Japanese and Sarcasm


Thanks! Good to get some insight from all of you who are higher levels than me!


I thought my answer was straightforward. Your hypothesis that Japanese don’t use irony, and instead since it’s a foreign concept they should be using katakana for it, is wrong.

Look at the link I sent. It lists plenty of examples of use of irony from Japanese people.

And the fact that 皮肉 exists as a word should already tell you that your hypothesis wrong.


It wasn’t a hypothesis. I am definitely not trying to be negative, but it sound like you might be upset by your wording there. I am just trying to understand it more. Now that I have put it on here to have a language discussion, I feel like I might understand it better. That was the point of it all. To have a language discussion.


Totally agree.

Of course Japanese people UNDERSTAND irony and sarcasm. But in my experience, even with no language barrier, they NEVER EXPECT it! (ok, 99% of the time…)


I’m not upset. I’m just trying to tell you that your idea that Japanese people don’t use sarcasm does not correspond to my experience and knowledge.

I believe that Japanese people are sometimes unfairly depicted as “different”, while the only problem is often that meanings are lost in translation.


Well the best way to convey that idea is not by telling people they are wrong, but having a tactful conversation. I am learning a new language and love having the discussions on here.


Lurk, lurk

Let’s try not to de-rail this thread by going down this street.

Personally, I think there’s nothing wrong with being “wrong”, as long as you learn something from it.

However, it’s best to provide (what might be) the correct answer to the question.
Disagreement is part of a discussion, and there’s nothing wrong with that.





I am in no way derailing my own thread by saying I want to have tactful conversations. Just trying to get back on topic.

I’m not sure what or where you’ve researched, but while talking with natives they have definitely understood my sarcasm and made sarcastic remarks themselves. And I haven’t spoken with a particularly large amount of natives either, so I think its safe to say that plenty of them understand it.


I’m glad to hear. I haven’t talked with natives, that’s why I had heard all of these things and wanted to post it to see if it was true or what the discussion would be based on it.

From the post that was linked, it seems like the rude side of sarcasm may not be appreciated, which I cant really comment on. But for comedic purposes, you should be fine so long as your sense of humor lines up with the person you are talking to.

Two years ago when I was in kyoto, one of the guys in my hostel was super chill and funny and would smoke with me and my friend. At one point we were talking about suicide by jumping in front of trains or something, and he was like, “why do that when you can just smoke and die slowly and feel relaxed? Two birds with one stone! Tobacco is the best~”. Not everyone is going to have that dark of a sense of humor obviously, and maybe he just used it because he knew we would be cool with it, but yeah they can be sarcastic if they want.

Also on the lighter end of things, in the novel im reading, the MC will sometimes sarcastically be like “wow, youre so amazing” (internally) when another certain annoying character that he doesnt like is being really braggy.


I read about Japanese not using/getting sarcasm a lot, but as someone who has lived in Japan has a Japanese wife and friends, they definitely use sarcasm.


Thank you for your experiences!

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That wasn’t sarcasm btw, that was legitimate! :rofl:


I didn’t think it was! But it can be hard to tell through the internet, so thank you for clarifying.
I do wonder where the idea that the Japanese don’t do sarcasm comes from, though.
I imagine it might have something to do with translation and having a hard time maintaining nuances across languages. Just guessing, however. I don’t really know.


That is probably the case. Most Latin based and romantic languages still have the same words for things. It is when you leave the Roman alphabet and tread into a foreign territory like that where confusion and sounds change everything. I don’t know where the idea comes from, but since I am new to the actual language part of it, I wanted to know or have a discussion about what people have heard about it. Maybe people think the Japanese are too serious or something? :wink:

As mentioned earlier, it’s probably the deadpan delivery - plus, as @Greenfire311 said, they expect us to be always direct and serious. I’m sure lots of foreigners ran into problems with that and spread the information that sarcasm doesn’t work on Japanese afterwards.

So it’s just over-generalization on both sides: Japanese thinking all Westerners talk straight and to the point, Westerners thinking that just because they ran into problems themselves, no sarcasm will work on Japanese people.


I mean, if you spend any time interacting with people from Kansai, you’ll soon be disabused of the notion that Japanese have no sense of irony. Mind you, kansai-jin tend to think of people from Tokyo as pretty buttoned-up and humourless, which could just be a groundless stereotype as well.

I agree with someone above who thinks it’s more a problem of delivery/language barrier. I’m reminded of a story told by the comedian Joe Wong. He is from China originally but moved to the States as a young adult. He was working in a lab and asked a coworker if he could borrow a piece of equipment. The coworker told him he could borrow it for $20.00. Joe was a little shocked but started taking out the money when the guy explained, “No, I was only kidding. Of course you can borrow it.”

So Joe learned a little about American sarcastic humour. Next time when someone asked if they could borrow a piece of lab equipment from Joe, he said, “Sure; that’ll be $20.00!” And he said his lab-mate got really mad and said, “Joe, you can’t charge people money to borrow things!”

Anyway, every culture has a sense of humour, but humour is one of the hardest things to translate.

Except farting. Everyone in the world knows that farting is inherently funny.


I think that story makes a pretty good analogy on this, thank you.