This Year in Japanese

The Year in Web Searches: Japan’s Top Internet Keywords for 2019

Society Culture

Yahoo Trends

On December 4, Yahoo Japan recognized the top Internet trends for 2019 in its annual Search Awards. The grand prize went to actor Yokohama Ryūsei, who was on hand to accept the award. Yokohama made his dramatic debut in 2011, but it was his role in the 2014 installment of the children’s television series Super Sentai that propelled him into the spotlight, making him a household name among young fans and their parents. In 2019, he starred in a number of popular TV dramas, boosting him to the top of the search rankings.

This year saw Reiwa, the new era name for the reign of Emperor Naruhito that began on May 1, win top buzzword honors. Director Shinkai Makoto’s newest creation Tenki no ko (Weathering with You) was the top-trending keyword for movies. Rookie golfer Shibuno Hinako, winner of the 2019 Women’s British Open, took the athlete category, while Oda Eiichirō, creator of best-selling manga One Piece, was named in the author bracket.

A message from Oda Seiichirō on display during the ceremony expresses the creator’s gratitude for the award.
A message from Oda Seiichirō on display during the ceremony expresses the creator’s gratitude for the award.

Tapioca-based Taiwanese import bubble tea was the trending keyword for drinks, and Lawson’s bascheehe convenience store chain’s hugely popular Basque-style burnt cheesecake—was the top term in the sweets category.

Yahoo also announced its regionally trending keywords. “Tokyo Olympics” topped searches in the capital as residents applied for the first and second rounds of the ticket lottery. Residents of Shimane wanted to know about the Hōran-en’ya, an elaborate Shintō ritual dating back 370 years, as the once-a-decade festival took place in Matsue. The term Sagan Tosu keijiban (Sagan Tosu bulletin) led searches in Saga Prefecture for the second year running, spurred by Spanish star Fernando Torres announcing his retirement from the J. League side. “High school baseball” became the most searched word in 11 prefectures as fans followed the progress of local teams in the nation’s annual baseball championship.

Most Searched Awards, Major Categories
Grand Prize; Actor Yokohama Ryūsei
Idol music group Hinatazaka 46
Athlete Shibuno Hinako
Comedian Ringo-chan
Author Oda Eiichirō
Voice actor Kaji Yūki
Actress Aoi Yū
Musician Aimyon
Model Yukipoyo (Kimura Yuki)
Movie Tenki no ko (Weathering with You)
Video game Doragon kuesuto uōku (Dragon Quest Walk)
Buzzword Reiwa
Electronics IQOS (a heated tobacco system)
Drink Gong Cha tapioca milk tea
Food Nogami no “nama” shokupan (a high-end white bread marketed by the Nogami bakery)
Sweets Lawson baschee (the convenience store chain’s hit Basque-style burnt cheesecake)
Trending Keywords by Prefecture
Tokyo 東京オリンピック
Tokyo Olympics
Residents of the capital had their fingers crossed during the application period for the first and second rounds of the Olympic ticket lottery in hopes of being the lucky ones selected.
Shimane ホーランエンヤ
The flamboyant Shintō festival dates back 370 years. Visitors descended on Matsue in May to view the event, held once every decade.
Saga サガン鳥栖掲示板
Sagan Tosu keijiban (Sagan Tosu bulletin)
Fans of the J. League team wanted to stay up to date after Spanish forward Fernando Torres announced he was retiring from the club.

Google Keywords of the Year

On December 11, Internet giant Google announced its 2019 Year in Search, an overview of the top global and regional keywords. The most searched term in Japan was Taifū 19-gō, the Japanese designation for Typhoon Hagibis, which sparked flooding across eastern and northeastern Japan. In second place was the new era name Reiwa.

The Rugby World Cup ranked third, but the inspiring performance of the Brave Blossoms during group play encouraged fans to search for information about the squad’s star players. Supporters were most keen to learn more about captain and flanker Michael Leitch, followed by Inagaki Keita, the team’s stony-faced forward who scored his first international try against Scotland in a win that sealed Japan’s first-ever appearance in the quarterfinal round.

Cashless payment platform PayPay topped the list of Japanese search terms used with to wa (meaning “What is . . .”), as Japanese consumers looked to take advantage of a government discounts and reward points program enticing shoppers to pay digitally. Japan’s growing infatuation with bubble tea pushed tapioca into second position.

Typhoon was most paired with searches about 20 prefectures, including Miyagi, Fukushima, and Chiba, where storms wreaked havoc on infrastructure and destroyed homes, affecting tens of thousands of residents.

Japan Trending 〇〇【とは】
to wa (What is . . .)
1 台風19号 Taifū 19-gō (Typhoon Hagibis) 1 ペイペイ Peipei (PayPay)
2 令和 Reiwa 2 タピオカ Tapioka (Tapioca)
3 ラグビーワールドカップ Ragubī wārudo kappu (Rugby World Cup) 3 ホワイト国 Howaito koku (Japan in August removed South Korea from its “white list” of trusted trading countries)
4 あなたの番です Anata no ban desu (Your Turn to Kill; a popular serial drama on Nippon TV) 4 ハンセン病  Hansen byō (Prime Minister Abe Shinzō apologized to former sufferers of Hansen’s Disease, more commonly known as leprosy, for the government’s past isolation policy)
5 ドラクエウォーク Dora kue uōku (Dragon Quest Walk) 5 MDMA (Also known as ecstasy, this recreational drug was increasingly in the news in 2019)
6 オリンピック チケット Orinpikku chiketto (Olympic tickets) 6 モラハラ Morahara (Moral harassment)
7 京都アニメーション Kyōtō animēshon (Kyoto Animation) 7 G20
8 鬼滅の刃 Kimetsu no yaiba (Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba) 8 軽減税率 Keigen zeiritsu; Japan raised the consumption tax to 10% in October, but many daily items like groceries remained at 8%)
9 吉本興業 Yoshimoto Kōgyō (The talent agency came under fire when several comedians employed there were found to have supplemented their earnings by performing for criminal groups) 9 GSOMIA  (South Korea threated to let the General Security of Military Information Agreement with Japan expire)
10 G20 (Group of 20 summit) 10 ノーサイド Nōsaido (No-side; in rugby, the spirit of coming together with opponents as friends once the match ends)
Japanese Men’s National Rugby Team Players
1 リーチマイケル Michael Leitch
2 稲垣啓太 Inagaki Keita
3 福岡堅樹 Fukuoka Kenki
4 流大 Nagare Yutaka
5 田村優 Tamura Yū
6 中島イシレリ Nakajima Isileli
7 姫野和樹 Himeno Kazuki
8 松島幸太朗 Matsushima Kōtarō
9 堀江翔太 Horie Shōta
10 田中史朗 Tanaka Fumiaki
Searches About Prefectures
Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Chiba, Kanagawa, Tokyo, Shizuoka, and 13 other prefectures 台風 Taifū (typhoon) Powerful typhoons in September and October hammered communities in eastern and northeastern Japan, destroying crops and homes and leaving more than 90 people dead or missing.
Saitama 翔んで埼玉 Tonde Saitama Residents of Saitama headed to theaters in droves to watch the live-action movie based on a popular manga poking fun at the eccentric inhabitants of the prefecture.
Hiroshima, Nagasaki ローマ法王 Rōma hōō (Pope) Pope Francis visited the two cities while traveling to Japan, honoring “hidden Christians” and calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. He is the first Catholic head to journey to Japan in nearly four decades.

(Originally published in Japanese. Banner photo: Yokohama Ryūsei, at center, is joined by other recipients at Yahoo’s Search Awards on December 4, 2019, in Tokyo. All photos ©

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