This Year in Japanese

Japan-Surfing the Web: The Top Internet Keywords of 2018


Internet giants Google and Yahoo announced their top search terms of 2018. We take a look at the personalities, places, and products that people around Japan sought out on the web.

Google Keywords

On December 12, Google announced its 2018 Year in Search, a rundown of its top global and regional keywords. In Japan, soccer’s premier event held in Russia in June made “World Cup” the most searched term. “Olympic” came in second, bolstered by interest in this year’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and the upcoming 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo. This term “typhoon” again ranked high, finishing third in the wake of several major storms that pounded Japan this year, including Typhoon Jebi, which shut down Kansai International Airport.

The list of Japanese search terms used with to wa (meaning “What is,” often used when trying to find the meaning of a word of phrase) was headed by kasō tsūka (cryptocurrency), which gained attention after hackers heisted ¥58 billion in NEM tokens in January and ¥7 billion in other virtual currencies in September. In second place was kaiki gesshoku (total lunar eclipse), a rare celestial event that in 2018 was visible twice in Japan, producing a “super blue blood moon” on January 31 and “blood moon” on July 28. Bittokoin (Bitcoin) rounded out the top three.

Cryptocurrency was on Japanese web-surfers’ mind when they combined searches with the term shikumi (meaning “how does . . . work”), with the terms kasō tsūka, bittokoin, and burokku chēn (block chain) ranking first, second, and third, respectively.

In rankings by prefecture, jishin (earthquake) was most paired with searches for Hokkaidō, Kyoto, and Osaka. In June a 6.1-magnitude temblor centered in north Osaka rocked the city, and in September a 6.7-magnitude tremor rattled Japan’s northmost island. Interest in the Akita and its Akita-inu breed of dog skyrocketed when a group in the prefecture presented a puppy to 16-year-old Russian figure skating Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova.

Japan Trending Global Trending
1 ワールドカップ Wārudo kappu (World Cup) 1 World Cup
2 オリンピック Orinpikku (Olympic) 2 Avicii
3 台風 Taifū (typhoon) 3 Mac Miller
4 山口達也 Yamaguchi Tatsuya (The bassist for popular idol group Tokio left show business in shame after a scandal involving a high school girl.) 4 Stan Lee
5 漫画村 Mangamura (The manga website was blocked after publishers filed a lawsuit claiming it offered pirated comics.) 5 Black Panther
6 大阪地震 Ōsaka jishin (Osaka earthquake) 6 Meghan Markle
7 大杉漣 Ōsugi Ren (The 66-year-old film and television actor died of a heart attack in February.) 7 Anthony Bourdain
8 吉澤ひとみ Yoshizawa Hitomi (The former member of idol group Morning Musume was arrested after injuring two people in a hit-and-run accident while driving under the influence of alcohol.) 8 XXXTentacion
9 大谷翔平 Ōtani Shōhei 9 Stephen Hawking
10 北海道地震 Hokkaidō jishin (Hokkaidō earthquake) 10 Kate Spade


. . . 仕組み . . .shikumi (How does . . . work)
1 仮想通貨 kasō tsūka (cryptocurrency)
2 ビットコイン  Bittokoin (Bitcoin)
3 ブロックチェーン burokku chēn (blockchain)
4 ワニワニ パニック waniwani panikku (Wacky Gator)
5 バーチャル ユーチュー バー bācharu yūchūbā (virtual YouTubers)
6 変面師 henmenshi (A master of Bian Lian, a “face changing” art form used in Sichuan opera.)
7 チコちゃん Chiko-chan (The five-year-old character with computer-generated expressions scolds guests on an NHK quiz show.)
8 アメリカ中間選挙 amerika chūkan senkyo (US mid-term elections)
9 タートルトーク tātoru tōku (Turtle Talk; a popular new attraction at Tokyo DisneySea)
10 ニンテンドーラボ Nintendō rabo (Nintendo Labo)


. . . とは. . . to wa (What is . . .)
1 仮想通貨 kasō tsūka (cryptocurrency)
2 皆既月食 kaiki gesshoku (total lunar eclipse)
3 ビットコイン Bittokoin (Bitcoin)
4 裁量労働制 sairyō rōdōsei (Discretionary labor system: the Diet recently approved government plans to introduce work-style reform.)
5 ガバナンス gabanansu (governance)
6 パシュート pachūto (Team pursuit. The Japanese women’s speed skating team won its first gold in this event at Pyeongchang.)
7 丸山ワクチン Maruyama wakuchin (Maruyama vaccine, a cancer immunotherapy treatment.)
8 万博 Banpaku (World Expo: Osaka won the bid to host the event in 2025.)
9 インフルエンサー infuruensā (influencer, as on social media)
10 サマータイム samā taimu (daylight saving time)


Searches About Prefectures
Akita ザギトワ Zagitowa (Zagitova) 秋田犬 Akita-ken (Akita-inu) A group in the prefecture presented an Akita-inu puppy to Pyeongchang Olympic figure skating gold medalist Alina Zagitova.
Tokyo 東京医科大学 Tōkyō ika daigaku (Tokyo Medical University) The prestigious medical university was found to have adjusted test scores and in other ways discriminated against female applicants.
Hokkaidō 地震 jishin (earthquake) In June, an earthquake centered in northern Osaka caused shaking of lower 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale, and in June a temblor with a seismic intensity of 7 struck south central Hokkaidō.
Yamaguchi 2歳 nisai (two-year-old) In August, the nation anxiously watched as authorities searched for missing two-year-old Fujimoto Yoshiki. Obata Haruo, a 78-year-old retiree who offers his services in search and rescue efforts, found the boy safe, earning the title “super volunteer.”

Yahoo Trends

On December 5, Yahoo Japan announced its top trends in the web portal’s 2018 Search Awards.

Idol group King & Prince took the grand prize. The six-member boy band, a merger of two separate units managed by major talent agency Johnny & Associates, debuted to much fanfare in May with its single “Cinderella Girl.”

This year’s prize saw a special category for top trending figures born in the Heisei era, which began on January 8, 1989, and will end on April 30, 2019, when Emperor Akihito hands the Chrysanthemum Throne to his son, Crown Prince Naruhito. Two-time Olympic champion in figure skating Hanyū Yuzuru was named in the men’s category, and US Open tennis winner Ōsaka Naomi took the prize for women.

Ōsako hanpa naitte (amazing Ōsako), an exclamation describing the stellar soccer skills of national team player Ōsako Yūya, won recognition as top buzzword after the forward put in a strong performance at June’s FIFA World Cup in Russia. The Akai Sairo (red silo) brand of cheesecake was the trending keyword in the sweets category. The Hokkaidō-made dessert won national attention after the Japanese women’s curling team were seen nibbling the treats during mid-match respites, dubbed “snack time” in Japan, at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

Among the regionally trending keywords were restaurant chain Ikinari Steak, which topped searches in six prefectures. The term Sagan Tosu keijiban (Sagan Tosu bulletin) led searches in Saga Prefecture following the J. League side’s acquisition of Spanish star Fernando Torres.

Most Searched Awards, Major Categories
Grand prize, idol music group King & Prince
Athlete Hanyū Yuzuru
Comedian Hyokkori-han
Author Yabe Tarō
Voice actor Kobayashi Yumiko
Actor Nakamura Tomoya
Musician Amuro Namie
Special award, Heisei-born Hanyū Yuzuru and Ōsaka Naomi
Anime Poputepipikku (Pop Team Epic)
Movie The Greatest Showman
Video game Monsutā hantā: Wārudo (Monster Hunter: World)
Novel Otto no chinpo ga hairanai (My Husband’s Dick Won’t Go In)
Buzzword Ōsako hanpa naitte (amazing Ōsako)
Electronics iPhone 8
Sweets Akai Sairo (red silo cheesecake)

Figure skater Hanyū Yuzuru and tennis player Ōsaka Naomi won special awards as the top trending figures born in the Heisei era. (Hanyū photo, © Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images; Ōsaka image, © Getty Images)

Voice actor Kobayashi Yumiko (right), receives her award with a real-life rendition of Nohara Shinnosuke, the star of long-running anime Crayon Shinchan, whom she voiced for a movie released in July 2018.

Trending Keywords by Prefecture
Hokkaidō カーリング女子 Kāringu joshi (curling ladies) Japanese Olympic curling team LS Kitami drew attention with their bronze-medal run at the Winter Games. During competition team members could be heard saying a Hokkaidō-accented version of the phrase so da nē, “yeah, that’s it,” winning the expression “Word of the Year” honors from publisher Jiyū Kokumin Sha.
Miyagi 羽生結弦 (Hanyū Yuzuru) The star figure skater overcame an ankle injury to defend his Olympic title in Pyeongchang.
Saga サガン鳥栖掲示板 Sagan Tosu keijiban (Sagan Tosu bulletin) Searches skyrocketed after Spanish forward Fernando Torres joined the J. League club Sagan Tosu in July.
Gifu いきなりステーキ (Ikinari Steak) As the reputation of the steakhouse chain has grown, diners—especially in these prefectures, which saw their first outlets open this year—are eager to find a nearby location.
Okinawa 安室奈美恵 (Amuro Namie) The retiring Okinawa-born pop diva concluded her farewell tour in her native prefecture. In May Okinawa Governor Onaga Takeshi honored her at a ceremony in the capital of Naha.

(Originally published in Japanese. Banner photo: Yahoo prizewinners [from left] Yabe Tarō, Kobayashi Yumiko, Nakamura Tomoya, Imada Mio, and Hyokkori-han line up at the podium at a ceremony in Tokyo on December 5, 2018. © Jiji.)

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