Missionary Vocabulary

 Special Thanks to the Japan Kobe Mission Alumni Web Site


If you have an addition or correction click here


A · B · C · D · E · F · G · H · I · J · K · L · M · N · O · P · Q · R · S · T · U · V · W · X · Y · Z


1. apartment president. 2. assistant to the president


or "Bakarashii"--the same as Bakateki. (Submitted by Jim Taylor [jrtaylor@nwinfo.net]) 
Baka Switch  
Native Japanese (usually older) refusing to recognize that you're speaking Japanese until you work with him to flip the switch. (In response to confusion among RMs regarding the origin of Baka Switch, Frank Kelland submitted the following:
The term "baka switch" is very old and was first used right after WWII. A 
guy named Seward, one of the first Beikokujin in Japan after the war used it 
in his book "Japanese in Action" describing the necessary actions he had to 
take to convince the Japanese that he spoke Japanese. He once had to write 
an entire Imperial proclamation concerning education (something all pre-WWII 
Nipponjin had to memorize), to prove he could speak Japanese.
to do something foolish, like make up a list of missionary slang
worthless discussions of Bible scriptural interpretations with Japanese Christians. Usually concluded by Elders quoting from the Books of Moses and Abraham in "their Bible". 
See Green Bean
a toilet. 
(See also Flusher, Plopper, Sitter, Squatter, Dropper
Benny Ditch
a trench alongside roads and paths, varying in depth, which has an insatiable appetite for missionaries and their bikes. Should be avoided.
Benny Truck
See Honey Wagon
to biff. to crash one's bike. "I really biffed it when I fell in the benny ditch."

Although used as a shortened version of "Watakushi" by males, it was also used to designate a teenaged or college-aged male, usually spotted as a member of the cadre of uniformed teenagers boisterously passing by you in a shoten. District Leader: "How'd ya do today?" Reply: "Aw, nothin' much. Just ran into a bunch of bokus..."

The female version of Boku is Triffid


is a term used to describe Japanese Punk... those purple, spiked hair kids. Definitely from the early '80's jidai. (Submitted by Jim Taylor [jrtaylor@nwinfo.net] Japan Kobe Mission)

i.e. the Buch. the Dendobucho-san or Mission President. "Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, faster than a speeding bullet, etc.
See Buch
the six month point in one's mission.

(See also Hump, Slump, Dump)


(or "Burning") See Dump

Burn Papers

papers received from the honbu a few months prior to returning home containing final instructions and and forms.  Painstaking filled out and returned to the Honbu,  they would most commonly arrive at your doorstep by your beloved "Jesse". Upon opening the envelope you would typically find nothing but charred ashes or the pages glued together. (the first set that is)

1. a senpai has been reduced to kohai. 2. A D.L. is reduced to kohai. 3. be sent to the dendo honbu has a mission recorder. (Submitted by George Takeshi Hara [geohara@hotmail.com], 7 Sep 2000.)


1. a person who may have interest in hearing the discussions, i.e. a potential investigator. 2. a guy or girl who may have interest in you upon your return from the mission field.


Companion Inventory

refers to a necessary meeting within a companionship to air out grievances. (Submitted by George Takeshi Hara [geohara@hotmail.com], 7 Sep 2000.)

a very obnoxious skin infection, usually occurs during the hot humid months. One Elder in Marugame once wrote home to his parents and delicately tried to describe his condition (without using the word). His mother, a nurse in the South Pacific during WWII, wrote back "Son, it sounds like you’ve got what we use to call the crud". 
Cutback Night (archaic)
A Wednesday night post-dendo celebration (when P-days were on Thursdays) consisting of much feasting (mimis, ramen, Kirin Lemon, etc) and watching old slides. Officially banned by mission decree in 1974.


District Leader "Can jump over a hut, can fire a speeding bullet, etc."
District Training Meeting. A meeting held three days a week (Tues., Thurs., Sat.) led by the D.L. or Z.L., who teach skills through example, experience, and guessing.
Dendo Baby
a layer of gluttonous matter which appears around one's midriff, causing others to think you are with child (during proselyting in the field)
Dendo Bag
something we used to carry all our flip charts, lessons, umbrella, camera, dictionaries, and anything else that you could stuff in. It was like a big shoulder bag. I think most of us got them up in Toyooka, the bag city near the sea of Japan. 
to return home from a mission. "I'm dying soon." "I'm almost dead."
i.e. doryo. A fellow missionary that the Lord has you work with. A person who you will spend more time with on a day to day basis than you will with your future wife or husband.
to be dogged. To be caused misery and grief through the actions of another. "Jesse didn't bring me any mail. He is 'dogging' me." "She hasn't written. She is 'dogging' me."
a second-floor squatter
"When I served in Aioi, we lived in a house that served as the branch meeting house as well as our apartment. It was a two story house with a restroom on the second story right above the other one. There was just a hole in the ground. We called it a "dropper". So, you had a sitter, squatter or a dropper!" 
i.e. Jump, Burn The going home or "freedom point" of one's mission (after eighteen months or two years) (See also Bump, Hump, Slump, Burn)
See Die


Eigo Bandit
people who strongly desire to improve their English skill. "Haro. My name is (put your name here). I am a pen. I am Eigo Bandit. Do you know?"
a one yen coin. Did you know that if you place an ernie in a glass of water, it will float? Try it. Show your friends. (Made from aluminum.)


Fetch (See also the earlier term Pick)
a word of exclamation. "Fetch, Jesse didn't bring me any mail."
1. a cool guy. 2. someone who does something silly or makes a mistake.
See Fetch

Fish dance

ritual begun in Kakogawa circa 1993 to raise missionaries' spirits after being fished/spoked. (Submitted by shumwam@ambest.com, 7 Feb 2001) 


See Spoked.
Flick Out
Contrary to the ban in 1974, on special occasions or bad evenings, the missionaries would get together and show slides from their travels. (Submitted by Jeff Shoell , Sept. 9, 2003)
a benny with the luxury of plumbing. 
(See also Plopper, Sitter, Squatter, Dropper
See Jesse.
Freedom Bird
a large vehicle (i.e. airplane) which carries missionaries to their families, friends, and checkbacks at the end of their mission
as in "Let's frog," or "Let's leave." This came from kaeru as in "kaeru [frog] no ko wa kaeru da" transposed with kaeru [to leave] or "kaerĂ´" [let's leave]. 
The neighborhood public bath (sentĂ´); also a private bath (o-furo) in a home or apartment.
sometimes occurred during p-days. (Submitted by George Takeshi Hara [geohara@hotmail.com], 7 Sep 2000.)


Genki Futon
an envelope missionaries use to mail cash from one address to another (from Genkin Futo). 
i.e. Gokurosama. a missionary, or fellow human being, who works above and beyond the call of duty.
Gokiburi. Those lovely little (or sometimes huge) cockroaches commonly infesting missionary dwellings. (Submitted by James Ivie, Oct. 15, 2003)
Gokiburi-sama deshita
is a goofy derivative of "Gokurosama deshita" with reference to the ubiquitous gokiburi [cockroach]. (Submitted by Jim Taylor [jrtaylor@nwinfo.net]) 
Green Bean
a distinctive and honorific title used for: 1. a missionary just entering the Missionary Training Center. 2. a missionary who has just arrived in-country, and who keeps this title until the first transfer.


Harvest Month
a month where each companion set in the mission has a goal of at least one baptism. A month of goal setting, prayer, and fasting. (Lots of prayer and fasting)
Honey Wagon
"I see a Honey Wagon." In the pre-1990's (in the bigger cities or pre-2000's in smaller towns), it was/is THE warning to plug one's nose when the ben remover arrived in the vicinity. Also applicable to the pre-1960's when a horse drawn remover armed with two buckets and a bamboo pole arrived in the Kansai area. (See also Benny Truck)
the twelve month point of one's mission (unless you are a sister missionary which would be nine months). A day of feasting and celebration. (See also Bump, Slump, Dump)


the Japanese mailman. A man riding on a red scooter, wearing a white helmet, who honorifically carries joy (i.e. cards, letters, and packages) to the missionaries.
Jesse is the name of the mailman in an old church movie called "the mailbox" or "the letter". It was a movie about this old lady that went out to her mailbox every day to see if her mailman "Jesse" had any mail for her. The irony of the movie was that when her children FINALLY wrote her a letter, it was about how they were going to put her in an old folks home. She died just as she was opening the letter. 

This movie is pretty old, and was pretty well known in the 1970's since the church only had a handful of films. Elders would always feel like that old grandma, hoping for a letter from their families.
Correction supplied by Rich Hillyard 5-5-2003: The term is attributed to the BYU film "The Mailbox"; however, that film is dated 1977 (not as old as it seems), and the term "Jesse" was in use before that (1974-76 for me). In addition, in the film "The Mailbox," the mailman's name is "Mike", not "Jesse". I've also wondered about the origin of "Jesse," but the film isn't it.
See Dump
A verb referring to "jan ken pon", i.e., the game of "Rock, Paper, Scissors". The game used to decide practically everything of consequence. "Hey! I'll jung ya for that last mimi...!"


Kanji Bandit
a person/missionary who feverishly studies those squiggly little lines (kanji) that actually really do mean something (or so I've heard).
Kansai Cruiser
our wonderful 1-speed dendo bikes (this was before each missionary was responsible for their own bike and transferred with it) See also Mama Chari
Kekko Box
i.e. a call box. a fiendish torture device at doors which the people in the home will use to say "No".


 same as Kobamu as in "They kekko'ed us" (meaning they weren't interested in talking with us). From the Japanese reply, "kekko desu." (Submitted by Jim Taylor [jrtaylor@nwinfo.net]) 
to be with a companion at the time he/she returns home. Usually not to be taken literally. "I killed my dode."


very usable term meaning rejection, by 1. investigators 2. stateside girlfriend. (Submitted by George Takeshi Hara [geohara@hotmail.com], 7 Sep 2000.)
Anglicized past tense of the Japanese verb komaru ("to be distressed, in trouble, embarrassed," etc.), as in "I was komarued when I couldn't get all my junk in that box for transfers." 
(kyudosha - investigator) slang term used only within the walls of a missionary apartment when referring to a current investigator of the church. 


an idiomatic intensive substituted in place of certain other, more disagreeable terms when expressing a scornful, judgmental interrogatory. Example: "What the MAHA is THAT?"
Mama Chari
1-speed Japanese style bicycle. Fast on flat roads, but painful to go up hill on. (Submitted by Vashon Kirkman) See also Kansai Cruiser.
i.e. Majime. a very serious person or missionary. Usually meant in a nice way. The opposite of "Wanpaku".
a word of exclamation. "Man, mugi is delicious." --Unknown
Mimi pan
The crust of the bread, either the whole sliced ends or the strips removed from sliced bread. Purchased from the local bakery---CHEAP. Missionaries usually recieve the look from the counter of "you want to buy WHAT?!" Can be prepared in a variety of ways--sandwich bread, toast, bread pudding, salted and toasted to look like french fries etc. (Submitted by Shauna Gooch Foliaki)
Missionary Baby
See Dendo Baby
Literally translated as "thing" in Japanese, this word was used to mean a thing of mild scorn or repulsion. "You're not gonna do your Branch jobs? You received scented letters from your girlfriend? Aw, ya pickin' (fetchin') mono...!!"
Followers of the Reverend Moon. Very difficult to approach individually because they like to cluster in large groups. 
to receive (past tense). This Japlish is commonly used when missionaries get something of value from others. ZL- "Where did you guys get this brand new stereo from?" Wanpaku Elder- "Oh, that? I moraued it from a triff at Eikaiwa... it would be rude to not accept, right?!"
The ("standard") Japanese word for wheat. Ground up mugi is commonly cooked and served for breakfast.
a period of time during a missionary's schedule which is not used for proselyting. "Should be avoided." --The Buch 


term for investigators who quit the discussions. Elder: "I had 5 investigators this week but they all nakunarued". Japanese Ward Mission leader (with horror on his face): "Honto!" 


i.e. a great, big Baka. Someone who does something very silly or stupid.
Obasan’s Place
a small streetside market, usually run by an elderly war widow. The place where new green beans purchase their first (and last) an pan. 
1. a greeting in the morning. 2. a nickname for a fellow missionary who greets all of his fellow missionaries with a happy "Ohayo", and handshake, between the prayer and reading the Book of Mormon during P.P.P. 


i.e. Preparation Day. a day once a week full of joy and celebration (and sometimes used to prepare for the coming week). Usually on Monday.

P-Day Eve

The same as Cutback Night. A time (post 9:30 pm) when we'd relax, share food, or group-read a girlfriend's letter or a New Era romance article. (There were a couple!) (Submitted by Jim Taylor [jrtaylor@nwinfo.net]) 
i.e. Pick the Pitch and Pray. an everyday morning ritual in the mission field where the missionaries in an apartment will gather together, and one will pick a song, pray, read from the rule books, and begin reading from the Book of Mormon.
to pack, to eat a lot. to make oneself to appear like a hog while eating. "He can really pack that okonomiyaki."
Pick (See also the later term Fetch)
"The Prez won't let us go to Kyoto???? Aw, pick..."
Potential investigator who, upon hearing something of the missionary's message, does nothing but argue and dwell irritatingly on insignificant details. "Man, that boku was really a picker."
a benny without the benefit of plumbing. 
(See also Flusher, Sitter, Squatter, Dropper
An allowable curse for Elders' usage. "Punku" refers to a bike tire having a flat, but it is also applicable when an Elder lost his stateside girlfriend. The punkued rate in JKM in the 1974-75 jidai was 95.4% precisely. "Dear Johns" were commemoratively displayed at the dendo hombu. 


When an Elder is punkued, on a rare occasion he can retrieve his girlfriend upon the completion of his mission as was the case of Elder Vial. (Vial choro had also turned the top floor of the Matsubara danchi into a bike repair shop, notably for fixing real punkus.)
a descriptive word used in the sense that something is doing well. "This mission is rockin'."


a Japanese word meaning awesome or supreme. "Sooooo saiko." "That's saiko."
to chase after a male/female of the human species. "Don't scam on triffs." --The Buch
See Jesse
i.e. the Shimais or Sister Missionaries. The pride and joy of any district who are a spiritual uplift and also know how to cook well.
i.e. Shinkansen. Used to refer to the speeding bullet train that most missionaries never get a chance to ride on. "Dode, just once before I die, I wanna ride the Shink."


friendship meeting, useful for meshing investigators and members. (Submitted by George Takeshi Hara [geohara@hotmail.com], 7 Sep 2000.)


1. place to conduct Book of Mormon sales. 2. place for missionaries to write kanji on long sheets of paper. (Submitted by George Takeshi Hara [geohara@hotmail.com], 7 Sep 2000.)
a Western style lavatory.  (See also Benny, Flusher, Plopper, Squatter and Dropper)
the eighteen month or 1 1/2 year point of one's mission (13.5 months for Sister Missionaries). (See also Bump, Hump, Dump)


from supokasu - to stand someone up. A missionary is spoked when an investigator/member does not show up for an appointment. (Submitted by shumwam@ambest.com, 7 Feb 2001) 
         Scriptures, as in "I had my sticks strapped to the back of my bike, but they fell off when I hit a bump".
to be in fashion. "That's a stylin' flipchart."
a Japanese style lavatory. It's self-explanatory. Often loathed by missionaries with the stomache flu. (See also Sitter and Dropper)
A game played on P-day eve or at night once everyone was asleep in which Elders would "steamroll" over each other as a form of Elder bonding. Saga is famous for its great "steamrolling" room. (Submitted by Mark Barrionuevo)


1. sad term for leaving a productive area 2. happy term for leaving an unproductive area. (Submitted by George Takeshi Hara [geohara@hotmail.com], 7 Sep 2000.)
Tony Crackers
Common term used sure to get a laugh out of nihonjin senkyoshi, meaning tonikaku (whatever, nevermind) Submitted by Shane Kershaw '97-'99, 26 Aug 2001.
Triff (See also Triffid)
a Japanese girl or woman with several distinct characteristics: can be any age, likes gaijins (foreigners), produces a sound much like a giggle, and is indigenous to Japan, etc., etc.
a missionary who excels at triffing.
Triffid (See also Triff and the less common Aphid)
The female version of Boku, also known as a Triff. Perhaps Triff has grammatical roots to the original Triffid. Imagine my delight one day in the 50's B-movie science fiction section of a video store to see a video entitled, "Day of the Triffids." (No. As a matter of fact, I didn't rent it.)
For some inexplicable reason (no, I certainly did NOT "Triff" on my mission), I still remember a legitimate Japanese kotowaza which was used to describe a Triffid. Here goes: "O-hashi ga koron demo, okashii toshi goro." Or, "At the age when even a dropped chopstick brings laughter."
1. to make the effort of becoming acquainted with a triff. 2. riding someone else on the back of your bike. 3. riding a bike while towing someone else's bike by the handlebars.
to be homesick or longing for home. to want to return to one's home, to sleep in one's own bed, to watch a video, to see one's family, etc.


Missionary famous all-you-can-eat buffet in Osaka. Can be used as a verb as in "We Vikinged on our way home from the Taikai".


a meeting held by the Church-hired missionary Brother Wada in Kumamoto during the Ammon Project years; b) a dog pile; c) a code word which when used at the end of a sentence by a green bean, "What's a ______?" means to dog pile him/her as a form of welcome to the Fukuoka Mission, used repeatedly during the Ammon Project years when Wada-kais (meaning "a") were the norm. (Submitted by Mark Barrionuevo)
interjection interpreted roughly as "Oh, man!" 
Paul Petersen explains the origin

"In 1972 I picked up (and still have) a Peanuts paperback comic book. In it Snoopy is surfboarding and shouts Cowabunga! In another cartoon frame he exclaims, just before a wipeout, "Wooga" , translated Wa-ga. I used it often with some of the young kyodaitachi in Akashi, Suita and Sakai. It was used by some of them too. Last week Kiyoshi Akasaka, originally from Akashi, was in Dallas on business where we met. His first exclamation upon seeing me was, Waga You much bigger and older. (A reference to age I wakaru, but the "bigger" inference leaves me confused.) So Waga is still in use, albeit limited."

Wailing Wall

It is in two places--1. Jerusalem 2. At the dendo honbu. Specifically, it is the notice board in the honbu upon which hangs a good sample of "Dear Johns". Elder Hara collected one of those but he chose to keep it in his journal, an offense carrying a bustable penalty (see busted). (Submitted by George Takeshi Hara [geohara@hotmail.com], 7 Sep 2000.)
i.e. Wanpaku. a Japanese word meaning mischievous. Usually used for a missionary who can be very relaxed sometimes (in a nice way, I mean).
Weekly District Meeting. a meeting held once a week for district business, training in missionary skills, and gossip (mainly for gossip).
Went Down
a person who appears that they will be baptized, or someone who was baptized, "He was baptized last week. He went down." 


Yakku Box
See Kekko Box
Said after prayer (i.e., after companion prayer, after branch prayer, after a prayer at a taikai which constituted Superyoshiing, but definitely it was uncool to say it after an individual prayer although it is reported that some Elder in Higashi Osaka Daisan branch in 1974 shrieked it out upon waking up after falling asleep during his bedside prayer; hence it is occasionally referred to as Cleverly yoshiing) and performed by all self-respecting chĂ´rĂ´s. It is conducted by all reaching down with straight right arms and then co-ordinating the upwards arm explosion in an attitude of celebration as everyone shouts "Yoshi". Yoshiing was greatly promoted to Shimizu Dendobucho. 


i.e. Zone Leader. "Leaps short buildings with a running start and favorable wind, faster than a speeding B.B., etc."