Japan is full of katakana English that has no real meaning in English. Like “service,” which refers to a small business giving the customer a freebie, often spontaneously as a reward for being a loyal customer. Sitting in Shinjuku Gyoen, enjoying hanami with several friends, I learned a new slang, “skinship.” That refers to building friendship through touching. Since touching is somewhat rare in public, borrowing from English is considered somehow appropriate. I explained to my friend the difference between “touching” and “groping.”


  1. Skinship is awesome 😀

    Although there is much less hetro-couple PDAs in Japan, do you think there is a lot more same sex/non-sexual touching?

  2. I think there is more non-sex touching in Japan as well! I often see girls holding hands – good friends, mom/daughter, sisters…guys too! Arms linked to easily share the umbrella!

  3. Actually, skinship isn’t slang, it was created when trying to explain the term amae to describe the bonding between a mother and child.
    Cool term anyway!

  4. Skinship (skinshippu) came mostly from sento/onsen, where everybody is naked and there is no social/work relation no boss/worker … everybody is at the same level.

    You can be supprised by the relation between two people naked in a sento/onsen, …it’s strange.
    Personnaly I like it, perhaps because I am french, I am less ‘prude’ than in US.

    1. Not all US peeps are prudes ^^. Do you see a lot of heavy petting– or skinship– in the sento? The only touching I have seen there is the furtive, inappropriate kind.

  5. Ok perhaps not too much touching :).

    I remember in Matsumoto, plaza onsen, it was very familly oriented, fathers with 2 or 3 kids, it’s a different dynamic, kids playing around, trying to go into the cold water pool … being the only ‘non japanese’ I was able to chat a little, english, japanese, sign language …
    It was a good experience, getting an inside view of japanese society.
    Or at Tokyo Rox SuperSento in Asakusa, seeing group of highschool/university friends relaxing together … or the experience of getting a akasuri cleaning …. Grrr I miss that soo much now.

  6. Sentos are fun! I like small neighborhood ones, super sentos, city and country onsens. There’s a somewhat infamous sento in Nishi Shinjuku that attracts yakuza and gays with its unusual “tattoos are OK” policy.

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