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Tohoku Regional Accent

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The Tohoku Regional Accent is spoken in the northeast region of the Japanese island of Honshu, mainly in Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures. Not as often heard as the Kanto or Kansai dialects in anime and manga, when it does show up you can be sure the character in question is a hick from the boonies and will not likely be taken seriously. The accent also carries the stereotype of laziness or clumsiness, as Tohoku speakers are known for slurring and not opening their mouths very much. The rather negative nickname for the dialect is zuuzuu-ben, "zuuzuu" being the sound that a Kanto speaker hears when a Tohoku speaker neutralizes and drags their vowels. Because of the negative stereotypes, when speaking with Tokyo-ites, Tohoku speakers tend to hide their accents and speak in Tokyo dialect. The accent only shows up when talking to family or when stressed. However, ever since the smash-hit daily NHK drama Ama-Chan aired in 2013, appreciation has grown for Tohoku culture in Japan; so much that "jye-jye-jye", roughly the equivalent of "whoa!" in English, has become a Real Life Memetic Mutation.


When a Tohoku accent is translated, expect to hear something like a hillbilly drawl remniscent of Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel.note 

Most prominent features of the dialect include:

  • Saying waa instead of watashi, and ora instead of ore (the latter even among women)
  • Saying kero instead of kudasai/kure
  • using da after verbs, considered a mistake in other parts of Japan
  • Using be in place of darou or the equivalent verb conjugation (with a variety of particles even farther from the norm in localized areas). The slogan "ganbarou" ("let's hang in there"), ubiquitous since the earthquake on 11 March 2011, is "ganbappe" (or even "keppappe") in the dialect of the disaster area.
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  • Drawing out vowels, which makes speech sound "lazy" or "slow".
  • Pronouncing both /i/ and /u/ as an identical, in-between vowel (/ɨ/) after /s/ and /z/ (and sometimes /t/ and /d/ as well). "Sushi", susu (soot), and shishi (lion) all sound the same.
  • Slurring vowel diphthongs together (a feature also common to Shitamachi tough-talkers in Tokyo): /ai/, /ei/, /oi/ and /ae/ come out as a prolonged [eː] (omee instead of omae, wagannee for wakaranai). The speakers themselves are said to be able to hear the difference between /ai/ and /ei/ regardless, but to people from Tokyo, they sound identical.
  • Voicing of unvoiced consonants in the middle of words, especially /k/ to /g/ and /t/ to /d/. For example, suki datta (I liked it) becomes sugi dadda. It's also why the name of Ibaraki Prefecture (technically part of Kanto, but on the border with Tohoku) is frequently misspelled as "Ibaragi".

To an English speaker, these vowel and consonant mutations make it sound somewhat like Tohoku-ben speakers are talking through a bad cold. It must be those harsh winters up north.

On top of these features, individual dialects are also prone to preserving certain traits of old Japanese that are no longer present in the Standard language, for example:

  • Being able to distinguish between two types of long /oː/ from the historical /au/ and /ou/ diphthongs (one is /ɔ:/, the other /o:/)
  • Preserving the distinction of /ka/ and /kwa/, /ga/ and /gwa/ in Chinese-derived words
  • Pronouncing the entire /h/-row of kana as /ɸ/ ("f" with upper and lower lip, not teeth), which is only done for the "fu" syllable in Standard Japanese. This is actually how the /h/-row was historically pronounced in Middle Japanese.
  • Pronouncing /e/ as "ye" ([je])
  • Distinguishing /o/ and /wo/ (both [o] in Standard)
  • Pre-nasalization of voiced consonants, which sounds like inserting an /n/ sound immediately prior to the affected letter. For example, mado (window) becomes mando, and mago (grandchild) sounds like mang-o (the /g/ ends up assimilating, so the <ng> there is like English "sing"). This is somewhat common with /g/ in most Japanese dialects, but in Tohoku it still happens before /b/ and /d/ also.

Though no two versions of Tohoku-ben have the exact same combinations of slurred sounds and archaic features, they are generally lumped together on the basis of the defining characterstics that make them "zuuzuu-ben" in the eyes of Tokyo speakers. And, since Tokyo Is the Center of the Universe and only a Kansai Regional Accent gets any attention in media, who's to care if a pastiche gets used instead of a specific local brogue? (Kansai-ben is often abused the same way—using Osaka speech for anywhere in the region, apart from Kyoto—but people in Kansai complain. Loudly.)

Currently, Tohoku Regional Accent is the most likely to have Ore Onna, among all Japanese regional accents.

See also: Kansai Regional Accent. Compare "Rural" in British Accents, "Appalachian" in American Accents, and the "broad" Australian Accent (especially the rural variant).


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Megumi Tadokoro from Food Wars! will slip back into her accent if she's especially flustered or angry enough. Soma remarks on it (he's usually the source of her irritation or flustering).
  • The protagonist of Homunculus slips into his Tohoku accent when he's stressed or talking to himself.
  • Ogiue from Genshiken is also prone to slipping into her accent when she panicks.
  • Goku and his wife Chi-Chi from Dragon Ball both speak with downplayed versions of this accent. Goku exhibits some of the vowel mutations (particularly the trouble with diphthongs), but none of the other phonological or grammatical changes. Meanwhile, Chi-Chi has some of the grammatical features ("da" after verbs and adjectives, "be" as a particle) but the phonological ones mostly vanish after her first appearance. They also both use "ora" as their "I" pronoun. The "hick" connotations are definitely present, because they've both spent most of their lives in seclusion, though this doesn't really come across in the English translations and dubs. Interestingly, their sons Gohan and Goten both speak dictionary-perfect, polite Japanese (Chi-Chi the Education Mama is likely responsible).
  • Yume from Someday's Dreamers slips into her native Tohoku accent when she gets excited.
  • Interestingly, in the You're Under Arrest! this brogue gets assigned not to the hick character, but to The Ace. Visiting Minnesota Fats (and Natsumi's Love Interest) Shouji Tokairin is from Akita and doesn't even try to hide it — he's cool enough to not to care.
  • Keiji, Kei and Chinatsu's father in Flying Witch talks with a very thick Tsugaru accent that Makoto needs a translator to understand even the simplest sentences whenever she talks to him. In fact many of the old folks characters in the anime talks in the almost indecipherable dialect.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers:
    • Sweden speaks in a Tohoku dialect, despite being quite sophisticated. (Hidekaz Himaruya himself is from Fukushima) It's probably just because he's tall and outwardly intimidating. In English Scanlations, it's often rendered as truncated words with occasionally missing vowels.note  His fellow Nordics Norway and Denmark speak in the Tsugaru and Ibaraki dialects, respectively, while Iceland also speaks in the Tsugaru dialect. While Norway and Iceland's usually don't show up in scanlations, Denmark's speech is usually rendered as more casual, and his accent heard in both the anime and his character song Let’s Enjoy! Let’s Get Excited! Cheers!
  • Mousse in Ranma ½ speaks in Tohoku, despite being from China.
  • Jin from YuYu Hakusho speaks with the Tohoku accent (this somehow became an Irish accent in the dub), which is kind of a subversion of the stereotype, seeing as he kicks ass.
  • Duval from One Piece also slips into this accent when he gets mad. The scanlations translated it as an odd semi-southern accent. It was translated into a redneck accent provided by David Vincent.
    • Tama, an impoverished girl in Wano, uses the pronoun "ora" and ends most of her sentences with "deyansu".
  • A chapter of Rookies has a female student who's so shy she almost never speaks. When super-teacher Kawato tries to get her to come out of her shell, he discovers it's because she's so ashamed of her Tohoku accent. He gets her to help out with the baseball team a bit, and it turns out her fears of mockery are entirely unfounded — the guys end up falling all over themselves over how cute her accent is.
  • Averted in Yoroiden Samurai Troopers as Seiji (Sage), the only one from Tohoku, does not speak with the accent and is arguably the smartest character. In the CD Drama Tenkuu Den, he and Touma (Rowan) banter back and forth about airports (as Touma is from Osaka) in a Northern Hillbilly vs. Southern Hillbilly sort of way.
  • Haruo Hattori and her fellow Akita denizens from Club 9 are portrayed talking with extremely thick "country yokel" accents in the English translation. Her accent is commented on numerous times by people in Tokyo where she moves. While she is told to "watch the accent", Haruo always is portrayed talking in a thick accent.
  • Mutsuko of Sunset On Third Street (Sanchoume no Yuuhi) talks this way, especially at the beginning where, newly arrived in Tokyo from Aomori, she expects to become a secretary at Suzuki Motor Corporation. Turns out, out she's been hired as a mechanic at Suzuki Auto Repair.
  • Kamameshidon in Anpanman. To emphasise not moving his mouth as much, his mouth is always shown just as moving teeth rarely being opened. His attire also emphasizes a lower class. A few other characters also have a Tohoku accent, like Tanuki-Oni and Uncle Negi (who drops it as Naganegiman).
  • The villagers in Only Yesterday, since most of the film takes place in Yamagata. The old ladies have particularly strong ones.
  • Asuka in A Town Where You Live moved to Tokyo from Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture. She hardly talked to anyone during her first year because she was so ashamed of her dialect, and she still slips into it when angry.
  • Youhei Sunohara from CLANNAD has this accent, as he hails from rural Tohoku.
  • Himouto! Umaru-chan: Nana Ebina is from Akita and naturally speaks with this dialect. She learned Tokyo dialect when she decided to go to high school in Tokyo, but her accent slips when she lets her emotions get carried away. The subtitles translate it as a Southern hillbilly drawl with Southern colloquialism.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • All the characters in the popular comedy film Swing Girls speak in the distinctive brogue of their native Yamagata prefecture, adding a distinctive Tohoku feel to the movie. Likely one of the more popular examples of the dialect in pop culture.



    Video Games 
  • The snowy village of Norqueen in Tales of Hearts. Possibly because the residents have been hiding from the rest of the world.
  • Epel Felmier from Twisted Wonderland is a Country Mouse whose native accent is depicted as this.
  • Itsuki, the young peasant girl from Sengoku Basara speaks this way, being from a small, rural village in the far north of Japan.
  • The entirety of the village of Sonne, and particularly Mami, from Breath of Fire IV speaks in this — largely because, again, Sonne is a small, isolated rural village up in the mountains. Localised in English as a deep Appalachian accent with occasional Scots phrases like "dinnae" and "ye ken"note .
  • Hagakure in Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. He's a Cloud Cuckoo Lander who can be extremely gullible.
  • As he is from Aizu of Fukushima Prefecture, Eiji Shinjo of Battle Arena Toshinden speaks it fluidly. An example can be made; his victory quote "Icho Agari!!" (lit. "I did it!!") eliminates the emphasized vocalization of the o and makes a hard stop after the inital "gh-" pronunciation, resulting it heard roughly as "Ichari!!". There is truth in this particular accent; Aizu was once a han famous for its professional samurai and martial arts culture and the "Aizu Spirit", which was a more refined and virtue rooted form of Japanese Spirit that emphasized standing up in the sake of those who you cared and honored, never giving up, and to get back up when you fall on hard times no matter what, showing that Eiji hails from a hardy yet prestigious heritage worthy of warrior legend.

    Western Animation 
  • Many of the characters Japanese VA Takeshi Endo voiced in the original dub of Thomas & Friends have this accent. Best examples were the various drivers, firemen, workmen, and Douglas.

    Real Life 
  • Tomoaki Maeno is from Ibaraki and can speak Ibaraki-ben, a very close equivalent.
  • Shiori Mikami comes from Aomori in the northernmost part of Honshu and speaks native Tsugaru dialect, although she uses standard Tokyo dialect in public.
  • Daniel Kahl is a German American from California, but he was transferred Yamagata to teach English and became famous as a multilingual foreigner who can speak English, standard Japanese and Yamagata dialect.