• All Aboard the S.S. Strong Style: Japanese 101 for プロレス Nerds, Part 3

    Shelly Deathlock cares too much about Japanese wrestling and, as Captain of the S.S. Strong Style, she’s here to welcome you on board and fill you in on what’s going on in the world of puro. Today, she’s introducing you to the Japanese language, which she is not good at at all, but that makes her the perfect person to explain some things to you, since she has no discernible trappings of ego.


    • Part 1 is here, where we learned about katakana, hiragana, kanji, and why we need all of them and just what exactly is going on here.
    • Part 2 is here, where we learned about ring names, catch phrases, and fun things.
    • This week in part 3, we’re covering vocabulary, grammar, and some more fun things! Ahoy!

    A couple of frequently asked questions about Japanese:

    Why is that commentator shouting “hai!” all the time? What is going on?!

    Oh man, it’s called aizuchi and it’s how you politely listen in Japanese! By talking the whole time so your conversational partner knows you’re listening! I think it’s very strange! Fluentu has a good article on aizuchi.

    Here is a father teaching his adorable child how to aizuchi, you’re welcome:

    There are lots of general words you can use to show you’re paying attention — the commentators like “hai” (はい, “yes”), and Okada will そうですね (sou desu ne, “I see”) his way through an interview so hard you’ll wish he’d adopt a new phrase, any phrase, Okada honey please.

    BONUS: here’s a cute gif of Shinsuke Nakamura sou desu ne-ing with his eyes shut.


    How come nobody pronounces the u in desu or some trailing i’s?

    Some sounds in Japanese are pretty subtle or silent, like the u in su (). It’s why desu (です) is pronounced “des” and “Shinsuke” is pronounced like “Shinskay.” Sometimes it depends on where they are in the word and whether you’re pronouncing something casually, just like English. You can pronounce the number one (ichi) as eech or ee-chi depending on what sounds best with the words you’re saying it next to. Tomohiro Ishii’s name does in fact have two i’s at the end, and Mauro Ranallo pronounces both of them (I-shee-ee), but everyone in Japan just says Ishii with a sort of longer i at the end rather than as a separate sound.

    There are lots of things like this, so it’s just a matter of what everyone is comfortable with and what flows best in a phrase. There are, of course, many accents and dialects that come into play, and some pronunciations and words may be less polite, more casual, or gendered depending on who’s speaking and listening.


    Plural nouns

    There aren’t any. Or rather, everything is plural and singular. The plural of ninja is ninja. It’s like every noun is moose over there. Great job Japan, and thank you for this.

    Gendered nouns

    THERE AREN’T ANY. YEAH BABY, BURN YOUR SPANISH TEXTBOOK IN CELEBRATION (actually no don’t that was probably expensive, give it to someone who can use it).

    Wrestling vocabulary!

    Here are some common words you might hear or see on a broadcast of the pro graps from Japan, with links to Jisho.org where you can hear the pronunciation & read more about the kanji:

    Senshuken means “championship.”

    Senshu means “player” and it’s what they call pro wrestlers in Japan.

    Oujya is what they call a reigning champion.

    Hebi-kyuu is Japanese for “heavyweight.” I will never not call this “hebbyq” for short on twitter since it is so useful and adorable.

    Jyuniahebi-kyuu is junior heavyweight. Same, same, jrhebbyq.

    Inta-kontchinentaru is just the transliteration of the English word “intercontinental” into katakana.

    Gaijin is a rude word that means foreigner or “outsider.” We call non-Japanese wrestlers in Japan gaijin because we’re rude and we don’t really care. Neither do they. Plus they’re all heels anyway. What’s up with that, Japan?

    Gaikokujin is the polite version of “gaijin” and everyone polite uses this to refer to foreign fans, foreign wrestlers, etc.

    Other useful kanji!

    Days of the week

    I can’t decide if knowing the kanji for the days of the week is useful for a プロレス fan, but for me, google’s literal translation of the kanji on the NJPWWorld schedule page drives me so completely banana that it’s one of the first things I memorized. Your mileage may vary if you possess a different level/kind of neuroticism, but learning a language so as not to be annoyed by something once or twice a month seems reasonable to me.


    For mnemonics, I wanted to come up with some of the wrestling-themed insanity that is my trademark, but I warn you, oh it is a stretch, this one.

    All the days end in 曜日 (“youbi”) which basically means “day of the week.” The symbol that precedes “曜日” is the one you want to memorize. In Japanese, the days of the week are all named after elements. It makes a lot of sense, really. Way more sense than Saturn here and Odin there and hell, maybe even Tyr, why not? We all love Tyr.

    Sunday = 日曜日 = SUN! The kanji looks like Hiroshi Tanahashi, shining in the sky, bestowing his love unto you on Sunday:

    Monday = 月曜日 = MOON! Like when Tanahashi lets his hair down in the evening after a long day of wrestling, see how it flows? 月月月月月

    Tuesday = 火曜日 = FIRE. Wrestling shows on Tuesdays make me want to set things on fire, Ring of Honor. See, looks like a person on fire.

    Wednesday = 水曜日 = WATER. The Wednesday = water thing is pretty easy and that kanji looks like some water to me so I mean I think we can all handle this one without a wrestling reference. Let me know if you come up with one though.

    Thursday = 木曜日 = TREE (wood). Thursday, tree day. The kanji looks like a tree. Japanese makes so much sense.

    Friday = 金曜日 = GOLD. Friday is obviously everyone’s favorite day, so this one is pretty easy too. Also looks like a little bank. Um, something something Okada, *Gedo money pose*

    Saturday = 土曜日 = EARTH (dirt, soil) = It looks like a grave, that’s pretty cool. I wanna die on Saturday because I get up at 3 AM for NJPW shows. RIP Deathlock, .

    Kaomoji 顔文字

    You may have seen my kaomoji excitement level ratings and match ratings around here and there. Kaomoji is a thing Japanese people invented because they appropriately value cuteness and wonderful things. Kao () = face, moji (文字) = character. So they’re little faces. Just stare at them until you understand. Here are some that are my favorites:

    (*˘︶˘*).。.:*♡ (look, it’s a happy, contented face thinking of something nice that it loves. this is how I feel about Shinsuke Nakamura.)

    (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ (look it’s flipping a table that is so good)

    You can google “kaomoji” and get millions of them. Just millions. Please abuse this privilege.

    * ヾ(^ヮ^)ノ


    So where has my study of Japanese gotten me? Well, I can read everything that’s just English transliterated to katakana without difficulty, so that helps for a bunch of things, like understanding what the hell my KinPuro cards are about sometimes, or knowing which gaijin wrestlers are in a match.

    One time I understood the NJPW commentators telling me how old Karl Gotch was during a match, which was ~amazing~ and I felt very accomplished and also didn’t have to look it up and then do math. Understanding some Japanese saved me from doing math. Learning Japanese is definitely a worthwhile endeavor.

    OKAY. Unless you fine gaijin have questions, that’s all I’ve got for now. Have fun exploring! Stay tuned for part 4 whenever I learn anything else that’s cool. In the meantime, if you have any other questions, you can let me know at @indiandeathlock