This month, I’d like to talk about different movements: “fura fura” and “bura bura”.

“Fura fura” is a swaying movement that is commonly-used to describe someone who’s had too much to drink. Think unstable weaving, combined with the inability to walk in a straight line.

This expression can also refer to someone who’s feeling weak and lightheaded: like a person running a high fever who looks like he’s about to collapse any second. When your legs feel like jelly but you’re trying your best to walk properly (and barely managing to do so), that’s “fura fura”.

But that’s not all. When someone is being indecisive over something (maybe in a romantic relationship, or experiencing a dilemma over the sheer amount of things they want to do in life), we can also use “fura fura” to describe their behavior.  

What about “bura bura”? Imagine something swinging like a pendulum: an unoccupied swing being pushed ever-so-gently by the wind, monkeys leaping from tree to tree using their powerful forearms, or the lazy flick of an elephant’s trunk while it’s chasing an annoying fly away.

We use “bura bura” to talk about routines too, or to be more accurate, the lack thereof. For instance, when someone is on the street, just shuffling to and fro without purpose or direction. Best of all, when someone describes their life as “bura bura”, it means they don’t have to work, and spend majority of their waking hours just hanging around. Doing this on a weekend or off day sounds wonderful, but if “bura bura” becomes an everyday practice, I reckon it becomes more of a problem.

But I guess if I were able to live a “bura bura” life without worrying about money, it also sounds good. Don’t you think so?

Akiko Nishio is the principal of A To Z Language Centre, with more than 19 years of experience in teaching Japanese.


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