A few more interesting Japanese expressions about food

By | June 10, 2015

Since my last article on Japanese expressions about food got a few likes, I thought I would write a follow-up one with a few more expressions.

腹持ち (haramochi)

This expression is used to refer to how well something keeps in the stomach (i.e. how long it takes to digest), and is usually used in the form ~がいい (“filling”) or ~が悪い (“not filling”). “hara” here means stomach and “mochi” comes from the verb “持つ” (motsu) which means “to hold”.

  • パスタは腹持ちがいいね。
  • Pasta is sure filling.

ぺこぺこ (pekopeko)

This expression means being very hungry. “pekopeko” can also refer to the sound of something becoming dented or hollow, which is probably where the food-related meaning came from.

隠し味 (kakushi aji)

This term, which literally means “hidden flavor”, refers to the act of adding a small amount of some ingredient other than the major, known ones, in order to help bring out the flavor of one of the main ingredients or add a certain accent. Common things used for “kakushi aji” are small amounts of sake, sugar, or salt.

毒味 (dokumi)

This word, made up of the characters for “poison” and “taste”, can be used to mean the practice of tasting food to make sure it has no poison. I believe this was a term used historically for making sure food was safe before giving it to an emperor or other high-ranking official.

It has also evolved to a more general meaning and can be used to mean simply to taste the flavor of something to see if the seasoning is proper or not.

お腹が鳴る (onaka ga naru)

“onaka” means stomach and the verb “naru” means to make a sound, which can be a cry, ring, or other type of noise. (It’s interesting the Kanji for this verb <鳴> is composed for the character for mouth <口> plus the one for bird <鳥>).

This expression means one’s stomach is growling due to hunger.

賞味期限 (shoumi kigen)

This means the expiration date on food or drink, and you can say 〜が切れた to mean “has expired”.

The word “kigen” means “time limit”, and can be used by itself.

“消費期限” and “使用期限” are similar words that means the date by which something should be consumed, or used (respectively).

“kigen” used to mean “mood” is written with different characters: “機嫌”.


To end with, I wanted to mention that the Japanese actually have “trainer” chopsticks which are made for kids who are just learning to use them. There are different types, but one of the kind we use at home for our son has both sticks attached together, with a rubber stopper between them to make the pitching action softer. You might be able to find one at a nearby asian grocery store, or somewhere like Daiso, which is something like a Japanese dollar store.


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