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Untranslatable Japanese Words 

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These words can be explained in a sentence but there is no specific word that can be translated into the English language.

1. 森林浴 (しんりんよく) [Shinrinyoku] 

– Peaceful walk through the woods

– Taking a walk in the forest for its restorative benefits

2. 木漏れ日 (こもれび) [Komorebi] 

– Sunlight filtering through the trees

3. 食い倒れ (くいだおれ) [Kuidaore] 

– Eating yourself into bankruptcy

-Bringing ruin upon oneself by extravagance in food

4. 積読 (つんどく) [Tsundoku] 

– Buying books and not reading them

– Buying books and letting them pile up unread (Kinda like my TBR pile. I have a bookstagram on Instagram by the way, @flexireads)

5. 詫寂 (わびさび) [Wabisabi]   

– Aesthetic sense in Japanese art emphasizing quiet simplicity and subdued refinement


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6. 金継ぎ (きんつぎ) [Kintsugi] 

– Mending broken pottery using gold.

7. 物の哀れ (もののあわれ) [Mono no aware] 

– Strong aesthetic sense

– Appreciation of the fleeting nature of beauty

– Pathos of things

8. 居留守 (いるす) [Irusu] 

– Pretending that nobody is at home

9. 猫舌 (ねこじた) [Nekojita] 

– Literally “cat’s tongue” someone who is sensitive to hot food and drinks.

10. 過労死 (かろうし) [Karoushi] 

– Death from overwork

11. しょうがない [Shouganai]

– It can’t be helped

– Nothing can be done

12. 懐かしい (なつかしい) [Natsukashii] 

– It is often translated into English as “nostalgic” but the word nostalgic is a sad emotion but natsukashii can be associated with both positive and negative emotions.

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3 thoughts on “Untranslatable Japanese Words 

  1. Great list! There was a few I’d never seen before here.

    One minor comment: I feel that “nostalgic” is not necessarily sad in English. If I listen to an old song and remember the “good ol’ days” I wouldn’t say I am necessarily feeling sad. I guess you could say it is “bittersweet” sometimes, and can even have a positive connotation.

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