Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Odors and sensitivity: understanding ‘odor pollution’ in Japan

In a place like Japan, your experience in a public space will likely involve many sights, sounds and smells – not all of them good. In fact, this has led to the issue of 香害 (kogaiodor/odor pollution) in trains, in offices and everywhere where people gather.

An interesting aspect of Japanese is that there are different words to distinguish between good and bad smells. Good fragrances are indicated by the words 匂い (nioifragrance/aroma) and 香り (kaorismell/odor/smell), the noun forms of the verbs are 匂う (niousmell) and 香る (kaoruto smell sweet/fragrant).

Bad smells sound phonetically the same, but use a different kanji with 臭い (nioiodor/odor/stench), which can also be pronounced in the form of an adjective as 臭い (Kusai, smelly). So although we would say: このワインは洋梨の香りがする (kono wain wa yōnashi no kaori ga suruthis wine smells like pear), we would also say, このトイレは臭い (kono toire wakusaithis toilet smells).

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