Katakana Words

Jul 17, 2022

Japanese Summer Drink ラムネ [ramune] - ‘Why in Katakana’?


‘Ramune’ is a popular summer drink in Japan especially at summer festivals. The glass bottle and ice water make us feel chilled. Foreign words are written in ‘katalana’ but why ‘ramunne’is written in ‘katakana’? I would like to show 1)the formations of katakana words, 2)the effect of writing in ‘hiragana’ rather than in ‘katakana’ and 3) the origin of the word ‘karupisu’- another popular summer drink in Japan. I hope this helps your learning.

 ① (a)「ラムネ」はレモネードのような飲みものです。カタカナなのはlemonadeから来ているからなんですね。日本は発音に強弱があまりないので、英語で弱い部分はあまり聞き取れません。それで、発音は英語で強く発音される部分[lemone]から作られたんですね。(a)‘Ramune’is something like lemonade and this is the origin of the word. Only [lemona] part became the ‘katakana’ word because Japanese language does not have strong accent and the part which does not have a strong accent, in this case [de] is not hearable.

(b)他に、レモンスカッシュという飲み物を知っていますか。「スカッシュ」は英語のスクオッシュ[squash]です。日本語では同じ長さで文字を発音するので、短いと一つの発音に聞こえて、「クオ」が「カ」になったようです。(b)And do you know a drink called‘remon sukasshu’in Japanese? ‘Sukasshu’comes from [squash]in English. In this case[qua]became[ka]. One ‘hikarana/katakana’ letter has the same length in Japanese and the two sound[quo] are too short for Japanese pronunciation and became one sound[ka].

(c)また、日本語では「ん」以外は必ず[a/i/u/e/o]付けて発音します。一番似ている音を選びます。例えば、「グラス」glassや「アイスクリーム」ice creamなどです。(c)In Japanese, each sound is pronounced with one of [a/i/u/e/o] except [n]. The closest sound is used for example, ‘gurasu’ for ‘glass’and ‘aisu kurimu’for ‘ice cream’.


‘Ramen’ is written in ‘katakana’ because it came from China. But have you seen ‘ramen’ in ‘hiragna’ and why? Writing in ‘higarana’ is effective in order to give the impression of more Japanese style. Another example is ‘pan (bread)’ from Portuguese. ‘an(read bean paste)pan’ written in ‘hiragana’ looks more Japanese than in ‘katakana’ on a package.

 ③もう一つの夏の飲み物として「カルピス」があります。アサヒグループホールディングスによるとこれは「カルシウム」とサンスクリット語の牛乳から取れるものである「サルピス सर्पिस्」を合わせた名前だそうです。おもしろい名前ですね。

Another popular summer drink is ‘karupisu’. According to Asahi Group Holdings LTD, ‘karu’ comes from ‘culseum’and ‘pisu’comes from ‘sarpis सर्पिस् (a substance extracted from milk)’in Sanskrit. The name is quite creative.


I have not been back to Japan in summer since 2016 because it is getting too hot for me, but I used to drink ‘ramune’ and ‘karupisu’ every summer when I was living in Japan. Have you tried these drinks? I hope you have learnt something new about ‘katakana’ words.


Mineko Arai

Managing Director

Arai Academy of Japanese Studies




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