Do you live in Japan? Can you get by in Japan without speaking English? Have you passed the JLPT N2?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, you probably think your Japanese is pretty good. And I bet Japanese people hear you speak and without fail reply “Huueeeeey, Nihongo jozu desune!”

Well I’m here to burst your bubble because there’s a new test for whether or not you are proficient in Japanese. This goes beyond saying thanks to the 7-Eleven clerks, reading manga, or even passing JLPT N1.

Akitaben 秋田弁

Have you ever heard of the Akita dialect? One of Japan’s 47 Prefectures, Akita is located on the northern tip of the Honshu island, just below Aomori Prefecture.

Recognized worldwide for the Akita dog breed, and nationally for its sake breweries and rice-farming.

The Prefecture is also supposedly home to Japan’s most beautiful women, Akita bijin 秋田美人. I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but a quick Google search and you can judge for yourself.

Regardless, even Japanese have recognized how difficult it is to understand Akita’s local dialect. That’s because it sounds like this:

Akitaben is Surprisingly Deep

As the caption at the top of the TV program so aptly states, “秋田県ほとんど「ね」だけで通じる” “In Akita Prefecture, you can get by with just ‘ne’.”

The show’s staff is seen holding up common phrases in Japanese and asks Akita residents to read them in their local dialect.


No/isn’t it? (used to confirm with the listener to express agreement)
Nai jan➞Nene

You’re not sleeping right?
Nenai jan➞Nenene

I have to sleep.

You can’t sleep right?
Nerenai jan➞Nerene ne

I have to sleep but can’t get to sleep.
Nenakya Ikenai noni nerenai jan➞Neneba Nenoni Nerenenee

Now don’t feel bad if you couldn’t understand on your own. Most Japanese (who aren’t from Akita Prefecture) say they can’t make heads or tails out of the quirky dialect either.

I think the key takeaway here is to be careful with your use of “ne” when in Akita. Because what is usually just a sign of your agreement throughout most of Japan may be interpreted very differently in Akita.

By - Mujo.