"Soba" Has Two Meanings in Japanese

By Toshihiro Yamada : Editor-in-chief
November 17,2015
Toshihiro Yamada

Toshihiro Yamada joined Toyo Keizai in 1993. He has a strong interest in emerging industries such as the IT and Internet industries. He assumed the position of the editor-in-chief of Toyokeizai Online in 2014.

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Do you know there are two meanings for "soba"?
In this series I will offer explanations on some unusual things that can be seen in Tokyo. Anyone who has worked in Tokyo is sure to have seen them at least once. I will explain what's behind them.


 In this first installment, we will take a look at some advertisements found at train stations in Tokyo.

Mizuho Financial Group is one of the three largest financial groups in Japan. The other two are Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group. Mizuho trust bank is the trust banking arm of Mizuho Financial Group, and the above photo is of their advertisement found in the Tokyo Metro Nihombashi Station where their head branch is located near.

This is "soba". (Photo:DOHOUSE / PIXTA)

The hiragana at the bottom right of the advertisement says "そばにいる(Soba ni iru)" and "そばにある(Soba ni aru)".

Soba ni iru means that I am by your side. Soba ni aru means that a branch of Mizuho Bank is nearby.

Actually, this advertisement has another meaning. These young business persons are eating a Japanese noodle called soba.

In other words, this advertisement uses the fact that the word "soba" in Japanese has two meanings, "noodle" and "near".