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© Chihiro Kai (twitter.com/ChihiroKai1/status/1407648837481615367)

Anti-Olympics rally near the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, June 23, 2021. The protester calls for the cancellation of the Games. “Tokko 2021” (instead of Tokyo 2021) refers to the ‘kamikaze’ units 特攻隊 (tokkotai) in World War Two and picks up the recent criticism by Rakuten’s Mikitani Hiroshi who had called the Olympics a ‘suicide mission’.

Catchword Bottakuri Danshaku

2021年7月7日, 著者 Torsten Weber

Since 2008 the DIJ Newsletter has been introducing new terms or phrases that have recently emerged in the Japanese public. Previous catchwords include イクメン (2010), 終活 (2011), and 今でしょ!(2013). In this issue, we introduce a nickname for IOC president Thomas Bach which has been trending in Japan’s social media.

The Olympic Games in Tokyo have come under increasing criticism in Japan. According to recent opinion polls, a clear majority now opposes the Games or favours a renewed postponement. In this public mood, German IOC President Thomas Bach has increasingly become the target of criticism. In a US newspaper article, he was derisively referred to as “Baron Von Ripper-off” who “has a bad habit of ruining their hosts, like royals on tour who consume all the wheat sheaves in the province and leave stubble behind.” (Washington Post, 5 May 2021)

The Japanese translation of “Baron Von Ripper-off” as Bottakuri Danshaku ぼったくり男爵 caused a real storm on social media in Japan. Print media, TV, and anti-Olympics demonstrators (see photo) also use the term to criticise the conduct of Bach and the IOC. Bach had frequently stressed that the Olympic Games must take place at any cost and invoked a supposedly special Japanese culture of resilience and perseverance.

The term is made up of bottakuru (to rip off, to screw over) and danshaku (baron). It quickly became a trending word on Twitter. For some Olympic critics, the play on words apparently did not go far enough: they changed the standard Japanese transliteration of Bach’s name in katakana as Bahha バッハ into Bakka バッカ (colloquial for ‘idiot’ or ‘be fixated on something’). 

For more information on the Tokyo Olympics, please visit our special project website where you can also download our open-access publication Japan Through the Lens of the Tokyo Olympics (Routledge 2020).