Japanese for working people

When studying Japanese at a school you usually end up learning the basic, grammatically correct and therefore pretty useless stuff. It’s all important and you need the fundamentals before you can speak as the Japanese do, but all in all it’s unlikely you’ll ever learn the terms used specifically in game development. Lucky for you,, though, most terminology is copied straight from the English, albeit with a katakana pronunciation. In this and possibly future posts I plan to educate the interested with some work-floor Japanese, useful for every day working life. Remember, though, that specific terminology can differ from company to company.
For newcomers to the language, the romaji “ou” refers to a long “oh” sound and a “u” at the end of a word is usually swallowed up. E.g., the romaji “housen mappu” referred to below is pronounced “ho-h. sen. map.”

(Game) development. Most companies will have separate divisions and you’ll be in the “kaihatsu group”.

When talking texture or memory sizes the usual, regular form of counting is used. Sixty-four is translated as sixty-four in Japanese, as are five hundred and twelve, etc. Often you can just use the single digits, as in five, one, two. Which is where these two terms come in. The Japanese like to swallow up unnecessary syllables. Two, five, six translates directly into “ni-go-roku” but that last “ku” is extraneous, so it’s usually left out. “Nigoro” is much easier on the tongue. As for 128, the 8 is often turned into a “pa”, from some different reading of the number. “Hachi” is such a mouthful, isn’t it? Though you will get by perfectly well with using regular numbers, knowing these little tricks may help you understand your colleagues a little better.

Literally “translucency”, therefore “alpha” as in “alpha map” when working with textures.

Usually texturing uses the English terminology; colour map (karamappu), bump map (bunpu mappu), etc. And though terms like face normal and vertex normal are used without confusion, normal map sounds too much like it means “a map with nothing out of the ordinary”. So the official Japanese mathematical term is often applied here; “housen map” even though “normaru mappu” isn’t unheard of.
That said, people stuck with the Japanese version of Max can see all terms, like diffusion and ambient also translated into their Japanese counterparts.

To update. You’ll use this one a lot as you redo and redo and rework and redo your stuff over the lifetime of the project.

Literally “impossibility”. This will be your standard response to the impossible tasks set to you. “Can you do this and that?” “Muri”. It is often used as “difficult” rather than an outright impossibility too, as an exasperated exclamation of how difficult your work is. “I see you working on this and that. How is that going?” “Ahhh, muri.”

“Let’s good luck!” or “Let’s try hard!” Whenever things get difficult this is the chant you share with your colleagues, as if to say “C’mon, one final push. Let’s do this!” This can be used both seriously, as a battle cry and pep talk, or sarcastically as a quiet resignation of your lot and a nose to the grindstone sense of futility.

When a game is finished and, as we say in the west, “goes gold” the Japanese say “master up”, as in the master disc is ready to be uploaded/sent.


  1. a dumb-ass question over here. About the act of writing phonetically over kanjis, is there a name for that? is that a somewhat new thing to do, and why isn't it done more often?

    ps thanks a lot for your posts, please do continue. Demo, Kanjis scare me :(

  2. You are thinking of Furigana. That is where they show the hiragana of the kanji over the kanji itself.
    It's not done more often because it is usually aimed at kids and thickos.

  3. Excellent, looking forward to more! Vocabulary today, gaijins-in-game-dev union tomorrow, eh? ;)

  4. Thanks for the explanation! But, colour me thick I guess... I am Canadian after all, eh?

  5. Don't feel too bad, I'm a thicko myself. I'm supposed to know kanji by now, but they still scare and confound me... :(

  6. I'm curious...

    Which one is the right one:
    "bunpu mappu" or "banpu mappu" ?

    I always thought it was the latter...


  7. Oh flip! Did I make that mistake again? When typing katakana I always subconsciously write the English, as it is supposed to be, rather than the phonetic sound, as it is done in katakana. Yes, "banpu" of course.
    I blame the Japanese!

  8. Haha!

    Everyone makes the same mistake so no worries.

    I was just putting some pressure on you, ;)

    Keep up the good work mate, your blog rocks!