Some time ago, I was listening to a rakugo story called “Gamano Abura” (蝦蟇の油 がまのあぶら) and came across a word that I did not understand.
The word was “manteika” (マンテイカ).
It made no sense whatsoever to me.
I looked up the word in my beloved rakugo dictionary (yes, there is such a thing!) and finally found out the meaning!
Of course, I didn’t understand it because it was a Portuguese word that meant “butter” (manteiga).
But in Japan, manteika meant fat from inoshishi (猪 いのしし; Japanese wild boars) or pigs, and it was used as an ointment for medical purposes.
You may not be aware of how crucial Portugal was to Japan as these two countries are literally located on the opposite sides of the word- the west end of Europe and Far East.
In 1543, the Portuguese arrived in Japan and became the first westerners to land on the country of the rising sun (some theory says it was actually 1541). They even introduced us to… guns.
Soon after in 1549, the Spanish missionaries followed and brought Christianity to Japan. Therefore, Portugal and Spain became our first portals to the western world. As Portugal was under the Spanish rule between 1581 and 1640, they were sort of under the same umbrella back then.
Naturally, the Japanese language was influenced by Portuguese/ Spanish from very early on.
“Tempura” was originally a Portuguese word as well. It was from “tempero”. The Portuguese introduced the deep frying technique to Japan, so tempura was originally NOT a Japanese dish.
Here are other Portuguese words that have become Japanese, which we still use today:
Buranko (ブランコ; from balanço) = swing
Furasuko (フラスコ; from frasco) = flask (for experiment)
Jouro (じょうろ; from jarro) = watering can
Kappa (かっぱ; from capa) = rain jacket
Karuta (カルタ; from carta) = a kind of Japanese card game
Konpeitou (こんぺいとう 金平糖; from confeito) = Japanese sweets as in the photo below
Koppu (コップ; from copo) = cup
Miira (ミイラ; from mirra) = mummy (as in an Egyptian mummy, not a British mummy 😉 )
Shabon (シャボン; from sabão) = bubbles from soap
Midori / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)