JOK Notebook

Facing Up to Facts

In writing essay 1681 on 濃 (concentrated; dense; thick (consistency); dark, deep (color)), I learned about this pair of colloquial antonyms:

濃い顔 (こいかお: unusually well-defined Japanese face)     strong + face 

薄い顔 (うすいかお: typical Japanese face)     weak + face

The idea is that if a Japanese person has a well-defined face or clear-cut features, that brings to mind a Western or Middle Eastern look. 

I was struck by the Japanese use of 薄, "weak," to refer to a typical Japanese face. How odd to perceive one's own inherent look as problematic. I also noticed the "well-defined" in the English (which my proofreader supplied). It's hard to escape the idea of "well" as positive. What's going on here?

It turns out that 濃い顔 has a neutral nuance and that, if anything, it might tilt toward the negative side just by virtue of being atypical. Ah, I had it backward! I'm relieved. I would hate to think that a whole country considered its facial features to be weak.

But then look what else the Japanese used to call their own faces:

しょうゆ顔 (しょうゆがお: soy sauce face)

This term, which people seldom use now, alludes to the prevalence of soy sauce in Japanese cuisine and refers to the standard Japanese face. This expression contrasts with one for Japanese faces that don't look Japanese:

ソース顔 (ソースがお: sauce face)

As if that weren't already a lot to take in, one blogger has categorized several more “seasoning faces”! Aside from the two sauce faces included in the blog, my proofreader has never heard of the terms mentioned there, but let's look at them in the form of a quiz!

Part I. See if you can match the kanji, the yomi, and the English:

1. 塩顔  a. すがお  i. salt face
2. 酢顔  b. さとうがお ii. sugar face   
3. 砂糖顔  c. しおがお  iii. vinegar face

Part II. See if you can match the type of face to the description:

4. みそ顔 (みそがお: miso face) a. Simple and not as strong as sauce face 
5. マヨネーズ顔
(マヨネーズがお: mayonnaise face)
b. Milder than sauce face     
6. ケチャップ顔
(ケチャップがお: ketchup face)
c. Simple and not as sweet as sugar face

While you're thinking about it all, here's a preview of the newest essay, which features a kanji you're about to see again!

Okay, here are the answers:

Part I

1.c.i. 塩顔 (しおがお: salt face)

2.a.iii. 酢顔 (すがお: vinegar face)

3.b.ii. 砂糖顔 (さとうがお: sugar face) 

Part II

4.b. みそ顔 (みそがお: miso face) is milder than sauce face     

5.c. マヨネーズ顔 (マヨネーズ顔がお: mayonnaise face) is simple and not as sweet as sugar face

6.a. ケチャップ顔 (ケチャップがお: ketchup face) is simple and not as strong as sauce face 

But what does all this really tell us? Not much! To understand more, you need to see the drawings accompanying these terms, as well as the captions the blogger wrote in handwriting that can be tricky to decipher. Even then, there's a frustrating lack of explanations, but just take it very lightly for what it is! I'll cover them all, starting with what the blogger wrote about the two sauce faces I mentioned before the quiz:

1. しょうゆ顔 (しょうゆがお: soy sauce face)

The most typical Japanese face 

一番 (いちばん: most); 日本人* (にほんじん: Japanese person); 
-らしい* (typical of); 顔* (かお: face)

例:向井 理
e.g., Osamu Mukai

例* (れい: example); 向井 (むかい: surname); 理 (おさむ: man's given name)

2. ソース顔 (ソースがお: sauce face)

Strong face atypical for a Japanese person 

~離れした (~ばなれした: atypical for ~; far from the stereotype of ~); 濃い顔 (こいかお: unusually well-defined Japanese face)

例:阿部 寛
e.g., Hiroshi Abe

阿部 (あべ: surname); 寛 (ひろし: male given name)

3. 塩顔 (しおがお: salt face)

Simple, Asian-looking face 

あっさり* (simple); アジア人 (アジアじん: Asian person)

例:及川 光博
e.g., Mitsuhiro Oikawa

及川 (おいかわ: surname); 光博 (みつひろ: male given name)

4. 酢顔 (すがお: vinegar face)

Simpler than salt face 

塩 (しお: salt)

e.g., Motoo Fujiwara (of the band BUMP OF CHICKEN) 

藤原 (ふじわら: surname); 基央 (もとお: male given name)

5. 砂糖顔 (さとうがお: sugar face) 

Looks (sweet) like a young boy 

少年 (しょうねん: young boy); -っぽい (-like)

例:小池 徹平
e.g., Teppei Koike

小池 (こいけ: surname); 徹平 (てっぺい: male given name)

6. みそ顔 (みそがお: miso face)

Milder than sauce face 

まろやか (円やか: mild (taste))

例:松平 健
e.g., Ken Matsudaira

松平 (まつだいら: surname); 健 (けん: male given name)

7. マヨネーズ顔 (マヨネーズがお: mayonnaise face)

Simple and not as sweet as sugar face 

甘い (あまい: sweet)

例:国分 太一 (TOKIO) 
e.g., Taichi Kokubun (of the band TOKIO)

国分 (こくぶん: surname); 太一 (たいち: male given name)

8. ケチャップ顔 (ケチャップがお: ketchup face)

Simple and not as strong as sauce face 

濃い (こい: strong)

例:要 潤
e.g., Jun Kaname

要 (かなめ: surname); 潤 (じゅん: male given name)

9. オリーブオイル顔 (オリーブオイルがお: olive oil face)

There's no definition, but I'm guessing it's a Mediterranean look or maybe that of an Adonis!

例:速水 もこみち
e.g., Mokomichi Hayami

速水 (はやみ: surname); もこみち (male given name)

So remember—the next time someone says you have a saucy or seasoned face, it's not an insult. At least I don't think so! Then again, it could be!

Have a great weekend!


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