To coincide with Japan’s annual “Kanji of the Year” event, which reveals the mood of 2015 with a Chinese character, popular online dictionary site Weblio asked its Japanese users to nominate an “English vocabulary word of the Year”. The top ten results provide a unique insight into the hot topics of interest in Japan in 2015.

As the year comes to a close, top ten lists begin appearing as we look back at the year that was. One of the more interesting lists we’ve seen comes from Japan’s popular online English/Japanese dictionary resource Weblio, who asked 828 of their members to nominate an English vocabulary word that provides a snapshot into the mood of the nation over the past twelve months. Let’s take a look at the top responses from the survey below.

▼ The top three results provide a great insight into the big topics of 2015. The English vocabulary words, were chosen after being translated from Japanese on the site, giving us several multi-word phrases as a result.


1. Refugee (178 respondents)

Chosen as Germany’s Word of the Year for 2015, “refugee” is a word that’s really been brought to attention on the world stage this year. The increase in refugees has become a pressing issue around the world, as the intensification of the civil war in Syria continues to displace an unprecedented number of people. Despite pledging 1.5 billion dollars in emergency aid for refugees, Japan has not joined other nations around the world in welcoming displaced Syrians to its shores, sparking debate both locally and abroad.

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2. Right to collective defense (141 respondents)

Shuudantekijieiken, or “right to collective defense”, is another topic of concern in Japan, following the passage of controversial security bills in September by the Upper House of the Diet. The new laws mean the nation’s Self Defense Forces can now assist the United States and other allies abroad in the event of an armed attack, even if Japan is not directly under threat. A number of large-scale protests were held in an attempt to stop the changes being made by the Abe government, revealing a large group of citizens staunchly opposed to increasing Japan’s defense posture abroad.

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3. Heavy buying (71 respondents)

The Japanese word bakugai, literally “explosive buying” but translated to “heavy buying”, flooded news reports in Japan in 2015, when an increasing number of Chinese tourists were found to be visiting Japan for the purpose of shopping in bulk, mostly to re-sell back in their homeland. The four main “must-buy” items turned out to be electric rice cookers, kitchen knives, thermoses, and smart-toilets. The weak yen, combined with duty-free discounts and China’s quality-control controversies, were cited as reasons for the interest in Japanese products, which provided a boon for the retail sector but prompted concerns from local consumers.

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The remaining English words filling out the top ten are:

4. Drone
A word which made the news on a number of occasions, but most notably when one was found on the roof of the Prime Minister’s residence in April, containing a radioactive substance.

5. National Identification Number
Otherwise known as “My Number”, this is a controversial new national identification system for social security and taxation purposes currently being rolled out in Japan.

6. Routine
The katakana version of this word made the news thanks to Japan’s rugby hero Ayumu Goromaru, who inspired fans in Japan with his goal-kicking skills and signature hand pose, a “routine” which he developed with help from a Japanese sports psychologist.


7. Natural disaster
In September, torrential rain from Typhoon Etau caused the Kinugawa River in Ibaraki to break its banks, washing away houses and affecting 6,500 homes and businesses. Media coverage of the scene, including images of residents stranded on rooftops, served as a salient reminder of the ever-present threat of natural disaster in Japan.

8. Trans-Pacific Partnership
Despite public opposition, a trade agreement between twelve Pacific Rim countries was finalised on October 5 this year, after seven years of negotiations.

9. Forgery
A high-rise apartment building in Yokohama with 705 units made the news this year after it was found that construction records had been falsified, resulting in sloped floors, gaps in doors, and enraged residents.

10. Selfie
Because well, who hasn’t taken a selfie? In Japan, high school girls really got into the trend this year.


The top ten words above certainly provide a snapshot into the current issues that captured the attention of the nation this year. Are there any words that you would add to the list?

Source: PR Times
Top Image: PR Times
Insert Images: PR Times, Caricature Show 
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