クルミの日本語 exploring Japanese

サラリーマン川柳せんりゅう: topical satire in classical form

Haiku (俳句はいく) traditionally are unrhymed, in 5-7-5 meter, with a 季語きご (seasonal word) that indicates the season of the poem. Using historical and cultural context, they pack deep meaning into just a few words. An example from Matsuo Bashō:

old pond / frog leaps in / water's sound

Senryuu (川柳せんりゅう), named after the Edo-period poet Karai Senryuu (柄井川柳) fit the meter but not the form; the topic may be more mundane, and the tone more humorous. An example from Senryuu himself:

泥棒 どろぼうつかえてみればなり
the robber / when I caught him / was my own son

Salaryman Senryuu (サラリーマン川柳せんりゅう) were introduced at the end of the Showa period by Dai-Ichi Life Group (第一生命だいいちせいめい保険ほけん), a Tokyo insurance company. Contributed by salarymen (and perhaps their compatriots in spirit), these are even more mordant and satirical, and clever in the way they combine the short form with modern culture to pack a semantic punch. Here's an example from 2018:

Declining memory, but more and more... passwords

Recently, Dai-Ichi announced the 100 winners for 2020. To no one's surprise, almost every entry touches on the コロナ時代じだい workplace (and home life) changes affecting nearly everyone. A few words of the moment appear in several senryuu:

  • テレワーク: Telework (work from home). It has 5 mora, so a great fit for the 5-7-5 form.
  • リモート: remote (work)
  • みつです: probably 2020's phrase of the year for Japan. 3みつ are the "three C's" to avoid, in order to contain Covid: 密閉 みっぺい (enclosed/airtight spaces), 密集 みっしゅう (crowds), and 密接みっせつ (being close). (My input editor on the Mac has an annoying habit of substituting the homophone 蜜 instead, which in a small font is easy to miss.)
  • マスク: face mask or surgical mask
  • 上司じょうし: boss
  • 出社しゅっしゃ: going to the office
  • つま: one's wife. Spending a lot of time with her at home is very much a new thing...
  • あつもり: short for あつまれ どうぶつのもり, or "Animal Crossing: New Horizons", the very popular 2020 release
  • かい: happy hour, formerly at a bar, now on Zoom

The 2020 winners

The list of winners on the Dai-Ichi website is, unfortunately, a set of images instead of text, making it difficult to copy into dictionaries and web searches. I've transcribed them here, and attempted to comment on their meaning. I'm sure there's a lot of things I've missed, and I apologize for that. I'll add "[not sure]" in that case. I also got some help for a few of them.

(Apologies in advance for not adding furigana.)

1 リモートで 便利な言葉 ”聞こえません!”
Convenient word for remote work: "I can't hear you!"
2 出社日は 次はいつなの? 妻の圧
Wife is pressuring me: when will you return to the office?
3 テレワーク いつもと違う 父を知る
We're seeing a side of our father we never knew before (thank you to L.)
4 倍返し 言えぬ上司に 「はい」返し
I'd like to return "twice revenge" on my boss, but instead I just say "yes". (倍返し rhymes with 「はい」返し)
5 激論も パジャマ姿の 下半身
Heated argument while wearing pajamas below the waist (and out of camera view during meetings)
6 十万円 見る事もなく 妻のもの
He never saw the 100,000 yen stimulus payment; it went directly to his wife (thank you to L.)
7 密ですと ますます部下は 近よらぬ
My subordinates avoid me, claiming "mitsu desu"
8 抱き上げた 孫か一言 密ですよ
My grandchild, when hugged, says "mitsu desu"
9 コロナ禍が 程よく上司に ディスタンス
Covid gives me just the right amount of distance from my boss (thank you to S.)
10 YOASOBIが 大好きと言い 父あせる
Father frets because I'm a big fan of Yoasobi (pun on the music duo and 夜遊び, nightlife (thank you to L.)
11 エコなのか どんどん増える マイバッグ
Though we're supposed to be eco-conscious, my shopping bags are piling up (perhaps because the reusable "my bag", encouraged before Covid, may not be accepted in some stores for health reasons)
12 ソロキャンプ そもそも毎日 ソロライフ
Solo camping, every day, solo life [not sure about そもそも]
13 いつだろう 同期の素顔 見れるのは
I wonder when I'll see my workmates' true face (or without makeup)
14 嫁の呼吸 五感で感じる! 全集中!!!
I don't know. (The last phrase has 6 mora anyway.)
15 下書きの 送信キーを 猫が押し
My cat pressed the Send key for my rough draft
16 テレワーク 大きな子供が ひとり増え
Working at home means one more (big) child (appears to be the wife's lament)
17 あつ森で 仲良くなれる 僕と妻
In "Animal Crossing", I've gotten on good terms with my wife [I think...]
18 虹プロで 学ぶダンスと 上司像
If I learn dance from the Nizi Project reality show, I'll resemble my/a boss? [not sure]
19 収入減 まず削られる パパの趣味
With income decrease, my father's hobby is cutting expenses
20 「密です!」と 訴えたいのは 仕事量
I'd like to say "mitsu desu!" to my workload
21 どの店も ドレスコードは マスクあり
The new dress code at stores everywhere: face mask
22 カメラOFF 忘れて晒す OFF姿
Forgetting to turn off your camera reveals your "off" form
23 社会人 出社したのは まだ5回
Adults have gone to work only 5 times? [not sure]
24 ハンコ不要 出社も不要 次はオレ?
Don't need hanko; don't need to go to work; next is don't need me?
25 レモートの 背景だけは タワマン風
Only my Zoom background is fancy high-rise style
26 会社では 偉そうなのねと 妻が言う
My wife says I sound smart at work (but not at home...)
27 マスクだと よく言われます イケメンネ。
People say I look handsome... in a mask
28 喫煙所 入場規制で ”密” の列
There's a socially distanced queue for the smoking area
29 自粛中 見えた夫の 定年後
Self-discipline, husband, after retirement? [not sure]
30 脱ハンコ 進めるために 判が要る
To move away from using a hanko requires a signature [not sure]
31 密なのに 妻の抗体 なぜできぬ
Even while being close, how come I can't get immunity from my wife? [not sure]
32 体重増! レモート会議で あなた誰?
I gained weight, and coworkers on remote meeting don't recognize me
33 会社へは 来るなと上司 行けと妻
Boss says don't come to work; wife says get out of the house
34 「行ってくる」 ふすま一枚 テレワーク
go to work; one sheet; remote work? Don't know.
35 アイメイク 仕上げにマスク 時短術
Eye makeup and mask makes a quick routine
36 別人か 初めて知った 仕事顔
New person, first meeting? It's their work face [not sure]
37 オンライン 説教したら 画面消え
Someone starts sermonizing online, I turn off the screen
38 はんこレス 上司の仕事 吹き飛んだ
Without a hanko, my boss's work disappears
39 気付かない 理由はマスクか すっぴんか
The reason not noticed is mask? or no makeup? [not sure]
40 小遣いを 電子マネーで チャージされ
Made to charge e-money for pocket money [not sure]
41 じいちゃんに J. Y. Parkの 場所聞かれ
Old man asking where J. Y. Park is (English pun; JYP entertainment owns Nizi Project; see #18)
42 週一の 通勤だけで 息切れる
Only go to office 1/week; short of breath [not sure; getting out of shape?]
43 トレンドは ワンチームから Teamsに
From "One Team" (national rugby team slogan) to Microsoft Teams
44 プツプツと 途切れる意識と 無線ラン
With a staticky(?) sound, Wifi cuts off [not sure]
45 マイクON 部長の悪口 配信中
With the mic on, boss's insults are broadcast
46 マスクさえ 妻と娘と 別洗い
Even with a mask, wife and daughter wash separately [not sure]
47 オンライン 見える範囲で 見栄を張る
Even online, what you see is vanity [not sure]
48 リモートで ミュート忘れて 愚痴バレる
I forgot to mute and my complaints were revealed
49 はたら苦が はた楽になる 子の笑顔
A nice pun on 働く (to work). はたら苦 (the pain) becomes はた楽 (fun) when seeing your child's smiling face.
50 咳き込んで 視線が痛い 電車内
A coughing fit in the train gets you embarrassing looks
51 久々に 家族が揃った 自宅で
It's been a long time since the family was together
52 持ち帰り 昔は仕事 今はメシ
Take-out food used to be for work; now it's for home
53 耳痛い 常時マスクと 妻の愚痴
Hurting my ears: constant mask wearing, and my wife's complaints
54 出勤が 運動だったと 気付く腹
Going to work was exercise, as my waistline has noticed (see #42)
55 買ってきて 俺は我が家の ウーバーか
When I returned home from shopping: "Is that our Uber?"
56 3密を 避けて振り込む お年玉
Making a New Year's gift by deposit (instead of in person) due to Covid [I think]
57 副業で 出前届ける 部下の家
My side gig is food delivery... and I just arrived at my subordinate's house
58 遊ぼうよ! 息子よ、パパは 仕事中
Son says "let's play!" but I'm busy at work
59 グータッチ 妻は私に ノータッチ
Guu Touch? (Kid's TV show)? My wife to me is "No touch"
60 「5円」見て ビジネスバッグが エコバッグ
To save 5 yen (at the store), my briefcase/"business bag" can be a reusable bag
61 「やばいです」 それはいいのか 悪いのか
Does "Yabai" mean good or bad? (This was a question before 2020)
62 あつ森に ローンの返済 先越され
I pay off my Animal Crossing loans first [I think]
63 あの密を 恋しがる日が くるなんて
I might even miss these quarantine days when they're gone [I think]
64 お父さん マスクも会話も よくずれる
Both my father's mask and his conversation tend to slip
65 ズーム飲み 背景代えて はしご酒
A 2020 "pub crawl" means drinking at home and changing your Zoom background (clever)
66 ダイエット 時を戻そう おやつ前
Dieting is "let's go back in time" (a comedy duo catchphrase) [not sure]
67 定年後 昔悠々 今窮々
Another rhyming pun. In the old days, retirement was leisurely; now it's difficult (窮々 appears to be a neologism)
68 テレワーク 子供の参入 場が和み
Remote work, introducing the kids, relaxing? [not sure]
69 今の何? 半裸横切る Web飲み会
What time is it? Walking half-dressed across the frame during happy hour [I think]
70 本当に 今日の元気を 詰める母
Mother is wishing me well (a note in my bag/box?) [not sure]
71 何曜日? 在宅勤務で わからなく
At the home office, you don't know what day it is
72 スマホより 俺の認証 しない妻
Smart phone recognizes me better than my wife
73 マスクでは 防ぎきれない 妻のグチ
Mask doesn't ward off my wife's complaints
74 ペイペイは どこのパンダと そっと聞き
Asking quietly "Peipei? Where [which zoo] is that panda?" (PayPay is an online payment service)
75 マスクして 上司の顔色 読み取れず
I can't read my boss's expression/mood because of his mask
76 孫の顔 初めて見るのは スマホ越し
First time seeing grandchild's face is on the phone
77 飲み会の 会場さがし 家の中
Looking for a good spot in the house for the happy hour
78 我が部署は 次世代おらず 5爺 (ファイブジイ)
Our group/section's next generation: "5G" (5 old men) [おらず is stumping me]
79 休日は 息子鬼滅で 嫁キツめ
Day off, son is Kimetsu no Yaiba, wife is a little harsh (rhyming pun)
80 あなたとは 要請なくても ディスタンス
Even with a government appeal for distancing, you'd still do it
81 通勤も しなくていいと したくなる
I'm beginning to hope it's OK not to return to work [I think]
82 テレワーク 気付いた会社の イスの良さ
I'm starting to notice how good the chair at the office was
83 終電が、、。WEB飲み会では 充電が、、。
The excuse for leaving an in-person happy hour: "last train". For online happy hour: "recharging..." (rhyming pun)
84 子は鬼滅 夫婦は亀裂 おうち時間
At home, kids read/watch Kimetsu no Yaiba; parents grow apart (rhyming pun)
85 お若いと 言われマスクを 外せない
They say I look younger, so I'm not taking off the mask [I think]
86 終われない 終電が無い ズーム飲み
There's no last train, so Zoom happy hours never end (see #83)
87 寝ているの? 返事がないよ Web会議
Web meeting, no response: "are you asleep?"
88 新人が イケメンと知る 食事中
You get to know if a new hire is good looking during a meal [I think]
89 世は鬼滅 給与減って 俺自滅
The world is [hooked on] Kimetsu no Yaiba; with my pay cut, I'm decaying (rhyming pun)
90 掃除して! 一応これでも 勤務中
Yes, I'll clean up; but I'm busy with work (excuse)
91 リモートの 上司の指示は 現場見ろ!
Remote boss's instructions are "look at the site!" [not sure]
92 置き配を 不審物だと 騒ぐ祖母
Grandma's making a fuss about a suspicious delivery
93 熱っぽい 昔は出社 今時機
Enthusiasm, once was for going to work, now is opportunity [not sure at all]
94 リモートで 不要不急に なる職場
The workplace becomes nonessential with remote work
95 倍返し 真似してみたら 俺無職
If I imitate [a superior] for revenge, I'll be without a job [I think]
96 晩ご飯 娘退出 妻ミュート
Dinnertime; daughter leaves, wife is mute (sad...)
97 部下を褒め 妻に気遣う テレワーク
An underling is praised, wife worries about me [I think]
98 自宅でも 嫁と会話 画面越し
Even at home, speak to wife online (via a screen)
99 テレワーク 妻へ感謝の 倍返し
Working at home, double gratitude for my wife (though phrased ironically as double revenge) [I think]
100 どこにある ステイホームで 俺の場所
Staying at home, anywhere is my place [I think]

That's my take on the top 100 salaryman senryuu of 2020. I still have a lot to learn. Hope you enjoyed reading!