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

October 12, 2007 at 1:49 pm 3 comments

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.

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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.

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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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Entry filed under: Japanese Culture, Japanese Foods.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Taking a Test? Have a Pocky! « Staff Blog  |  March 3, 2008 at 9:55 am

    […] down the aisle of any grocery store and you’ll see several of your favorite sweets – Kit Kats, Pocky and the like – printed with cheers like “You can do it!” and “We’re rooting for you!” […]

    Reply
  • 2. Sarah S.  |  November 19, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    Hi Sophia, thanks for checking out our blog! We had a great time reading Matt’s article. Congrats on your engagement.

    🙂

    Reply
  • 3. Sophia  |  November 17, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Hi, thanks for reading and discuss about Matt Rusling’s article. I am his fiance, just wanted to drop a note appreciate the time you spent on his work. (He is currently overseas, has limited access to computer).

    Reply

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