Go Go Nihongo! Volume #18: Zoku Zoku

Article by Akiko Nishio / Translated by Michelle Tan

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Welcome to 2020! Last month, I talked about getting the “buru buru” shivers. Today, let’s look at something quite similar, which is called “zoku zoku”.

While “zoku zoku” is also used to describe a shiver, it often conveys a deeper, and more pronounced shudder that can be felt from the core of your body. 

Think about the time you felt uncontrollably cold because you were not feeling well, or when you were faced with your biggest fear (like ghosts, heights, needles, or even spiders!) and felt your spine crawl just thinking about it.

Do you get that weird feeling that seems to start from the middle of your back, then spread upwards towards your shoulders? Yup, that is what “zoku zoku” feels like!

The only thing that sets “zoku zoku” apart from “buru buru” is that it is used to describe your own feelings. When you see someone else shivering and shaking, we do not refer to it as “zoku zoku”. After all, when faced with the possibility of taking on your innermost demons, only you know yourself best…

Getting the goosebumps or shudders isn’t all bad, though – sometimes there are also good instances where you will feel “zoku zoku”. Like when you are so touched you become overwhelmed with emotion, or when you feel a chill in your bones while waiting for a lucky draw or competition results, because you just know that you are going to win!

This year, Japan is hosting the Olympic Games. I can already imagine the feeling “zoku zoku” of excitement when watching the opening ceremony or supporting my favourite teams!

Happy Chinese New Year, everyone! 

Akiko Nishio is the principal of A to Z Language Centre, with over 20 years of experience in teaching Japanese. She has a soft spot for good books, travelling, and ice-cold beer.  

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