About Osaka

An Introduction to Osaka's Unique and Cherished Dialect

Called "hyojun-go" ("standard Japanese"), the dialect generally spoken in Tokyo allows you to communicate anywhere in Japan. Across the nation are a huge number of unique dialects, but Osaka's, called "Osaka-ben," is particularly special. Within it are phrases and words only used in Western Japan that carry special nuance and meaning.


"Ookini" (pronounced with a long "oh") is comparable to the English "thank you" or the standard Japanese "arigato." It's a universal phrase in Osaka-ben—pick it up and you're sure to get a lot of mileage out of it.

Putting an "ookini" at the end of a conversation smooths things over, not unlike a "thank you" or "please" in English. Originally, the phrase indicated "a lot of" something or "very" something—it was used in phrases like "ookini arigato" or "ookini gokurosan" ("gokurosan" doesn't have an English equivalent but is near to "thanks for your hard work"). Over time, phrases like those were abbreviated until the shortened form of "ookini" became the standard usage. As an expression of gratitude, it's used every day in the restaurants and bars of Osaka to send off customers who have paid up their bills. Another truly Osakan usage finds it in a casual expression of gratitude after a friend has bought you a meal: "ookini, gochisosan." You can also use it apologetically: For example, you could say sorry to someone for a mistake you made with an, "ookini, sunmahen." ("Sunmahen" is the Western Japanese way of saying "sumimasen," or simply "I'm sorry.") In the context of business talk, it might be used as "ookini, kangaetokimasu" ("I'll be sure to think about it.") In this case, it has an element of a gentle refusal, along the lines of, "That's alright." Take care with this usage during trade talk to prevent any misunderstandings.


Osaka has centuries of history as Japan's trading center, and given such a history it's also developed its own unique expression for bargaining. In Osaka-ben, the word "nambo" means "How much?" ("O-ikura desu ka" in standard Japanese). For example, if you were out shopping and came up to a clerk with an item that interested you, you might ask, "Chotto, kore nambo?" ("So, how much for this?") with an accent on the "nambo."

In Osaka, the customer is also a merchant of sorts. You'll often hear it out in the local shopping arcades, too, when customers try to haggle over prices. "Occhan, kore nambo ni shite kurerun?" ("Pops, how much of a deal can you cut me on this?")


"This is a phrase with an unexpected depth of nuance: Used by a mature person who's graduated the School of Hard Knocks and seen the best and worst in life, it has a distinct feeling and can carry a host of meanings. In its common form, it's similar to "shikata ga nai" or "shiyo ga nai" in standard Japanese, both of which are used when things don't go your way. If a person said, "So ka, sore, shaanai," it would have a feeling of giving up or giving in similar to "Well, them's the breaks." It could also mean something like, "Alright. It is what it is." It's a hard phrase to put in standard Japanese (never mind English!), but pressed for an exact translation, it's closest to the famous Spanish refrain, "Que sera sera." Essentially, "shaanai" means to go at it in that pragmatic, Latin-esque Osakan fashion—look to the future, keep your eye on the prize, and don't fret about what you couldn't do today.However, Osakans might also use the phrase to express that they're cross or ticked off. Let's say things haven't worked out for you, but there isn't even anything you can do to change your luck. If you were Osakan, you might let loose with a defiant "shaanai!" to show your dissatisfaction. In this case, it shows classic Osaka hard-boiled toughness."


"The most famous greeting between Osakans is the question "Mokarimakka?" answered with a "Bochi bochi denna." Literally translated, "Mokarimakka?" means "Are you making good money?" It's a classic phrase that shows the business-oriented spirit of the city. When people ask this, they aren't actually curious about your financial circumstances: It's a casual greeting on par with "What's up?" or "How's it hanging?" The established reply to the question is "Bochi-bochi denna.""Bochi-bochi," which would be "botsu-botsu" in standard Japanese, means that things aren't especially good or terribly bad. Representing something in between the two, the phrase exudes the cheerful, carefree nonchalance of Osaka, where getting all eagerly fired up about something isn't always a good thing and "taking it easy" is the number one priority.It's also used in other phrases like "Bochi-bochi kaero ka," said when you're about to leave. This phrase means something like, "I guess it's time for me to hit the road." In the same way, the phrase "Bochi-bochi iko ka" (similar to "Let's do this thing") lets you smoothly invite someone to go do something without forcing the issue."


This is another common phrase all too familiar to the traders of Osaka. Sales reps, people working in business, and merchants will all start off with a "maido" when visiting customers. It came about as an abbreviation of phrases like "Maido arigato" ("Thanks as always") and "Maido o-sewa ni natte orimasu" ("Thanks for your continued support/patronage.") However, it's not just for meeting customers face-to-face: Even on the telephone, the more common Japanese "Moshi moshi" might be substituted with a "Maido maido." Though fundamentally a word used by men, if you head out to the shopping arcades of Osaka you'll most likely come across female clerks at the produce shops, fishmongers, and butchers shouting out an energetic "Maido!" to their regular customers.