“Otaku” Number One Japanese Word Overseas?


Some interesting results from a survey emerge: the number one Japanese word understood overseas is thought by respondents to be “otaku”. “Anime” comes in at 9, “manga” at 16 and “Nintendo” at 17. See the full list (with English). See below for the vastly superior Sankaku Complex list of Japanese words with international currency.

The first indication that something is amiss with these results is probably the presence of “karoshi” (death from overwork), “mottainai” (wasteful; supposedly a uniquely Japanese concept) and, incredibly, “katori-senkou” (some sort of anti-mosquito device) at ranks 2, 3, and 4, and the complete absence of “sushi” from the list. The survey is obviously too polite to include “hentai”, “futanari” or “bukkake”…

These improbable sounding results deserve a little scrutiny and scepticism (repeating an admittedly appealing headline without due scrutiny is not what this site is about); careful reading of the article in fact soon reveals the proviso “maybe these results would be different if we asked people overseas”, tucked away right at the end of the article, doubtless so as not to impair its skim read impact.

So in fact we have a less charismatic headline of “Our Japanese survey respondents think “otaku” is most likely to be understood overseas”.

Still, I think it somewhat interesting that of a thousand Japanese Internet users, “otaku” was thought to be the number one Japanese word understood internationally.

Not to be outdone, Sankaku Complex has prepared its own dubious investigation of Japanese words with international currency:

Anime: 267,000,000
Tokyo: 182,000,000
Manga: 153,000,000
Naruto: 121,000,000
Ninja: 118,000,000
Hentai: 79,700,000
Yen: 57,800,000
Samurai: 55,600,000
Sushi: 55,300,000
Karate: 38,800,000
Tsunami: 34,700,000
Tycoon: 31,400,000
Gundam: 30,100,000
Sumo: 29,900,000
Judo: 22,100,000
Ramen: 18,200,000
Geisha: 15,400,000
Bukkake: 15,200,000
Kamikaze: 14,400,000
Otaku: 14,200,000
Kimono: 11,900,000
Dojinshi/Doujinshi: 6,590,000
Banzai: 5,520,000
Ecchi: 3,010,000
Ikebana: 2,340,000
Futanari: 418,000
Shibari: 353,000
Karoshi: 347,000
Katori-senko: 2,680

There you have it; anime is king, even more widely talked of than Japan’s insignificant capital, and somehow Naruto is more popular than ninja. The Japanese had better resign themselves to the fact that their glorious cultural influence is most strongly felt overseas through anime, manga, games and sex.

Source: Google.

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