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Kotobagari (言葉狩り?, "word hunting") refers to the reluctance to use words that are considered politically incorrect in the Japanese language. For instance words such as rai (?, "leper"), mekura (?, "blind"), tsunbo (聾 "deaf"), oshi (唖 "deaf-mute"), kichigai (気違い or 気狂い "crazy"), tosatsujō (屠殺場 "slaughter house"), and hakuchi (白痴 "moron/retard") are currently not used by the majority of Japanese publishing houses; the publishers often refuse to publish writing which includes these words.

Another example is a school janitor in Japan used to be called a kozukai-san (小使いさん "chore person"). Some felt that the word had a derogatory meaning, so it was changed to yōmuin (用務員 "task person"). Now yōmuin is considered demeaning, so there is shift to use kōmuin (校務員 "school task member") or kanrisagyōin (管理作業員 "maintenance member") instead.

Other examples of words which have become unacceptable include the replacement of the word hyakushō (百姓) for farmer with nōka (農家). Since World War II, the word shina (支那) for China written in kanji has been recognized as derogatory, and has been largely superseded by the Japanese pronunciation of the endonym, Chūgoku (中国) or with "Shina" written in katakana (シナ). In the 1960s, the Sino-Japanese word Mōko (蒙古?) meaning "Mongol" was recognized for its connotation of a "stupid, ignorant, or immature" person (c.f. Mongoloid), and the ethnic group is now called by the katakana Mongoru (モンゴル?).[1]:95

Kotobagari and ideology[edit]

Kotobagari has led to some confusing terminology.

NHK, the Japanese Broadcasting Company, runs a Korean language study program, but the language is called "Hangul" to avoid being politically incorrect.[citation needed] This is a result of both the North and South Korean governments demanding that the program be called by the name of one country. North Korea wanted the show to be called "Chōsen language" (朝鮮語) taken from its full name, 朝鮮民主主義人民共和国 or Democratic People's Republic of Korea. South Korea wanted "Kankoku language" (韓国語) from 大韓民国 or Republic of Korea. As a compromise, "Hangul" was selected and Korean is referred to as "the language on this program" or "this language", but this has led to the use of the neologism "Hangul language" (ハングル語) to refer to the Korean language; although it's technically incorrect since hangul itself is a writing system, not a language.


  1. ^ Bulag, Uradyn E. "Contesting the Words that Wound: Ethnicity and the Politics of Sentiment in China." Inner Asia 10.1 (2008): 87-111.


  • Gottlieb, Nanett (2006). Linguistic stereotyping and minority groups in Japan. Oxon: Routledge. ISBN 0415338034.