Gratuitous Japanese

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Worf-san no warrior skills are now perfect desu.

Hey bitch you look kawaii.

Willow, My Immortal

In the Anime Fanfic community, the name given to the practice of including in a story the occasional word or sentence (or paragraph!) of Japanese in place of its equivalent in the author's language of choice, desu. This also occurs in Fansubs and Scanlations.

Sometimes this can be a mere leavening for flavor, using terms likely to be familiar to even a casual anime viewer such as Honorifics, Japanese Sibling Terminology, various pleasantries and exclamations, and the ever-popular "Baka". Another popular one is using "Kami" as synonymous with "God" leading to "Oh Thank Kami!" and the like. However, some authors go overboard, dumping into their stories entire sentences and more in Japanese of varying grammatical precision. While the more thoughtful of such authors may provide footnotes or glossaries for the convenience of their readers, the sudden transition from English to a block of Japanese is still jarring for many readers.

Naturally, opinion varies within the anime fanfic community on this subject. Most readers are united in their dislike for finding walls of Japanese text in the middle of their stories, but some do enjoy (much) smaller "flavor bits".

The form of this that just about everybody, even the purists, despises is "Fangirl Japanese", where a newbie inserts big blocks of Japanese that they don't even understand every other paragraph, not just in their fanfiction (which is usually plain ol' bad) but in their everyday life. The word "kawaii" still leaves a bad taste in many reformed fangirls' mouths. It is amusing, though, to read their flailing attempts if you know enough Japanese to realize that no, "koi" is not the verb for "love" and that they've used the word for "bow (weapon)" instead of that for "bow (hair accessory)" by mistake. This is sometimes seen in Fanfic of such things as Harry Potter, which isn't Japanese, has (usually) no Japanese characters, and hasn't been anywhere near Japan.[1]

This is also a source of much argument in the area of fansubs, over whether or not to include honorifics, localize idioms, translate certain special terms, or use translator notes at the top of the screen.

Occasionally there will be untranslated Japanese in an English dub of an anime, but that almost exclusively applies to Honorifics and attack names, especially ones that translate into literal descriptions of the attack, that would otherwise sound boring, or just be too long to easily shorten into a name that would fit the Mouth Flaps.

Gratuitous English is the anime version of this; the name is because, just like Gratuitous Japanese is Japanese for the sake of it, Gratuitous English is English dropped into the dialog for the sake of it, even if it's horribly mangled. Gratuitous German is the same in German. Gratuitous Spanish is... well, you get the picture. (Of course, some translators attempt Woolseyism by translating Gratuitous $LANGUAGE into Gratuitous Japanese.)

Using any of these words without context makes you a Baka.


日本のアニメ (Anime)

  • A general note: If the word "baka" (a derogatory term, roughly meaning "idiot") appears in any manga or anime, you can be sure that at least some of scanlations/subs leave it untranslated. Probably because it's one of the most well-known Japanese words, even though English words like "idiot" or "fool" could be used without any problems instead.
  • Fansubs can also have this, with some things being written in Japanese in the subs, with an accompanying translation. The most infamous example is the "Just according to keikaku (Translator's Note: keikaku means plan)" meme from a parody of a Death Note fansub.
    • Note there are fansubs who invert this, absolutely refusing to give notes and explanations even if that means butchering a joke based on wordplay or Japanese culture, or giving slang and other untranslatable words absurd translations (Tsundere doesn't mean "bipolar", despite what some would let you believe). Note these tend to be trollsubs that make up most of the text anyway, so this is the least of their issues. All in all, extremes are bad.
      • It can also be a useful way to cope, when you're trying to do a 'sense' translation,[2] and you realize the English word that would fit the meanings would be instant Narm.
  • Done deliberately as a Woolseyism in the first volume of Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei. When Kaere is in her Kaede personality, she uses several Japanese phrases, which are transliterated (rather than translated as they would be for other characters) and she even refers to herself as a Yamato Nadeshiko. All of this is to show how this personality is an exaggeration of how an actual Japanese person would act.
  • The English dub of Naruto never bothers translating the word "jutsu", even though it could easily be rendered as "technique" or something similar. (The Viz manga translates it as "art" - for example, "Kage Bunshin no Jutsu" is "Art of the Shadow Doppelgänger" in the manga and "Shadow Clone Jutsu" in the anime.)
    • They also refer to their teachers and other respectables as "sensei", which is used for those in respectable occupations (the manga translates this as "master," an example being "Master Kakashi"). If one were to listen, however, using "sensei" gratuitously in an English dub is actually more common than one might think.
  • It seems like they were intending for the Shichiko-hoju (literally "Seven Glittering Jewels", also translated as "Rainbow Treasure") in Elemental Gelade to be left untranslated in the dub. However, apparently the voice actors had trouble pronouncing it, so it got rendered as Shiko-hoji instead.
  • Virtually all non-official translations of One Piece have left "Nakama" (similar to True Companions) in place of all possible translations. Many, many translations mix-and-match attack names, such as Luffy's "Gomu-Gomu no" almost always being left untranslated but the attack itself ("Fusen" vs. "Balloon") is often either translated or not. Shichibukai is kept as a title (ex: Gekko Moria will be called the Shichibukai Moria. "Shichibukai"'s literal translation is "Seven Military Seas", but the dubs use the serviceable term "Seven Warlords of the Sea"), Tenryuubito, or the Celestial Dragons, constantly remain untranslated.
    • Though not something you'll find in most subs, certain fans of the series refer to the crew of the main characters (The Strawhats) as the original term "Mugiwara". The characters "Whitebeard" and "Blackbeard" are also sometimes referred to as "Shirohige" and "Kurohige" for some unfathomable reason.
      • Well, Whitebeard does not actually have a beard (hige is any facial hair). Other than that, there's no excuse.
    • Also the three admirals. Aokiji, Kizaru and Akainu are their titles, not their real names. Usually it would be more fitting to translate their titles to "Blue Pheasant, Yellow Monkey and Red Dog" and keep their names Kuzan, Borsalino and Sakazuki as the original. However, no translations (including the official ones) apparently bother to do that. Because One Piece makes so much use of Red Baron nicknames, some people refuse to translate them as if they were actual names.
    • Hancock's royal title of "Hebihime" (snake princess) is also left untranslated very many times.
  • The English dub of Code Geass gets away with a potential justification. Since about half the cast is Japanese rebels with a strong sense of national pride, any scene where they use honorifics signifies that they're speaking Japanese but it's being "translated" for the benefit of the viewer.
  • The English dub of Duel Masters included some Japanese phrases such as "Ike" and "Todome da" during the games.

アメコミ (Comic Books)

  • Ninjette from Empowered, as well as the various McNinja clans she is estranged from, use this a great deal (oft complete with Kana/Kanji). Indeed her very name (Kaburagi Kozue) counts as such given that she is a white girl from New Jersey.
  • The comic artist Pat Lee used a Katakana font to put random Japanese letters beneath his name in a header for his website. The problem: that makes his name "Michiyamenotehi Funana." This "Japanese translation" actually comes from a rather misleading website who proposed to "translate" your name in Japanese, but all it did was to change each letter for a specific katakana.
  • One of the reasons that Drift from IDW's Transformers comic drew so much hatred before his debut was the Gratuitous Japanese ("Dorifuto") and rising sun motif on his car mode. According to his creator, Drift is supposed to be a tribute to the land that birthed Transformers...which is an even bigger backfire because while the toy molds were indeed Japanese, the brand and the characters were of American origin.
    • Technically they are still behind the toys. Aside from the Star Wars and Marvel Crossover lines, fans still turn to Japan to design robot figures that fold up into vehicles, even for the movies and heavily stylized Animated series since, let's face it, if anyone's going to come up with a robot that turns into a car, it's Japan.
      • Doesn't change the fact that the land that birthed the Transformers franchise is the US of A, by way of Marvel Comics and Hasbro. Because you think 'Japan' when you think 'giant robot,' many think Transformers is originally Japanese, especially now that several Japan-original series have been aired in the US. But they're mistaken.
      • And even then, Takaratomy basically deals with the engineering aspect of the toys, the designs are still made in America by people like Aaron Archer, Bill Rawley, Eric Siebenaler, etc.
    • Drift's toy makes it all the funnier, though, thanks to the addition of gratuitous Japanese on his totally badass plus one sword. This sword is an ancient Cybertronian weapon passed down through the mysterious third faction of Knights Of Cybertron, and the implication is that Drift basically defiled it with the kanji for "peerless" to be more gratuitously Japanese.
  • In a case of back-engineered Gratuitous Japanese, Ben Dunn's Ninja High School started off a Japanese character with an almost offensively fake "Asian-like" name -- "Itchy-koo"—and eventually hamhandedly backformed a real Japanese name around it ("Ichi-kun", from "Ichinohei Hitomi") with the implied explanation that it had been mispronounced all this time. Even by her parents.
  • In Uncanny X-Men issue 205, Wolverine is severally injured and, while his healing factor tries to put his brain back together, he starts speaking Japanese. By the second line his speech is in bracketed English even though the only other character present can't understand it. Strangely Wolverine uses "Boku". While correct, it comes off pretty mild given Wolverine's personality.

ファンワークス (Fan Works)

  • Parodied in this Death Note fanfic.
  • Particularly Egregious is Narrabundah 1/2 by Urac "Ratbat" Sigma, where you not only have to struggle through vast amounts of unfootnoted Japanese, you also have to deal with transcribed Scots and Welsh accents, obscure Anzac slang, and some just outright bizarre character speech patterns, all of it in obsolete script format.
  • The Cowboy Bebop fanfic Tenshi Trail takes this to ridiculous extremes, making completely unnecessary word substitutions in both the dialogue and actual writing. What makes this even more baffling is that the show does not take place in Japan and none of the main characters are Japanese. Some examples include:

"Dozo let me stay."
Hentai thoughts ran through Jet?s head.
That dream made nai sense to him what so ever.
"Naze are we teishing?"
He looked yuki white with dark ruby and kuro eyes.

  • My Immortal uses quite a bit of Fangirl Japanese—in a Harry Potter fic.
    • Of course, no one knows if it's a Troll Fic or not.
  • It's extremely common in Gundam Wing fanfiction for everyone to call Duo "Braided Baka"—regardless of character's national origin, and Wufei tossing around "Onna", when everything else is in English.
  • Played straight in the Digimon Tamers fanfic Digital Prey, though it's mostly limited to the names of the canon characters and their attacks, and occasionally using Japanese honorifics when the characters address each other.
  • Parodied in the Kingdom Hearts Meta Fic Those Lacking Spines with Pence in the High School AU chapters, who speaks in a garbled mix of Japanese, Spanish and English.

"Vivi-chan! NAN DESU KAN! Domo kawaii arigatou Mr. Roboto!"
"Kairi no BAKA! Baka Kairi forgetta Pence-chan existikimori!"
And, even more ridiculous: "Naminé-sempai is so gaijin she komo dachi tomo teriyaki sukimura sakura the Rearu Fork Brues... Iie, iie, no way Jose."

  • There is a DBZ fanfic out there where the author uses "baka" straight. As a noun. He pluralises it by adding -s.
    • Not to mention the constant fanfics that have Vegeta calling Bulma "Onna" and talking about how he's the "Saiya-jin No Ouji" and came from "Vegeta-sei"
    • Dragonball fandom is particularly guilty of this trope, though in some cases it's because authors are using Japanese to represet alien (usually Saiya-jin) dialects. Perhaps a rare case of a Justified Trope given that Toriyama used English for Vegeta's attacks for exactly this purpose.
  • The Deva Series has quite a bit of Gratuitous Japanese, often in the form of common statements such as "Hai" and "Gomen nasai", and occasional phrases (?Ohayo, minnnaaaa-ssaaaaan!?).
  • A horrific example of this very nearly destroyed the Improfanfic series Final Fantasy Legacy, and was the very first instance of an Impro part actually being pulled (entirely removed from the series and disregarded by all future authors) to save the story. The original author for the sixth chapter (of what would go on to be a 60+ chapter story) committed multiple sins, including killing off half the characters, throwing a brand-new story into ending mode, and spewing rivers of gratuitous Japanese into a story which, at that point, had used absolutely no Japanese whatsoever. Some of the worst examples:

Chapter title: "Shoujou no Kokoro to Akuma no Higeki"
... dare ga? Kimi wa dare?
"Davin... don't you remember? Wasurenai yo?"
"Ore no kichigai."
"Iya, Darovan-sama, boku wa kimi---"
"Kore ga ore no daiichi no osoroshii kachi da! Ore o mitte soushite osorete! Ningen o koroshitearu! Shoukan shite iru kaibutsu o koroshitearu!!"

  • Sailor Nothing does this a lot, although it may be intentional.
    • As does the Slayers Trilogy series (both it and Sailor Nothing are by the same author); unlike the above story, it draws from a quirky western fantasy setting, so it's pretty unecessary. As good as the story is, the use of this trope (Ano'...) is one of its biggest drawbacks.
  • Eiga Sentai Scanranger tended to do this. Sometimes it made sense, because a lot of characters were of Japanese descent, but it also manifested when the writer was trying to come up with cool-sounding "alien" names (e.g. kagami/mirror = Kagamirron, the name of a mirror universe). Also, why in the crossover with Choujin Sentai Jetman did the characters keep slipping into Japanese...after an alien used her powers so there was no such thing as a language barrier when the story seems to assume the reader's native langue is English?
  • Team 8, otherwise one of the best Naruto fanfics around, often suffers from this.
  • Kyon: Big Damn Hero doesn't have much Gratuitous Japanese but the unusual part are the Yakuza terms, which tend to get used occasionally, translated once in the text itself, and replaced by English equivalents. The effect can be... odd.
  • Starkit's Prophecy uses this a lot. In case you didn't know, all the characters are cats. This actually makes the Gratuitous Japanese more plausible; writing the cats' dialogue in English is a just a Translation Convention, so it doesn't matter what language is used. There's also a high chance that it's a Troll Fic (see My Immortal).
  • Kimagure Orange College started out using only a few Japanese words or phrases. However, around episode 25 there started to be entire passages of dialogue in Japanese (which required that translations be provided.) So either the authors wanted to show off their Japanese language skills, or KOC was slowly being phased into a Japanese language fic.
  • The Axis Powers Hetalia fandom is an interesting case, as the canon actually has a personification of Japan for whom it's a widely accepted practice to have him use Japanese Pronouns and even the occasional Japanese term in fanworks as a sort of Verbal Tic. However, some fanworks still definitely go overboard with this trope for him, and there's debate over whether having Korea refer to China as "aniki" is an acceptable or unacceptable use of this trope.
  • One author just gave up and had his character use American slang in a Naruto fic .The sad part ,the fic got better .
  • April Richards' Mighty Morphin Power Rangers fanfics have a tendency to portray Tommy with a dark, mysterious past. And he's Japanese.
  • Really, any writer who uses the term "shoujo-ai" to refer to Schoolgirl Lesbians, despite the fact that in Japan, shoujo-ai refers to Lolicon.
    • What's funny is, the actual Japanese turn for Schoolgirl Lesbians is "Girls Love," in English. It's also the literal meaning of the words 'shoujo' and 'ai.' So we use Gratuitous Japanese the same way they use Gratuitous English when referring to the same thing.
    • Gender Flip, and you get Boys Love and shounen ai for Yaoi Guys.
    • Also, using hentai for porn (it actually means pervert(ed). Typically used of a person.) Ero (for erotic) is more likely to be used in Japan; for example, an H-game is an Eroge, erotic game (game pronounced as gemu.) Also also, Nakama doesn't strictly mean teammates with a family-like bond. Otaku as geek is not an affectionate term; basically, it's less 'affectionate term for enthusiastic fan' and more 'loser who will never get a girlfriend because he has no life and speaks only Klingon.' However, like many such things, it may be adopted by people it's said of and soften with time - to some. See N-Word Privileges. But know your Japanese friend well before you call him an 'otaku' for liking Star Trek. First time he heard the word, it's highly unlikely it was said with a smile.
    • Basically, all this can be summed up by saying most anime fandom Japanese terms are technically accurate but are used in a very different manner than the same words are in Japan.
  • Many fanfics confuses 'nee-chan' (big sister) for 'nii-chan' (big brother). Some also use them for younger siblings -- which is just wrong.
  • Eva-fanfic The Second Try keeps "baka" and "hentai"... almost exclusively for Asuka insulting Shinji. It also keeps a grand total of one honorific when referring to Aki, which is mainly used to emphasize how adorable that particular character is.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Stage of History parodies this by having Setsuka (a caucasian woman born and raised in Japan) speak almost entirely in this untill she pulls a starscream on Zalshamal.
  • Mostly avoided in the Ranma ½/Neon Genesis Evangelion crossover fic The Wild Horse Thesis, but when it does appear it's at total fangirl misuse level -- around chapter 12 Ranma starts addressing the girls as "Koi", and later Toji uses it with Hikari. "Koi" is one of the Japanese words that can mean "love", but no native Japanese speaker would use it as a mode of address or term of affection, as it's used here. They would probably use "anata" instead.

映画 (Film)

  • In Cannibal! The Musical, the characters meet a tribe of Indians called the Nihonjin, who speak Japanese.
  • In Erik the Viking, the oarsman taskmaster is inexplicably Japanese, who hilariously insults the galley slaves:

Row! Row! You incomprehensible, horizontal-eyed, Western trouser-wearers!
Eurgh! You all look the same to me!
How I abominate your milk-drinking and your lack of ancestor-worship, and your failure to eat your lunch out of little boxes!
SILENCE! Unceremonious rice-pudding eaters!
How I despise your lack of subtlety and your joined-up writing!
You, who have never committed ritual suicide in your lives!

文学 (Literature)

  • In Alison Goodman's Singing the Dogstar Blues, one of the heroine's two mommies is Japanese, and the heroine has picked up some of the language from her and scatters it at random in her speech (as does the mother in question). Unfortunately, it's not very good Japanese—which might be excusable in the heroine's case, since she's not fluent, but the mother should know better than to refer to the heroine as "nee-san," which means "older sister."
  • Carmela Rodriguez of Young Wizards does this occasionally (though usually only with the odd word in Japanese rather than whole sentences).
  • Even James Clavell's Shōgun (part of the Asian Saga) suffers from this. The various Japanese bits written into the story range widely, from sentences where he obviously asked an actual native Japanese speaker for a translation, to phrases constructed from words gotten out of a dictionary and inserted into English grammar. Interestingly, Clavell's overly-simplified explanation of Japanese verbs is immediately contradicted by one of those sentences from an actual Japanese person.
    • Example: When Toranaga asks if a ship is seaworthy, he ends up asking if the sea is worthy of respect.
  • The William Gibson novel Idoru (Literature) is taken from the Japanese word for Idol Singers, which itself is Gratuitous English. However, Gibson's transliteration is wrong- it would be spelled Aidoru.
  • Battle School slang incorporates a lot of Japanese. Most notable is the use of "kuso" as an expletive and synonym for "bulls**t".
  • Neal Stephenson's frequent use of the term "Nippon" and complete avoidance of the word "Japan," extending to referring to people as "Nipponese." This makes sense when used by an American soldier in the Pacific Theater of World War II in Cryptonomicon, less when used in the cyberpunk future of Snow Crash.
  • Kunoichi is full of this. Although somewhat justified, in that the novel does partially take place in Japan and it's being spoken by Japanese people.
  • Subverted in Red Mars: the First Hundred colonists were primarily Russian and American, but a major figure among the First Hundred was Hiroko Ai, who pioneered the gift economy that eventually contributed significantly to the sustainable lifestyle that came to dominate a terraformed, colonized Mars. Her phrase shikata ga nai (literally: choice is not present [casual speech]; idiomatically: there is no [other] choice; it's used in an "oh well, that's life" sorta way) becomes a proverb used by the First Hundred when confronted by a dilemma forced upon them by circumstance. It is both grammatically correct and used appropriately for once.
  • In the web-novel Domina, Lizzy insists on only using Japanese when speaking with her Japanese friend Akane. A few comments imply that she tries to speak to everyone in their native language, but Akane is the only one who understands the language in question.

実写テレビ (Live Action TV)

音楽 (Music)

  • Queen's song "Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together)" uses this—it's hard to tell, because Freddie Mercury's pronunciation is terrible, and the lyrics sheets use archaic romanization that renders "wo" as a terminal "o" on the end of the preceding word, rendering portions of the lyrics gibberish to people only familiar with more recent romanization systems. This isn't enough to make it one of The Oldest Ones in the Book, but it is enough to make it Older Than They Think. This being the 70s, the song was written specifically as a thank you to their vast legions of Japanese fans.
    • A similar example would be their song "Mustapha", which is basically Gratuitous Arabic. At least "Let Us Cling Together" used real words.
    • Bohemian Rhapsody also has an instance of Gratuitous Arabic, although since this is a song where Scaramouche can do the fandango, some random "Bismillah"s almost make sense by comparison.
      • Now, now, be nice. The term "Bismillahi ar-Rahman ar-Rahim" (or al-Rahman al-Rahim if you prefer) means "In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate". In the context of the song, therefore, when the guy is demanding "Let me go!" the response is literally "In the Name of God (By God, in other words), no, we will not let you go", which is a perfectly logical and reasonable statement to make.
        • Freddie was born in Zanzibar, so he was certainly familiar with the phrase.
  • And of course, STYX. Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto, Mata au hi made, domo arigato, Mr. Roboto, himitsu wo shiritai...
  • But who can forget Chicago doign a Japanese version of Questions 67 & 68 while on tour in Japan...
  • There's also the Freezepop song "Tenisu no Boifurendo", which is sung completely in Japanese, except lacking any semblance of correct pronunciation. It's actually quite hilarious.
  • There's a "Japanese" version of Tokio Hotel's Durch den Monsun. Notice those quotation marks? Yeah...
    • To be more specific, the verses and a few lines in the bridge are sung in Japanese (with an unintentionally hilarious accent) while the rest is still in German.
  • Gwen Stefani and her "aww, super-kawaii!" near the start of the videoclip for "Hollaback Girl".
    • Her song "Harajuku Girls" has the line "It's super kawaii, that means super cute in Japanese" repeated throughout the song.
      • And rendered in kanji in the printed lyrics.
  • "Mitchiko from Tokyo", as recorded by Gene Vincent, features garbled Japanese ("Wa tasi noko domo") and one instance of butchered German in the lyrics. To be fair, Gene Vincent pronounces "geisha" right and mushing "number ichiban" into "numb and itchy bun" was possibly deliberate on his part.
  • The David Bowie song "It's No Game, Pt 1" features a Japanese woman growling the prose translation of Bowie's lyrics. Bowie has said that he included her to refute cultural stereotypes of meek and submissive Asian women.
  • There is a song called 'Gomenasai', which is sung in full English except for the Gratuitous Japanese. One of the lines is "Gomenasai to the end..." Seriously. What makes this an even funnier example is that the band in question is t.A.T.u., and their native language is Russian. But it's a literal translation (as much as can be allowed) and not Gratuitous English, except of course for the word 'gomenasai'.
  • MC Frontalot's Shame of the Otaku.
  • Machinae Supremacy has several songs with a woman speaking Japanese audible, including in the beginning a cover of Gimme More by Britney Spears. The only time where Japanese is part of the actual lyrics of a song is in the chorus of "Kaori Stomp".
  • The Japanese version of "Caramelldansen", where the lyrics are sung to sound similar to the original Swedish lyrics.
  • The English version of Pizzicatto Five's "Baby Love Child" inexplicably contains the line "You love me yes you do, aishitemasu". This isn't even in the Japanese version of the song; the corresponding lyric in that version is "Aishi au to tsukarechaushi".
  • My Chemical Romance's song "Party Poison" includes a woman speaking frantic Japanese in the background.
  • does this in some of their newer songs as a homage to their popularity in Japan.
  • Sixpence None the Richer did a version of their One-Hit Wonder Kiss Me, entirely in Japanese.
  • The Japanese version of "Krafty" by New Order. You can tell Bernard Sumner does not speak the language. The interesting thing is, the lyrics were written by Masafumi Gotō of Asian Kung-Fu Generation.
  • One can say Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla" couldn't be played without this. There is an interlude with a newscaster speaking fluent Japanese, asking the citizens to seek refuge after the titular Kaiju is seen around Ginza.
    • Which you can actually speak (because it's a talky part) in the Rock Band version of the song!
  • Near the end of "Upside Down (And I Fall)" by Jakalope the singer chants "Ichi! Ni! San! Shi!"
    • Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" does the same thing, though it's more near the middle.
  • There is a Japanese version of the Veggie Tales "Hairbrush Song". Note: Includes Gratuitous English.

オペラ (Opera)

  • The march of the Mikado's troops in The Mikado is an actual Japanese marching song, not an invention of Gilbert and Sullivan, although the very, very old-fashioned Romanization might make it hard for a modern speaker to figure out:

Miya sama, miya sama,
On n'm-ma no mayé ni
Pira-Pira suru no wa
Nan gia na
Toko tonyaré tonyaré na?

  • Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly is set in Japan, and contains a whole bunch of Japanese words and names. Almost all are incorrect or used incorrectly: "Sarundasico", for example, is not a Japanese word; it is almost certainly a corruption of "Sarutahiko". That he is invoked by a Buddhist priest is another error. Ciocio (chōchō), at least, does in fact mean Butterfly.

テーブルゲーム (Tabletop Games)

  • Since Japan took over the world - economically, at least - in Shadowrun, several Japanese terms have made their way into the common vernacular. So it isn't "gratuitous" in-universe, but during gameplay? It's gratuitous as HELL, omae.
    • For some, it can be easier than busting your hoop trying to get the game's future slang down, chummer.
  • The first edition of Legend of the Five Rings uses some really gratuitous Japanese in skill names. Examples: "Kagaku" instead of "Alchemy" or all weapon skill names in Way of the Lion, even if Western names were given in the rulebook earlier.
    • Hilariously, the game also includes a few sample Japanese phrases to use to sound badass in combat including, "I'll tear you in half!" The catch? That phrase is lifted directly from the subversive, parody travel guide Wicked Japanese in its section of things for women to say to rebuff unwanted advances, and is feminine in tone thanks to the "wa" at the end.
  • Mekton Zeta actually has a guide to gratuitous phrases to shout out. As you'd expect, it includes "gattai".
  • Magic: The Gathering's Kamigawa block is guilty of this somewhat. It's set in a world inspired by Japanese mythology, so some untranslated Japanese is to be expected, but some card names (such as Slumbering Tora) really aren't necessary.
    • It also parodies this with the flavour text "What part of 'Hayaku ikee!'[3] did you not understand?"

ゲームソフト (Video Games)

  • Used by the Aldrin Colony pilots in the X-Universe games. The Terran Democracy and the Argon Federation pilots sometimes use it, but less often. Justified in that Japanese became a major language on Earth prior to the discovery of the jumpgate system
  • In the English version of Persona 3, Bebe, the foreign exchange student, constantly uses Gratuitous Japanese, followed by English translations. Justified in that it's difficult to think of another way to emphasize that he's going out of his way to speak Japanese when it's not his native language... in a game that's now in English.
    • Many characters in Persona 4 use Japanese pronouns, but thankfully avoid going overboard.
    • In the original Japanese, Bebe would be speaking gratuitous samurai Japanese. The translators described it as "talking like he's in a samurai movie".
  • The North American version of Devil Survivor has a textual example by what appears to be accident; namely, some of the blue text pertaining to Gin's actions were left in their original Japanese. For instance, when you defeat him on Naoya's route, the text reads "ジンをさせた!"
  • In Super Smash Bros.. Melee, Marth and Roy from Fire Emblem speak Japanese in all versions of the game. In Brawl this was retained, even though fellow Fire Emblem character Ike was given an English voice actor, since he had one in his own game. This may have had something to do with an intent by Nintendo of Japan to dummy them out for the American release, but the localization team liked them enough to keep them in the game. Most of the characters in Melee actually still had Japanese voice actors - with many of them using English catch phrases ("Mission Comprete!"). Strangely, everyone who actually spoke got an English voice actor in Brawl...except Marth.
  • Played with in Street Fighter Alpha with Sodom, a hardcore Otaku. Many of his win quotes are in Japanese, but he mangles the pronunciation horribly, and they're written as he pronounces them. (For an example, he pronounces ichiban -- "number one"—as "itchy bun".) Other examples include:
    • "Die job death car?" (daijoubu desu ka?, Are you alright?)
    • "Show sea send bang!" (shoushi senban!, Ridiculous!)
    • "Nip on die ski!" (nippon daisuki!, I love Japan!)
  • In SSX 3, Japanese competitor Kaori Nishidake speaks approximately zero English; The only time she does is at the character selection screen.
  • Not sure if this is Gratuitous Japanese or reverse Gratuitous English due to Translation Convention: In Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army, an off-screen foreign NPC (you observe her by examining the portion of her fence that is on screen) is described as wearing "a shirt with an angry face on it with three Japanese words above it. The words read BABY DUCK ENEMA."
  • The game Daikatana was arguably an entire game that resulted from this trope; the name "daikatana" itself is a mistransliteration of a word that actually is read as "daitou".
  • Sudeki. Even the developers admitted they were going for "suteki", which is "lovely/fantastic" in Japanese.
  • An RPG Maker game entitled Romancing Walker featured a female ninja named Hayami who used not only Japanese honorifics but Japanese pronouns in an otherwise English-speaking game. Apparently the game was originally Japanese; Presumably the honorifics and pronouns left in (all very humble and outdated) were to show her personality or status. For example, Hayami and other ninjas from her clan referred to themselves as "Sessha" instead of "I" or "me", which was common of ninja in feudal Japan and certain media. Hayami also referred to the hero as "Ryle-dono" (the game footnoted "dono" as "sir", which is technically incorrect). Also, several of Hayami's weapons retained their Japanese names, such as the stone-cleaving katana "Iwa Kiri Maru", which translates to something like "rock drill sword".
    • Another more blatant case of this is in the "class" of Hayami, which reads "Kuno Ichi".
  • Yukie in Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines randomly inserts Japanese words into her dialogue, such as "Arigatou godaimasu" ("Thank you very much"). She also pronounces Los Angeles as "Rosu Angeresu", despite not having any trouble differentiating between L and R at any other point. Her pronunciation of "Los Angeles" is also completely different from how Japanese normally pronounce it (Rosanzerusu).
  • Some releases of the original Metroid have the Morph Ball labeled with its Japanese name, Maru Mari.
  • A German company called Shin'en, who's primarily focused on making shooters, seems to do this a lot, as can be seen from their company name. For more specific examples, every single stage in Nanostray 2 (and possibly the first one) has a Japanese word in its title, complete with matching kanji. Whether or not all of this is just Fan Service is anyone's guess.
    • This can also be seen in their game FAST Racing League where all of the opposing racers names are in along with the course and league names are all in Japanese.
      • Or maybe it's just staffed/owned by Germans of Japanese descent.
  • Chipp Zanuff from Guilty Gear sprinkles ridiculous Japanese into his speech a lot. He's supposed to be an American who only speaks English, but in the Japanese version, his dialogue must be in Japanese due to the Translation Convention. How, then, to display his ignorance? Give him comically inappropriate Japanese for his battle cries, including shouting "Sushi! Sukiyaki! Banzai!" as he performs a combo special, and saying "Kamikaze!" while performing his win pose.
  • Likely in reference to the previous example, one of the personality types for the Ninja class in Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten has him spouting similarly inappropriate Japanese in a foreign accent.
  • The code for the Japan flag pants in The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is "furaggu" ("flag").
  • In Siren: Blood Curse Howard and Seigo can speak both English and Japanese, and Miyako can only speak Japanese. It's done really well with Seigo, who sounds like he's having trouble talking in English because it's not his native language. Justified because the game takes place in Japan.
  • Mariko "Spirit" Tanaka of Wing Commander typically greets the player with "Konichi-wa", and often uses honorifics in her speech in the first game, referring to the player by his last name and callsign as "-san", and once refers to the colonel as "Colonel-sama", in order to represent her Japanese identity. In the second game, she mostly refrains from doing this, except for sometimes substituting "Arigato" for "Thank you" and saying "Tengoku de omachi shite imasu!" ("I will be waiting for you in Heaven!") before her death.
  • In Final Fantasy X-2 International + Last Mission, which uses the American voice-actors, occasionally Yuna will use badly-pronounced Japanese words during combat.
    • In the French version of Final Fantasy X, the game uses the English voices, but Auron's swords keep the Japanese names. This was most likely because the translated names would have overlapped with the names of Tidus's sword's.
  • The original Fan Translation of Final Fantasy V left every instance of "hiryuu", or "flying dragon", untranslated and romanized, for no apparent reason. Final Fantasy V Advance got a little clever - they translated the species as "wind drake", but King Tycoon's wind drake is actually named "Hiryuu."
    • There was also the Power of "Mu," or "Void," but that may have been a text spacing issue.
  • Yoshimo in Baldur's Gate 2 speaks a couple of Japanese phrases, though they're spelled funny. "Soh dehs ney?" meant "Soh desu ne?", while "Yokatta" appears to be spelled right. He also mocks his tendency to do this mercilessly ("The tourists love that stuff!")
  • The title Ninja Gaiden roughly means "A Ninja Side-Story", which is nonsensical since the original game is not a spinoff of anything that came before. The series was originally called Ninja Ryukenden in Japan, which roughly means the "Legend of the Ninja Dragon Sword" and the localization staff simply traded one Japanese word with another.
    • It's not quite nonsensical. 'Gaiden' can also simply refer to a tale or anecdote; a more contextual translation would be 'Ninja Tale'.
  • The high-end ballista crossbow in Diablo 2 called Buriza-Do Kyanon is just "Blizzard Cannon" written with Japanese pronunciation, thus making it a reference to the company who made the game.
  • In No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, Travis Touchdown and Shinobu both blurt out "Moe!" for something good. The latter does this to emulate the former, though she pronounces it awkwardly ("Mo-Way!") and doesn't know what it means despite being the #1 Assassin of Asia.
    • This has an extra twist, since the term started as schoolgirl slang until Western fans began using it ironically.
    • Shinobu herself is an example of this trope, as her real name is Scarlet Jacobs and she's (presumably) American - she just took a Japanese nickname (the dictionary form of shinobi) for no apparent reason.
  • Death Smiles's entirely western cast includes a girl whose English parents named her Sakura. A very rare Japanese example not played for humor.
  • Piston Honda in the NES version of Punch-Out!! behaves kind of like a Japanese Tourist, because they put this into his character. The following is one of his between-round quotes. Seriously:

"Sushi, kamikaze, Fujiyama, Nippon'ichi..."

    • Remedied in the Wii version, where he is now Piston Hondo, and pretty much a Samurai boxer.
  • In Clean Asia!, you can see some katakana at the bottom of the screen when you enter an area.
  • Mirror's Edge has gratuitous katakana on shipping crates... all gibberish.
  • The early Compile shmup Gulkave is a bizarre example in that it was only released in Japan, yet all its in-game text was in English except for a few lines of romanized Japanese in the hard mode ending.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3: the Empire of the Rising Sun faction actually averts this trope in its cinematics, not including any Japanese at all. The unit names, however, include a few Japanese words sprinkled in—mostly ones English-speakers would be familiar with, such as the Tsunami Tank and Steel Ronin. Unit dialogue also includes some snippets of Japanese, but overall they come off with much less of it than the Gratuitous Russian used by the USSR.

ウェブコミック (Web Comics)

  • Parodied in the webcomic Sword of Heaven, wherein one of the characters bears a weapon named "Muhoushuu-Nihongo-Namae"—a subtle joke by the author, as the name means "Gratuitous-Japanese-Name."
  • Ronin Galaxy: There isn't too much of this surprisingly, given that the comic takes place on the equivalent of Japan-the-Planet. The examples of this trope are primarily in the titles of the chapters: Chapter One - Gaijin Girl and Chapter Two - Cho Han Hustle. Kira Moritomi also calls Leona a "stupid gaijin" on page 60.
    • This trope is somewhat subverted in the fact that the word "gaijin" in particular doesn't seem to be used gratuitously, so much as it is succinctly. By use of the word, the reader would be able to realize that the person being called a gaijin is a foreigner, is being referenced to by a Japanese person, and also that person's possible tension towards said foreigner. (Since gaijin can sometimes be a rude expression.)
    • The title itself is alternatively written in katakana.
  • Making fun of this became a running gag in Life of Riley.
  • Referenced in DMFA here.
  • Two Lumps has the occasional strip with kanji characters, despite neither Mel nor James knowing how to read kanji.
  • El Goonish Shive: Elliot, being an anime fanboy, insists on using gratuitous Japanese to call out his attacks. (He even asked for a do-over once when he forgot.)
  • In Bomberman Land Parody there's a minor character named Angel who only speaks in a bunch of messed up Japanese, despite being an American.
  • Freddy from Ghastly's Ghastly Comic constantly speaks some special Otaku language. The Japanese don't understand the sounds Freddy emits, but this doesn't disconcert him... her... uh, whatever.
  • Justifiably invoked by Trope-tan in The Way of the Metagamer.
  • Ninja Rick occasionally uses this trope
  • In this strip of Housepets, Earl Sandwich even mentions the trope by name, saying that Itsuki can keep using it because it's cute.

ウェッブオリジナル (Web Original)

  • Neko Sugar Girls run on this trope more than anything else.
  • Large Bagel is possibly even worse about this, however it's an obvious joke.
  • TV Tome Adventures does this with the scant voiced lines for a few characters and attack names in "homage" to fighting games that commonly went without english voicework in localization. The actual dialogue, however, is completely in english except when it's played for laughs. Some examples didn't do the research, like is "Kalasu Angel", a name the creator (initially) thought meant "Angel of Death" but actually meant "Angel of the Crow".
  • Retsupurae's title is this (sort of), although it's less grating than other examples. Their logo is also the kanji for "failure."
    • Though it should actually be "Retsupurei" - what they've got there sounds like "Let's Pry".
  • Gaia Online both parodies this and plays it straight. The Kira Kira earrings use Gratuitous Japanese to deliberately annoy some of the users. Playing things straight, the artist Drinky Tengu has made two items which only use Japanese names for poses. (The Furugasa, which features Obakemono, and the Yama [no Kami] no Tamago, which is fittingly enough a Tengu.) And finally, Logan and Agatha (neither of whom are Japanese, though they have hung out with Ninjas in the past) named their secret love child Mirai, Japanese for "future".
    • They may have been setting up a bonus Funny Aneurysm Moment for users; the shop that Mirai owns was the first one to use Gaia Cash, and her introduction marked the first major step Gaia made toward selling items to users (as opposed to offering thank-you letters for site donations). Now, Gaia is a million dollar corporation, mainly thanks to Gaia Cash—maybe they were telling us what the future of Gaia was going to be.
      • Except Gaia released the Cash Shop in June 2007 and Aquariums weren't released until September 2008 (almost exactly one year after the first EI was released in 2007). One year after the E Is had been out, let alone the CS? Hardly a "first step."
  • Sakura, the Catgirl student in The Official Fanfiction University of Redwall, is a stereotypical Japanophile. She intersperses her speech with Japanese words, and has also dropped into Japanese Ranguage on at least one occasion. Not always the right word; she once referred to Nagru's ermine Dirgecallers as "neko-chan". It's not clear whether she just didn't know the word for ermine or if she actually thought they were kittens - she's not particularly bright, so it could be either. She later runs into Agent Drake, who is from a Japanese-speaking continuum and represents an author that has done her research. Eventually this results in her offering to sell internal organs.
  • Often a charge within the Protectors of the Plot Continuum, who seem some pretty ugly abuses of Fangirl Japanese. One particularly bad case involved a character using "baka" in Redwall. With poorly placed footnotes. Another one involved Gratuitous Spanish, which, as Agent Mara explained, wasn't even spelled correctly.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh the Abridged Series: In Episode 48, Yugi tells Kuriboh to activate "Super Chibi Kawaii Desu Moe" mode.
  • Some in Greek Ninja.
  • In Suburban Knights, Marz Gurl cosplays as San from Princess Mononoke, and does her whole part in Japanese.

西洋アニメ (Western Animation)

  • Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi. In their case, the characters are meant to be Japanese, and they don't tend to use any complex terms. This does lead to a strange case with the theme song (the full version, at least), where Japanese singers are singing an English song that has gratuitous Japanese thrown in at several points.
  • Averted in South Park since Trey Parker actually speaks Japanese, adding in Bilingual Bonus jokes here and there, particularly in Good Times With Weapons with the song "Let's Fighting Love".
    • "Suburashi chin chin mono! Kintama no kame aru!"
    • "Taisetsu na mono protect my balls!"
    • Another example is the Okama game platform. A bit of a hidden joke, as not many viewers would know okama means something like "homo" or "tranny".
    • And in the episode Over Logging, in which we find out that Stan's dad has a fetish for Japanese girls puking in each other's mouths (among other perversions), said porn features "dialogue" along the lines of "kawaii deshou" and "watashi wa * barf* daisuki..."
    • And from the episode Mecha Streisand, we have: "Babura Babura Ichiban Kiraina Hito! Babura Babura Hana ga Okii!"
  • In American Dad, one of teenage son Steve Smith's nerd friends is a stereotypical Japanese boy named Toshi (or possibly Toushi). He's so stereotypical, in fact, that he exclusively speaks fluent Japanese. While the viewers get to see subtitles whenever he speaks (and his dialogue is often quite humorous), it's evident that Steve and his other friends have no clue what he's saying. At one point, Toushi goes into a lengthy monologue in objection to something Steve had asked him, and Steve responds along the lines of "Wow, that's a lot of words for 'yes'."
  • The Simpsons has two memorable examples. One is from the "Mr. Sparkle" episode, which featured this advertisement in a company video sent to logo-lookalike Homer. The second one is in "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo", in which Homer and Bart show off their Omniglot skills once again.

Homer: Satori no himitsu oshieru no? (Should we tell them the secret of inner peace?)
Bart: Dame yo, are wa gaikokujin da ro! (No, they are foreign devils!)

    • And let's not forget, also from the second one:

Homer: Shimata baka ni! (D'oh!)

  • Splinter will occasionally use this in the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with honorifics and such, as will the characters from the Usagi Yojimbo universe (a convention imported from the comic books). However, a more egregious use occurs in Fast Forward, where a race of vaguely bird-like aliens with no established connection with Japan are named the Inuwashi Gunjin.
  • One episode of Robot Chicken involved a fake advertisement set in Japan with Sarah Michelle Gellar. The dialogue was authentic Japanese, but consisted almost entirely of meaningless aphorisms, such as Saru mo ki kara ochiru ("Even monkeys fall from trees").
  • The episode "Speak No Evil" in My Life as a Teenage Robot had Jenny speaking speaking in Japanese for pretty much the whole episode. Justified in that Jenny can change language to whichever one she needs at the moment, and the episode began with her going to Japan. It also helps that Janice Kawaye, Jenny's voice actor, is fluent in Japanese.
  • Almost all the names in Maryoku Yummy are Japanese, and while some are appropriate (their world is called Nozomu, which means "to wish"), others are not (Hadagi is a kind of underwear).
  • In Mission Hill hot pants were called "karai pantsu" in Japan. Which is more like "spicy underwear."
  • The tribe names in Rollbots, though modified with Xtreme Kool Letterz.
  • My Life Me
  1. The extent of the series' contact with Japan is a passing reference to the "Toyohashi Tengu" quidditch team in Quidditch Through the Ages, which at least references a real Japanese city and a mythical creature that's probably real in the Potterverse.
  2. where the meaning, not the words, are what matters
  3. 'Hurry up!'