What does banzai mean? How did this expression come about?

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Do you know the meaning of the Word Banzai? Why do the Japanese scream this expression? When they scream Banzai? What is the origin of this expression? What is Banzai Charge? We will answer everything in this article.

Is Banzai just a simple interjection in the Japanese language used to greet a person and wish him long life and prosperity ? Before we start let's leave a summary below:

The meaning of the word Banzai

The word Banzai [万歳] that the Japanese often shout, literally means 10 thousand (万) years of life (歳 - age). A word with a meaning equivalent to "Long live the King" and things like that!

Nowadays it is still confused as a battle cry, mainly because the kamikaze shouted Banzai before blowing themselves up in World War II. For this reason, screaming is often associated with the practice of desperate actions.

What does Banzai mean? How did this expression come about?

But nowadays Japanese people shout Banzai with the meaning of "Viva", "Long live", "Hurray!" and things like that. Nowadays its meaning has nothing to do with wars or saluting the emperor. banzai always meant long life or 10 thousand years of life.

Origin of the word banzai

The word originated in the Meiji period, when the Japanese attacked in war, they would shout banzai in salute to their emperor. Initially the word was part of the expression "Tennoheikabanzai" (天皇陛下万岁) which means " Long Live the Emperor ".

Every country usually has its version of Banzai, or a rallying cry! Going into details of the origin of the word (万歳), it has roots from Classical Chinese, from which the same expression was derived for Mandarin 'wànsuì” or Cantonese “maan6 seoi3” (萬歳), Korean 'mansé (만세 / 萬歲) and even Vietnamese (vạn tuế).

What does Banzai mean? How did this expression come about?

Therefore, the expression, although famous for its Japanese use, did not initially appear in Japan, it is a common expression, which can be used and created in any language.

Banzai Charge - Japanese Infantry Frontal Assault

Banzai Charge or gyokusai [玉砕] or banzai totsugeki [バンザイ突撃] is the term used by the Allies to refer to a mass frontal attack by Japanese infantry forces.

Its origin also comes from the battle cry that we have just spoken. This cry was formed in the traditional Japanese armed forces when they launched an attack, spoke out for a superior objective or achievement.

Charge Banzai specifically refers to a tactic used by Japanese soldiers during the Pacific War. This tactic yielded some successful feats towards the end of the battle, in which the American enemy was unprepared.

What does Banzai mean? How did this expression come about?

Despite all this, the carga banzai can be considered one of the least efficient strategies used in the War in the Pacific, because of the casualty rate between Japanese and Americans.

The Banzai Charge became better known in the Sino-Japanese War by the Chinese and by the Allies at the Battle of Guadalcanal . Japanese soldiers utter the banzai cry for the achievement of an objective.

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Why do the Japanese scream Banzai?

Nowadays the Japanese chant banzai three times in festivities, being a peaceful and happy expression. There are other occasions when the Japanese scream like:

  • When someone gets married.
  • When accepted to a prestigious university;
  • At some birthday parties;
  • A colleague who was promoted in a company;

Some shout and give a big jump with their hands up. Others simply raise their hands up. Banzai is a famous war cry and celebration in Japan and even in the West.

What does Banzai mean? How did this expression come about?

Banzai ended up becoming one of the most chosen words in businesses, ventures and stores that have origins or allude to an eastern country. Be it restaurant, stores and martial arts schools.

It's a very simple term without many secrets, I hope this article has answered your questions. This article was written in collaboration with the Kitsune – Japanese Classes page.

Alternatives to Banzai

If you are looking for alternatives to this expression, here are some options:

  1. Yatta! (やった!): -> Yatta! (やった!): Expression of joy and satisfaction, like "I did it!" or "we did!".
  2. Ganbaru (頑張る): It means "to do one's best" or "to strive", it is used to encourage someone to do their best.
  3. Sugoi! (すごい!): Expression of surprise and admiration, similar to "amazing!" or "impressive!".
  4. Katsu! (勝つ!) - Win! It means "to win" and can be used in situations of competition or challenge.
  5. Saikou! (最高!): It translates as "the best" or "the most", expressing enthusiasm and admiration.

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