[Good evening Thursday] Benedict doesn't help

Thought this immense topic narrated by pleasant voice would be perfect bedtime listening. But no. This audiobook is certainly not suitable before sleeping at all!  (wide awake)


Mind the gap: Your "Green" is my "Blue"

The other day I got a message with a question from Japanese learner asking about Japanese understanding of the color “midori (green)” and “ao (blue)”. I wasn’t so sure what exactly she wanted to know (I’m still not sure), but I tried to explain it assuming that she saw “blue” as an adjective for green things and wanted to know when to use it.

Unfortunately my explanation didn’t help her at all :D (and sob) but I thought someone out there might find it useful… so I share my reply here…


Hello. I’m not so sure about the context here, but basically “ao” means blue. But we sometimes use “ao” to emphasize green color or its freshness etc. For example, when we say “ao ao to shi ta Mori (青々とした森)” (literal translation would be “bluey forest”) then it means “lush green forest”.

When we use the expression "ao ao to shi ta /青々とした" (bluey), generally the next word would be: forest, mountains, leaves, trees, grass, field... something related to green plants. We don't use this expression for green tea for example. (At least I’ve never heard.) In literal sense, it’s interpreted as verdant, verdurous, lush or fresh according to the following word or context.

(We also use this expression for actual blue thing too, but it's usually limited for sea, ocean, sky. And it simply means "blue".)

Then when is lush enough, fresh enough, verdant enough to use this bluey-green expression? I don't think there's any strict rule for this (except it's used for green plant or nature related stuff) but it's more subjective thing or just a set expression we use in front of green mountain etc. But when I heard or read "ao ao to shi ta ha (leaf)" for example, I instantly imagine tender green or bright green colored strong leaves are almost shining in the sunshine. You can google-image with the word "青々とした" and see what comes up... I guess you can get the sense of it.

There are few cases we use “blue” for green things: One of them is for traffic light. I don’t know why but no matter how green it is, green traffic light is called “ao (blue)” in Japan. And for English expression like “You look green” and “You’re so green”, we use blue instead.

If your question was about the dividing point between green and blue in Japan, then I guess you have to ask the perception experts! :D Unless it's related to culture thing (like traffic light) I don't know if our general color perception is different from other countries’. But a while ago there was an argument in Japan about the color of Hatsune Miku’s hair. Opinion was divided between Green and Blue, and the maker answered that it's "blue green"... so I guess it’s more up to individual..

Good luck with your Nihongo :)


I try not to confuse you but we somehow use the expression “green black hair” for shiny jet black hair… I just read the overview of this report, and it seems like we are kinda messed up with the color name as she mentioned…

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