Who Is Kansai Ben?

Japanese language has a number of dialects, called hōgen (方言), with the “standard” dialect being around the Tokyo area. Some dialects are based on region, some like the Kyoto dialect, are intrinsic to a city itself. But one of the most famous is the dialect found in the Kansai region of Japan around the Osaka area, called the Kansai dialect, or kansai-ben (関西弁).

Kansai dialect, like any Japanese dialect, is still Japanese language, especially where formal, polite speech is concerned. My wife’s extended family in northern Japan pretty much speaks the same language, the main difference is mainly intonation, plus a few odd words here and there (obscure enough that most language students wouldn’t care anyway). Kansai dialect though, like much of western-region Japanese, does have some notable differences:

  • Tokyo-region colloquial ending じゃん (jan), short for じゃない (ja nai) is said as やん (yan) in Kansai dialect.
  • The negative polite verbal ending ません (masen) becomes まへん (mahen).
  • Kansai dialect includes a few common phrases. For example, people often say “thanks” as おおきに (ōkini) and “really?” as ほんまに (honmani).

This blog is provides a much better overview of Kansai dialect.

Kansai dialect is a popular dialect in the entertainment industry, probably similar to how a New York accent or Texas accent is often found in American comedy. Part of this is also attributed to the image of Kansai-region Japanese people being more forthright and speaking their mind than the stuffy Kanto-region people around Tokyo area.

But yes, who knows where “Kansai Ben” is these days? Perhaps he’s hanging out with Chirashi Don (chirashi donburi the dish), Osaka Joe (Osaka Castle), or others. I guess we’ll never know.

P.S. Featured image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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