Top Ramen. Oodles of Noodles. Stroke in a bowl. Whatever you call instant noodles, you have one man to thank: Momofuku Ando, born on this day in 1910.
Originally from Taiwan, Ando moved to Osaka in his early 20s. After World War II, he witnessed the ravages of war, including food shortages. In response he embarked on a quest to invent noodles that were “tasty, inexpensive and easy to prepare.” In 1958, at the age of 48, he introduced Chicken Ramen, and 13 years later, Cup Noodles, inspired by Americans using Styrofoam cups as makeshift ramen bowls.
Since then the popularity of instant noodles has spread around the world, and with it, its different monikers. Today we slurp up the language of instant ramen.
Kappu men (Japan)
Let’s start where it all began. Instant noodles are often referred to by the genericized brand name, kappu men, what Americans know as Cup Noodles. Kappu is a “Japanification” of the word “cup” while men is the Japanese for “noodles.”
Pao mian (Taiwan)
Pao mian translates literally as “add hot water noodles.” (Pao Mian Ba, which means something like, “Let’s make instant noodles,” is known as the Codecademy of China.) Some Taiwan natives might also call instant noodles sun lih men. a brand introduced in the late 1960s.
Fang bian mian (China)
Those in the mainland turn to fang bian mian for a quick meal. The catchy rhyming phrase translates as “convenient noodles.” However, searching for fang bian mian on Weibo, a popular microblogging site, may turn up no results. The term was blocked back in 2014 because of its circuitous connection with Zhou Yongkang, a retired senior leader convicted for corruption.
Doll noodles (Hong Kong)
Hong Kongers in a rush might grab a bowl of gong je mein or doll noodles. Named for the little guy on the Nissin package, the term now refers to any brand.
Spicy ramyeon or ramyun comes from a brand name too, Shin Ramyun. Want to add some zing to your instant meal? Here are 13 ways of livening up a bowl of ramyeon.
Indomie is a brand that was introduced in Indonesia in the late 1960s, and has “become synonymous with instant noodles.” Warung indomie are small shops that sell cooked instant noodles, regardless of brand.
Maggi is a popular brand that’s become synonymous with instant noodles in general. They’re eaten at home and served in mamak food stalls. Maggi goreng is a kind of stir-fried dish that uses instant noodles. In 2015, Maggi noodles were banned in India for several months over health concerns.
Instant mami (Philippines)
Mami is a kind of noodle soup said to be invented by chef and entrepreneur Ma Mon Luk, who was born in China around 1896 and emigrated to the Philippines in 1918. Mami supposedly comes from a combination of the inventor’s name, Ma, and mi-ki, the Chinese word for egg noodles.
While Mama instant noodles aren’t the only brand in Thailand, they might be “the byword for for all types of instant noodles” in the country. Mama noodles are often used in other dishes such as phat mama, stir-fried instant noodles, and yum mama, noodle salad that uses instant noodles. Or you might make like Thai-American model Chrissy Teigen and add Mama instant noodles to your mother’s homemade tomyum broth.
In Brazil, instant noodles might be called miojo, named for the brand that celebrated the 50th anniversary of its presence in the Brazilian market in 2014.
This brand is so popular in Mexico, one paper dubbed the country Maruchan Nation. Another name for instant noodles might be sopa para flojos, or “lazy people’s soup.”
Two-minute noodles (Australia)
Got two minutes down under? Then you can make a meal of instant noodles.
Pot Noodles (United Kingdom)
A popular brand introduced in the late 1970s, Pot Noodles have been associated with what’s called “lad culture.” The Oxford English Dictionary describes lad culture as “attitudes and behaviour considered to be typical of a ‘lad,’” or:
A young man characterized by his enjoyment of social drinking, sport, and other activities considered to be male-oriented, his engagement in casual sexual relationships, and often by attitudes or behaviour regarded as irresponsible, sexist, or boorish.
Hanami, which translates from Japanese as “flower viewing,” is the Japanese custom of “enjoying the transient beauty of flowers,” especially cherry blossoms.
The custom started in the eighth century during the Nara Period when it was plum blossoms that got all the attention. However, by the late 700s, cherry blossoms had stolen the show.
Nowadays, hanami parties are immensely popular all over Japan, featuring live music and “lavish picnics” that include onigiri; hanami bentos, bento boxes with spring-like hues of pink, red, and orange; and hanami sake.
Other Japanese nature-viewing words include momojigari, the “hunting” of autumn leaves, and tsukimi, moon viewing.
hana yori dango
“The phrase ‘hana yori dango’ literally means ‘dumplings over flowers’ and is usually used in a teasing way to refer to someone who prefers food (something of substance) over something beautiful or romantic.”
Hana yori dango, or “dumplings over flowers,” is a saying that has its origins in hanami, says Japan Talk, and means that “people are often more interested in the food and drink at hanami parties than the flowers themselves.”
Hana Yori Dango is also the name of a popular manga series, Boys Over Flowers, where dango, which means sweet rice dumplings, is a pun for “boys,” according to NPR.
“We thus see that the cherry blossom, called sakura by the Japanese, represents the ‘spirit of Japan.’”
Sakura refers to the either the cherry blossom or the cherry tree in Japanese. The sakura zensen, or cherry blossom front, is the “advance of cherry blossoms across Japan.”
Another common cherry blossom saying is, “Dead bodies are buried under the sakura!” This seemingly creepy pronouncement is the first line of “Under the Cherry Trees,” a 1928 short story by Japanese writer, Motojiro Kajii. The quote refers to, not literal corpses under cherry trees, but a “sense of disbelief at the beauty of sakura blossoms and suggests that history somehow adds to this beauty.”
“Not inappropriate for, as I have said, the plum blossoms appear very early and the Japanese go umemi, or plum blossom viewing, with sprigs of the flower stuck in their fur caps.”
Umemi is the viewing plum blossoms, rather than cherry (ume is the Japanese word for “plum”), and usually occurs in the late winter or early spring, “just before the more famous ‘sakura’ cherry blossoms,” says Japan Info Swap.
Umeshu is a Japanese liqueur made from plums steeped in sugar and sake.
“So great is the attraction of cherry blossoms seen by the light of the pale moon, that they have even been given the special name of Yozakura or night cherry flowers.”
Yozakura translates from Japanese as “night sakura.” Yozakura Quartet is a Japanese manga about four teenagers who live in a town called Sakurashin, which “is protected by a barrier created by the spiritual sakura known as The Seven Pillars.”
Spring season signals the start of another season: baseball. The Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s are opening their 2012 season today in Japan, and we though we’d celebrate with a Word Soup dedicated to Japanese baseball. Ready? Pure boru!
“Now that each of the combatants in baseball’s most-storied rivalry features a Japanese superstar, the effort has begun to fuel the Sox-Yankees feud across the world in besuboru-crazy Japan.”
Besuboru is a transliteration of the English baseball. However, according to Robert Whiting in his book, You Gotta Have Wa, during World War II “American baseball terminology was banned,” and besuboru became yakyu, “fielding ball.”
“When Japanese legend Sadaharu Oh – whose 868 home runs are out of reach even for the disgraced Barry Bonds – signs an autograph, he often precedes his name with the word ‘doryoku,’ which means ‘effort.'”
Other qualities valued in Japanese baseball are nintai, “patience,” and choubatsu, “discipline.”
“”The craziest thing about 2009 was just how everyone was standing behind a gaijin (foreign) manager, really,’ says Rubin. ‘I mean, living in Japan as a gaijin is always a little bit weird, people have a lot of prejudice against foreigners, but the Lotte fans got together and started that campaign and got that much signatures.'”
Ganbare roughly translates as “hang in there,” and is said “to encourage someone who is working hard, such as running in a marathon or studying.” Also ganbatte.
“Japanese also look askance at such long-standing American baseball customs as chewing tobacco and spitting it on the dugout floor—’disgusting’ is how cleanliness-conscious Japanese players commonly describe it. [American players] find confusing the myriad unwritten rules of behavior that major leaguers have concocted to protect their all-important pride: No bunting or stealing with a big lead is one; no crowd-pleasing fist in the air (gattsu pozu) is another.”
Gattsu pozu is a transliteration of guts-pose, which may have less to do with guts or courage than with former world boxing champion, Guts Ishimatsu, who after winning fights “would pump his fist up and down in the air.”
“In America they call it baseball. In Japan it’s pronounced besuboru, but the form of the game in both countries is identical: umpires, nine players, walks, strikeouts, double plays and, of course, home runs (homu ran).”
“The Giants play in the Tokyo Dome, which uses enough electricity, even during day games, to power 6,000 homes. The idea of the vaunted Kyojin turning on the lights, running the air conditioning and playing baseball while residents in the surrounding Kanto region sit at home by candlelight, did not sit well with the general public.”
While koko may seem like a reduplication, it refers to two different characters that are homonyms, 高, “high or tall,” and 校, “school.” Yakyu translates as “fielding ball.”
“Kōshien isn’t a word that registers on the American radar screen. But it was Kōshien — the annual site of Japan’s riveting national high school baseball tournament — that turned Daisuke Matsuzaka into a legend. When he was still just a high school senior.”
Kōshien refers to Hanshin Koshien Stadium. Kōshien (甲子園) “comes from the Sexagenary cycle system,” where the “year of the stadium’s founding, 1924, was the first year kōshi (甲子) in the cycle.” En (園) translates as “garden or park.”
“On Thursday, [Matsui] sent an inside, shin-high fastball from Kyle Lohse into the right-field seats at Citizens Bank Park for his first career grand slam – ‘manrui homa’ in Japanese – and lacked only a single for the cycle.”
While homu ran is a transliteration of the English home run, sayonara is Japanese for goodbye. A walk-off home run is “a home run that ends the game.”
“Enthusiastically received during that trip were two of the Red Sox rookies (‘shinjin’ in Japanese) from the 2007 team, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima, the first-ever Japanese players to join the Red Sox.”
Shuto is a transliteration of shooter, apparently an old name for the cutter, a fastball “that moves sideways in the air, or off the pitch, because it has been cut.”
“If gaijin have historically been asked to fit in, to surrender some part of themselves and their expectations to the experience of a new culture, on and off the field, they have also been asked, expected, to stand out. There is a Japanese term, suketto, which translates roughly to ‘helper.’ The American-born players are suketto, hired to be difference makers, to produce.”
According to Robert Whiting in his book, The Meaning of Ichiro: The New Wave from Japan and the Transformation of Our National Pastime, the word suketto implies that “that one is there not as a member of the group but as an outsider with special skills or expertise to impart.” The term has been “applied not only to foreign ballplayers but to engineers, technicians, bond traders and others in the long string of experts Japan has employed to raise its level of competition.”
“More adventurous eaters might try Wann’s takoyaki; pleasingly squishy orbs of grilled octopus are sprinkled with bonito flakes that bob and ‘dance’ when heated. A popular festival food, takoyaki is served throughout Japan from temples to baseball parks.”
“Wa was reflected in yakyu [baseball] in other ways, like uniform playing styles, a mostly conciliatory players’ union and the paucity of player agents and heated salary disputes, even though players’ salaries were typically one-fifth to one-sixth of those of their North American counterparts.”
Like an architectural version of a text within a text, it’s the Bookcase Bedroom, aka the Uroko House. Appears to have been built inside a loft somewhere in Japan. I love that someone did this, but I think I’d want to build it against a wall with a window. Must be dark in there.
A few seem uniquely Japanese (#35, “Tetsuko,” or female train fanatics), but in general the mix of political scandal, sports, and pop culture that spark coinage appears to be universal. Some (#49, “working poor”, #52, “inconvenient truth”) could have appeared on any list, in any language.