Japanese Name Calling- Not Appropriate for Children and Teenagers


Oh-and  it`s nasty. Use it carefully. Don`t tell I taught you or I`ll call you a liar.

After reading this, you will shiver with delight every time you shout it at your worst arch-enemy from behind the locked sound proof doors of home sweet home or make the  gesture in secret at book club.

I came upon this little tidbit by accident. Perhaps I was involved in something that will land me in the confessional this weekend ultimately leading to a wardrobe of hair shirts. Without sharing gory details, let`s just say I wasn`t exactly loving on one of my neighbors. In fact, I might have been engaged in a verbal assault on this other person`s behavior, which from the viewpoint of my pedestal, was superior, spoiled ExPatish, and primadonna-ish.

(Does anyone else hear that Southern female voice age about 72 saying something about “when you point the finger at someone else there are three pointing back at you”?)

Anyhoo- Andretti-san (driver, cultural advisor, and ardent ramen enthusiast) who pretended to be bored stiff was of course listening intently to every juicy tidbit of lady venom. Just in case he was in fact tuning out the conversation, I was sure to repeat every bit of the meat after my friend clawed her way out of the car. Although she managed to escape, he was trapped.
Andretti-san is a street scrapper. He knows a thing or two about managing the most heinous categories of individuals- children and women on a rant.

Employ a diversion.

” Ouisar-san, do you know what Japanese call people like that?”

He knew teaching me a cultural nasty would stop the spewing of expletives or at least cut it off until he could get me to the ramen shop.

“Tengu- you know- the spiritual guy at the shrines that guards the temple with the long nose? He looks human on the outside but he`s really a monster on the inside. He`s snooty- his big nose sticks up in the air. ”

Wikipedia image

” When someone is acting like they are better than everyone else, you do this…. and call them Tengu….”

Here I am demonstrating the Tengu gesture. I am not the Tengu although my nose makes a pretty good impression of the real thing.

Traditional Tengu Guardian Image

Now that I think about it, I`ve seen this gesture before. A lot. But people usually start to giggle and put their hands down real quick when I see them doing it.

This entry was posted in Culture Lessons, Moving to Japan and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Japanese Name Calling- Not Appropriate for Children and Teenagers

  1. indjagar says:

    I’ll remember to do that gesture as well, it seems quite fun hah


  2. It would appear that Pinochio is our version of Tengu!
    Keep up the good work. Paul


  3. mcgeeles says:

    This is so funny. The figure looks like pinocchio. Where is Gipetto?


    • I`ll be having lots of fun with this. I had Offspring #2 take my picture- I tried not to explain what I was doing- like that was possible. So, of course I had to. She just said, “good to know. good to know” Oops.


  4. You’ve seen it a lot? Do people in Japan think you’re Tengu? Maybe it’s your loud, Western ways…? 🙂


  5. Attractive fellow, isn’t he? Who knew! So is the nose about pride rather than dishonesty?


  6. Fire Crystals says:

    That’s a nice one. Next time I’ll use it and no.one will realise i’m calling them a bad word in Japanese 🙂


  7. the nose says:

    sounds like it was quite a scrap- sorry i missed it!

    unfortunately, my botox prevents me from adequately getting my forehead into the tengu gesture.

    would love to learn more about the tengu spirit!


  8. I love this, this is really getting to know Japanese culture! We are in very, very early stages of planning travels for summer 2013. Japan is quite high on our list. It would be really great to visit again after so many years. Reading all your stories does make me feel like I know so much more about this fascinating culture!


    • Thanks Emiel. LEt me know if there is any leg work on this end I can help you with! I know you know it well already from your past- but= I`m happy to help in any way! And of course would love to meet the family and take you to dinner when you are here!


  9. He looks like a cross between Pinocchio and the Wicked Witch of the West.
    You know how people will put their thumb to their nose and then wave their fingers back and forth? Maybe this is where that gesture originates from.


    • The thumbing your nose feels more Italian in origin to me because it`s an “in your face” gesture- out there- meant to be seen. When talking with an Italian there is no mistaking the meaning- good or bad. Not so with the Japanese! Which is why it is so hard for Westerners to do business with the Asian cultures and of course vice versa- completely different communication styles.


  10. Not that I’d have the balls to do that, especially around Japanese people, but I’ll surely look around for others doing this particular gesture.


  11. J Holmes says:

    Thank you Emily. May you enjoy all of Japan’s fine Heritage sights. I would like to do the same, with leisure.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s