Tourism is one of the most frequent genres we come across in our line of work as translators. Since the number of foreign visitors has sky-rocketed over the past few years in Japan, there is a growing demand for localization of pamphlets, websites, and guides for travelers from all around the world. Such texts contain a large variety of cultural expressions, and translating those expressions from Japanese to other languages is a very challenging task. A simple translation often may not be enough to convey the essence of a particular tradition, custom, piece of clothing, or tool, which is why one needs to enhance the target text with a succinct and clear explanatory note.
Food is particularly tricky. Many people associate Japan with gastronomy, and in recent years, traditional Japanese cuisine has gained a lot of visibility on a global scale. In Japan, a great deal of care is devoted to what, how, when, and how much one eats. Food preparation itself is also a highly sophisticated matter. Traditional Japanese cuisine varies greatly from region to region, which is why the culinary map in this country is extremely colorful.
So are the expressions related to food. In one of our previous blog posts, we discussed a variety of onomatopoeic expressions that Japanese people use to describe rain. In this article, we are going to focus on those related to food, particularly the ones that describe different food textures. Please keep in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list - one could actually write an entire book about this lexical category - but just a few common examples you may come across in everyday life here. (When creating this list, I relied on the definitions in the KOTOBANK (https://kotobank.jp/) dictionary.)
mochimochi: Refers to a chewy, springy texture, similar to that of Japanese glutinous rice cakes (which incidentally are also called "mochi").
sakusaku: Recreates the light, crunchy sound of a fresh apple or cabbage leaf.
karikari: Also denotes a crunchy sound. However, this expression is normally used for foods that are much crispier than apples (e.g. French fries, potato chips, or bacon).
pasapasa: Describes a dry and sometimes powdery texture you will find in certain types of bread or vegetables such as pumpkin. It may also have a negative connotation (when describing grilled meat that is too dry, for instance).
fuwafuwa: Describes a soft, spongy texture similar to that of sponge cakes, thick pancakes, or marshmallows.
nebaneba: Refers to the highly viscous consistency of vegetables like okra or fermented soy beans called "natto," an extremely popular and healthy dish eaten in Japan.
torotoro: Denotes a soft, creamy, or syrupy texture, resembling the consistency of soft serve, soft-boiled eggs, or melted cheese.
hokuhoku: Refers to the hot and soft texture of a baked dish such as freshly baked potatoes.
「食べるの音」～感性豊かな日本語のオノマトペの世界～ (Retrieved: November 28, 2019 from https://shoku.hapiku.com/labo/001/100koto-008/)