In many countries, it is common to use foreign words or phrases in advertising, to create an interesting, quirky or trendy image for your product. Japan is no different. Over here, a Westerner can recognise familiar Western words that are used as shop/restaurant names. This is the case especially in trendy parts of the city, and the language predominantly used is of course English.

However, as a native to Finland, I’ve been over the moon to notice that several shops/restaurants in Osaka also have Finnish names! This, as silly as it might sound to a native English speaker, makes a Finn exclaim with delight. After all, Finnish is by no definition a world language spoken by the masses as a native language or taught as a popular choice as a second language. In fact, it is only spoken by about 5 million people native to Finland and is taught as a second language only in its neighbouring countries (if even there), and thus, we practically never see Finnish words used outside Finland (other than maybe in places like Rhodes or Fuengirola i.e. particularly popular destinations amongst Finnish holiday makers).

Intriguingly, I don’t think there is any obvious Finnish connection when Japanese shops choose their Finnish name. I mean, the reason why they have Finnish names is not because the owner or their spouse is Finnish or because the bulk of their customers are Finnish (given that the Finnish community in Osaka is miniscule and only a handful of Finnish tourists visit Osaka). I think these shops have Finnish names just because it is trendy to use Finnish!

Here are some names that I’ve come across in Osaka:

 

A bakery/clothes shop: Pesä (‘Den/Nest/Burrow’)

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A café that specialises in pancakes: Pöllö (‘Owl’)

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A restaurant: Keitto Ruokala (‘Soup Canteen’), It might be worth pointing out that even though the name might suggest otherwise, this restaurant didn’t serve soup, nor did it look like a canteen.

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Hairdressers: Alkaa Täältä (‘Begins from here’)

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Clothes shop: Olohuone (‘Living room’)

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Before I finish this Finnish post, I might just need to add that even though it is wonderful to see Finnish in Japan, the Japanese do not always get their use of Finnish right. Here’s an example of something on the wall of a stationery and life-style shop in Shinjuku in Tokyo. A cardinal mistake in my opinion!

kiitos

11 thoughts on “Is that Finnish that I am seeing in Japan?!

    • Yeah, it does 🙂 but instead of IKEA it says ‘Thank you’ in Finnish. I’m not sure whether the shop aimed for Finnish or Swedish (as a flag + word combo) but mixing the two is a huge cock-up, at least as perceived by a Finn 😀

  1. Wow, I had no idea that the Japanese use the Finnish language in what seems a cool way to name a restaurant or a shop! As a Finn living in the UK, I also spot the occasional use of Finnish, but sadly, this is normally a mistake, rather than deliberate. An example is the Marks and Spencer brand of clothing called Per Una (‘peruna’ means potato in Finnish). Not exactly a good name for a fashion line!

    • I thought ‘Per Una’ was Italian or Spanish but didn’t know what it meant. Thank you for translating this 🙂 But interestingly if we get rid of the space in between the two words it looks like the Finnish word peruna (eng: potato).

  2. Todella mielenkiintoista. Japanilaiset diggaavat suomalaisuutta ja päin vastoin. Kysymykseni sinulle, ehkä olet kirjoittanut siitä ehkä et, mutta mikä on syy miksi osa ihmisistä pitää hengityssuojaimia. En saa kiinni syitä, koska osa on ikäihmisiä, osa nuoria, usein miehiä, lapsilla ja äideillä ei ole näkynyt. Tämä hämmennys vuorokauden pysähtymisen tuloksena.

    • Moi Piriot,

      Joo kirurgin maskeja näkyy täällä paljon – arvioisin että näin syystalvella ohikulkijoista n. 20-30%:lla on maski naamallaan.

      Pääsääntöisesti maskia käyttävät
      (a) henkilöt joilla on nuha/flunssa ja jotka eivät halua tartuttaa sitä kanssaihmisiin. Japanilaisille on hyvin tärkeää, että muut ihmiset otetaan huomioon ja siksi esim. metrossa ilman maskia aivastelu katsotaan moukkamaiseksi käytökseksi ja
      b) henkilöt jotka eivät halua sairastua flunssaan (esim. alentuneen immuniteetin, työkiireiden yms. vuoksi).

      Flunssan ja nuhan lisäksi maskia pitävät
      c) etenkin keväällä ja kesällä siitepölyaikaan, siitepölyallergikot,
      d) lapset silloin kun terveysviranomaiset varoittavat Kiinasta tuulen mukana tulleista korkeista tehdas/pakokaasu päästöistä
      e) ihmiset joiden tarvitsee peittää jotain kasvoissaan (esim. huuliherpes tai lohjennut hammas).

      Aluksi maksit kummastuttivat, mutta olen nyt niin tottunut niihin että en edes oikein niitä katukuvasta huomaa – paitsi jos jollain on perus-valkoisen maksin sijaan joku tosi erikoinen maski (esim. Mikki Hiiren pään näköinen ja mallinen sellainen) 🙂

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