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2020 Japanese Buzzwords Show COVID-19's Influence on Activities, Entertainment

posted on by Lynzee Loveridge

It's impossible to ignore the effects of the COVID-19 virus around the world, and Japan is no exception. Politics and everyday life were forever changed this year from the canceling of large scale events like 2020 Olympic Games to the work-life shake-ups as the world tried to get the spread under control. This year's U-Can Shingo Ryukogo Taisho (2018 U-Can New Words and Buzzword Awards) is a snapshot of how the COVID-19 wave rippled throughout society in every aspect, including entertainment. In fact, #2 on the list is "Atarashii Seikatsu Yōshiki" (new lifestyle) and "New Normal."

The Nintendo Switch game Animal Crossing: New Horizons is such an example. Coming in #3 on the list, the game was released on March 20 to huge sales numbers. Turns out that in a year of social distancing, being able to hang out with your friends virtually on an island of happy villagers is just what we needed. Friends got together for virtual weddings, explored works of art, and attended fashion shows. Animal Crossing: New Horizons wasn't just a game, it was a social event.

Directly under Animal Crossing is "Abenomask", the name of the government-sponsored masks that were introduced earlier this year when Japan faced a mask shortage. The policy was criticized due to slow implementation and the mask's small size, spawning the "Abenomask" nickname.

Rounding out the top five is "Amabie," a Japanese yokai. According to legend, an amabie appeared from the sea of Kumamoto and said that if disease were to spread, the people who are shown pictures of the amabie will be cured. Artists began drawing and spreading images of amabie in light of the COVID-19 virus, including the The Manga Day to Day project and in an issue of Culture Japan.

Here are the top 10 buzzwords and terms recognized for the U-Can Shingo Ryukogo Taisho 2020.

  • Grand Prize: "Three-mitsu" (said by Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike) -- the phrase refers to the three places to avoid: indoor spaces, crowded places, and close contact with others. The term inspired a browser game that went viral.
  • #1: "Ai no Fujichaku" -- the Japanese title of the Korean drama "Crash Landing on You" starring Hyun Bin. Considered part of the "Korean Wave" of popular entertainment, the drama was immensely popular and its star heartthrob was featured on the cover of multiple Japanese magazines.
  • #2: "Atarashii Seikatsu Yōshiki" (new lifestyle)/"New Normal."
  • #3: Animal Crossing
  • #4: Abenomask
  • #5: Amabie
  • #6: Uber Eats (for when you want to eat out, but can't go out)
  • #7: AI Koe (Beyond AI) -- a reference to 18-year-old shogi prodigy Sōta Fujii. Fujii became the youngest person to hold a major title, a 2-crown title, and also the youngest person to be promoted to the rank of 8-dan in professional shogi history. During match broadcasts, an AI would often display what would be considered the "best move," but Fujii often found alternative moves that led to his success, thus going "beyond AI."
  • #8: "Essential Worker"
  • #9: "Time at Home/Stay Home"
  • #10: "Online XX" -- a reference to various services and events moving online

Also included in the list is Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (#13) and Solo Camping (#22),

The Basic Knowledge of Current News Terms encyclopedia publisher Jiyukokuminsha selects the annual buzzword lists via committee. Jiyukokuminsha has held the U-Can Shingo Ryukogo Taisho annually since 1984.

Source: Jiyukokuminsha


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