Japanese Entertainment Glossary of Terms
All terms and definitions are selected and written by groink
Last update: 2006-July-5

Goal: All the definitions are written with simplification in mind. Most drama fans could care less about the details of any given term -- all they're looking for are general definitions to head them in the right direction.

 

1 wa kanketsu keishiki (1話完結形式) - Japanese phrase literally meaning "one conclusion per-episode format". This type of renzoku drama has the following structure: Episode 1 will introduce a conflict, followed by the conflict's resolution in the final episode. However, episodes 2 to END-1 will each contain its own conflict/resolution. This is a popular style of drama writing in the west - especially in Hollywood. More specific, the style is usually used in crime dramas, such as Law & Order, Navy NCIS, CSI, etc. In Japan, this style was used quite a bit at the start of the trendy drama boom of the late 1980's and throughout the 1990's, and can be found in works by famous writers like Nojima Shinji. And, many keiji/deka dramas, as well as jidaigeki/kanzen-choaku dramas use this style. However, the dramas of today are written using a more traditional renzoku style (one conclusion throughout the entire series).

asadora (朝ドラ / あさどら) - A trademark owned by Nihon Housou (NHK), an asadora is NHK's morning drama series. Asadora air Monday through Saturday at 8:15am (Japan), and runs for 15 minutes without commercials. To break it down, asa (朝) means "morning", while dora (ドラ) means drama.

bishonen - A Japanese word meaning "beautiful boy" or "pretty boy". Bishonen is used when referencing Japanese dramas that include boys (and young men) who carry that young and almost baby-ish look - to the point where they're actually "pretty" and don't carry the masculine and/or distinguished look most people would expect in a male. Johnny's Jimusho is the largest source of actors fitting the bishonen image. Other words include bidanshi (pretty boy).

Bushido - The code of honor and conduct of the Japanese samurai. Bushido emphasizes self-discipline and bravery. Many jidaigeki and chanbara dramas/films integrate Bushido into their stories. Examples include hara-kiri (a form of suicide - stabbing himself in the stomach.) The Shinsengumi used Bushido to maintain order within the group.

chanbara / chambara (ちゃんばら) - Refers to a specific sub-genre of the jidaigeki drama. A drama series focusing on sword fighting, kendo or samurai, which was made popular during the 1940's through 1960's. Normally, you would not use chanbara when referencing period Japanese dramas. Instead, jidaigeki drama would be the more appropriate name when applying to Japanese dramas. Unfortunately, many web sites mis-spell the romaji as chambara, but when used with that form of spelling, everyone knows what it means.

CM - A Japanese abbreviation for the word commercial. There actually isn't a direct translation for the word commercial in Japanese, hence the use of the abbreviation.

dorama (ドラマ) - A Japanese loanword, taken from the word drama which belongs to the English language.

furigana - A method of using Hiragana or Katakana to phonetically show people how to pronounce a Kanji character. In karaoke, the furigana is placed on top of the Kanji character in question. On the Internet, the furigana is placed in parenthesis after the Kanji character. Example: 去(い), where 去 is pronounced the same way as い. A synonym for furigana is ruby, which is used in English-speaking platforms, such as Microsoft products like Internet Explorer.

fuzui ongaku  (付随音楽) - A Japanese word meaning "accompanying music" or "incidental music". Incidental music is music in a play, television program, radio program or some other form not primarily musical. It is often "background" music, and adds atmosphere to the action. It may also include pieces which will provide the main interest for the audience, for example overtures, or music played during scene changes. It may also be required in plays which have musicians performing on-stage. In regards to Japanese TV dramas, incidental music is a fancy word for BGMs, or background music. And, this form of music can be found on original soundtracks (OST), released by the TV networks.

geino / geinou  (芸能 / げいのう) - A Japanese word meaning "entertainment".

geinojin / geinoujin (芸能人 / げいのうじん) - A japanese word meaning "entertainer". Any artist who entertains in the geinokai are considered geinojin.

geinokai / geinoukai (芸能会) - A Japanese word referring to the Japanese entertainment industry. Example of use: "Sakai Noriko joined the geinokai in 1986."

hatsukoi - A Japanese word referring to a relationship consisting of two first-loves, i.e. when the two people in the relationship are experiencing love for the very first time.

hobankyo / houbankyou / hobankyou (放番協) - Shortcut for the organization 放送番組著作権保護協議会 (Hoso Bangumi Chosakuken Hogo Kyogikai). Hobankyo is an entity, representing all the Japanese television networks, motion picture producers, Japanese anime manufacturers, screenwriters and record companies. Hobankyo enforces intellectual property laws outside of Japan, such as copyright laws, regarding Japanese entertainment. Together with other law enforcement agencies around the world, they crack down on organizations - mostly video stores - that illegally distribute Japanese entertainment content protected by Hobankyo. For-sale and rental items come under Hobankyo. To be legal, stores must obtain licenses from Hobankyo for all items that are protected by Hobankyo. Hobankyo then issues a holographic decal that is placed on the item. Television-related members of Hobankyo include: TBS, NHK, TV Asahi, Fuji Television (Fuji TV), and TV Tokyo. [link 1] [link 2] Other terms: Housou Bangumi Kyoukai / Hoso Bangumi Kyokai

jidaigeki (時代劇) - Japanese word referring to a specific sub-genre of Japanese drama. A drama series or movie that is considered a period drama, or a drama referencing a period before the 1900's. Usually, jidaigeki focuses on the Edo or Tokugawa period (1600 AD to 1867 AD), but it could involve period even before it.

jishuku - A Japanese word meaning "self restraint." Japan has a culture of shame, so negative conduct by a Japanese geinojin will not be tolerated. Steps of jishuku include 1) make a public apology, and 2) disappear from the geinokai for a period of time. If the geinojin is an employee of a jimusho (agency), the jimusho will suspend the geinojin from participating in any activities. When comparing the practice of jishuku to the west's practice of denial/spin/rehab/finding religion, one Japan insider was quoted as saying, "You get no points for finding Jesus in Japan."

jitsuroku (実録) - A japanese word meaning non-fiction.

junai (純粋な愛)- Japanese short-cut word referring to stories of pure love. The actual word is junsui na ai.

kakkoi - A Japanese word, usually referring to a male artist who has a "cool" look and demeanor. The criteria to looking cool is relative, although based on the type of people who regularly use the word, the cool look is usually a bishonen with the latest hair style and clothes. Also, kakkoi can reference either a much younger male or an older male who hasn't matured in his fashion sense. Kakkoi can also refer to a female, however this is okay only when she gives off a cool persona, and she isn't referenced using any other terms that would contradict kakkoi (kawaii (cute), sugoi (great), etc.) Origin is Japanese anime.

kanzen-choaku - Japanese word used when referencing a certain Japanese drama theme, where the theme deals with a protagonist battling evil and rewarding the good. Many of the jidaigeki and chanbara films are written along the kanzen-choaku theme. You rarely ever see this type of theme being used in a modern or trendy drama.

keigo - Honorific, self-effacing and polite use of kokugo. See kokugo for more details.

kogal - A Japanese word referring to females who go overboard in their fashion sense, wearing outrageous styles of clothing, paint their faces with lots of make-up, and tan their bodies in tanning salons. Examples of artists who carry the kogal look include Amuro Namie.

kokugo - The "national language" of Japan. In regards to television, kokugo shows are those who emphasize the education of kokugo via various means - including game shows and such. More specific, the teachings of keigo (honorific, self-effacing and polite language) is really the goal of these kinds of shows. In 2002, the Japanese government revamped the school system, and most opponents consider the move to be the root in the decline of kokugo. Some Japanese dramas also focus on the teachings of kokugo and keigo in their dialog - including Wataru seken wa Oni Bakari (Making It Through).

kokuru - A Japanese word referring to a male's confession of his love for a female. In relation to Japanese dramas as well as Japanese culture in general, kokuru is basically enough for a male. A typical statement made by a male in a drama is  "Suki to ittandakara mou iiyo" (I said I love you, so thatís that).

kurai (暗い)- A Japanese word referring to a specific sub-genre of Japanese drama. A drama series or movie focusing on dark or gloomy themes.

michiyuki - A conventional form of Japanese drama wherein a character's thoughts and feelings are evoked through the places he or she visits on a journey; often, by means of symbolism and allusion, the journey suggests a spiritual transformation.

moe - A Japanese word used in the anime sector. The word refers to a person who is attracted to either a specific character or its specific partial element and have a favor feeling toward it. Moe suggests the condition of being infatuated with one character or thing and implies an image of someone burning with desire. Partial elements can be "weak girl moe", "young lady moe", and "glasses moe".

monogatari (物語 / ものがたり) - Japanese word meaning a story or tale.

rakugo - A Japanese word for a form of on-stage entertainment, where an actor will sit on a pillow on-stage, and then by memory will recite an entire Japanese comic monologue. Rakugo dates back to the Edo period. Just about every time, the audience will already know the entire story and its punchline (ochi or "falling") seeing all the material is dated. However, the entertainment value of rakugo is the actor's delivery of the monologue - including storytelling technique and articulation. In comparison, rakugo is orthopraxical comedy, while in the west stand-up comedy is considered orthodoxical comedy.

renai (恋愛ゲ / れない) - A Japanese word meaning romance. A renzoku renai is a romance drama series, while tanpatsu renai is a romance TV-movie.

renzoku (連続 / れんぞく) - Japanese phrase referring to a continuation Japanese drama, i.e. a drama that goes on for more than one episode. A drama is not qualified to be a renzoku if it is referenced as being "in parts" because in these cases a tanpatsu is broken up into parts so that it fits the TV schedule.

seiyuu (声優 / せいゆう) - Japanese word for a person who is a voice artist, usually used in Japanese anime and other forms of animation.

shousetsu (小説 / しょうせつ) - Japanese word referring to a Japanese drama that is based on a novel. Usage: a "renzoku shousetsu" is a serial drama based on a novel. On some web sites, they drop the "う" character, spelling the romaji as "shosetsu", which actually means something completely different.

shosetsu (諸説 / しょせつ) - Japanese word meaning an opinion or various views. Do not get this word mixed up with shousetsu (小説); they're completely different.

soushuuhen / soushuhen (総集編 / そうしゅうへん ) - Japanese word meaning a highlight, summary, or compilation. In Japanese entertainment, the word is usually used in reference to a DVD collection where a large renzoku series is edited, and the finished product is a highlights edition. NHK is known for releasing their morning and taiga drama series in this format.

taiga (タイガ / たいが) - A trademark owned by Nihon Housou (NHK), a taiga drama is NHK's annual period drama series. Taiga dramas air every Sunday at 20:00 (Japan), running for around 45 minutes without commercials. Against popular belief, the word taiga does not reference period dramas in general. Instead, period dramas should be properly referenced as jidaigeki dramas. The word taiga means "great river" as in the river of time.

tanpatsu (単発 / たんぱつ) - A Japanese phrase literally meaning "one-shot", refers to a specific sub-genre of Japanese drama movie designed to be aired on television only once. It is very similar to an American made-for-TV movie. A tanpatsu drama can be either a movie with no relation to a renzoku drama, a special if the show is related to a previous renzoku drama, or an episode of a series with a plot that starts and finishes within the episode. Usually, tanpatsu dramas are two-hours in length, including commercials. Common tanpatsu dramas are mystery and suspense series, where each week there is an entirely new cast of characters and plot. A tanpatsu can be broken up into parts, and shown at different dates and times.

tarento (タレント) - Japanese loanword from the English word "talent". Technically, tarento encompasses ALL people who are members of the geinokai. However, tarento has recently been used specifically for geinojin who specialize in hosting variety shows and other type of shows. In other words, he doesn't act, sing, dance or perform any other specific form of entertainment. Japanese personalities considered tarento include Mino Monta and Tamori (タモリ). By comparison, western personalities that could be considered tarento include Regis Philbin.

trendy drama - A sub-genre of Japanese drama that focuses on contemporary issues young Japanese are faced with everyday, such as love, family problems, and other social issues. What separates a trendy drama from any other drama is that it clearly targets the young television viewers - by turning a 12-week drama into a television marketing machine. The trendy formula's success is due to creative writing by young screenwriters who have a closer relationship to younger Japanese, and working with the various talent agencies in the geinokai to obtain young multi-talented idols. For most trendy drama fans who must choose what to watch, the cast comes first, followed by the story itself. Most experts give Fuji Television credit for inventing the trendy drama formula in the late 1980's.

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