Japanese Onomatopoeia Part 1: Talking About Food

Aren’t onomatopoeias great? Not only is the word itself (onomatopoeia!) fun to say but this aspect of language learning is such a refreshing one – providing a welcome break to an otherwise very structured endeavor. Plus, there’s just something about spewing out these fun little words that makes anyone sound more fluent in a language they’re studying.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be happy to know that Japanese is a language that makes use of onomatopoeias extensively. In fact, in the Japanese language, there are 2 types of onomatopoeias. The first one, Giongo, are the ones most of us are familiar with – those that mimic sound such as tiktok and woof woof in English. The other type, Gitaigo, are words that do not mimic sound but represent emotions, states or conditions. Studying Giongos and Gitaigos is so exciting and I can’t wait to go on this journey with you so let’s get started!

Today, we will be learning 5 onomatopoeias you can use to describe food. Yum.

1. Kari-Kari

If you usually dine with fried dishes, this is a useful word to add to your repertoire. It shouldn’t be too hard to remember as it is meant to mimc the sound you hear as you bite into some chips or perfectly fried food. You might say something like:

“In summer, a crisp cucumber would be perfect.”

夏には、カリカリきゅうりが最高だ。

“Natsu dattara, kari-kari kyuuri ga kampeki da.”

2. Fuwa-fuwa

This onomatopoeia is used to describe light and fluffy foods. Marshmallows is a great example of food you can describe with this.

“I bought a fluffy cotton candy at Harajuku.”

原宿でフワフワな綿飴を買った。

“Harajuku de fuwa-fuwa wataame wo katta.”

3. Toro-toro

This word describes a rich, creamy texture and is usually used to describe solid food that has melted. Think melted cheese.

“For dessert, we have a rich chocolate fondue.”

デザートはトロトロなチョコレートフォンデュです。

“Dezaato wa torotoro chocolate fondue desu.”

4. Puri-puri

Puri-puri describes the slight resistance of a thin covering some juicy and bouncy goodness. For example, you can use it to describe the texture of snapping into a fresh shrimp.

“Bite into this juicy hotdog.”

このプリプリなホットドッグを噛んでみて。

“Kono puri-puri hot dog wo kande.”

5. Neba- neba

You can use this expression to describe something that’s gooey or slimy. Okra is a good example of food that’s neba-neba and of course, the Japanese staple – nattou.

“I eat gooey nattou every day.”

毎日ネバネバな納豆を食べる。

“Mainichi neba-neba nattou wo taberu.”

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