Familiar English Words From Japanese

“jumbledpile” some rights reserved. flickr


Many words can be found in English that have Japanese origins, such as tsunami, otaku, sake and so on. Most of these borrowed words are used correctly, but here in the U.S.(or maybe in other areas as well), I recently found each of the following two words being used in a way that differs slightly from its original meaning.


1) Hibachi

A Hibachi is a Japanese traditional charcoal heater that was common from the Edo to the Tisho era. It literary means “fire bowl” or “fire pot”, and they can be found in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. These are typical round-shaped hibachi.


"ysano" some rights reserved. flickr

“ysano” some rights reserved. flickr

"Tamahikari Tammas" some rights reserved. flickr

“Tamahikari Tammas” some rights reserved. flickr


However in North America, “hibachi” often refers to a popular Japanese cuisine style, “teppanyaki“.  The word “hibachi” can typically be seen on restaurant signs and the menus. Hibachi restaurants commonly have large iron plates, and the chefs put on showy cooking performance in front of their customers. Hibachi also refers to the dishes cooked with an iron plate or griddle. When I first saw the word “hibachi” on the Japanese menu at a food court, I just could vaguely imagine what kind of food it would be.


“Amy Messere” some rights reserved. flickr


2) Futon

Futon is Japanese traditional bedding which includes both mats and covers. This comes to mind when we Japanese hear the word “futon” >>>>>



“tiseb” some rights reserved. flickr


“Futon” here in America is more like a sofa bed that can be spread flat.


“RyAwesome” some rights reserved. flickr


There might be more words that are quite close to the original meanings, but slightly different in actual use outside of Japan. It’s a bit confusing for us Japanese, but we are still glad that Japanese words have found their way into English use 🙂 How about in your language? Please do share if your country also uses any words of Japanese origin!


Author: Junko

This is JAPAN Style!