What is “Okashii ” in English? A I U E O Blog! ” O “

Author, Mr. Matsumoto, was a junior high school Japanese teacher for 23 years before joining Coto Language Academy. Therefore, he is a Japanese language pro. He currently teaches Coto’s Intensive Courses (intermediate and advanced), Business Courses and the Part Time N1 grammar and reading classes. He is also involved in developing teaching materials at Coto.

Posted by on February 28, 2018 – AEIOU - Staff / Teachers Blog

What is “Okashii ” in English? A I U E O Blog! ” O “


In Japanese, the word “okashii” (おかしい)
has two meanings.


1) “What? I put money in and pushed the button, but no juice came out. Okashii.”
In this case, “okashii” means “strange” or “unusual.”

2) “His stories are so funny  “okashikute, okashikute”, I can’t stop laughing.”
In this case, “okashii” means “funny.”


The word “okashii” has been around for over 1,000 years. In the past, the spelling in “hiragana” (Japanese phonetic script) was different from the way it is written today, and it was written as “wokashi” (をかし). The meaning was a little different then as well.

The “wokashi” of 1,000 years ago was not used in the sense of “strange” or “unusual” as in example (1). The meaning like in example (2) was used occasionally, but not that much.

So, what was the meaning of the “wokashi” of 1,000 years ago?

I think the meaning was similar to “like” on facebook, but that’s just my opinion. But “ like! ”  conveys a lot of different emotions, don’t you think?   Let’s consider what kind of feeling the “wokashi” of 1,000 years ago might have had.

About 1,000 years ago, a woman named Sei Shonagon wrote an essay called “Makura no Soshi” (The Pillow Book). When you read this book, you can easily understand the kinds of things that Sei thought were “wokashi.” The opening is an especially good example, as it talks about what is “wokashi” about the scenery of the seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. That book is especially difficult to read, so I’ll try to put it in simple language as best I can.


” Makura no Soshi”  (English Translation)

In spring, in the morning, the landscape as the sun comes out is good. As it gets brighter, the clouds take on a purple color, and that is good.

In summer, the night is good. The moon on a clear night is good, and a rainy night is also good. Fireflies, as they begin to fly about, are also good.

In autumn, dusk is good. Birds flying in a line against a beautiful sunset is good. Small insects singing in the stillness of twilight is also good.

In winter, the early morning is good. Rising early, looking out and seeing snow silently falling is good. On a cold morning, the sight of a warm charcoal fire is also good.


So, what do you think? Do you understand the emotion of Sei’s “wokashi”? It’s not the same as “Wow!” or “Great!” or “Fantastic!” It’s more like a quiet, inner feeling of “ummm, yes, that’s good.”

So, what do you say? Let’s try to find the same kind of “wokashi” that Sei wrote about 1,000 years ago in our daily lives today!