I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of “pika pika” from the ultra-popular anime character, Pikachu.
Pikachu’s super power, Lightning Rod, is a burst of bright light, befitting the onomatopoeia that inspired its name. Similarly, when eye-blinding streaks of lightning dart across the sky, we often refer to it as “pika pika”.
We also use “pika pika” to talk about the glossy shine of a brand-new car, polished to mirror-like perfection. Or a sleek gold ring that gleams under the light.
“Kira kira”, on the other hand, is the glittery effect that we see when light reflects off a surface. Like the stars twinkling in the night sky, a sparkly diamond ring, or the undulating surface of a lake. The expectant, doe-eyed gaze of an innocent child is also “kira kira”. If an adult has that “kira kira” spark in their eyes, it’s usually because they’ve set their mind on doing something.
But what about “gira gira”? A rising temperature, or an unbearable heat that keeps building up – that’s “gira gira”. This year, Summer in Japan is unforgiving. The sun is glaring away in a “gira gira” manner.
Someone who is “gira gira” is intense; often a tad too passionate about something or someone. They have a strong desire to achieve certain goals, like “I want to improve my life!” or “I want to make more money!” or “I want a girlfriend!”
Now, imagine saying all that as loudly and enthusiastically as you possibly can.
“Gira gira” individuals are often disliked for their excessively enthusiastic nature, but some ladies love men who adopt the “gira gira” way of life.
This month onwards, let’s all work hard to give our best “niko niko” smile! – Nishio Sensei
Akiko Nishio is the principal of A To Z Language Centre, with more than 19 years of experience in teaching Japanese.