Japanese 空耳 “Soramimi” Net-Humor Explained

Time to explain a bit of crazy Japanese Internet humor…

Go ahead, watch the entire video. I’ll wait.

Done? Okay.

There’s an entire category of Japanese humor that is based on adding Japanese subtitles to videos in foreign languages to show that the foreign language actually sounds like ridiculous Japanese. Hilarity ensues.

The Japanese call this 空耳 (そらみみ/soramimi) and there is even an entire 空耳 Wikipedia page explaining the phenomenon.

Japanese Maiahi

See, this is funny because the French Romanian word “Salut” sounds like “猿ー” (さる/saru/monkey) in Japanese. Watch it again, this comes up at 0:50 in the video.

If I knew any French Romanian I’d point more out for you… but I can’t spell anything in Romanian.

Funny thing, now whenever you hear this song, you’ll be unable to hear Salut and you’ll only hear 猿。I’m serious. Try it. You’ll see.

Here’s a basic one, the whole “numa numa” thing sounds sort of like “noma” which would be like 飲ま, a weird form of 飲む (のむ/nomu/drink) in Japanese, so the video shows the cats chugging wine or something at that point of the song.


Personally, I find the ペン チラ at 2:01 when he flashes a pen hilarious. (チラッ! is a kinda “sound” that is made when you flash something into sight real quick…)

The キープ だ 牛 at 1:26 is funny too because it really does sound like he’s singing, “keep da ushi…” I’ll never be able to listen to this song again without thinking キープ だ 牛 when I hear that part. I have no idea what it means in French… and I probably never will. It’s over I tell ya.

Anyhow, the more you listen to this song with your ears turned to Japanese input mode, the more the video and the subtitles will start to make sense, and the more crazy you’ll become.


Here’s a pretty advanced 空耳 you can practice your new skills with. A friend in Japan emailed this to me with the warning, don’t die of laughter…

At 0:37 灰皿替えて〜! (haizara kaete!) Change the Ashtray!!!


If you’ve got a favorite soramimi video you’d like to share, tell us in the comments!

– Harvey

Japanese 101 Particles is out!

Particles ScreenShot
Particles ScreenShot

Our latest, and most difficult app to create… Japanese 101 Particles just hit the app store!

As Thanksgiving is just around the corner, I’m going to say THANKS and give the first 10 people to use these free download codes the app for free.

The free downloads codes will only work if you’re in on the U.S. iTunes Store… sorry about that, it’s beyond my control…

In the comments section of this post please mention when you use a code so that others will know that it’s no longer available.

On your computer…
1. Open iTunes.
2. Click “iTunes Store” in the pane on the left-hand side of the window.
3. Click the “Redeem” link in the “QUICK LINKS” box on the right-hand side of page.
4. Enter your code.
5. Click the Redeem button.
6. Learn the Particles!

Promotion Codes:

This app was tough to create because it took a lot of work to really ensure that each question was accurate, and also to ensure that there were no ambiguities in the quiz section. Particle は can often be replaced with particle が and so on, so we had to be sure that those alternative answers never showed up in the possible answers for the quiz.

Anyway, this app took quite some time to put together. This version includes about 50 questions similar to what they ask on JLPT level 4. The next update will include questions at the JLPT level 3 level.


– Harvey

New Omodaka drops Tuesday!

New Omodaka on Tuesday!

This release snuck up on me, but I’ll be picking this album up from Hear Japan the day it comes out.

You can hear some clips of the new CD on Hear Japan’s website, and there is a slick video of the lead track, Plum Song.

Hrm… that was rather suggestive…

As you heard, Omodaka mixes this 8-bit modern sound with traditional Japanese enka vocals. Sounds weird, but it works doesn’t it?

The vocals are done by Akiko Kanazawa, a talented enka singer in Japan. She has also done some Anime stuff as well.

And for those of you who haven’t seen it, one of my favorite Omodaka videos…


– Harvey

PS: We’ve talked about Omodaka before.

Omodaka's plum song
Omodaka's plum song

Japanese 101: Prefectures just hit the App Store!

Our new Application, Japanese 101: Prefectures just hit the app store!

Prefectures Title Screen

This application will quiz you on the prefectures of Japan based on their location. I am a strong advocate of the importance of developing listening comprehension skills, so this app also has a listening comprehension component. You listen to the name of the prefecture spoken by a native speaker, and then you try to point it out on the map.

I lived in Japan for six years but I still can’t get 100% on this quiz. There are a lot of prefectures! I never miss Hokkaido though… (汗)

If Prefectures don’t sound that entertaining to you… Watch this animated clip created for a well-known performance by the Japanese comedy duo Ramenz and see if that gets your attention!

(Note, other than the subject being the prefectures of Japan (都道府県 todoufuken), the below video has little – in fact NOTHING – to do with Japanese 101: Prefectures! It’s really funny though…)

Just imagine. After using Japanese 101: Prefectures 101 for 15 minutes a day for about two weeks you’ll be able to visualize where all of those prefectures are… and you’ll also know what most of them are famous for!

Good times with maps.

This one is as cheap as we could make it, 0.99 cents in the AppStore today! Enjoy!

More prefecture fun for you. This is a song about every single prefecture. It points out random facts about the people of every prefecture. For example, Ibaraki people go out to eat in Soba shops more than any other prefecture in Japan… Yamanashi people study the most… and Ishikawa people eat the most Wagashi (traditional Japanese snacks). Important information indeed.

I dunno, maybe someone should fact check this stuff!

– Harvey

Keep on Trying or Writhe in Agony

Here are two similar proverbs with extremely different meanings.

shichiten hakki
shichiten battou

That’s 七転八起 (しちてんはっき) and 七転八倒 (しちてんばっとう)

七転八起 literally means “to fall down seven times, and to get up eight times.” The moral of this saying is obvious, no matter how many times you’re knocked down, you gotta get right back up again! Get back on that horse… As we say in the United States.

七転八起 is also known as 七転び八起き (ななころびやおき)

Many people believe that this proverb is referring to Daruma in some way. Even if he’s knocked around he doesn’t really fall over… Well… he’s round… Of course the story of Daruma is much more complex than that, but I’ll leave the Daruma explanation to Wikipedia.

七転八倒, on the other hand, has a different meaning all together.

七転八倒 roughly means, “to fall down seven times, and to fall again 8 more times.” A Japanese-Japanese dictionary will give you a definition like, 「何度も転び倒れる意。」Which means, to fall down over and over again.

(By the way, you should get a Japanese-Japanese dictionary for things like this. You don’t have to take my word for it! @Rainbowhill blogged recommending monolingual dictionaries today as well.)

The verb 転ぶ is to fall, and 倒れる is also to fall. They’re a bit different, 転ぶ has a kind of a rolling and tumbling image to it, while 倒れる is more of an exhausted collapse. Anyway, they both represent failure.

All in all this proverb conveys pretty epic fail. My dictionary gives a translation of, “excruciating pain,” or “utter agony,” or “pain that makes one writhe in agony.” Ouch. You get the picture.

The same proverb exists in Chinese, so it was probably adopted from Chinese by the Japanese. The meaning in Chinese seems to be similar as well.

Anyone out there who knows Chinese that can shed some more light on this?

Anyway, there’s some fun phrases for you. Enjoy!

– Harvey