History Language

Dutch loan words in Japanese

Did you know that there are quite a few Japanese words of Dutch origin? The Dutch language has had an influence on Japanese starting in the 16th and 17th century. That’s because for the longest time the Netherlands was the only Western country allowed to trade with Japan. A strong exchange of cultural and scientific knowledge was the result of that. The German scientist Von Siebold was a doctor in the Dutch settlement on the island of Dejima in Nagasaki. He taught Western medicine.

King Willem-Alexander on Dejima in Nagasaki
Dutch King Willem-Alexander on Dejima in Nagasaki

Medical terms

Through Von Siebold, Dutch medical terms ended up in Japanese, like supoito (syringe), pinsetto (tweezers) en ransetto (lancet). The Japanese also made up names for organs influenced by their translation work of Dutch medical books. They came up with shinkei for nerve.

The five Dutch loan words

These are, subjectively, my five favourite Dutch loan words in Japanese:

  1. booruban – boorbank – drill bench
  2. doroppu – drop – licorice
  3. randoseru – schooltas, van ‘ransel’ – school bag
  4. poruuda – polder –
  5. madurosu – matroos – sailor

And as a bonus, the brilliant word otenba which is the Japanese equivalent of the English word tomboy. This may come from the Dutch word ontembaar, which means untamable. Sounds romantic, but they’re not entirely sure it is the right etymology.

What is your favourite loan word in Japanese?

The picture of Miffy above was taken on Dejima, where the Dutch trade post has been restored to its former glory. It’s well worth a visit.

Activities Sports and games

Samurai films are wrong, a lesson in Aikido

Aikido sensei Ken Kobayashi shows jvloggers Rachel and Jun that samurai in movies don’t sword fight the right way.

If you want to take aikido lessons in this dojo in the Itabashi district in Tokyo, you can book it through Wa-oh! Japan.

Rachel and Jun are a couple who make videos about Japanese culture and their daily life in Nagoya. Follow their YouTube-channels for more funny and informative videos.

Rachel & Jun op YouTube

Language Tips

Kanji read a bit of Japanese

This post appeared on the previously Dutch version of this website in 2017. I am still taking Japanese lessons and still haven’t learned anything close to 2000 kanji.

Since a year and a half I have been taking Japanese lessons at Nichiran – Japans Taalonderwijs in Amstelveen, near Amsterdam. I just didn’t want to be completely helpless on my travels. 36 lessons in we started learning Kanji. Kanji are Chinese characters, one of the three scripts used in Japan: hiragana, katakana and kanji. A long time ago, Japan didn’t have any script at all. Stories were not written down, but told. In the 5th century, Chinese characters were introduced to Japan, probably via Korea. To make a long story short, the characters were adopted and here we are, suffering the consequences.

Kanji pronunciation can be Japanese and / or Chinese

We are learning five kanji every lesson. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but every character has various readings and interpretations, pronunciations based on Japanese as well as Chinese. We also learn in which order to write the strokes that form the character. That’s important. I don’t know why, very few people write by hand these days.

To be able to read a newspaper, you need to learn some 2000 characters. I’m going to make that school very rich one day when I finally manage to memorise all 2000. The kanji I will teach you know are ones we haven’t even learned yet. But they are useful to know if you are in Japan, looking for the exit or entrance of a building. You’ll also see these characters near the counter in shops. They’ll tell you where to join the queue. They’re easy to remember.

Kanji for entrance and exit

Iriguchi – Entrance


Deguchi – Exit


入 means to enter. 出 is to exit. That square thing ( 口 ) you see in both words is a mouth: “kuchi”. It’s an easy to remember visual, right? Ok, now you are one step ahead of most people who can’t read Japanese.

How well do the Japanese know their own kanji

To end this post, a funny video by “That Japanese Man Yuta”, who does all kinds of little interviews and social experiments on YouTube. Here he asks people in the street whether they remember how to write the 2000 kanji they would have had to learn in school.


Tonkatsu, the Japanese schnitzel

There she goes. Off to the other side of the world. Where you can sample a 1001 exotic dishes. And what turns out to be her favourite? A schnitzel. Because that’s what it is, tonkatsu (ton: “pork”, katsu: “cutlet”). A piece of pork, dipped in a lightly beaten egg, covered with bread crumbs, deep fried.

The dish falls under “yoshuku”, Japanese interpretations of Western cuisine. In this case, the copy can be better than the original.

What makes tonkatsu better than schnitzel

  1. The meat is tastier 
    Good tonkatsu-restaurants give you a choice of various types of meat. For example, there’s “rosu” and “hire”. Hire is lean. I prefer rosu, which is fattier. Fat means more flavour. Other people, particularly Northern Europeans, may prefer hire. Sometimes you’ll get an option of various pig breeds. Like Iberico (originally Spanish), Shimofuri or Kurobuta. That last one comes from cute little Berkshire pigs from Kagoshima.
  2. Japanese breadcrumbs
    Japanese “panko” breadcrumbs are bigger, flake-like more than crumbs. It makes the crust around the meat particularly crunchy. Panko absorbs less of the frying oil, which helps as well.
  3. The presentation
    The meat is often served on a little metal rack for the excess oil and to prevent the meat from getting soggy in its own steam. This way your tonkotsu stays crunchy.

How do you want it?

Tonkatsu is served in various ways. With egg, on top of a bowl of rice, for example. That’s called katsu-don. There’s katsu karee (with curry sauce) and katsu ramen which has the meat on top of a bowl of noodle soup. I prefer my tonkatsu the way it is presented on the picture above, taken at Wako in Shibuya’s Mark City mall. It’s a ‘set mea’, including shredded cabbage and sesame dressing, the unavoidable miso soup, a bowl of rice and some tsukemono (Japanese pickled vegetables). It’s served with special sauce: a rather sweet sauce made from apple, tomato, carrot, onion, vinager and spices. It’s quite tasty, but the meat is often delicious enough all by itself and doesn’t need the sauce.

There even are tonkatsu sandwiches  (“katsu sando”) which you can buy in convenience stores and supermarkets. They look like this.


Mmmm. With a touch of mustard.

Do it yourself? You can. Just follow the tonkatsu recipe at But buy your meat from a good butcher and don’t let them remove the rind. And don’t flatten the meat, that would really make it an ordinary schnitzel!

You can make the sauce with ketchup, soy sauce, garlic, etc. But it’s easier to buy a bottle of Bull-Dog at your local Asian supermarket.

Other people like tonkatsu too:


PS. Even tastier than tonkatsu is Hakata ramen (see my article about the best ramen in Japan).