Japanese tend to shorten words to four characters
Do you know the word “Kimutaku”? This is a shortened form of “Kimura Takuya,” a famous Japanese personality and pop singer. “Matsukiyo” is an abbreviation for the leading drugstore chain, “Matsumoto Kiyoshi.” Although “Toshiba”
(Toshiba Corporation) used to be a shortened form of “Tokyo Shibaura Denki,” it is now the official company name. As you see, the number of companies whose shortened names become their official names is increasing.
In English, words are sometimes shortened to a group of capital letters, such as MVP (“Most Valuable Player”), but in Japanese, we often shorten the words into four characters as mentioned above. These abbreviations range from personal names and company names to place names, however, there are no definite rules for creating them — they simply naturally appeared and then spread. It is safe to call them a kind of nickname.
In general, shortened words are made up of four characters or sounds, but sometimes three are used, such as “Sutaba,” an abbreviation for the American coffee shop chain, Starbucks. However, shortening words sometimes makes people uncomfortable. “Gaijin” is merely a shortened version of the word “Gaikokujin,” meaning “foreigner,” but more than a few foreigners consider it to be a discriminatory term. They say it is like calling Japanese “Japs.”
In Japan, haiku , tanka and senryu are short poems comprised of rhymes containing five or seven syllables. It is said that these poems were developed because their word combinations sound very beautiful, therefore, a shortened word form using four characters was developed due to its pleasant sound and ease of pronunciation. If a foreigner uses these abbreviated words, they will surely be recognized as a Japanese expert.