In a recent update I mentioned that the way to express the idea of “brown-nosing” someone was goma o suru, literally meaning “to grind up someone’s sesame seeds for them.” If you want to try this word out on Japanese people you know, just say goma-suri! (“stop trying to flatter me!”) when someone says something nice to you, then watch them jump out of their shoes in surprise that you know a word like that. This phrase is one idiom that’s commonly used in Japanese, although it sounds strange to us since the cultural image of an underling winning points with his boss by grinding his sesame seeds is so different from what we’re used to. Japanese spend many thousands of hours memorizing the strange idioms and turns of phrase we use in English, never quite sure why it could be possible to “rain cats and dogs,” or why something simple is a “piece of cake” or “easy as pie” but not the other way around. As is usually the case with language, asking why something means what it means doesn’t get you very far, so encapsulating what you’re trying to learn as a defined unit and figuring what situations it works best in is usually a good approach.
If you want a raise, grind up your boss’s sesame seeds.