Fun Japanese Slang: Car Edition

Let’s be real: Japanese people love playing with their language to create new phrases and words. As the summer holiday descends upon the country and more people hit the roads, let’s take a look at two of the fun phrases and slang I’ve managed to accumulate related to cars and driving while living here in Japan!

Conbini Warp

In America, we call some convenience stores corner stores, yes? Well, those exist here in Japan as well, but they often come equipped with a few parking spaces out front to service their customers with cars. What ends up happening, however, is that the more impatient drivers, facing down a red light, will cut through the convenience store parking lot to circumvent waiting at a red light. Thus, the Conbini Warp (コンビニワープ) is born!

The problems here are pretty obvious: It creates a bit of chaos at the intersections with convenience stores, causing danger for pedestrians and drivers alike. It also disrupts the operations of the convenience store, as these drivers committing the cuts are not exactly slowing down because they are in a parking lot.

Look at that parking lot, waiting to be warped through!
(courtesy of Tokumeigakarinoaoshima via Wikimedia Commons)

Many convenience stores, because of this, have installed fences to try and deter this behavior, and local authorities have been keeping a keen eye on it, but without a clear legal avenue for pursuing this kind of behavior, it remains as a dangerous behavior that isn’t punishable by law unless someone gets hurt. Yikes!

Paper Driver

In American culture, getting your driver’s license and hitting the road is a rite of passage. In Japan, you can still get your driver’s license, and many do, but not many have the means to afford a car or have the opportunity to drive very often. Some people may get their license and then sit on it, quite literally, for years and years, never touching a steering wheel or shifting gears. These people, who don’t drive and let their skills lapse, are called Paper Drivers (ペーパードライバー). The term comes from their license being only as good as the paper it’s printed on (licenses are now on plastic, but the term paper stuck around). Some people also say that it’s because these people are drivers on paper only.

Just your average paper driver behind the wheel
(courtesy of MIKI Yoshihito via Wikimedia Commons)

The issue with paper drivers is that often, during holidays, these people will decide to rent a car and hit the roads to see the many wonderful sites Japan has to offer. This also correlates with a large jump in the number of car accidents on the road, as said roads are flooded with inexperienced drivers trying to navigate around during the busiest times for traffic across the nation. So, if you’re on the roads during these times, beware of the paper drivers!

So there you have it! Are there any fun slang phrases or words related to driving where you’re from? Let us know in the comments below!


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