Bamboo Words

Takenoko Kotoba たけのこ言葉

Bamboo shoots inspire culinary creativity at table and provide semantic fun in conversation.

Here are five quirky, linguistic manifestations of takenoko;

No.1 Takénoko seikatsu 筍生活

"Living a bamboo life"

takenokoThe expression “living a bamboo life” describes dire financial circumstances. Pawning off clothes and household items one at a time to make ends meet is likened to peeling back the many overlapping layers of bamboo.




No.2 Takénoko zoku 竹の子族

"Bamboo clan kids"

In March of 1978 clothing shop BoutiqueTakénoko opened on Harajuku’s Takeshita Street. At the time, the most coveted fashion item was a "harem suit" -- a billowy pant-and-cape outfit. Groups would gather near the entrance to Meiji Shrine in Harajuku on Sunday mornings dressed in these and other outlandish costumes to dance to music blaring from cassette recorders. Named for the store that started the trend, the wild youth were dubbed Takénoko zoku.

No.3 Takenoko no Oyamasari


“Surpassing your parents”

Because bamboo shoots grow so quickly, their development is used as a metaphor for the rapid progress of child prodigies. Indeed, so rapid these whiz-kids soon out-strip their own parents in acheivement.

No.4 Takenoko Isha 筍医者

“Bamboo doctor”

An especially inexperienced, clumsy, young practitioner will sometimes be called a “bamboo doctor” by unhappy patients. In other words, a bungling quack! A derogatory statement that hopeful does not describe your family physician…

No.5 Ugo no Takénoko 雨後の筍

“Bamboo shoots (popping up everywhere) after the rain”

New bamboo shoots seem to pop up everywhere after a spring shower. This phenomenon describes the rapid emergence of things like a chain of stores (Starbucks... everywhere) or a new and trendy hairstyle (dreadlocks, anyone?).

Two Ways to write takenoko in Japanese

Takenoko, Take no Ko (Bamboo Shoots) 

筍 ・ 竹の子

Written by Elizabeth Andoh in A Taste of Culture“ © April 2016. All rights reserved by Elizabeth Andoh. First published as part of A Taste of Culture’s newsletter. 

Written By

Elizabeth Andoh