Japanese Emoji

If you’ve ever paged through your device’s emoji keyboard, you may have noticed an overrepresentation of emoji which are particularly Japanese.  Of course, the word emoji itself comes from the Japanese 絵文字.  The 絵 (え) means picture and the 文字 (もじ) means character.  Due to the initial rise of emoji usage on cell phones in Japan prior to the introduction of the iPhone and subsequent expansion of smartphone usage globally, there were simply a lot of Japan-specific emoji in use that were grandfathered in when emoji became standardized by the Unicode Consortium. Teni Wada also did a great write-up of emoji appropriate to the various holidays on the Japanese calendar.

Naturally, there is a also fascinating 99% Invisible Podcast episode about the emoji standardization process, which I highly recommend.

I’ve assembled a table of Japan-related emoji below.  How many do you know?  Are there any missing?

KanjiKanaEnglishEmoji
寿司すしSushi🍣
弁当べんとBento box lunch🍱
お握りおにぎりNigiri rice ball🍙
なべHot pot🍲
煎餅せんべいRice cracker🍘
団子だんご🍡
カレーライスCurry rice🍛
鳴門巻なるとまきFish cake🍥
焼き芋やきいもRoasted sweet potato🍠
おでんOden🍢
かき氷かきごりShaved ice🍧
河豚ふぐBlowfish🐡
さけSake🍶
天狗てんぐTengu👺
雛人形ひなにんぎょうGirls day dolls🎎
おにDemon👹
鯉のぼりこいのぼりCarp streamer🎏
月見つきみMoon viewing🎑
富士山ふじさんMount Fuji🗻
日本の地図にほんのちずMap of Japan🗾
北斎ほくさいHokusai wave🌊
東京タワーとうきょうタワーTokyo tower🗼
しろJapanese castle🏯
鳥居とりいShinto torii gate⛩️
もやいMoyai statue in Shibuya🗿
郵便局ゆうびんきょくJapanese post office🏣
さくらCherry blossom🌸
風鈴ふうりんWind chime/bell🎐
七夕たなばたTanabata🎋
新幹線しんかんせんBullet train🚅
門松かどまつGate pine🎍
提灯ちょうちんPaper lantern🏮
花札はなふだHanafuda playing cards🎴
初心者マークしょしんしゃマークNew driver sticker🔰
温泉おんせんHot springs♨️
いかAnger symbol💢
花丸はなまるHanamaru, "Well done" stamp💮
幼稚園の名札ようちえんのなふだKindergarten name badge📛

Nursery Rhymes

It is well known that music is a great memory aid and, in our family, we’ve used Japanese music to great effect as a fun way to improve language skills.  We were lucky enough to have received these Kumon nursery rhyme / folksong CDs from a cousin in Japan when our first child was born and we’ve gotten a ton of use out of them.  We received three CDs with 30 songs and lyric cards each and have played them a lot with the kids over the years.

A non-obvious benefit that we received from immersing the family in this music has been a big dose of Japanese cultural reference in addition to merely reinforcing vocabulary and grammar.  A few years ago, we were visiting Kyoto and dropped by こどもみらい館 for some morning activity time.  When song time started up, we were ecstatic to realize that we knew all the songs and our kids could participate fully as a result!  These traditional Japanese children’s songs are also used all the time in Japanese day care and it’s been beneficial for our kids (and us parents!) to be able to join in effortlessly due to an existing familiarity with this fundamental cultural element.

Of course, there are plenty of other sources of music & videos online, often with accompanying subtitles to aid in understanding for kids and non-native Japanese parents alike.  Some favorites of ours have been useful for fundamentals like hiragana, days of the week and even this wild one filled with puns and Japanese counters:

 

たね

When our oldest was in yochien, a common homework exercise was to come up with a word that starts with a specified kana and then draw a picture of it.

The clever little bugger always tried to pick words whose pictures are easy to draw.  Once, for は, he came up with はり (needle) and just drew a little line.  For た, he chose たね (seed) and drew a little dot.  We made him draw the plant sprouting from it.