Do you like Japanese mochi (Japanese rice cake)? Then, surely you will also like Japanese words and idioms related to mochi! This article introduces those Japanese expressions that you should remember if you love both mochi and Nihongo!
Table of Contents
絵（え）に描（か）いた餅（もち）, literally meaning “mochi depicted in a picture”, is a Japanese idiom that means “(sounds good but) is unrealistic/impractical”, as in it looks yummy but you cannot really eat it. It’s very similar to the English phrase “pie in the sky” in terms of the meaning and nuance!
日本語 (にほんご) を１０日 (か)でマスターするなんて計画 (けいかく)は、絵に描いた餅だ！
A plan to master Japanese in 10 days is a mochi you draw on a picture (the pie in the sky)!
餅（もち）は餅屋（もちや）, literally meaning “When it comes to mochi, a mochi shop (is the best)”, is a Japanese idiom that means “It’s always the best to consult an expert.” Its rationale is that mochi that is sold at 餅屋 (mochi shop) usually tastes the best!
When I asked my Japanese friends what are the differences between ni and de, I couldn’t understand them at all, but when I asked my Japanese teacher, I did immediately. Indeed, when it comes to mochi, a mochi shop is the best!
* You may wonder why 餅は餅屋 means “When it comes to mochi, a mochi shop (is the best)”. Here, は is used as a topic marker which indicates the topic of a sentence, not its subject. In Japanese linguistics, this usage of は is often exemplified by a sentence “象は鼻が長い”, which means “Regarding 象 (ぞう, an elephant), its nose (trunk) is long”.
棚（たな）からぼた餅（もち）, literally meaning “a botamochi (a kind of mochi) falling from the shelf”, is a Japanese idiom that means “fluke”, i.e. “unexpected good luck/fortune”. For instance, if you are running a marathon race in 2nd place, and suddenly the top runner tripped and you won the race, then you’ve got a botamochi falling from the shelf. As you may notice, its meaning and nuance are similar to the English word “windfall”, as it originally referred to a fruit that is blown by wind and falls from a tree.
I walked my dog to a park and bumped into my crush. It was exactly “a botamochi falling from the shelf”.
~にやきもちを妬(や)く is a Japanese expression that means “be jealous of ~”. While most Japanese people probably do not recognise its relation to mochi, やきもち in this phrase is said to have originated from 焼(や)き餅(もち), meaning “grilled mochi”, according to one theory of its origin; the theory has it that やきもち doesn’t have any meaning here but to make a pun with the word “妬 (や) く”, which means “be jealous” and has the same pronunciation as “焼 (や) く”, meaning “grill”.
Who the heck is the man whom you were talking with?
Your gf: ただの友達だよ？え、やきもちを妬（や）いてるの？
He was just my friend. Wait, are you feeling jealous?
モチモチ and もっちりした are Japanese words that describe something doughy/chewy like mochi (so you can think of these words as something like “motchy”). It is usually used to describe food, but can also be used to describe something else, like cheeks of a baby.
Doughy (“motchy”) bread
もちつけ is a very old-fashioned Japanese slang word that used to be popular among male geeks on the internet. It is used as a humorous way of saying “落(お)ち着(つ)け”, meaning “Calm down”, whereas it also alludes (as a sort of wordplay) to a phrase “餅をつけ” meaning “Pound mochi (as a process of making mochi from rice dough)”. If you use it to some Japanese men in their late 20s or older, they might find it hilarious, or very awkward.
Guys, calm down!
The rest of the words sound similar to mochi, but have no relation to Japanese rice cakes.
Some people say もち as an abbreviation of もちろん, meaning “of course”. However, it sounds a little outdated nowadays (in my opinion). The more undisputedly outdated (almost dying) word derived from もちろん is モチのロン, which is rather a redundant way of saying もちろん.
Your friend: これ教（おし）えてもらえる？ Could you teach this to me?
You: もち/モチのロン！ (Of course!)
If you’re interested, see other outdated expressions in the following post: