Annual ranking takes a look back at the things the Internet was discussing the most in Japan this year.

Every year U-Can, a Japanese publisher of correspondence school materials, holds the U-Can New Word / Buzzword Awards. This is a ranking of the most talked about names, words, and phrases online, determined by popular vote. It’s a good way to take a quick look back at some of the events that captured Japanese people’s attention this year.

Here’s a rundown of the top ten winners for 2018:

10th Place

Although not as powerful a movement as other countries, MeToo did reach the shores of Japan. It is hoped its intended cause — uniting women who have experienced sexual abuse and help them find strength from not being alone — will continue to gain traction in the future.

In Japan, MeToo was associated with some high profile cases such as the resignation of Finance Ministry official Junichi Fukuda and another case we’ll get to later on.

▼ Female lawmakers used the slogan frequently in the Diet during the Fukuda acusations


When Hazuki company was ready to launch their revolutionary design for their Hazuki Loopé prescription glasses, the strange design didn’t have a lot going for it. Advertisers submitted commercial proposals that you might expect for glasses, soft focus scenes of upper-middle class women staring gently into the mirror and so on.

Well, the president of Hazuki who is a bit of a throw-back had something bigger in mind.

Featuring big-name stars like Ken Watanabe and Rei Kikukawa, shouting the merits of the Loopé and throwing papers around, this brash promotion was a big f-you to the minimalist ukuleles and whistling that accompany so many adverts these days.

It was certainly hokey, especially with Kikuwa’s overblown “daaaaiiiisuki,” but after the laughter died down, people seemed to become charmed by it all. As a result, sales of the Hazuki Loopé have been doing quite well. Even our own Mr. Sato got a pair to sit on.

Manga Mura
(Manga Village)

Mangamura, a website that hosts free-to-read copies of thousands of manga titles, was certainly the heel of the Internet for much of 2018. The anger that many netizens felt at the economic damage it was dealing to an already-struggling industry, and the authorities inaction to stop it, was palpable.

Meanwhile any attempt to shut down Mangamura was quickly circumvented by its administrator(s), such as changing its name to Manga Taun, much to the chagrin of a legit site called Manga Town. The admins would then take to social media to taunt and criticize the very business that it allegedly steals from.


Short for “virtual YouTuber,” VTubers have become huge stars in Japan with Kizuna Ai leading the pack. A VTuber is simply an anime-themed avatar that tracks the actual camera-shy YouTuber’s facial expressions and, in more advanced cases, body movements.

▼ Meet Kizuna Ai

App makers are currently racing to make more convenient and cheap ways to let your inner anime-girl shine online, much like I did using Puppemoji earlier this year.

Yoshizawa Hitomi Yogisha
(“Suspect” Hitomi Yoshizawa)

Ironically, just a day before her name and media title was announced to have come in sixth-place, Hitomi Yoshizawa was no longer a yogisha (“suspect”); she’d become a “convict.”

Tokyo District Court ruled Yoshizawa guilty of a drinking and driving incident that injured two pedestrians, and gave her a five-year suspended sentence on a two-year prison sentence.

The image of the former child star of the Morning Musume idol group being taken away in handcuffs was a surprising and tragic turn in the entertainer’s life.


This was the name given by journalist and repeat hostage Jumpei Yasuda in a video that surfaced in October of this year, three years after he was originally captured in Syria. During the video he referred to himself as a South Korean national named “Umaru.”

While the Internet was trying to decode the strange details of the video (which Yasuda later explained were at the instructions of his captors), he was already on his way back to Japan. However, he remained the center of attention, this time over whether his habit of entering war zones of his own free will was virtuous or a dangerous nuisance.

Yamaguchi Member
(Tokio Member Yamaguchi)

I have to admit when I first saw this I though it was a yakuza reference, but actually it’s talking about Tatsuya Yamaguchi, the former member of the band Tokio and television personality. Up until April of this year, Yamaguchi was enjoying a steady presence on Japanese television, hosting three different shows at the same time.

But that all came crashing down after it came to light that he’d engaged in indecent behavior with a high-school girl. His fall from grace was swift, and in the course of a few days Yamaguchi was ousted from all his TV jobs and his band of nearly 30 years.

▼ Yamaguchi’s apology press conference

3rd — Bronze Award
Nidai Takkuru
(Nidai Tackle)

Those outside of Japan might not have even heard of this incident, but if you lived in Japan during it, for a solid month not a day would go by where you could escape the barrage of news stories and talking heads on TV discussing a dirty tackle by an American-football player for the Nihon University (Nidai) team.

▼ Video of the tackle from different angles

It was a cheap shot to be sure, clipping the quarterback at the knees after the whistle was blown, but the offending player’s admission that he was threatened by coaching staff to do it, caused the incident to snowball into a national issue.

To make matters more scandalous, Nihon University is one of the most prestigious schools in Japan. Their reputation took a heavy blow during the weeks of media coverage that followed, which is said to have even significantly reduced hirings of Nidai graduates and enrollments of undergraduates.

2nd — Silver Award
(Chong-al Maen, Bullet Man)

Just as the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics were set to start, some members of the Japanese press were startled by a certain artwork that greeted them outside the media compound. It was a series of statues named Chong-al Maen, which is Korean for “Bullet Man.”

Now I know we should be adults and respect this artwork for what it is, but its hard not to be a little affected by the giggles in the presence of this row of naked men wearing helmets that makes them look like giant penises.

They say a sign of great art is its ability to offend and inspire. In that case Bullet Man is a heck of a work that has led to a series of online illustrations and animations.

1st — Gold Award
Carlos Ghosn

You could say timing has a lot to do with the former CEO and (up until a few days ago) chairman of Nissan becoming the number one buzzword on the Japanese Internet. With Ghosn’s arrest only happening a few weeks ago, the drama of a highly successful businessman getting suddenly taken down on charges of financial misappropriation is still unfolding.

▼ A news report on Ghosn’s arrest

However, Ghosn’s status as a high-profile foreigner under arrest in Japan is shedding light on many issues with the Japanese justice system, including lack of transparency and excessively long and restrictive incarcerations without any formal charges ever being placed.

In the end, this case may bring a lot of important questions to the forefront of Japan’s attention, which probably will make Carlos Ghosn an increasingly important figure in Japan as we finish off 2018 and begin 2019.

That being said, such lists are destined to be disputed and netizens did not disappoint.

“I never even heard of number 9 before.”
“What about BTS?”
“Umaru, lol.”
“These buzzwords aren’t even really buzzwords. They’re people’s names and such.”
“Wasn’t Pico Taro this year?”
“Damn, it’s already December?”

Personally, if I were to choose a word, it would be “Ghost Lawson” because this year saw unmanned Lawsons both through state-of-the-art technology and a lazy franchisee exploiting a loophole in his contract.

Lets us know in the comments below what name, place, phrase or word you think best sums up what happened in Japan this year!

Source: Livernet, Alfalfalfa
Top Images: YouTube/A.I.Channel