Hikikomori, zangyo and hentai surprisingly understood abroad

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I don’t quite believe this goo Ranking of Japanese words that people are surprised to learn are understood overseas; of course, I have no reason to dispute the results, but as this style of survey is picking a selection from a list of words, I cannot really understand why the survey compiler picked zangyo, overtime as a representative word. I’ve done a quick search of the BBC and New York Times, and while both have stories mentioning hikikomori and hentai, zangyo draws a blank.

I’m surprised at Doraemon and Sailor Moon featuring so high on the list too, as I am aware from watching Japanese television that these cartoons and any others are rather popular all over the world.

I just searched for hikikomori on Flickr, and on the first page was two pictures of bugs in rice. So, instead I took the first usable photo for otaku, which turned out to be an instance of too niche a Japanese word to be understood widely abroad, the ita-sha, the sort of car no-one other than an otaku would be seen dead in.

ITA-Sya. (OTAKU car)

Ranking result

Q: What Japanese word are you most surprised to learn is understood overseas? (Sample size=500)

RankLoan wordMeaningVotes
1HikikomoriSocial withdrawl71
2ZangyoOvertime57
3HentaiPervert, dodgy comics55
4KaroshiDeath by overwork54
5=Skosh (from sukoshi)A little48
5=DoraemonCartoon robot cat48
5=SenpaiSenior at school, work, etc48
5=MottainaiWhat a waste!48
9=KaraokeKaraoke46
9=KaizenImprovement, particularly of processes46
9=Sailor MoonCartoon series46
12ZaibatsuConglomerate44
13RamenRamen43
14SudokuNumber puzzle41
15NinjaNinja40
16=ShiatsuQuack massage39
16=MikadoThe opera by Gilbert and Sullivan or overseas brand name for Pocky39
18OtakuSad gitNerd36
19=SukiyakiBeef cooking style34
19=KanbanNotice board, and a software development method34
19=SatoriState of clarity during meditation34
19=UdonFat wheat noodles34
23BushidoJapanese chivalry, The Way of the Warrior33
24=BonsaiMinature trees32
24=KarateMartial art32
24=DaikonRadish32
27CosplayDressing up, usually as comic-book characters31
28BentoLunch box30
29KawaiiCute29
30=TofuBean curd28
30=DashiSoup28
32GaijinSlang for foreigner27
33MisoFermented bean paste26
34=ZenBuddhist school25
34=TsunamiTodal wave25
34=IkebanaFlower arrangement25
34=Ukiyo-eWoodcut art25
38=MangaComic24
38=TeriyakiSauce24
38=ShinkansenBullet train24
41YakitoriGrilled chicken on a stick23
42BanzaiBanzai!22
43=KamikazeKamikaze21
44KonbuKombu seawed19
45GoThe board game18
46OrigamiFolding paper16
47WakaPoem form15
48ShogiChess-like game10
49HaikuAnother poem form7

Demographics

goo Rankings asked iBRIDGE’s Research Plus to conduct this survey, where between the 22nd and 27th of March 2017 500 members, 50:50 male and female and aged between 20 and 39 years old, of their monitor group completed a private internet-based questionnaire. No further demographics were given.

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