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osaka-ben for ahos!

West-side/East-side rivalry isn't just limited to rappers. There's also quite a bit of competition in the Kanto (eastern) and Kansai (western) regions of Japan. Basically, it comes down to this: To the Kanto folks, Kansai people are loud, obnoxious Hanshin Tigers fans that speak like weirdos and really like to eat octopus. To Kansai folks, Kanto people are a bunch of prissy fags.

Personally, I think they're both right. But as a former resident of Osaka, I have to side with the west. When I was told that I'd be surrounded by the weirdest people Japan had to offer, I knew I was going to the right place. Since living there I've fallen in love with takoyaki, manzai comedy.... and Osaka-ben/Kansai-ben, the dialect of Japanese spoken there. I think it's law that all Japanese comedians have to speak in it. I'm by no means a fluent speaker, but I figured I'd make an actually USEFUL page and teach y'all to speak it a bit. I'm not going to teach you Japanese, so if you don't know what parts of speech in the "standard" language I'm talking about, you should probably open a Japanese 101 textbook first. Also, if the Japanese characters I'm typing this in don't show up, for the love of god, tell me. Anyway! レッツらGO!

First of all, there's some words that are quite a bit different than the normal Kanto stuff. A few starter examples, to get your feet wet:

Kanto Kansai
むり、だめ アカン
馬鹿 (ばか) アホ
本当 (ほんとう) ホンマ
まあまあ ぼっちぼっち
ありがとう おおきに

For アカン、you can do some fun stuff. For instance, instead of しなければならない、you can say しなアカン (or if you're REALLY hardcore, せえなアカン). On the 馬鹿vsアホ front, although they're natively used in the east and west, respectively, the opposite word is considered more vulgar. Therefore, if someone is a REALLY big dumbass in Osaka, you'd call them 馬鹿、and if someone in Kanagawa was being tres retard, you could say アホか?? and it's all good. At least that's what the Japanese tell me.

I think 本当に and ホンマに speak for themselves, but there's also the ubiquitous マジで, which means the same damn thing and is used by everyone, MUCH more often. Although both west and east Japanese use it, the intonation is different. In Tokyo, the pitch goes UP, whereas in Osaka the pitch goes DOWN. If you hear someone say it, you'll know what I mean.

どう often becomes どない、as in どないしたの? For some reason, I find that one very, very fun.

The copula だ、in Osaka-ben, turns into や。 This goes for past-tense and such as well: you say やった instead of だった, やろう instead of だろう。 You're probably wondering like I did: "then what do Osaka people say when they want to say やった、as in 'I did it!'?" The answer, according to an Osaka girl named Akiko, is this: よっしゃ!!! 

よ becomes で. There's a girl at Gaidai named Yumi who loved to tell me "I LOVE YOU やで!" She may be clinically insane, but I think that's a nice example of useage. な is commonly a replacement for ね, so でんな is also common (like in ぼっちぼっちでんな, a common answer when asked how one’s doing in Osaka). And then there’s my favorite Osaka-ben particle…ねん。 Football Hour, one of my fave Manzai duos, once tried to explain it as んだ before, I think. It’s emphasis to be sure. そら分からへんねん or USJ行きたいねん, etc. やねん is also very, very common, 好きやねん and 何でやねん?! Being 2 of the most famous uses.

Past tense CAN be the normal た in Kansai, but it often becomes てん. Say your friend looks all sad, you can ask him どいないしてん? Instead of どうした, and when he tells you it’s cause the Hanshin Tigers lost, you can cry beside him.

Also, ている often becomes とる. もう知っとるかもしれんけど。

ちゃう is an ending-shortening of てしまう, which often gives an “oops” feeling to a verb, in the normal dialect. But ちゃう in Osaka-ben is 違う or じゃない, so we got ourselves a problem here. てまう is the Kansai version. Becomes てもうた and てもうて in the past/te-forms, respectively. My favorite use of this being Junichi Okada’s beautiful quote in the game Project V6: 下痢ってもーた。。。。 (“I have the shits”) Awesome, right? Now you can tell people about your digestive problems like a true Kansai-jin, too!

I was just talking about ちゃう. Negatives are a lot of fun in Osaka-ben. ちゃうちゃうIs a common “no, no” phrase. And you can also use it like in the “isn’t it?” sense. そらもう言うてんちゃう? or あいつ、大阪人とちゃうん? じゃないcan also be やない(like Nagase Tomoya’s hit as Sakuraba Yuichiro,お前やないとアカンねん ) and just like there’s じゃん in the standard, there’s やん in Osaka-ben.

The other big bit of conjugation fun you should know about deals with negative verbs. In Osaka-ben, ない becomes へん。 As in my favorite response to Japanese people who ask me if I know Osaka-ben: いいえ、さっぱり分からへんで。 Damn, that's good shit. Basically, just replace the ない and you've got it. Past-tense becomes へんかった、 and you can actually use it in the formal form: 分かりまへん。Alternatively, the ない also often becomes just plain ん。分からんかった? Speaking of things that shorten to ん, のs have a tendency to do that as well, なのs slurring into なんs.

You probably know that わat the end of a sentence can make it sound femmy. Well, in Osaka it's not, really. Expect to hear men use it all over the place, I hear the Yakuza uses it a lot as well. When I played NAMCO's ナイス・ツッコミ game in the arcade, whenever I slapped the boke dummy upside the head, the tsukkomi would yell 「やかましいわ!」. I 'm pretty sure that when you're hitting someone and calling them a noisy dipshit, that's not feminine speech. God, I love manzai. But digressions.

I know I'm missing a crapload of stuff that I’m too lazy to add right now, and if you can think of any additions or corrections that would be useful, please do email me. In the meantime, if you'd like to hear some Osaka-ben in action, my recs would be:

*Any show featuring Downtown (or any other Japanese comedians), such as HEY HEY HEY Music Champ, etc. Of course if you get a chance to watch any of the manzai comedians or talents from the Yoshimoto troupe, that's not only a great example of the dialect, but damn funny shit. (Come to think of it, Downtown is Yoshimoto, aren't they?)
*Tasuki's character in Fushigi Yuugi. Don't bother with Watari from Yami no Matsuei, he's FAAAAKE. I hear that a character in Battle Athletes Victory is a hardcore Osaka-jin, and that that scary yellow thing from Card Captor Sakura speaks pretty good Osaka-ben, but I've never seen either. There’s also a character in BLEACH who speaks the holy dialect.
* The song "Hey Hey Ooki ni Maido Ari" by SMAP. It's god-awful cheesy, but it's also hilarious, and I found parts of the chorus written on signs in my local supermarket, so that says something. There's also another song on SMAP 004 or 006 where I KNOW I heard Nakai yell 「どないやねん?!」 but that's only worth noting because that phrase is damn fun to use. In related cases: Kinki Kids. Nuff said. Also Okada still slips back into his home dialect every now and then. Ooh, and speaking of Johnny's-related: don’t forget that "お前やないとアカンねん"song I mentioned.

Well, there you go. I hope you found this useful, either in communicating better with Japanese friends from Osaka, understanding a Nakagawa-ke routine, or just scaring the fuck out of some dumb Tokyo pussy.