These are some of the words I learned while in Japan:
Jishin (地震), youshin (余震), shindou (震度) — Earthquake, aftershock, and strength of an earthquake on the Richter scale respectively. I looked up the first word in my dictionary after the initial quake, but I heard it enough talking to other people that I would have learned it fairly quickly anyway. Different people I met kept asking me if I was surprised or scared by the earthquake (地震はびっくりしましたか?).
Teiden (停電) — Power outage. The Japanese pronunciation is pretty similar to the Mandarin word for power outage, so I had no trouble remembering this one. I learned this word when the man at the front desk told me there was going to be a power outage in the hotel the next day. It was also constantly on the news.
Yukkuri (ゆっくり) — slowly, at ease. I saw this word on a road sign saying “Please go slowly” (ゆっくり走って下さい) while I was headed to Sakiyama-san’s house. Yuri-san explained to me that the word is different from osoku (遅く), although both are translated as slowly. She said that yukkuri carries more of a feeling of “at ease”, or “relaxed”, whereas osoku is purely about speed. For some reason, right after I learned this word, I heard it everywhere: “If you only go to one museum tomorrow, you can walk around yukkuri,” “There’s no rush! Take your time and eat. Yukkuri.”
Guzu guzu (ぐずぐず) — the sound one makes when just waking up and is a little groggy. When Yuri-san and I were talking about Japanese, the subject of Japanese onomatopoeia came up. Japanese has a lot of these, describing sounds ranging from the wind blowing to somebody that’s grinning widely. Yuri-san had a book that explained a lot of these, both in English and Japanese. I thought this one was particularly fun and so I remembered it.
Buranko (ブランコ) — playground swings. I learned this word from the children I played with near the Nishi-shinjuku (西新宿) subway station. The kids were eager to show me everything on the playground and I learned a couple new words this way. A lot of them were transliterations of the English words, though.