Word Wise: Appealing to Your Better Judgment

魅力 Miryoku

by Richard Medhurst

Among the versatile words that Japanese copy writers reach for most, 魅力 and the adjectival form 魅力的 are seen particularly in tourism texts. Depending on context, translators could talk about “the appeal of traditional ryokan inns” (旅館の魅力), “the charms of Hakodate” (函館の魅力) or “an attractive town” (魅力的な町). It is also possible to talk about a sight being a particular “tourist draw.”

These kinds of words may not always be the best choice in other contexts, however. For example, if talking about a 魅力的な本, I might go with a “fascinating book.” A company that hopes to create 魅力的なコンテンツ for its website wants “engaging content.” While it is possible to get by with “appealing,” it is worth considering whether another positive word is a more natural fit.

 Again, particularly in tourism, 魅力 also appears as a nonspecific quality that cities and areas want to 発信 or 伝える, usually through a PR activity. This invites a clunky direct translation like “tell people about the appeal of [provincial city name].” It would be better to say the PR activity aims to “raise the profile” of the city or “attract more visitors.”

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