Typing this Japanese word into your iPhone or Android device will introduce you to some very unusual characters.

With so many people owning smartphones these days you’d think the most tech-savvy of us have discovered all there is to do on them.

That’s definitely not the case, though, because this week people around Japan discovered a secret emoticon hack that’s been hiding in our phones this whole time.

It all started when one Twitter user typed the word “ぞくぞく” into their iPhone and found something totally unexpected.

As is often the case when you type a Japanese word into your phone while using an app like Twitter, a number of options pop up, allowing you to write the word in hiragana, katakana, or kanji. Sometimes, depending on whether the word suits it, like if you’re writing out the word “ねこ” (“neko”/”cat”), some familiar emojis or emoticons might appear as well.

What you don’t usually get is an unfamiliar set of characters that make you burst out laughing at the sight of them. And that’s what happens when you type “ぞくぞく” into your phone, as it brings up these adorable little characters in the options menu.

So what does “ぞくぞく” (“zokuzoku”) mean? Well, it has a few different meanings, and these funny characters are well-suited to all of them. One meaning of the word describes the act of shuddering from the cold, or in fear, when things feel creepy.

▼ Another meaning of the word is to gather or swarm, and these characters do look a bit like a swarm of creepy ghosts, don’t they?

The word is also commonly used to describe the act of successive movement, when objects or people appear in rapid succession, one after the other. An example sentence for this would be:

Zokuzoku tsuzuite kita“, which means: “They kept coming in rapid succession.”

This is the most likely use for the unusual emoticon, which appears to show…ghosts? Bears? Who knows, but whatever they are, they’re certainly moving in rapid succession, as if they’re flooding out of a baseball stadium or a packed Tokyo train.

▼ Once you have them selected, you can delete them as you like, stroke by stroke.

Although the initial tweet mentioned that the hidden feature could be found on iPhones, people online pointed out that Simeji users on Android phones were also able to access the “zokuzoku” characters, with even more emoticon options than iPhone users.

▼ Simeji confirmed this with a tweet yesterday showing the options exclusive to their users.

It didn’t take long for word about the secret emoticon hack to spread around Japan, and as the news went viral, people everywhere began tweeting about it.

Some of the most noted names to jump on board with the trend included Japanese politician Kono Taro

▼ …and Studio Ghibli, who appeared to liken the image to the steadily blooming flowers of spring.

So why not give it a try on your phone and see if the zokuzoku characters come up for you? It’s a fun way to add some humour to your messages, although you might want to steer clear of using these emoticons, which make people look like old men.

Source: Twitter/@konotaromp via Net Lab
Top image: Pakutaso

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