This Year in Japanese

A Year of Japanese Searches: The Top Internet Keywords of 2017


The top Japanese search terms for 2017 as announced by Google and Yahoo. All the personalities, products, and news stories that got Japan’s web-surfers looking for more information.

Google Keywords of the Year

On December 11, Google announced its 2017 Year in Search, giving global and regional rankings for search engine users’ top keywords. In Japan, the trending listing was topped by newsreader Kobayashi Mao, who died of cancer this year after documenting her battle with the disease and life with her family in a much-read blog.

In second place was North Korea; continual ballistic and nuclear missile testing has kept the country in Japanese thoughts. Video game Dragon Quest XI finished third as excitement surrounded its July 2017 release, while the term “typhoon” came in fourth as many parts of the country were affected by heavy weather. Breakthrough comedian Blouson Chiemi appeared in tenth position.

Global users searching for Japan-related topics most often paired it with North Korea, reflecting the impact of missiles landing around Japan on world news. This was followed in the ranking by “Trump in Japan,” as Internet users looked for information on US President Donald Trump’s November visit.

The list of search terms used with to wa (“What is,” a term often added to a search string to find a definition) was headed by the word sontaku, meaning “to follow unspoken wishes,” which came to prominence in scandals involving Prime Minister Abe Shinzō. In second place was Puremiamu Furaidē (Premium Friday), a government-backed campaign to boost spending by encouraging companies to finish early on the last Friday of each month.

In the rankings by prefecture, Chiba citizens were eager to find out about a proposed geologic age named after the administrative region, so “Chibanian” was the top local search term. In November, a committee of the International Union of Geological Sciences unofficially chose the name for the period from 770,000 years to 126,000 years ago in the mid-Pleistocene era, based on strata evidence of geomagnetic reversal found in the city of Ichihara in Chiba. If it receives official status, Chibanian will be the first geologic era named after a Japanese place name.

Japan Trending Global Trending
1 小林麻央
Kobayashi Mao
1 Hurricane Irma
2 北朝鮮
Kita Chōsen (North Korea)
2 iPhone 8
3 ドラクエ11
Dorakue 11 (Dragon Quest 11)
3 iPhone X
4 台風
Taifū (typhoon)
4 Matt Lauer
(World Baseball Classic)
5 Meghan Markle
6 松居一代
Matsui Kazuyo (The actress publicly accused her husband of adultery in a series of YouTube videos)
6 13 Reasons Why
7 安室奈美恵
Amuro Namie
7 Tom Petty
8 清水富美加
Shimizu Fumika (The actress left the showbiz world behind to join the Happy Science religion)
8 Fidget Spinner
9 iPhone 8 9 Chester Bennington
10 ブルゾンちえみ
Buruzon Chiemi (The comedian Blouson Chiemi)
10 India national cricket team


Global Searches About Japan Global Searches About Tokyo
1 North Korea Japan 1 Tokyo Girl (A single by technopop group Perfume)
2 Trump in Japan 2 Tokyo Typhoon Lan
3 Japan election 3 Tokyo Tarareba Musume (A drama series from early 2017)
4 Typhoon Lan Japan 4 Mario Kart Tokyo (The Tokyo car rental service Maricar is unaffiliated with Nintendo, but clearly influenced by its Mario Kart games)
5 Japan avalanche 5 Hada Labo Tokyo (A line of skincare products)
6 Japan serial killer 6 Katsu ika odori-don Tokyo (Searching for the “dancing squid rice bowl” in Tokyo)
7 What is Ronald McDonald called in Japan? (The answer is Donarudo, “Donald”) 7 1 Oak Tokyo (The high-end club opened a Tokyo outlet in Roppongi in August)
8 Podolski Japan (German soccer star Lukas Podolski transferred to Japan’s Vissel Kobe in 2017) 8 Den Tokyo (The washoku establishment was ranked at 45 in the world’s best 50 restaurants list by the British magazine Restaurant)
9 Crossing Café Japan (Ginza’s Crossing Café created online buzz through its instant photo-style latte art) 9 Narisawa Tokyo (The “innovative satoyama” establishment was ranked at 18 in the world’s best 50 restaurants list by the British magazine Restaurant)
10 Kamikatsu Japan (The recycling efforts of Kamikatsu in Tokushima Prefecture became a global story as it sought to become a zero-waste municipality by 2020) 10 Hoshinoya Tokyo (Ivanka Trump dined with Prime Minister Abe here while visiting Tokyo)


. . . とは . . . to wa (What is . . .)
1 忖度 sontaku (surmising of wishes)
2 プレミアムフライデー Puremiamu Furaidē (Premium Friday)
3 リベラル riberaru (liberal)
4 共謀罪 kyōbōzai (conspiracy)
5 Valu (Japanese fintech service)
6 jアラート J-arāto (J-Alert)
7 ハンドスピナー hando spinā (fidget spinner)
8 溶連菌 yōrenkin (Streptococcus pyogenes)
9 衆議院解散 shūgiin kaisan (Dissolution of the House of Representatives)
10 排他的経済水域 haitateki keizai suiiki (exclusive economic zone)


Keywords by Prefecture
Tochigi 雪崩 nadare (avalanche) An avalanche at a ski resort in Nasu in March killed seven students and a teacher during mountaineering training.
Toyama 市議会選挙 shigikai senkyo (municipal assembly election) After 14 assembly members resigned due to misuse of political funds, elections were held in the city of Toyama in April. Of the nine members who did not resign despite being linked to the scandal, three lost their seats.
Chiba チバニアン Chibanian The proposed name for a geologic era defined by the reversing polarity of the Earth’s poles, as discovered in layers of rock discovered in the prefecture.
Kanagawa 座間市 Zama-shi (Zama) Nine murders by a serial killer in the city of Zama took place between August and October. The killer lured victims who had expressed suicidal wishes on Twitter.
Wakayama 台風 taifū (typhoon) October’s Typhoon Lan principally affected Honshū from Kansai to Kantō, and these three prefectures were hit particularly hard. Wakayama and Mie saw record rainfall, while greenery beside Lake Biwa in Shiga suffered damage and river embankments collapsed.
Okinawa 安室奈美恵 (Amuro Namie) A singing superstar since her 1992 debut, Amuro deeply influenced Japan’s 1990s fashion and makeup. In September, she made a shock announcement that she would retire in 2018.


Yahoo Trends

On December 6, Yahoo Japan revealed the web portal’s top trends in its 2017 Search Awards.

Blouson Chiemi took the grand prize. Her catchphrase of “3.5 billion” men on the planet became one of the words of the year, and searches for the comedian, with her distinctive fashion and makeup, surged in 2017.

Blouson Chiemi poses with “Brilliant,” the two-man group that wordlessly accompanies her comedy sketches (left); members of the girl group Keyakizaka 46 accept the prize for most-searched idol group.

Sontaku was the buzzword of the year, adding another award to the Jiyū Kokumin Sha Word of the Year prize and dictionary publisher Sanseidō’s choice.

The Nintendo Switch took the consumer electronics prize, Kemono furenzu (Kemono Friends) secured the anime award, and Doragon kuesto XI (Dragon Quest XI) grabbed the accolade for video games.

Kemono Friends voice actress Ozaki Yuka (right) speaks in the voice of Serval, her character, as she accepts the award for her anime title’s win.

The winner of the author prize, Kazuo Ishiguro, sent a video message to the awards ceremony. “Growing up in the West, I was always taught by my parents to look at the world through both Japanese eyes and British eyes,” he said, crediting this as making the greatest contribution to his development as a writer. He stressed the importance of trying to understand people in different countries and cultures rather than looking inward.

Kazuo Ishiguro responds to his award in a video message.

Among the trending keywords by prefecture were Tochigi Brex, Ryūkyū Golden Kings (Okinawa), and Shimane Susanoo Magic, teams in the pro basketball B. League that was launched in September 2016. Saitama citizens also searched for local sporting heroes Hanasaki Tokuharu High School, the first winners of the summer National High School Baseball Championship to hail from the prefecture.

Tochigi Brex captain and point guard Tabuse Yūta (right) accepts the award for prefectural trending keyword.

Most Searched Awards, Major Categories
Grand prize, comedian Blouson Chiemi
Idol musical group Keyakizaka 46
Athlete Ahn Shin-ae (South Korean golfer)
Author Kazuo Ishiguro
Actress Yoshioka Riho
Actor Takahashi Issei
Model Izumi Rika
Musician Amuro Namie
Anime Kemono furenzu (Kemono Friends)
Movie Beauty and the Beast
Video game Doragon kuesto XI (Dragon Quest XI)
Novel Otto no chinpo ga hairanai (My Husband’s Dick Won’t Go In)
TV drama Kōdo burū: Dokutā heri kinkyū kyūmei (Code Blue: Doctor Helicopter Emergency Lifesaving)
Buzzword Sontaku (surmising of wishes)
Special award, teenagers Fujii Sōta (shogi player), Nagano Mei (actress)
Consumer electronics Nintendo Switch
Food Nogami no “nama” shokupan (a high-end white bread marketed by the Nogami bakery)
Back-ordered popular product LeTao cheesecake
Cosmetics Opera Lip Tint

Fujii Sōta became the youngest ever professional shogi player in 2016 at the age of 14 years and 2 months. Searches surged when he equaled and then beat the record for straight wins since his pro debut, stacking up 29 victories before his first defeat.

Nintendo’s hybrid Switch console went on sale in March. Many outlets sold out so quickly that some would-be customers found the hit product hard to get their hands on.

Trending Keywords by Prefecture
Miyagi 楽天イーグルス Rakuten Eagles Professional baseball team Tōhoku Rakuten Golden Eagles officially made the prefecture its home.
Tochigi 栃木ブレックス Tochigi Brex The Utsunomiya-based professional basketball team, captained by Tabuse Yūta, was crowned inaugural champions of the new nationwide B. League competition in May 2017.
Saitama 花咲徳栄高校 Hanasaki Tokuharu High School Winners of the summer National High School Baseball Championship.
Mie お伊勢さん菓子博 O-Ise-san kashi-haku (2017 National Confectionary Exposition in Mie) The event is held every four years in Mie Prefecture.
Kyoto 祇園祭 2017 日程 Gion matsuri 2017 nittei (Gion Festival 2017 schedule) This is one of Japan’s major festivals and related activities are spread out over a month.
Shimane 島根スサノオマジック Shimane Susanoo Magic The Shimane basketball team was promoted to the top flight of the B. League in 2017.
Yamaguchi STU48 A sister act to the AKB48 idol group established in the Setouchi area in March.
Kagawa 早明浦 ダム 貯水率  リアルタイム Sameura, damu, chosuiritsu riaru taimu (Sameura, dam, water storage, real time) Record-breaking rainfall in Shikoku and Kyūshū due to Typhoon Noru brought water levels up at the dam after it seemed to be drying up.
Okinawa 琉球ゴールデンキングス Ryūkyū Golden Kings The team based in the city of Okinawa made it to the inaugural B. League championship tournament, losing to the Mikawa Seahorses in the quarterfinal round.
(Originally published in Japanese on December 25, 2017. Banner photo: Blouson Chiemi, at podium, lines up with other Yahoo prizewinners at a Tokyo ceremony on December 6, 2017.)

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