects, once outside the region, it is not rare for even Japanese to understand each other. In standard Japanese language “miyasui” would mean “easy to see/look at” so most Japanese would interpret it as the speaker’s comment on visibility.

For example, if someone from the Chugoku region were to say “this problem is ‘miyasui’”, it is most likely being used to indicate that the “problem is easy to solve”. However when used speaking to people from other parts of Japan, it will likely create some confusion making the opponent think “What is this person implying? Perhaps the problem was written out in large letters?”.


Dialect 2: “tabako suru” – Shimane Prefecture–

*Means “to do tobacco” in standard Japanese.

In Shimane Prefecture it seems the expression “tabako suru” is used to imply “taking a break” or “taking a rest”. For the Japanese, this is an expression that would make the opponent grin because it sounds very similar to the expression “Tabako wo suu” meaning to smoke a cigarette (tobacco).

The proper Japanese phrase for smoking a cigarette would be “tabako wo suu” and we would not say “tabako wo suru” (to do tobacco). However, because the expressions are so similar, there is a chance it could be interpreted in the way it was originally intended by the speaker.

Thus, even if a heavy smoker who was not familiar with this dialect was asked “tabako wo suru?” they may interpret it correctly as if the speaker was asking “Would you like to take a break with me while smoking a cigarette?”.

However, it seems there has been an incident where a middle school student mentioned that he will “‘tabako suru’ for a moment” to a teacher who had just been transferred from outside of the Shimane Prefecture and was heavily scolded…


Dialect 3: “Totto-to?” or “Tottotto?” – Entire Kyushu Region–

This is a dialect that is used throughout Kyushu.

To end a word with “…to?” is a well known dialect of Kyushu region that it has almost become standard. In this case, this is an expression that has a questions in front of it; such as “Is it (i.e. a seat) taken?”.

In Japanese when you ask to see if a reservation is made for a restaurant or izakaya you may say “Seki wa totte aruno? (lit. Has a seat been taken)”. In Kyushu, this would be expressed as “(seki wa) Tottotto?”. This in particular would sound rhythmically funny even for Japanese from other regions.

Process of evolution:
“Totte aru?” (standard Japanese)→ “Tottoru?” (Kansai style expression)→ “Totto-to?” (Kyushu style)

Writer’s Photo

In fact in Japan, there is a similar sounding snack “Ottotto” in Japan. It is said that this naming came from when the developers of the snack were having a discussion at a restaurant when the sake almost spilled out of his cup which led him to utter the words “Ottotto” an expression similar to “oops”. This however, is just a side story with no relation to this dialect… (lol).

Related Articles:
Japanese Language: 3 Funny Regional Dialects –Advanced–

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