“High Tension”???

May 21st, 2013By Category: Uncategorized


【Hai Tenshon  ハイテンション】

In Japan they often say “high tension” or “the tension is high” to mean elation or excitement. This is a Japanese-made phrase made up of English words.

“Tension” in English means tenseness, anxiety, stress, or voltage, so if you translate “kyou wa tension ga takai” literally and say “I’m high tension” to someone in the English-speaking world, it will be taken to mean, “I am feeling very tense.”

So, how did “tension is high” come to mean a state of excitement?
There is a theory that this is related to the tensions from guitar terminology (chords).
These tension chords are apparently used, for example, when changing dissonance into consonance to provide a comforting feeling or when livening up the mood of a song with a repeated droning sound.
Apparently musicians would speak of “raising the tension (chords)” when they would use these tension chords to liven up a venue when playing live.
From here it went like this: performer raising the tension → music gets more lively → venue gets more lively → audience get more excited. This apparently became the source of the Japanese-made English phrase.

Other phrases using “tension” include the following:

テンションが低い。Tension ga hikui. The tension is low.
テンションが上がる。Tension ga agaru. The tension rises.
テンションが下がる。Tension ga sagaru. The tension falls.

Example (listening to the radio while driving):
A: A! Kono kyoku!!
B: Suki nano?
A: Daisuki!! Kono kyoku kikuto tension agarun dayone.

A: Oh! This song…!!
B: You like it?
A: I love it!! I get excited when I hear this song.

Example (conversion between female friends):
A: Nanka genki nai kedo, doushitano?
B: Ashita kareto ikkagetsu buri ni au yakusoku shiteta noni, dotakyan saretano. Mou saiaku.
A: Ah. Sore wa tension sagaru ne.

A: You seem sad, what’s wrong?
B: I had arranged to meet him tomorrow for the first time in a month, but it was canceled at the last minute… It’s so terrible.
A: Oh, that would really get you down.


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Iidabashi Japanese Language School

The Iidabashi Japanese Language School motto is "Be Unique, Have fun Globally!" We teach classes focused on conversation skills to foreigners living in Japan.

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