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Jejeje!? A Peek into the World of Japanese Onomatopoeias

A talk by Mori Emi (Kōdan-sha publishers, Tokyo)

08.10.2013 – 08.11.2013

Bān! Zudōn! Hirahira, shitoshito, mochimochi…

These are all onomatopoeias. If you have an interest in Japan, you may have seen them used in manga. But isn’t using onomatopoeia kind of childish? Plus, the meaning isn’t always completely clear. It certainly seems that way given the fact that they aren’t in the dictionary. However, it’s said that Japanese has around 5,000 onomatopoeias (2-3 times the amount other languages have), and they are used by people of all ages, making them an essential key to understanding Japanese.

Onomatopoeias are words that represent sounds or conditions, so if you can understand the images behind them, novels and manga will draw you deeper into the universes of their stories, gugutto (with a tug).

Shall we take a peek into the world these weird words open up?


  • Sound words, condition words­: what kinds are there?
  • The 1,000 year history of Japanese onomatopoeias
  • Onomatopoeias in manga, picture books, and literature
  • Onomatopoeias are still evolving now and how they’ve become essential in branding
  • Make your own onomatopoeia!

About Emi Mori

Born 1980. Editor of Children’s Picture Book. Mori majored in physics at Kyushu University and upon graduating, joined Kodansha. She was originally a magazine editor. Her favorite food is atsuatsu (piping hot), paritto (crisp) grilled wurst.