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Nitto Onna and other Japanese words you need

One of those "lists" of things showed up in my FaceBook feed the other day. A list of Japanese words you wish there were words for in English.

After living in Japan for a few years and then returning to Australia, I realised there were words I used multiple times a day in Japan, that I wanted to say now, but there just wasn't an equivalent word in English.

But after a while I got back into Australian life and the need to say those words wasn't so urgent. Or I'd worked out a way to say what I wanted succinctly enough, even if it took a few extra words. I guess those words are more necessary in Japanese culture and every day life, but not so necessary when living in Australia.

Anyway, back to that list. There were a few words listed that reminded me of this and I thought, "Oh yeah! That's a word I used to use all the time, but I don't seem to need it as much now", and then there were a few that I'd never heard before, but seemed like they were made for me. When you hear that a language has words in it that were made to express a feeling or describe something that just so perfectly fits yourself, doesn't that make you feel like you belong in that country or that culture? It must be one of the reasons that Japanese life resonates so well with me.

Like "tsundoku". Japanese love to make up new words by squishing two or more words together. In the case of tsundoku, it's actually a word created way back around the Meiji era (1868-1912). Tsunde-oku means to pile things up for later use. Dokusho means reading books. So tsundoku means "piling up books to read later".

To think that people in the Meiji Era were piling so many books on their tatami next to their futons, that they made a word for it. And over a hundred years later people still have the same habit. A century of book hoarders.

One look at my bedside table and I know this word is meant for me. I cannot go past a second hand book store without finding some treasure, and my husband tries to keep me away from the Lifeline Book Fair... but it's for a good cause right? And yet, I'm often too busy to actually read any of them. So they pile up. For later reading. Tsundoku.

New Year's Resolution to keep my tsundoku to no more than 6 books at a time. The bottom two are hardcovers to make the "floating book shelf" and don't count.
A more recent Japanese word that perfectly describes me is Nitto Onna. According to various sources on the internet (totally legit), "Nitto Onna describes a woman so dedicated to her career that she has no time to iron blouses and so resorts to dressing only in knitted tops." 

I have long been an advocate of clothing that does not require ironing. It's not that I am overly dedicated to my career. I just like to spend the limited hours I have in my day doing something more productive than flattening my clothes before I put them on and they immediately get wrinkled again when I walk, sit, stand up, bend over or breath in and out. If that means eschewing linen then so be it.

Today as I sit writing this post I am wearing a merino wool dress. It's cool, it's light, it's soft and it does not wrinkle. I throw it in a cold wash and hang it on the line. When it's dry I can put it on again. I bought it for a trip because it was supposed to be "the perfect travel dress". I'm not going anywhere today.

I do own an iron. I use it for ironing tiny plastic beads together into coasters that my kids make. I use it to iron cotton fabric before I cut it up and sew it. I ironed my son's shirt before his Year 10 Formal. I think I used it total 4 times last year? Think of all the spare hours I have saved... so I can write blog posts about not using it!


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