Archive for October 12, 2007

He Said, She Said: Men’s Japanese different from Women’s Japanese?

I read a funny essay the other week written by Matthew Rusling, a Western man and journalist who’d been living in Osaka, Japan for two and a half years. To his horror, he realized he’d been speaking a version of Japanese that was considered feminine. He’d inadvertently adopted a higher pitch and intonation, with words and phrases that came across as girlish or cutesy.

The reason? He’d learned how to speak Japanese by listening to his Japanese girlfriend.


Little did he know that by mimicking her style and tone, his sentences sounded “pretty” and not particularly masculine. Even though he lived in Japan and felt relatively immersed in the Japanese lifestyle, he didn’t have many Japanese male friends and hadn’t been exposed to the cultural variations of the language. Another reason this is a common problem for gaijin men is because most Japanese teachers are women.

According to Matthew’s essay, the subtle (and not so subtle!) differences in men’s and women’s Japanese can’t be taught in a textbook. Japanese women frequently speak in artificially higher pitches, or elongate words (for example, adding wa to the end of a sentence to soften it or make it more pleasing to the listener).

This story reminded me of the Pocky (tasty stick-shaped cookies dipped in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, or almond-chocolate among many other flavors) I saw once in the market in Little Tokyo near downtown L.A. Though Pocky has become pretty conventional and you can find it in places like Ralph’s today, it used to be more difficult to track down, at least where I live.


Anyway, to my surprise and confusion, the snack boxes were divided not only by flavor, but gender: Pocky and Men’s Pocky! Men’s Pocky is considered more mature, which translates to a bitter, darker chocolate taste.

(My favorite Pocky flavor is sweet milk. Guess I’m a girlie-girl.) Just don’t ask me how to pronounce anything…

Sarah S.

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October 12, 2007 at 1:49 pm 3 comments

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October 2007


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