Understanding basic Japanese expressions



Perapera ぺらぺら

“Fluent” or “talkative”

This word is used to describe how people speak. For example, “kare wa nihongo to eigo ga perapera” meaning “he is fluent in Japanese and English” or “perapera shaberu” (to chatter).

Jirojiro じろじろ

“Stare”, “gaze” or “study”

Usually followed by “miru” (to see or to watch), jirojiro describes the action of staring intently at something or someone. In English, it would equate to “looking something (or someone) over”.

Wakuwaku わくわく

“Excite” or “thrill”

This is another commonly used word to describe feeling excited or thrilled, often in anticipation of an event or activity. Examples include “wakuwaku shite matsu” (to eagerly await) or “wakuwaku suru eiga” (an exciting film).iberately from the waist or the hips.

Dokidoki どきどき

“Flutter”, “pound” or “thump”

This word refers to the sound of a pounding heartbeat and is used to describe nervousness, excitement or exhilaration. The expression “dokidoki suru” is similar to saying “I have butterflies in my stomach”.

Nikoniko にこにこ


There are many Japanese words to describe a smile, but “nikoniko suru” is a useful phrase to know. This means “to smile” and describes a general state of being happy.

Iraira いらいら

“Jittery” or “irritable”

The phrase “iraira suru” describes a feeling of annoyance or impatience. For example, “hito ga urusakute iraira suru” means “I am irritated because people are noisy”.






Sarariman サラリーマン

“Office worker” or “white-collar worker”

Combining the words “salary” and “man”, sarariman represents the hard-working Japanese white-collar worker. In Japanese popular culture such as manga/anime, the “sarariman” is the typical father character who works hard at the office late into the night. This portrayal is often close to the reallife experience of many “sarariman”.

Mania マニア

“Enthusiast” or “maniac”

Like Beetlemania, the word “mania” defines someone with an almost fanatical interest in something. Unlike the word “otaku”, which also suggests a strong obsession, the word “mania” does not carry any negative connotations. Adding “mania” on the end of another word can be used to describe a personal obsession or a community of enthusiasts interested in the same thing, for example “cosplaymania” or “denshamania” (train enthusiast).

Risutora リストラ


The word “restructure” in Japanese, pronounced “risutora”, refers to downsizing and lay-offs due to recession. It was coined during the 1990s with the collapse of Japan’s bubble economy when property prices plummeted, forcing the lay-off of thousands of “sarariman” (white-collar workers) who would have expected to keep their jobs until retirement.

Baikingu バイキング


In Japan, the word for buffet is “baikingu” from the English word “Viking”. In 1957 a Japanese cook encountered the Danish smorgasbord and thought to bring this idea to Japan. However as the word smorgasbord is hard to pronounce in Japanese, these buffet-style meals were renamed “baikingu”.

Arubaito アルバイト

“Casual employment”

Sourced from the German word “arbeit”, in Japan the word describes temporary employment associated with unskilled and low-paid work. “Arubaito” is often done by students seeking to move on to fulltime work or by those who cannot find full-time employment. While “arubaito” are traditionally considered to be low-status jobs, recently there has been a trend where young people seeking a more flexible lifestyle, known as “fureeta”, choose “arubaito” jobs instead of joining the restricted structure of full-time employment.

Wanpatan ワンパターン


Derived from the words “one pattern”, this term is used to describe someone who does the same thing time and again. The word has a negative connotation in branding someone as stagnant and unimaginative and is often used to deride a person for their predictability.