Japan-Specific Emoji: Food


Do you remember the first time you used a phone with an emoji keyboard?

I do. It was kind of overwhelming. I scrolled and scrolled, and wondered what all these characters could possibly be for.

Because emoji originated in Japan, some of them are quite specific to Japanese culture.

Some are obvious - but others might not mean what you think!

せんべい Rice Cracker



(Emoji images from emoji.ichinoku.com)

"What's that brown circle with the square on it?"

せんべい senbei or sembei) are crunchy rice crackers. Usually savoury, they're made from Japan's staple food - rice.

This one in the emoji picture is partly wrapped in a sheet of dried のり (nori) seaweed. Yum!

弁当 Bento Box


A 弁当 bentō (bentou!) is a boxed lunch containing rice, with fish or meat, and usually picked vegetables.

Look closely - this bentō has sushi in it too!


団子 Dango

Dango are Japanese sweets made from sticky rice and sugar. They're chewy and squishy. I'm a big fan!

They're served on a stick to make it easier to eat.

These coloured ones can also be called 三色 sanshoku ("three-coloured") dango, or 花見 hanami ("flower-viewing") dango.

エビフライ Fried Prawn


エビフライ (ebi-furai) or "fried prawn" is a specialty food of Nagoya, where I lived from 2011-2014.

I can't eat prawns though, so it's not my favourite food. You can have mine.

マンガ肉 Manga Meat


マンガ肉 (manga niku) is meat on the bone stylised like the cartoon meat you see in anime and manga.

Also known as あの肉 (ano niku) "that meat".

In a glorious case of life imitating art, you can actually get manga niku some places. We had it in the Capcom bar in Shinjuku, Tokyo last year:


おでん Oden

A classic winter comfort food, oden is a hot-pot made by simmering various ingredients in dashi fish broth.

Some of the ingredients are skewered - again, to make them easier to eat!

The triangle on the top is こんにゃく (konnyaku), a gelatinous speckled grey food that tastes better than it looks.

Next time you're scrolling through your emoji, see if there are any you always skip past.

Or are there any that make you go "what on earth is that one...?"

Six Ways To Say "Happy Birthday" In Japanese


Whether you're sending a birthday card, or writing on a friend's Facebook wall, it's good to share.

And you'll want to wish your Japanese-speaking friends "happy birthday" in Japanese, right?

Here are six different ways to share the love.

First of all, let's say Happy Birthday:

1) お誕生日おめでとう! o-tanjoubi omedetou


Simple and classic, this one means "happy birthday", or literally "congratulations on your birthday".


2) お誕生日おめでとうございます。 o-tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu


Stick a "gozaimasu" on the end to make it more polite.

Good for people older than you, people you know less well, and definitely good for your boss.


3) ハッピーバースデー!happii baasudee!


This one is actually one of my favourites - a Japan-ified version of the English phrase.


If you're writing a message, it's good to follow up after the birthday greeting by also wishing the person well:


1)  楽しんでください tanoshinde kudasai


"Have fun!"

e.g. お誕生日おめでとう!楽しんでください ^ ^
"Happy birthday! Have fun :)"


2) 素敵な一日を sutekina ichinichi o


"Have a great day."

e.g. お誕生日おめでとう!素敵な一日を〜
"Happy birthday! Have a great day."


3) 素晴らしい1年になりますように subarashii ichinen ni narimasu you ni


"I hope it's a wonderful year for you."

e.g. お誕生日おめでとうございます。素晴らしい1年になりますように。
"Happy birthday. I hope you have a wonderful year."


As you may have noticed, birthday messages wishing someone well for the year are kind of similar to a New Years' Greeting in Japanese.

それじゃ、ステキな一日を!And with that, I hope you have a wonderful day!