Yubikiri Genman – Making promises even if you are not a Yakuza

Here is a cute little song children and some childish adults use to cement promises. To make your promises seem authentic, all you have to do is hook your pinky with someone and sing the song below. However, I am not sure what ‘genman’ is:*

The YUBI KIRI Song
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(Sorry, I don’t know why, but the MP3 is playing faster than normal. We did NOT harm any chipmonks during the production of this song)

Yubikiri Genman - Making promises even if you are not a Yakuza指切りげんまん、
yubi kiri genman
“yubi kiri genman”

うそ ついたら
uso tsuitara
If (you) tell a lie…

針 千本 飲ます
hari sen bon nomasu
Drink 1000 needles

指切った。
yubi kitta
(and) cut (my) finger.

VOCAB:

yubi – finger
切り kiri – cut, a cut
げんまん gen man – see discussion at bottom
うそ uso – lie, a lie
うそ ついたら uso tsuitara – If tell a lie
hari – needle, pin
針千本 hari sen bon – 1000 needles. [the 本 is used to count needles – a thousand 千 to be precise]
飲ます nomasu – give a drink, cause to drink [same as 飲ませる]
指切った yubi kitta – finger cut

You may think this pleasant song is only sung by children of Yakuza, but you’d be wrong. Yakuza, as you probably know from the movies, are Japanese gangsters. If a member goes to prison they cut off a digit as a way to prove they are still committed to the underworld. I met a man, now a Christian, who had done this three times. Twice on one pinky and one digit on the other.

* I looked up げんまん in the Kenkyusha J-E. It simply says it means to hook little fingers as a token of a promise. I then looked it up in the 広辞苑 (koujien) J-J. It says the same, basic thing. But it gives the kanji: 拳万 (fist + 10,000)

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5 thoughts on “Yubikiri Genman – Making promises even if you are not a Yakuza

  1. konnichiwa~

    I was looking up the internet for a good way to explain the yubikiri song in English, and I really like the way you do it =D

    I hope you don’t mind me linking your page.
    (err… actually i already did > < )

    4-6-4-9

  2. I believe genman translates to “punch a thousand times”

    Making it roughly. “If you break the promise I will punch you ten thousand times, make you eat a thousand needles and cut off your pinky.”

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