Japanese Animal Expressions – Cats!

One of the most fun parts of a language are their colourful expressions.  This is especially true of animal expressions, and of the animal that seems to have a special place in Japan:  Cats!  These furry friends seem to make their way into art, books, clothes…and sushi…that will blow your mind.

Anyway, here are a few great cat expressions that are cute, interesting, and can turbo-charge your Japanese conversational skills:

  1. Neko no hitai (猫の額):  A narrow space.  Literally means a “cat’s forehead”.
  2. Neko no koban (猫に小判):  Means to give something valuable to someone who will not appreciate it.  “Koban” is the name given to coins in old Japan.
  3. Neko ni kaburu (猫をかぶる):  To pretend to be innocent when in fact one is not; to put on airs.  It literally means to wear a cat on one’s head.
  4. Neko no te mo karitai (猫の手も借りたい):  To be extremely busy/short-staffed.  Literally means I would even use/borrow a cat’s hand/paw to lighten the work.
  5. Nekozuwari (猫座り):  To sit with a hunched back.
  6. Nekojita (猫舌):  Not to be able to eat/drink hot food.
  7. Neko manma (猫まんま):  To add soup to rice (which is not polite) or make food so simple it may pass for cat food.  Incidentally, there a a great “Shinya Shokudo” episode (Season 1, Episode 2) about “Neko Manma” food.
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