Language differences between Kanto and Kansai regions

In the land of the rising sun, beyond cultural and culinary distinctions, the Kanto and Kansai regions, represented by Tokyo and Osaka respectively, exhibit intriguing differences in their language.

Oct 30, 2023 - 23:24
Feb 16, 2024 - 11:11
Language differences between Kanto and Kansai regions

Throughout Japan's historical timeline, spoken language has developed into various regional dialects, with Edo dialect (now Tokyo) and Kansai dialect (now Kansai) being among the most prominent.

During the Meiji Restoration, extensive political and educational reforms took place. Many dialects were phased out, making way for the Edo dialect to promote national unity and cultural cohesion. However, traces of these regional dialects are still evident, with the Kansai dialect, inherited from the famous Kinai dialect, being one of the most notable. Here are five distinct slang words that showcase the language variations between Kanto and Kansai:

1. Arigatou and Ookini

Let's start with the contrasting ways of expressing gratitude in the Kansai region. Instead of using the common "ありがとう - Arigatou" found in Kanto, Kansai residents often use "おおきに - Ookini" to convey thanks.

Ookini is an abbreviation of the phrase "おおきにありがとう - Ookini arigatou," commonly used in Kansai as an alternative to "Arigatou." Over time, this abbreviation has become a symbol of Kansai's folk culture and friendly demeanor, distinguishing it from Tokyo. In certain situations, Ookini might even be considered too informal for important business partnerships.

2. Totemo and Metcha

"めっちゃ - Metcha" meaning "very" is a widely used word, especially among young people in the Kansai region, serving as an alternative adverb for "とても - Totemo" in the Kanto dialect. While "Totemo" consists of three syllables, "Metcha" has only two, making conversations flow more smoothly.

"Metcha" is an easy-to-remember word, particularly for those who are new to learning Japanese. It carries a simple meaning and can be flexibly used in most conversations. It also signals your willingness to embrace Kansai dialect when communicating with locals.

3. Hontou and Honma

In Kanto, "ほんとう - Hontou" meaning "true, really" is one of the fundamental words used in communication and is an excellent way to express your feelings about something clearly. However, in Kansai, many people may consider it somewhat formal. In typical conversations, it's best to use "ほんま - Honma" instead.

Similar to "Metcha," "Honma" is a less formal adverb in Kansai dialect. Understanding this can improve your interactions with local residents.

4. Ikura and Nanbo

"いくら - Ikura" is an important word that anyone planning to visit Japan should know. However, you might be surprised to learn that in Kansai, they use a completely different word.

"なんぼ - Nanbo" is a variant of "なにほど - Nanihodo" meaning "how much," but it is used to inquire about prices at stores or the cost of dishes on restaurant menus in Kansai. This is particularly important if you visit the food stalls selling Takoyaki in the culinary district of Dotonbori; remember to use "Nanbo" when asking about prices.

5. Shouganai and Shaanai

"しょうがない - Shouganai" carries meanings of inevitability, something beyond control, or the inability to change. However, in the Kansai dialect, they often use "しゃあない - Shaanai" to convey a similar sentiment.

"Shaanai" reflects a readiness to accept the situation, a characteristic of Osaka residents, who tend to look toward the future rather than dwell on the present. This makes the language in Kansai unusual and intriguing.

Understanding these language differences between Kanto and Kansai can help you interact better with locals and discover more about the unique culture and lifestyle of both major regions in Japan.

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