More and more young Japanese women are saying “peace out” to old photo-taking customs.

If you’ve ever been to Japan, you’ve probably seen groups of people posing at tourist hotspots with wide smiles on their faces and two fingers held up in a peace sign pose.

People in Japan are well-versed in the unwritten protocols of posing for photos like this, and if you’re the one taking the photo, there’s long been an unwritten understanding that you’ll play your part too, by calling out the phrase, “Hai, Chiizu!

This phrase, which translates to “Ok, Cheese!“, has a rhythmic, sing-song nuance to it that helps everyone hold their unblinking poses at the same instant the photo is taken, because the photographer presses the shutter button on the last “zu” in “Chiizu”.

“Hai, Chiiiiii-zu!”

Our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa has grown up hearing this phrase, particularly at famous tourist spots, but lately he hasn’t heard it being used as much. Seeing as he’s now a self-professed “ossan”, or middle-aged guy, he began to wonder if the younger generations just weren’t using the phrase anymore.

So he headed over to the desk of our 23-year-old reporter Udonko, who’s not only our resident manga illustrator, but the person everyone turns to when they want to know what young people in Japan are doing these days.

She’s always down with the latest news and trends, and when Seiji asked her if she uses a phrase when taking someone’s picture, this is how their conversation went:

Udonko: “There’s no set phrase used. If I had to say something, it might be “toru yo”. [“toru yo” translates to “I’m taking the photo”]

Seiji: “But doesn’t that make the shutter timing vague? ‘Hai, chiizu!!’, followed by the click of the camera shutter, has a rhythm and preciseness to it so people known when the photo’s being taken. I don’t feel like you can feel that moment with ‘toru yo’.”

Udonko: “Hmm…if you’re just passing by and a stranger asks you to take a picture, you might say “Hai, Chiizu!”, but I think that’s a bit old-fashioned. I’ve counted down before, like ‘san, ni, ichi…’ (‘3, 2, 1…’)”

Seiji was surprised to hear that the familiar phrase he and a number of generations grew up with was now considered “old-fashioned“. Still, there was a glimmer of hope that the phrase might live on to help future generations, as Udonko did say it could be used when taking a stranger’s photo.

So he went over to the desk of our other young reporter, 27-year-old Ansuzu, to ask her about it, and she flatly told Seiji she never says “Hai, Chiizu!”

Ansuzu: “When I have to say something, like if it’s for a stranger, I’ll say ‘torimaasu’ [‘torimasu’ means ‘I’ll take a photo’], but if it’s with friends, we all just hit the shutter button on our smartphones repeatedly.”

That’s when Seiji realised that the whole culture of photo-taking had changed dramatically over the years, with people now capturing memories for posterity on their smartphones as opposed to traditional cameras.

These days, it’s easy to just go through your photos and select which ones you want to keep and delete, but back when Seiji was growing up, and throughout most of his twenties as well, taking a photo required more precision and commitment, as you had to rely on old-school film cameras.

▼ The “Hai Chiizu!” is so ingrained in Seiji’s mind he can almost hear it just by looking at this old Fuji disposable camera.

Nowadays, people can simply check their photos as soon as they’ve taken them, which means they can easily take the picture again if any mistakes like a mid-blink capture are found. However, back in the days of film cameras, when you only had 24 or 36 photos on a roll of film and had to wait days for your photos to be developed, the phrase “Hai, Chiizu!” was useful in making sure everyone was posing gracefully with their eyes on the camera at the same time.

▼ Smartphone selfies now allow everyone to check their duck pouts onscreen while the photo’s being taken.

Sadly, with the rise of smartphones, the “Hai, Chiizu!” phrase has become a dated one that looks destined for the back shelf, along with these other obsolete relics that were once popular in Japan.

However, as trends come and go, and film cameras become a hot commodity again, Seiji hopes the popularity of the phrase will return with them, so he and his fellow ossan can feel like the cool kids on the block again.

Featured image: Pakutaso
Insert images: © SoraNews24, Pakutaso (1, 2)

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