Word of the Week: ニコニコする

It’s time for Word of the Week again! Last week we looked at a Japanese word or phrase beginning with ‘na’ (な), and focussed on the word 懐かしい (natsukashii), which is the feeling you get when something reminds you of the past. This week I’m looking for a word or phrase beginning with ‘ni’ (に). A big thank you to everyone who joined in with their suggestions:

Rockin’ suggested ‘nibemonai’ (にべもない), ‘curt’, ‘point-blank’; Japan Australia suggested ‘ninki ga aru’ (人気がある), ‘to be popular’; and ‘Nihongo o hanashimasu ka?’ (日本語を話しますか), ‘Do you speak Japanese?’; and Celia suggested ‘nikushoku danshi’ (肉食男児), a modern phrase for ‘strong, masculine guys’.

They were all great suggestions, and I especially loved Celia’s idea, but this week I have decided to write about…


(nikoniko suru)


Usually written in katakana, ‘nikoniko’ means ‘smile’ and ‘nikoniko suru’ means ‘to smile’. 😀

‘Nikoniko’ is one of Japan’s many onomatopoeic phrases, which are called ‘giongo’ (擬音語) and ‘gitaigo’ (擬態語). ‘Giongo’ are words which express voice or sounds, whereas ‘gitaigo’ express actions, states, or human emotions, such as smiling.

I love the word ‘nikoniko’ because you can’t help smiling when you say it! (*^_^)v

Incidentally, ‘niya niya suru’ (ニヤニヤする) is ‘to smirk’ or ‘to grin’, and I think it generally has negative connotations, whereas ‘nikoniko’ is nothing but positive.

Talking of positive, smiley things… have you seen all the versions of Pharrell Williams’ song ‘Happy’ that have been popping up all over Japan? There are loads of different videos set in different parts of Japan. Here are a few of my favourites, featuring a lot of ‘nikoniko’!

Harajuku, Tokyo (I think this is the original, and it’s a classic!)

Morioka (love the wanko soba bit!)

Kobe (this one’s actually a cover in Japanese and it’s great!)

Akita (love, love, love this version!)

I also found versions from the following places in Japan: Miyagi, Kyoto, Nagoya, Fukushima, Ishinomaki, Gifu, Niigata, Okinawa, Kumamoto, Yokohama, Hiroshima, Oita, OsakaKagoshima, Ginza (Tokyo), Kitami (Hokkaido), Iseshima/Toba, Ueda (Nagano), Nagasaki, Shitamachi (Tokyo), Yokosuka, Toranomon, Tenjinbashi (Osaka), Nikko… I’m sure there are more!


Next week I’ll be taking a week off as I’ll be geeking out at HYPER JAPAN. The following week’s post will be about a word or phrase beginning with ‘ne’ (ね), so please leave your suggestions below (yes, I’m skipping ‘nu’ (ぬ) as nothing much seems to begin with ‘nu’). The word can be a verb, adjective or expression, but no nouns please! For example, ‘nemui’ (ねむい) meaning ‘sleepy’ would be acceptable, but ‘neko’ (ねこ), ‘cat’, would not. I look forward to reading your ideas! (*^_^)v

Word of the Week 2014

6 thoughts on “Word of the Week: ニコニコする

  1. Just about to check out Happy (We are from GIFU, Japan) A few suggestions for the next installment are:

    Neko ni koban (猫に小判) Pointless
    Negaeri wo utsu (寝返りを打つ) Double cross or change sides


  2. ニコニコ!




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