十八番, which reads “おはこ, ohako” or “じゅうはちばん, jūhachiban”, is a standard Japanese word that usually indicates one’s adept skills. Although it can be used to describe any types of skills, it is particularly used to describe your favourite songs that you believe you are good at singing. For instance, you may ask you friends at karakoke, “What is your 十八番 (the songs you can sing the best)?”.
The literal meaning of 十八番 is “number 18”. Its unique meaning is rooted in “歌舞伎十八番“, the work about kabuki published in 1832 which listed up 18 popular kabuki performances played by the actors of the Ichikawa family.
Pronunciation of 十八番
十八番 has two different readings and both of them are considered to be correct. One is the literal reading of the kanji characters, “じゅうはちばん jyuuhachi ban”, and the other is a tricky one “おはこ ohako”. These are several hypotheses for the origin of the unusual reading, and one of them attributes it to the fact that 歌舞伎十八番 was usually kept in 箱 (hako), meaning “box” in English. In this case, “お” is interpreted as a prefix that adds politeness to a word.
I was a little annoyed because he sang my 十八番 (favourite song I can sing well) earlier than me at karaoke.
Impersonation is his 十八番 (adept skill; he is very good at impersonating someone)
Synonyms: お家芸 (see below), 強み (strength)
Synonyms in English: adept skill, forte
Related words and phrases: None