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Dialects of Tohoku

The people of the Tohoku region are known throughout Japan for the use of a local dialect called “Zuzu-ben,” a local language that stretches further than just a change in accent, but actually incorporates the use of different words unfamiliar to most Japanese. Zuzu-ben changes from prefecture to prefecture, and in some cases city to city, even within the same prefecture. The eastern coast prefectures of Tohoku have their roots stemming from the Kanto area(Tokyo area), while the western prefectures stem from the Kansai area (Osaka area)because of a trading business that was establishedbetween the two areas during the Edo period.

The Tohoku people are different from other regional areas of Japan because many are embarrassed to use their local language, especially the younger generations. Most young people avoid speaking in Zuzu-ben and try to only use standard Japanese (mostly used in the Tokyo) they learn in school and through watching television programs.

It is said that dialects originally were used as a means of protection to identify outsiders and is one of the main reasons there are differences in language among the various areas within the same prefectures. Even today there is a feeling of comfort among older generations when they speak with others in their local language and in many ways is still used as a method to protect themselves from those who are different.

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