Ninja Warrior/Japanese Language Question

I’m sure there are a few of you that are familiar with the show “Ninja Warrior” that is shown in an almost continuous loop on the G4 tv channel. For those that aren’t, the show originates from Japan for a Japanese audience (G4 is just showing re-runs), and consists of contestants trying to pass an obstacle course. I love this show, and am totally in awe of the physical accomplishments of the contestants. (Note, this is NOT like the show MXC. Although both are Japanese, Ninja Warrior showcases some pretty impressive athletes, while MXC just glorifies the contestants’ failure. Ninja Warrior is impressive, whereas MXC is just pretty funny).

While the contestants are navigating the obstacles, there is an announcer describing their progress. The show plays the Japanese announcer with English subtitles. My question is, why does it sound like the announcer is using the English names for the obstacles? For example, there are obstacles called the pipe slider and the jump hang. The announcer will be going along in Japanese and suddenly throw in a “pipu slidu” (pipe slider). Why? Its not like “pipe slider” is a proper name. Surely there are Japanese words for “pipe” and “slider.”

I understand that if “pipe slider” was a proper name for an obstacle that was conceived in an English-speaking country, that the announcer would use the English version. But I don’t think that this is the case. As far as I know, the show came from Japan (couldn’t have come from the US. First, its an original idea for a tv show, and second, you’d get sued into oblivion if someone got hurt). So this is not like watching sports on Telemundo where every so often you’ll hear: “Spanish Spanish Spanish, Nuevo York Yankees Spanish Spanish Derek Jeter.” It just seems very weird. Anyone have any insight?

I’d be surprised if anyone remembers, but I used to be a member a while back. This question has been making me so crazy that I finally had to re-up.

They use a lot of words taken straight from English in Japanese, even if there are native Japanese words they could use. Probably in many cases because it sounds cool, or something like that.

Yeah, it’s kind of an odd situation. Japanese has a special writing system (katakana) for spelling out foreign words, most of which are in English. You’ll be driving around in Japan and see a store with a katakana sign saying: Go-randu O-pah-nin’ (Grand Opening) and wonder… isn’t there a way to say that in Japanese? :confused: Happens all the time.

My guess is the Pipe Slider is actually pronounced something like Pi-pu Su-ra-i-dah which would be written: ピープ スライダ, or something along those lines.

You nailed the pronunciation of pipe slider. Care to try for “jump hang,” or “body prop?”

I guess I still don’t understand why they would reach for an English word when it doesn’t seem necessary. In this case, pipe slider is not a foreign word. As far as I know the event was invented in Japan.

In the pipe slider event, the contestant hangs from a horizontal bar like they are doing a pull-up, and has to slide the bar along two perpindicular tracks to the end of the obstacle. When I say “pipe slider” in English, it conjures the image of sliding a pipe (wow that’s full of inuendo), which is obviously descriptive of the event. Would ピープ スライダ be descriptive to a Japanese speaker, or does the practice of sticking katakana together to create an English sounding word just result in gibberish? Maybe just to really piss off certain members of this board I’ll get ピープ スライダ tattooed on my rear end.

Also, one of the announcers is this really excitable guy that starts just about every sentence with what sounds like “Saaaaaaa”, as in “Saaaaaaa, Yamamoto Japanese Japanese Pi-pu Su-ra-i-dah Japanese Japanese.” Any idea what “Saaaaa” might be? Is it just a verbal crutch like: “Woah, Jeter got all of that one.”

Probably Jan’-pu Han’-gu or Han’-go (the n’ is a nasalized “n”, almost like in French, and the final vowels would be just barely pronounced in both words). You really can’t have an “m” sound in Japanese that isn’t immediately followed by vowel, but you can have the nasalized “n” sound. But when you combine that with the “p” sound, you’re almost forced to approximate an “m” sound.

It probably has some cache in an X-sport type of way, like Half-pipe would.

It wouldn’t be descriptive except that most Japanese do study English in school for several years (reading and writing emphasized, not speaking). In a sense it would be “gibberish”, but they would know: this is a foreign word that describes that thing I’m seeing right there. If you had never seen or heard of sushi before, and I showed you pictures of sliced fish on rice and said “this is sushi”, it would be something similar.

You might want to get a native speaker to verify that. :slight_smile: I don’t claim that it’s 100% accurate, but it’s probably close. Also, that would be quite an interesting thing to have tattooed right about one’s anus. Whatever rocks your boat, though. :wink:

Not sure about that one.

I don’t have the correct fonts installed, so I might have mis-read it (all the words, including what you want tattooed on your butt, come out as little squares), but I really don’t think I’d like “Pipe Slider” tattooed on my ass in any language.

I screwed up on the transliteration of “pipe”. What I wrote was “pee-pu”. It should be transliterated as: pa-i-pu, which would be: パイプ. Sumimasen!

It’s ピープslider and not パイプslider? My dictionary says ‘paipu,’ but whatever.

As for the saaaaa thing, I know ‘sa’ or ‘sa(aaa)’ at the end of a sentence can give a indifferent or blaise nuance, and used at the beginning can mean a slight reluctance to speak or perhaps foreshadowing a complicated reply. Gah… ‘sa’ is one of those words that I can use when I speak but I cant explain well at all. So in answer, I’d say that your idea of it being a speech habit is accurate.

I asked this very question just last week and got no takers. So I guess I’ll pop in here and ask it again . . . and if any other Japanese speakers can chime in on the other question I asked there, I’d appreciate it.

Scarlett Sorry I missed your thread, but I’m glad you can vouch for what I’m hearing. Who are your favorite competitors? I like the fishing boat captain myself.

It’s interesting to see the American athletes on there. Paul Hamm (Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics) made it to stage 2 but really screwed up the brick wall climb which looked like an easy obstacle. There was another American Olympian (decathalete I think, forgot the name) who cleared stage 1, but I never saw him on stage two. He was pretty impressive. On the jump hang, he ddin’t have to use the cargo net at all as he was able to grab the top bar off the mini tramp. I wonder how the new American Ninja Warrior will go?

As for the tattoo, yeah I guess I didn’t really think the buttocks idea all the way through. Besides, for maximum annoyance of others, one should really get their kanji or katakana tattoo right out in the open where they can be seen.

Oh, we love pretty much all of the “All-Stars”: Bunpei Shiratori (city hall worker), Shingo Yamamoto (gas station guy), Toshiro Takeda (firefighter), and the others (crab fisherman with failing vision who was the first to complete the course and whose name I can’t recall) and of course Makoto Nagano (fishing boat captain). I love how they are all so proud of their jobs, enough to wear the uniform and have clips of themselves at work, and how they all work out together and cheer each other on. It’s easy to be a fan of Nagano, especially because

he was the second person in 17 competitions to finish the Final Stage. He really worked for it and deserved it!

I also enjoy following along with the Japanese commentary, even though about all I can pick out is the competitors’ names, “Jan-pu Hang-u” and the like, and stuff like “Hai.” Also love all the kooks who flunk out of the first stage, but they all seem to be having fun.

(How sad is it that I know all those guys’ names?)

You do better than me on the actual names. Except for Bunpei, all I can remember is gas station guy, fireman guy (who is also 3% body fat guy), Mr. Ninja Warrior and isn’t there a professor Ninja Warrior too?

I always think that Bunpei has a HUGE advantage over some of the others because of his height. Especially on the body prop and spider walk. However, he was just about squashed on a show I saw the other night.

And doesn’t the warped wall just come down to how sticky your shoes are? You see those guys out there in their ninja two toe socks and I just have to wonder why they don’t invest in a good pair of Nikes. That, and the “traditional Japanese costume” a.k.a. a thong, should be prohibited on the men.

I’m not a native Japanese speaker, which is why I didn’t answer your question the first time it was mentioned in the other thread. But if you don’t mind an answer from a student of the language…

“Saa” (or “Saaa” or "Sa+any number of a’s) is usually translated as “Well”, as in “Well…let’s put it this way.” Japanese speakers say “Saaa” as a softener word, meaning it’s an interjection that gives them time to think of the proper answer to the other person’s question.

“Saa…” by itself usually implies “I don’t really know the answer or know what to say here, but I don’t want to seem rude by not saying anthing, so I’m just going to say ‘Saaa’ and let things drift off into a/an (un)comfortable silence that’s socially acceptable.”

In other words, “Saa” = shrug. In the context you pointed out, “Saa” may also mean “So”, as in “So…let’s see here…”

(Any native speakers are welcome to correct me. I’ll always respectfully defer to you.)

I’m not a native speaker either, but particularly in sports “Saa” is usually used as a “general exitement noise” or to indicate anticipation. E.g. “Can he do it?! Ohhhhhhhhh . . . YES!” Wherein you replace “ohhhh” with “saaa.”

As has been mentioned, it’s probably because they are. (There’s also the possibility of cross-language homophones, but that’s probably not the case.)

English is ‘cool’, and pops up all over the place in Japanese popular culture.

Now, the people coining the English usages in Japanese are often not terribly adept at English, and the result is frequently what’s called Engrish. Usually ungrammatical and (when spelt in roman letters) often horribly misspelled. It’s sometimes (particularly when it’s generic slogans on clothing or packaging) completely nonsensical, but usually it makes sense, even if the usage is odd, when used for names.

Katakana is a syllabary, the characters to spell out ‘paipu suraidu’ (I don’t have Asian fonts installed on this thing, right now) would be no more or less gibberish than spelling out ‘ninja’ in roman letters. It’s meaningful if you know what it means (and if you watch the show, you know what it means), if not it doesn’t. But that goes for native words in both languages, too. Using sound-alike kanji to do it could result in a phrase that was meaningful, or gibberish, but it doesn’t really mean much to say that for either kana set.

With regard to your other question, the only thing I can think of is “itadakimasu” pronounced like “ee-ta-da-ki-mas” which is what you say before you eat. Admittedly, the two don’t sound very much the same, so who knows. But you did say when he was making a snack … Maybe he associated it with food.

“masu” is the polite ending forms for verbs (it sounds like mahss as I mentioned) so it would probably have been some kind of verb.

I’ve noticed this a lot when I watch Japanese professional wrestling. it’s always brings a smile to my face when I hear a the announcer shout “BRAIN BUSTAHHHH!” or “LARIATO!”

Well, if it helps, you are not alone! :slight_smile:

The Offspring has been studying Japanese for a few years and likes to listen to the original commentary. He says the translations seem pretty accurate.

What’s really funny is that ESPN Classic shows reruns of the old ‘American Gladiators’ rigth after ‘Ninja Warrior’ and there is no comparison in difficulty and athleticism. But to be fair, the first stage losers on NW are a hoot.

Ok, so I liked the thong wearing ballet dancer and the transgender who looks like a Japanese version of Johnny Depp with tits. Sue me.

I caught an episode of this show when I was back in the states last month. It’s a kind of game show that’s on once every few weeks and has been running for years now. All the ninja stuff is added on by the American distributors.

There was one neat variation I saw last year that involved pair of family members (usually parent-child) who had to do the course tethered together. Some obstacles were designed to be easier for kids, and some were meant to be easier for adults, so the failure rate was split evenly between the two. Out of the first 100, I think barely 5 pairs made it through.

As for why it sounds like the announcer is using English for all the obstacle names, that’s because almost all of them have English names. Why use so much of a foreign language when Japanese equivalents exist? I don’t know, but it’s pretty common, especially when you’re doing something that’s not “traditional”. In sumo, you could listen for hours without hearing a single word of English. Watching basketball or golf, you probably couldn’t go ten seconds.

From what I remember of this show, “SaaaAAAH!” gets used pretty much the same way an American announcer would use “Hooo-Yeah!”