As you know, each language is not just a communication tool but a reflection of the culture or mentality of those who speak the language. There are several words in Japanese language which typically describes some kind of uniqueness of Japanese culture. These words are difficult to translate into the other language but if you know them, you could get deeper understanding of Japanese people’s mindset. Let me introduce them.
#1. Domo (Doumo) – どうも
If you visit Japan or watch Japanese TV program, you have probably heard “Domo” or “Doumo” many times. Although Japanese people use this word frequently, it is not easy for them to explain what exactly the word means since there are many different meanings and sometimes the meanings are mixed. Basically Domo means “Thanks”, “Hello” or “Nice to meet you”. If someone is invited to a house as a guest, she or he may say “Domo!” with entering the house. This Domo means all together. So she or he is saying “Hello, nice to meet you. Thank you for inviting me”.
#2. Suimasen (Sumimasen) – すいません
I would say this word is similar as Domo since it is used a lot and has many different meanings according to the situation where the word is used. “Excuse me”, “I am sorry”or “Thank you” is common meaning of this word. Now you may think why a word can be used for appreciation and apology. I guess it would come from the feeling that a Japanese people receives a big favor, that is; “It is too much for me. I am sorry to give you a burden for me.”
#3. Otsukare (Otsukaresama) – お疲れさま
This word is heavily used in business situation as common greeting. “Otsukare” means fatigue but it does not mean the person to receive the word looks exhausted. It is used as greeting based on a consideration of other person’s effort. As well as the verbal greetings, it is frequently used as the beginning of the e-mail between the persons who have business relationship.
#4. Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu – 宜しくお願いします
This is another frequently used phrase in Japanese conversation and there is no direct translation in English for the word. It has many different meanings depending on the situation. The phrase basically contains this kind of feeling which is “I am afraid but please take care of or accept something which could happen in the future and may give you a little trouble”. The phrase is also used a lot as the closing phrase of a conversation, email or letters.
#5. Nantonaku – なんとなく
Nantonaku means “without any particular reason”. This word is very convenient since it sounds giving a reason without giving a reason. We don’t always know the reason why we are going to do something or having certain feelings, but usually, if we are asked why doing so of feeling so, we may feel giving a reason is necessary. Now if you find you are not sure why you want to do something, you can just say “I want to do it nantonaku”.