The Beautiful and Cool Japanese Regional Code Words
By Matthew Coslett
On January 26, 2016
When the Akita prefectural government was choosing people to be their cultural ambassadors, it might have been a surprise to foreign people that one of the people they chose was the beauty queen Nozomi Sasaki (佐々木希). After years working at the highest levels of modelling, Nozomi Sasaki had become as well-known for her feisty and unpredictable behavior as she was for her looks. Why would a traditional prefecture like Akita take a chance on her?
To most Japanese people this decision was easily understood. After all, Nozomi Sasaki is the living incarnation of the
Nozomi Sasaki further lives up to this image by refusing to use anything but her local Akita accent when being interviewed. The government were clearly impressed and both her and the glamorous Natsuki Katō (加藤夏希) were officially given the title of あきた
Of course Japan is a beautiful and cold country, so while the 秋田美人 is the most famous, the list of places that are renowned for beauty includes most snowy, cold areas such as;
The male equivalent of this is
On the other hand, you will unfortunately hear
Similarly, because of its closeness to Tokyo, Saitama is often mocked as the capital’s uneducated sibling. In Kanto the phrase ‘ダサイタマ’ is often used to describe the area; a compound word made up of ださい (something is lame) and Saitama! The awkward hand sign that represents the area known as the
Naturally wherever a stereotype exists, real life soon finds an exception. Much as 北川ジュン is the opposite of an Ibaraki Ugly, Saitama has the incredibly popular AKB48 A-team member Haruna Kojima (小嶋阳菜) to thank for their recently improved image. Her unashamed love of her hometown and, yes, doing the 埼玉ポーズ has resulted in her legions of fans reconsidering their image of the prefecture.
Being called words like ださい would probably not trouble the people of Okinawa. In the hot southern islands, they have a very different idea of cool. If you are laid-back and able to just life take care of itself, you will be appreciated there. In fact they even have a word mostly for people who live on the main island and don’t understand Okinawan cool: ナイチャー.
ナイチャー is the opposite of the laidback, cool Okinawans. In this case it is a negative way to say that a person is uptight or mistakenly thinks they are better than those around them. As a reference, think the way that hippies looked down on ‘squares’ in the 1960s.
One of the fascinating things about the regional words is that they are in a constant state of change. Both 北川ジュン and 小嶋阳菜 have shown that their hometowns can produce great beauty and effortless cool respectively despite their bad reputations. Maybe in the next 10 or 20 years, Ibaraki will be known for its stunning beauty and Saitama will be the king of cool? Until then, it is best to simply take these as general stereotypes that likely say little about the real people in those areas.