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60+ Useful Conversation Starters in Japanese

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Many people wonder how to start a conversation and what to talk about when meeting new people. Good communication skills are often expected and welcomed in society; indeed, it’s a useful and necessary skill to keep a fun conversation going and familiarize yourself with new people or the environment. 

Starting a conversation in Japanese, however, is a bit tricky. There are various patterns of speech in Japanese that express different levels of formality, politeness, intimacy, and friendliness. Even for honorific speech in Japanese, 敬語 Keigo, have different levels of politeness, ranging from casually polite to extremely respectful. Using the right choice of speech and how you talk is the key to starting a good conversation in Japanese, and it all depends on what situation you are in and whom you are talking to.

Whether you are at a bar or friend’s party, on your first day at school and work, or on a date with someone new, don’t worry! Here we will introduce you to useful conversation starters in Japanese by situations. Let’s start Japanese conversation practice at JapanesePod101.com!

A Woman and Man Are Talking at a Party

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. What is A Conversation Starter?
  2. Conversation Starters for Parties and Socializing
  3. Conversation Starters for First Day at School
  4. Conversation Starters for First Day at Work
  5. Conversation Starters for a First Date
  6. Conclusion

1. What is A Conversation Starter?

1. Open-ended Questions and Close-ended Questions

A conversation starter is a phrase or question that is used to enter into a conversation with another person(s). 

Good conversation starters, or as some might call them, conversation openers, are often considered effective with open-ended questions that require longer responses with further statements and opinions. They can naturally lead to other questions and comments to develop a conversation ( e.g. “What do you think of this party? Why do you think so?” “How did you learn the 3rd language?”).

Closed-ended questions, on the other hand, are regarded as questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no” or a very short response  (e.g. “Do you like this music?”, “What time do you usually get up?” ). Such questions could easily end a conversation after one responded with his/her answer, so balance and use both open-ended questions and closed-ended questions effectively to make your conversation going.

2. Good Topics and Tips

What are good topics to talk about with someone new? In general, in order to avoid getting awkward or offending others, the following topics are considered “safe” and easy to talk about: climate, recent news, food, entertainment (TV, movies, hobby, sports, etc.), travel and leisure, school, work, family, and etc. Too private matters and one’s physical characteristics should be avoided as they are regarded as rude and inappropriate.

“和 wa (“harmony”)” is one of the most important values of the Japanese culture, and avoiding conflicts with others is highly expected in Japanese society. Because of this, Japanese people may feel uncomfortable or feel they’re rejected when you express your opinion clearly if it is different from theirs. Telling your opinion is still a good thing, but just keep a few tips in mind when you talk with new people in Japan: 

   1. Talk about yourself first to familiarize yourself and then ask about them
   2. Find common points, such as background, experience, favorites, etc.
   3. Be interested in them, talk positive, and never deny (rather empathize)

In addition, using polite language is the norm and expected courtesy in Japan when talking to strangers or meeting new people unless they are very close friends of your best friend at a very casual occasion. Paying attention to honorific speech in Japanese (敬語 Keigo) will deepen your Japanese language learning and understanding of Japanese culture.

Two Girls Are Having a Conversation

2. Conversation Starters for Parties and Socializing

Whether you are at a bar, friend’s party, or social event, it’s likely that there are other people you don’t know. Here is the list of Japanese conversation starters useful for such fun and laid-back situations. Casual atmosphere, yet keeps in mind that you use polite language to talk to strangers.

  • このパーティー/イベントの主催者を知っていますか。
    Kono pātī / ibento no shusaisha o shitte imasu ka.
    (“Do you know the host of this party/event?”)

  • 主催者とどういう知り合いですか。 
    Shusaisha to dō iu shiriai desu ka.
    (“How did you know the host?”)

  • このイベントをどうやって知りましたか。
    Kono ibento o dō yatte shiri mashita ka.
    (“How did you know about this event?”)

  • [name] さんの友達ですか。
    [name]-san no tomodachi desu ka.
    (“Are you a friend of [name]?”)

  • ここへよく来るんですか。 私は月に1、2回来ます。  
    Koko e yoku kuru n desu ka. Watashi wa tsuki ni ichi, ni-kai kimasu.
    (“Do you come here often? I come here once or twice a month.”)

  • 前にどこかでお会いしたことありましたっけ?  
    Mae ni dokoka de o-ai shita koto arimashita kke?
    (“Did we meet somewhere before?”)

Cheers
  •  パーティは楽しいですか。私はここの音楽が好きです。 
    Pātī wa tanoshii desu ka. Watashi wa koko no ongaku ga suki desu.
    (“Are you enjoying the party? I like the music here.”)

  •  どんな音楽が好きですか。J-pop は好きですか。 
    Donna ongaku ga suki desu ka. Jei-poppu wa suki desu ka.
    (“What kind of music do you like? Do you like J-pop?”)

  • 何を食べて/飲んで いるんですか。 それはおいしいですか。  
    Nani o tabete / nonde iru n desu ka. Sore wa oishii desu ka.
    (“What are you eating/drinking? Is it good?”)

  • 何か食べ物/飲み物 を取ってきます。何かいかがですか。 
    Nani ka tabemono / nomimono o totte kimasu. Nani ka ikaga desu ka.
    (“I’m going to get some food/drink. Would you like something?”)

  • お名前は何ですか。私はOOOと言います。
    O-namae wa nan desu ka. Watashi wa OOO to iimasu.
    (“What is your name? I’m OOO.”)

  •  仕事は何をしていますか。 私はOOOをしています。 
    O-shigoto wa nani o shite imasu ka. Watashi wa OOO o shite imasu.
    (“What do you do for a living? I’m OOO.”)

      ➢ Put a name of your occupation in OOO, such as;
          会計士 kaikeishi  (“accountant”)
          ITプログラマー  ai tī puroguramā  (“IT programmer”)
          看護師 kangoshi  (“nurse”)
          デザイナー  dezainā  (“designer”)
          教師  kyōshi  (“teacher”)
          シェフ  shefu  (“chef”)

  • SNSは何か使っていますか。友達申請してもいいですか。  
    Esu enu es wa nani ka tsukatte imasu ka. Tomodachi shinsei shite mo ii desu ka.
    (“Do you use any Social Networking Services? Is it ok if I send you a friend request?”)

A Man in a Suit is Asking a Woman in a Red Dress for a Phone Number

When you see someone you already know, like close friends, you can start a conversation casually with informal language. Here are useful Japanese conversation starter phrases for friends.

  • 久しぶり! 最近どうしてた? 
    Hisashiburi ! Saikin dō shite ta?
    (“It’s been a while! How have you been?”)

  • 元気にしてた? 
    Genki ni shite ta?
    (“Are you doing well?”)

  • ここで会うなんて偶然だね!イベントの主催者を知ってるの? 
    Koko de au nante gūzen da ne! Ibento no shusaisha o shitte ru no?
    (“What a coincidence to meet you here! Do you know the event host?”)

  • [name] は今日一緒に来なかったの? 
    [name] wa kyō issho ni konakatta no?
    (“[Name] did not come with you today?”)

  • 今日ここに来るとは知らなかったよ。一緒に飲もう! 
    Kyō koko ni kuru to wa shiranakatta yo. Issho ni nomō!
    (“I didn’t know you come here today, let’s have a drink together!”)

  • 新しい彼氏 / 彼女と一緒に来たの?私に紹介してよ! 
    Atarashii kareshi / kanojo to issho ni kita no? Watashi ni shōkai shite yo!
    (“Did you come with your new boyfriend/girlfriend? Introduce him/her to me!”)

To learn about how to introduce yourself in Japanese, please check out How to Say “My Name is,” in Japanese + More!

3. Conversation Starters for First Day at School

The first day at school is exciting thinking about new friends and new school life, but as well as it’s a bit nervous and anxious about if you can get along with new friends or how well you can cope with studying, etc. But don’t worry, most people feel the same way as you. Just relax and become the first person to start a conversation with the phrases below in mind!

It would be ok to talk in a casual way (タメ口 tameguchi “casual language for talking like equal friends”) from the first day at school if it is obvious that a person you are talking to is the same age or younger and he/she seems very friendly. However, using polite language is safe for the first meeting, and you can change how you speak later as you get closer to your friends. Here are Japanese words and phrases for conversation starters at school. 

  • こんにちは、私はOOOです。どうぞよろしく。このクラスを取っているんですか。
    Kon’nichiwa, watashi wa OOO desu. Dōzo yoroshiku. Kono kurasu o totte iru n desu ka.
    (“Hello, I’m OOO, nice to meet you. Are you taking this class? “)

      よろしく yoroshiku” (casual), or “よろしくお願いします yoroshiku onegai shimasu” (polite) is one of the Japanese untranslatable words. It is literally translated as “suitable favor please”, but it can be used as “Nice to meet you,” “Best regards,” “Favorably please,” etc., depending on the situation. This is a very useful phrase used in various situations to express your humbleness and wish to have a good relationship from that point forward.


  • 何を専攻していますか。何の学部ですか。 
    Nani o senkō shite imasu ka. Nan no gakubu desu ka.
    (“What do you study? What department are you in?”)

  • この学校で誰か知り合いはいますか。
    Kono gakkō de dare ka shiriai wa imasu ka.
    (“Do you know anyone in this school?”)

  • すみません、私は新入生でこの辺りをよく知りません。研究室はどこにありますか。
    Sumimasen, watashi wa shinnyūsei de kono atari o yoku shirimasen. Kenkyūshitsu wa doko ni arimasu ka.
    (“Excuse me, I’m new, and I don’t really know my way around here. Where can I find the laboratory room?”)

  • 経済学のクラスはこの教室ですか。 
    Keizaigaku no kurasu wa kono kyōshitsu desu ka.
    (“Is this classroom for an economics class?”)

  • 図書館はどの建物ですか。
    Toshokan wa dono tatemono desu ka.
    (“Which building is the library in?”)

  • 私はここの新入生で、ダンスクラブに入るのを楽しみにしています。あなたは?
    Watashi wa koko no shinnyūsei de, dansu kurabu ni hairu no o tanoshimi ni shite imasu. Anata wa?
    (“I’m a freshman here, and I’m looking forward to joining the dance club. What about you?”)

  • 一緒にお昼を食べてもいいですか。
    Issho ni o-hiru o tabete mo ii desu ka.
    (“Can I join you for lunch?”)

  • この学食でおすすめのメニューは何ですか。
    Kono gakushoku de osusume no menyū wa nan desu ka.
    (“What is the recommended menu in this school cafeteria?”)

  • よかったら、連絡先を聞いてもいいですか。
    Yokattara, renrakusaki o kiite mo ii desu ka.
    (“Can I ask for your contact info if you don’t mind?”)

  • このクラスが終わったら、後で一緒にお茶しませんか。
    Kono kurasu ga owattara, ato de issho ni o-cha shimasen ka.
    (“Would you like to have tea later after finishing this class?”)

Here is the most useful list of Japanese question and answer phrases you need to know;  The 10 Most Useful Japanese Questions and Answers.

A Girl Student Holding a Pencil and Notebook

4. Conversation Starters for First Day at Work

Unlike at school, the first day at work is probably not as exciting or nervous because a workplace is not a place to find friends and what is expected from you is very clear.

Acting like a role-model business person would be safe for the first day at work in most cases in Japan, that is, being punctual, polite, and sincere to give a reliable and good impression. Show your humor and friendliness as you get used to the environment and people around you.

Here is a useful list of Japanese conversation starter examples for work.

  • 今日は私のここでの初日です。どうぞよろしくお願いします。 
    Kyō wa watashi no koko de no shonichi desu. Dōzo yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
    (“Today is my first day here. Nice to meet you.”)

  • 私はOOOと申します。営業部の新しい社員です。
    Watashi wa OOO to mōshimasu. Eigyōbu no atarashii shain desu.
    (“I am OOO, I’m a new employee of the sales department.”)

  • 何のお仕事をされていますか。私は新しいプログラマーです。
    Nan no o-shigoto o sarete imasu ka. Watashi wa atarashii puroguramā desu.
    (“What kind of work do you do? I’m a new programmer.”)

  • ここでどの位働いていますか。
    Koko de dono kurai hataraite imasu ka.
    (“How long have you been working here?”)

  • この部署のキーパーソンはどなたですか。
    Kono busho no kī pāson wa donata desu ka.
    (“Who is the key person in this department?”)

  • すみません、コピー機はどこにありますか。
    Sumimasen, kopīki wa doko ni arimasu ka.
    (“Excuse me, where can I find a copy machine?”)

  • コンピューターの社内システムについては誰に聞けばいいですか。
    Konpyūtā no shanai shisutemu ni tsuite wa dare ni kikeba ii desu ka.
    (“Whom should I ask about the intra-computer system?”)

  • コーヒーマシンの使い方を教えていただけますか。
    Kōhī mashin no tsukaikata o oshiete itadakemasu ka.
    (“Would you mind showing me how to use the coffee machine, please?”)

  • ランチをご一緒してもいいですか。
    Ranchi o go-issho shite mo ii desu ka.
    (“Would you mind if I join you for lunch?”)

  • ここは社員の懇親会はよくありますか。
    Koko wa shain no konshinkai wa yoku arimasu ka.
    (“Are there social gatherings for employees here often?”)

To learn more about useful phrases for business situations, please see Essential Business Japanese: Learn the Most Useful Phrases and The Most Useful Japanese Phone Phrases.

Employees Are Working in the Office

5. Conversation Starters for a First Date

A first date can be awkward and uncomfortable when you really don’t know the other person and conversation develops in the wrong direction. A conversation is, as it is often expressed, a catch-ball. You throw a ball, and the other catches it and passes it back to you. Especially for dating, where the primary purpose is to get to know each other better, the conversation should be mutual communication. 

Avoid continuously talking about yourself or asking too many questions to the other person without telling about yourself. A tip for making a natural catch-call is to effectively use “and you?” phrases to ask the other person’s opinion after mentioning your story.  

Break the ice and have a fun date conversation with the following Japanese conversation starter phrases. 

  • 今日は来てくれてありがとうございます。お会いするのを楽しみにしていました。 
    Kyō wa kite kurete arigatō gozaimasu. O-ai suru no o tanoshimi ni shite imashita.
    (“Thank you for coming today. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”)

  • 素敵ですね!とてもお洒落ですね。
    Suteki desu ne! Totemo oshare desu ne.
    (“You look great! You have a very nice sense of fashion.”)

  • 何の香水をつけてますか。とても良い香りですね。
    Nan no kōsui o tsukete masu ka. Totemo ii kaori desu ne.
    (“What perfume are you wearing? It’s a very nice smell.”)

  • 今日はこのレストランでよかったですか。ここの30階からの景色はとても綺麗なんです。
    Kyō wa kono resutoran de yokatta desu ka. Koko no san-jukkai kara no keshiki wa totemo kirei nan desu.
    (“Do you like this restaurant today? They have a very beautiful view from the 30th floor.”)

  • 私はイタリア料理が大好きです。[name] さんはどんな料理が好きですか。
    Watashi wa Itaria ryōri ga daisuki desu. [name]-san wa donna ryōri ga suki desu ka.
    (“I love Italian cuisines. What kind of food do you like, [name]?”)

  • お酒を飲むのは好きですか。私はお酒が強くないので、ワイン1、2杯で十分です。
    O-sake o nomu no wa suki desu ka. Watashi wa o-sake ga tsuyokunai node, wain ichi, ni-hai de jūbun desu.
    (“Do you like drinking? I’m not a strong [alcohol] drinker, so one or two glasses of wine is enough for me.”)

  • 私は OOOで働いています。何のお仕事をしていますか。
    Watashi wa OOO de hataraite imasu. Nan no o-shigoto o shite imasu ka.
    (“I work for OOO. What do you do for work?”)

  • 職場はどんなところですか。仕事は楽しいですか。
    Shokuba wa donna tokoro desu ka. Shigoto wa tanoshii desu ka.
    (“What is your workplace like? Do you enjoy working?”)

  • 時間のある時は何をするのが好きですか。趣味はありますか。
    Jikan no aru toki wa nani o suru no ga suki desu ka. Shumi wa arimasu ka.
    (“What do you like to do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?”)

  • 一番好きな映画 /音楽のジャンルは何ですか。
    Ichi-ban suki na eiga / ongaku no janru wa nan desu ka.
    (“What is your favorite movie/music genre?”)

  • 週末は何をしていますか。私はよくサイクリングやハイキングに行きます。
    Shūmatsu wa nani o shite imasu ka. Watashi wa yoku saikuringu ya haikingu ni ikimasu.
    (“What do you do on weekends? I often go cycling and go hiking.”)

  • 旅行は好きですか。私は海外旅行が好きで、今まで20カ国行ったことがあります。
    Ryokō wa suki desu ka. Watashi wa kaigai ryokō ga suki de, ima made ni-jukkakoku itta koto ga arimasu.
    (“Do you like travelling? I love traveling abroad, and I have been to 20 countries so far.”)

  • 地元はどこですか。私は北海道出身です。
    Jimoto wa doko desu ka. Watashi wa Hokkaidō shusshin desu.
    (“Where is your hometown? I’m from Hokkaido.”)

  • 私には姉と弟がいます。兄弟はいますか。
    Watashi ni wa ane to otōto ga imasu. Kyōdai wa imasu ka.
    (“I have an older sister and younger brother. Do you have brothers and sisters?”)

  • 私は友達からOOOと呼ばれています。ニックネームはありますか。
    Watashi wa tomodachi kara OOO to yobarete imasu. Nikku nēmu wa arimasu ka.
    (“I’m called OOO by my friends. Do you have a nickname?”)

  • もっとあなたのことを教えて。
    Motto anata no koto o oshiete.
    (“Tell me more about you.”)

  • 自分を一番表現する5つの言葉は何ですか。
    Jibun o ichi-ban hyōgen suru itsutsu no kotoba wa nan desu ka.
    (“What are five words that describe you the most?”)

  • 人生で一番面白くて笑った経験は何でしたか。
    Jinsei de ichi-ban omoshirokute waratta keiken wa nan deshita ka.
    (“What was the funniest and most laughing experience in your life?”)

  • もし何でも願いが叶うとしたら、何をお願いしますか。
    Moshi nan demo negai ga kanau to shitara, nani o onegai shimasu ka.
    (“If any wish would come true, what would you do?”)

  • 最も大事な3つの価値観は何ですか。私の場合は、正直で思いやりがあって勇敢であることです。
    Mottomo daiji na mittsu no kachikan wa nan desu ka. Watashi no bāi wa, shōjiki de omoiyari ga atte yūkan de aru koto desu.
    (“What are the three most important values to you? For me, it’s being honest, caring, and brave.”)

To get closer to someone special, check out Say “I Love You” in Japanese with These Love Phrases.

A Man Is Showing His Phone to a Woman and Having a Conversation

6. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced 60+ Useful Conversation Starters in Japanese for various situations, such as at parties and social events, on the first day at school and work, and on the first date, together with the tips for conversation starters in Japanese. You will never get lost on where and how to start a conversation in Japanese once you master our guide!

You’ll find a lot of useful content on JapanesePod101.com when you would like to learn more about the Japanese language and practical Japanese phrases for different situations. We provide a variety of free lessons designed to help improve your Japanese language skills. 

These articles are also very useful for making a good conversation, please check out: 

Also, if you need to brush up on your Japanese grammar, please review:

And there’s so much more! Learn faster and enjoy studying Japanese online at JapanesePod101.com!

Before you go, let us know in the comments if there’s a topic you’d like us to cover in a future article. What words, phrases, or cultural topics would you like to learn more about? We’d be glad to help, and we look forward to hearing from you!

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Countries and Nationalities in Japanese

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When meeting someone exotic, most of us are interested in where he/she is from and try to start a conversation related to their  home country. Likewise, when we’re in a foreign country, we often  introduce ourselves by including what country we’re from. Here is the best guide on how to talk about countries and nationalities in Japanese!

As an island nation with a monocultural background, Japanese people are especially conscious and interested in the differences between countries and cultures. Talking about your own country and nationality is a good icebreaker when meeting new people in Japan. Some country names and their major cities are different in Japanese than in English, so it’s useful to know how to say them.

In this article, we’ll introduce how to talk about countries and nationalities in Japanese. This includes:

  • The top-ranking nationalities that visit Japan
  • Continents and directions
  • Questions and answers related to nationality 
  • Major capital cities of countries
  • Languages
  • Cuisines

Get ready to make international friends with this guide from JapanesePod101.com!

People Are Holding Their Hands Together Over the Globe Table

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Countries & Nationalities
  2. How to Ask Someone Their Nationality
  3. How to Tell Someone Your Nationality
  4. Country, City, Nationality, and Language
  5. Conclusion

1. Countries & Nationalities

1 – Nouns and Adjectives 

As you probably already know, Japanese nouns are very simple to learn compared to those of other languages, such as English and Romance languages. In Japanese, you don’t have to wonder about a noun’s grammatical gender, what article to add, or how to change its form for singular or plural. 

Japanese adjectives are also easy to learn because many adjectives simply take the form [noun + の (-no)]. This applies to the names of countries and their corresponding adjectives.

For example:

    Noun:        国   くに   kuni    (“country” / “nation”)
    Adjective:  国の くにの  kuni no      (“national”)
    Noun:        日本   にほん   Nihon    (“Japan”)
    Adjective:  日本の にほんの  Nihon no      (“Japanese,” like a Japanese song or a Japanese film)

To express the people of a country, add  人 じん (-jin), meaning person” or  “people” after the country name in Japanese.

For example:

    Country:         日本   にほん      Nihon    (“Japan”)
    Nationality:    日本人 にほんじん  Nihon-jin      (Literally: “Japanese person/people” = “Japanese citizen”)
    Country:        アメリカ   あめりか       Amerika      (“America”)
    Nationality:   アメリカ人   あめりかじん  Amerika-jin      (Literally: “American person/people” = American citizen)

To learn more about Japanese nouns and Japanese adjectives, please check out our articles Guide to the Top 100+ Japanese Nouns and Learn the Top 100 Essential Japanese Adjectives.

2 – Top 21 Foreign Visitors to Japan

Japan is a fascinating and unique country that attracts global attention and foreign tourists. In 2019, Japan was the third most visited destination in the Asia-Pacific region by international tourist arrivals, following China and Thailand.

Many of the top foreign tourists in Japan are from neighboring Asian countries, according to the JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organization); however, North American and European countries follow close behind.

Let’s take a look at the top 21 countries that visit Japan and learn what  they are called in Japanese!  

 EnglishKanji / KatakanaHiraganaReading in Japanese
1China中国ちゅうごくChūgoku
2South Korea韓国かんこくKankoku
3Taiwan台湾たいわんTaiwan
4Hong Kong香港ほんこんHonkon
5United StatesアメリカあめりかAmerika
6ThailandタイたいTai
7AustraliaオーストラリアおーすとらりあŌsutoraria
8PhilippinesフィリピンふぃりぴんFiripin
9MalaysiaマレーシアまれーしあMarēshia
10VietnamベトナムべとなむBetonamu
11SingaporeシンガポールしんがぽーるShingapōru
12United KingdomイギリスいぎりすIgirisu
13IndonesiaインドネシアいんどねしあIndoneshia
14CanadaカナダかなだKanada
15FranceフランスふらんすFuransu
16GermanyドイツどいつDoitsu
17IndiaインドいんどIndo
18ItalyイタリアいたりあItaria
19SpainスペインすぺいんSupein
20MacauマカオまかおMakao
21RussiaロシアろしあRoshia

Flags of Various Countries

3 – Continents, Regions, and Directions in Japanese

EnglishKanji / KatakanaHiraganaReading
AfricaアフリカあふりかAfurika
AmericaアメリカあめりかAmerika
AsiaアジアあじあAjia
Europe欧州 / ヨーロッパおうしゅう /よーろっぱŌshū / Yōroppa
Middle East中東ちゅうとうChūtō
OceaniaオセアニアおせあにあOseania

As with country names, you can change the names  of continents/regions to adjectives by adding の (-no).

For example:

    Noun:        アフリカ   あふりか   Afurika    (“Africa”)
    Adjective:  アフリカの あふりかの  Afurika no      (“African”)
    Noun:        中東   ちゅうとう   Chūtō    (“Middle East”)
    Adjective:  中東の ちゅうとうの  Chūtō no      (“Middle Eastern”)

In order to be more specific, add the following directions in front of the country or region name: 

EnglishKanji HiraganaReading
Eastひがし / とうHigashi / Tō
West西にし / さいNishi / Sai
Southみなみ / なんMinami / Nan
Northきた / ほくKita / Hoku

For example:

    Southeast Asia:   東南アジア     とうなんあじあ  Tōnan Ajia  
    West Africa:    西アフリカ にしあふりか  Nishi Afurika     
    South America:   南米   なんべい   Nanbei*
    North Europe:     北欧     ほくおう       Hokuō**

*“America” is also phrased as 米国 べいこく (beikoku), and “North America” and “South America” are expressed as 北米 ほくべい (Hokubei) and 南米 なんべい (Nanbei) respectively.

** “Europe” in Japanese is 欧州 おうしゅう (ōshū) where the Kanji 欧 represents “Europe” and 州 is “States.”

When specifying the region in Europe, 欧 is used together with the direction Kanji: “South Europe” = 南欧 なんおう (Nan’ō) and “East Europe” = 東欧 とうおう (Tōō).

To learn more about directions in Japanese, check out Giving and Asking for Directions: “Right” in Japanese & More.

World Map Focused on Europe

2. How to Ask Someone Their Nationality

When meeting new people, especially those who are exotic, the very first question you’re likely to hear or ask is “Where are you from?” Asking about who they are is a good icebreaker if you want to get to know them better.

In Japanese, 敬語 (keigo), or “honorific speech,” is normally used when you’re talking to someone for the first time, unless they are a friend of your close friend and is around your age (or younger). 

Here are some question phrases for asking someone their nationality:

  • Where are you from?
    (あなたの) 出身はどこですか。 (Anata no) shusshin wa doko desu ka.

You can omit あなたの (anata no), or “your” because it’s obvious that you’re talking to this person. This phrase can also be used to ask someone where they are from domestically. 

  • What is your nationality? 
    (あなたの)国籍は何ですか。 (Anata no) kokuseki wa nan desu ka.

This question sounds a bit too direct for casual conversation. This might  be asked in some official procedure, for instance.
The answer to this question can be :

“My nationality is Japanese.”       私の国籍は日本です。Watashi no kokuseki wa nihon desu.     or   
“I have Japanese nationality / Japanese citizenship.”  日本の国籍 / 市民権 を持っています。Nihon no kokuseki / shiminken wo motte imasu.

  • What country are you from? (Literally: A person from what country? )
    どこの国の方ですか。 Doko no kuni no kata desu ka.

This is a more polite way to ask someone their nationality.

  • What country are you from? 
    どこの国から来ましたか。  Doko no kuni kara kimashita ka.

This is another common way to ask where they are from.

  • Are you [nationality]? 
    [Nationality] 人ですか。 [Nationality] -jin desu ka.

This phrase sounds a bit too direct, but this can be used when you hear a particular language someone is speaking and you assume this person is from that country, etc.

For example, when you hear someone speaking Thai, you could ask them: 

“Are you Thai?”
タイ人ですか。Tai-jin desu ka.

  • Are you from Japan?   
    [Country] 出身ですか。   [Country] shusshin desu ka.

This phrase is also used domestically. For example, you could ask this when you hear a particular dialect and ask the person if they’re from that particular region. 

  • Where were you born?   
    生まれはどこですか。       Umare wa doko desu ka.

For more useful Japanese questions, please take a look at our article The 10 Most Useful Japanese Questions and Answers.

Having a Party with International Friends

3. How to Tell Someone Your Nationality

Not only answering the question you were asked, but also giving extra information about yourself is a good way to keep a nice conversation going.

Here are some response phrases to talk about your nationality and more.

  • I’m from Japan.
    私は Japan 出身です。  Watashi wa Japan shusshin desu.

私は (Watashi wa), meaning “I am,” can be omitted when it’s obvious that you’re talking about yourself.

Example:

    ➢ Where are you from?
    出身はどこですか。 Shusshin wa doko desu ka.
    ➢ I’m from Brazil.
    ブラジル出身です。 Burajiru shusshin desu.
  • I come from Japan.
    私は Japanから来ました。  Watashi wa  Japan kara kimashita.

Example:

    ➢ What country are you from?
    どこの国から来ましたか。     Doko no kuni kara kimashita ka.
    ➢ I come from Russia.
    私はロシアから来ました。 Watashi wa Roshia kara kimashita.
  • I am [nationality].   
    私は [nationality] 人です。Watashi wa [nationality] -jin desu.

Example:

    ➢ What country are you from? (Literally: A person from what country? ) 私は [nationality] 人です。Watashi wa [nationality] -jin desu.
    どこの国の方ですか。 Doko no kuni no kata desu ka.
    ➢ I am Kenyan.
    私はケニア人です。 Watashi wa Kenia-jin desu.
  • I am [nationality] but I live in Japan. 
    私は[nationality] 人ですが、Japan に住んでいます。
    Watashi wa  [nationality] –jin desu ga, Japan ni sunde imasu.

Example:

    ➢ What country are you from?
    どこの国から来ましたか。 Doko no kuni kara kimashita ka.
    ➢ I am Chinese, but I live in Singapore.
    私は中国人ですが、シンガポールに住んでいます。
    Watashi wa  Chūgoku-jin desu ga, Shingapōru ni sunde imasu.

In some cases, a country of citizenship may not match with where you were born/grew up and currently live, or even your ethnicity. Such as when someone is a permanent resident in a country while having a foreign citizenship, or someone born in one country with a mother and a father from other countries. In such cases, suggestedyou can use following phrases; 

  • I was born in [country 1] and grew up in [country 2].
    私は[country 1]生まれで、[country 2]で育ちました。
    Watashi wa [country 1] umare de, [country 2] de sodachimashita.

Example:

    ➢ Where were you born?
    生まれはどこですか。Umare wa doko desu ka.
    ➢ I was born in America and grew up in Argentina.
    私はアメリカ生まれで、アルゼンチンで育ちました。
    Watashi wa Amerika umare de, Aruzenchin de sodachimashita.
  • I am [nationality 1] and [nationality 2].
    私は[nationality 1] 人で、[nationality 2]人です。
    Watashi wa [nationality 1] -jin de, [nationality 2] -jin desu.

Example:

    ➢ Are you Spanish?
    スペイン人ですか。 Supein-jin desu ka.
    ➢ I am Italian and Canadian.
    私はイタリア人で、カナダ人です。
    Watashi wa Itaria-jin de, Kanada-jin desu.
  • My father is [nationality 1] and my mother is [nationality 2].
    私の父は[nationality 1] 人で、私の母は[nationality 2]人です。
    Watashi no chichi wa [nationality 1] -jin de, watashi no haha wa [nationality 2] -jin desu.

Example:

    ➢ Are you British?
    イギリス人ですか。 Igirisu-jin desu ka.
    ➢ My father is Dutch and my mother is South African.
    私の父はオランダ人で、私の母は南アフリカ人です。
    Watashi no chichi wa Oranda-jin de, watashi no haha wa Minami Afurika-jin desu.

To learn more about how to introduce yourself, please check out How to Say “My Name is,” in Japanese + More!

Two Kids Are Talking Over the Globe

4. Country, City, Nationality, and Language

1 – Variations of Country and Nationality: Language, Cuisines, etc.

Like people from a certain country being expressed by adding  人 じん (-jin) after the country name, Japanese can express other things by simply adding a word.

Language

[Country name] + 語 (-go) “language” = Language

For example:

Japanese:   日本語    Nihon-go
French:     フランス語  Furansu-go
German:   ドイツ語      Doitsu-go
Spanish:   スペイン語  Supein-go
Korean:  韓国語           Kankoku-go
Chinese:   中国語      Chūgoku-go
Vietnamese: ベトナム語   Betonamu-go
Russian:      ロシア語          Roshia-go

“English” is 英語 (Eigo), expressed with the Kanji 英 (ei), which indicates “United Kingdom.”

Books of Various Languages

Cuisines 

[Country name] + 料理 (ryōri) “cooked food” =  a country’s cuisine

For example:

Japanese:   日本料理   Nihon ryōri
French:     フランス料理  Furansu ryōri
German:   ドイツ料理      Doitsu ryōri
Spanish:   スペイン料理  Supein ryōri
Korean:  韓国料理          Kankoku ryōri
Chinese:   中国料理      Chūgoku ryōri
Vietnamese: ベトナム料理   Betonamu ryōri
Russian:      ロシア料理          Roshia ryōri

Counter Word for Country

There are particular counter words in Japanese when counting things, actions, and events. To count countries, add カ国 (-kakoku) after the number.

For example:

1カ国    ikkakoku     (1 country)
2カ国    ni-kakoku     (2 countries)
5カ国    go-kakoku   (5 countries)
10カ国  jukkakoku   (10 countries)

2 – Capital Cities, Nationalities, Languages, and Cuisines 

Let’s take a look at major countries and how their major cities, nationalities, languages, and cuisines are said in Japanese: 

EnglishCountryMajor CityNationalityLanguageCuisines
China中国
chūgoku
北京
Pekin
上海
Shanhai
中国人
Chūgoku-jin
中国語
Chūgoku-go
中国料理Chūgoku ryōri 
Korea韓国
Kankoku
ソウル
Sōru
韓国人
Kankoku-jin
韓国語
Kankoku-go
韓国料理Kankoku ryōri 
Taiwan台湾
Taiwan
台北
Taipei
台湾人
Taiwan-jin
台湾語
Taiwan-go
台湾料理
Taiwan ryōri 
Thailandタイ
Tai
バンコク
Bankoku
タイ人
Tai-jin
タイ語
Tai-go 
タイ料理
Tai ryōri 
India インド
Indo
デリー
Derī
ムンバイ
Munbai
インド人
Indo-jin
ヒンドゥー語Hindū-goインド料理
Indo ryōri 
AustraliaオーストラリアŌsutorariaシドニー
Shidonī
メルボルンMeruborun
オーストラリア人Ōsutoraria-jin英語
Eigo 
オーストラリア料理
Ōsutoraria ryōri 
New ZealanNyū jīrandodニュージーランド
Nyū jīrando
オークランドŌkurandoニュージーランド人
Nyū jīrando-jin
英語
Eigo 
ニュージーランド料理
Nyū jīrando ryōri 
United Statesアメリカ
Amerika
ニューヨーク
Nyū yōku
ロスアンジェルス
Rosu anjerusu
アメリカ人Amerika-jin英語
Eigo 
アメリカ料理
Amerika ryōri 
Canadaカナダ
Kanada
バンクーバーBankūbāカナダ人Kanada-jin英語
Eigo 
カナダ料理Kanada ryōri 
MexicoメキシコMekishikoメキシコシティMekishiko  shitīメキシコ人Mekishiko-jinスペイン語Supein-goメキシコ料理
Mekishiko ryōri 
Brazilブラジル
Burajiru
サンパウロ
San pauro
リオデジャネイロ
Rio de janeiro
ブラジル人Burajiru-jinポルトガル語Porutogaru-goブラジル料理
Burajiru ryōri 
Argentinaアルゼンチン
Aruzenchin
ブエノスアイレス
Buenosu airesu
アルゼンチン人
Aruzenchin-jin
スペイン語
Supein-go
アルゼンチン料理
Aruzenchin ryōri 
Russiaロシア
Roshia
モスクワMosukuwaロシア人
Roshia-jin
ロシア語
Roshia-go
ロシア料理
Roshiaryōri 
Franceフランス
Furansu
パリ
Pari
フランス人
Furansu-jin
フランス語
Furansu-go
フランス料理
Furansu ryōri 
Germanyドイツ
Doitsu
ベルリン
Berurin
ドイツ人
Doitsu-jin
ドイツ語
Doitsu-go
ドイツ料理
Doitsu ryōri 
Italyイタリア
Itaria
ローマ
Rōma
イタリア人
Itaria-jin
イタリア語
Itaria-go
イタリア料理
Itaria ryōri 
Spainスペイン
Supein
マドリード
Madorīdo
スペイン人
Supein-jin
スペイン語
Supein-go
スペイン料理
Supein ryōri 
United Kingdomイギリス
Igirisu
ロンドン
Rondon
イギリス人
Igirisu-jin
英語
Eigo 
イギリス料理
Igirisu ryōri 
Netherlandsオランダ
Oranda
アムステルダム
Amusuterudamu
オランダ人
Oranda-jin
オランダ語
Oranda-go
オランダ料理
Oranda ryōri 
Turkeyトルコ
Toruko
イスタンブール
Isutanbūru
トルコ人
Torukojin
トルコ語
Toruko-go
トルコ料理
Toruko ryōri 
Egyptエジプト
Ejiputo
カイロ
Kairo
エジプト人
Ejiputo-jin
アラビア語
Arabia-go
エジプト料理
Ejiputo ryōri 
Kenyaケニア
Kenia
ナイロビ
Nairobi
ケニア人
Kenia-jin
スワヒリ語
Suwahiri-go
ケニア料理
Kenia ryōri 

3 – Example Sentences

  • I am Japanese, but I grew up in Germany. I like Brazilian cuisine.
    私は日本人ですが、ドイツで育ちました。ブラジル料理が好きです。
    Watashi wa Nihon-jin desu ga, Doitsu de sodachimashita. Burajiru ryōri ga suki desu.
  • I’m from Canada, and I speak English and French.
    私はカナダ出身で、英語とフランス語を話します。
    Watashi wa Kanada shusshin de, Eigo to Furansu-go o hanashimasu.
  • I’m Indian, but I was born in Turkey.  I can speak Turkish.
    私はインド人ですが、トルコで生まれました。私はトルコ語が話せます。
    Watashi wa Indo-jin desu ga, Toruko de umaremashita. Watashi wa Toruko-go ga hanasemasu.
  • She is American and she loves Italy and Italian cuisine. She is learning Italian.
    彼女はアメリカ人で、イタリアとイタリア料理が大好きです。彼女はイタリア語を学んでいます。
    Kanojo wa Amerika-jin de, Itaria to Itaria ryōri ga daisuki desu. Kanojo wa Itaria-go o manande imasu.
  • His father is Chinese and his mother is Russian, but he usually speaks English.
    彼のお父さんは中国人で、彼のお母さんはロシア人ですが、彼は普段英語を話します。
    Kare no o-tō-san wa Chūgoku-jin de, kare no o-kā-san wa Roshia-jin desu ga, kare wa fudan Eigo o hanashimasu.
  • I am British and I often go to Asia for work. I’m learning Thai and Chinese.
    私はイギリス人で、仕事でよくアジアへ行きます。タイ語と中国語を学んでいます。
    Watashi wa Igirisu-jin de, shigoto de yoku Ajia e ikimasu. Tai-go to Chūgoku-go o manande imasu.
  • I am from Australia, but I grew up in South America and the Middle East. I can speak Spanish and Arabic.
    私はオーストラリア人ですが、南米と中東で育ちました。スペイン語とアラビア語が話せます。
    Watashi wa Ōsutoraria-jin desu ga, Nanbei to Chūtō de sodachimashita. Supein-go to Arabia-go ga hanasemasu.

The World Map Focusing on Japan

5. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced how to talk about countries and nationalities in Japanese. We covered everything from the top-ranking nationalities visiting Japan, continents and directions, Q&A conversational phrases, major cities, languages, and cuisines. With this guide, you’re now ready to introduce yourself in Japanese and also talk about countries to make international friends!

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language and pick up other useful Japanese phrases for specific situations, you’ll find a lot more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons for you to help improve your Japanese language skills. 

The following articles are also very useful for boosting your Japanese conversational skills: 

And there’s so much more! Be a faster learner and enjoy studying Japanese at JapanesePod101.com!

Before you go, let us know in the comments if there are Japanese words on any specific topic that you want to know! We’d be glad to help, and look forward to hearing from you! 

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The History of Japanese Languages

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If you’re baffled by the title of this article or considering the possibility that we might have fallen victim to a typo, let’s start by saying neither of those ideas is accurate. While there is just one language known as Japanese, the Japanese language comprises various dialects and three very different writing systems. In this article, we’ll explore the Japanese languages and their intriguing history to explain why Japanese is as much of an art as a unique language!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. History of Japanese
  2. Exploring the Different Dialects of Japanese
  3. Four Fascinating Japanese Language Facts
  4. Wrapping Up

1. History of Japanese

Old Photo of Mt. Fuji

A- Old Japanese

Did you know that Japanese history dates back some 2,000 years? Although there isn’t much reliable information on the Japanese language’s prehistory or origin, we know that the first evidence of the language dates back to the 8th century.

During that period, they used two kinds of writing.

Man’yogana – This was a writing system that used Chinese characters to represent Japanese phonetic sounds.

Kanbun – This writing system followed the Classic Chinese style and used Chinese characters to represent Japanese words.

Both writing systems relied on the use of Chinese characters, which was a lot of effort. The Japanese language needed its own writing system that could capture the essence of Japanese sounds. This was when Hiragana and Katakana were invented. At first, the Japanese used Hiragana and Katakana to annotate kanbun texts, which simplified the process of reading Chinese as the writing systems provided much-needed guidance on proper grammar and pronunciation of Chinese characters.

B- Middle Japanese

Early-middle Japanese was used during the Heian period between 794 and 1185. During this time, the Chinese language had its most significant influence on the Japanese language. Between 1185 and 1600, late-middle Japanese developed better phonology. This was also when the first loanwords from other European languages were incorporated into Japanese.

C- Modern Japanese

Aerial Shot of Tokyo

Starting in the 18th century, the Japanese language modernized quite considerably. Hiragana and Katakana were introduced shortly after WWII, and the writing systems formed the basis of the standard language still used in formal communications today.

Modern Japanese written language uses a mix of three writing systems:

Kanji – The Chinese Writing System

Kanji is a Chinese writing system used in Japan because they did not have an official writing system of their own. After Kanji was introduced to the Japanese language, the people started using it with Japanese terms, represented by characters that depicted meanings and not sounds. After the 7th century, Japanese people began using Kanji to write Japanese as a syllabic script, and this style was known as Manyogana.

Hiragana – Depicting Native Japanese Words

Hiragana was eventually developed based on Manyogana, and they used the basis of cursive calligraphic Chinese writing to create this writing system. At first, the elites and high-ranked Japanese people preferred using Kanji. Hiragana was often called “women’s script” because it was seen as a lower writing system than Kanji, and women didn’t have equal access to education as men.

From a contemporary perspective, Hiragana is used where there are no Kanji characters that represent the Japanese tense or mood. Hiragana is also used as suffixes to Kanji characters to indicate adjective and verb conjugations.

Katakana – Representing Loanwords and Modern Language

Developed in the 9th century by Buddhist monks, Katakana is also based on Kanji. Contrary to Hiragana, only the men used Katakana for writing official documents. From a contemporary point of view, the Japanese use Katakana to write foreign words or loanwords and to describe emphasis as well as names for flora and fauna.

Man Writing on the Train

D- What is Kana?

It’s really a simple equation: Hiragana + Katakana = Kana!

Kana characters represent sounds, unlike Kanji characters which represent meanings. Kana has characters that cover each syllable of Japanese words, with each alphabet comprising roughly 46 primary characters. This is also why it’s much easier to master Hiragana or Katakana than Kanji, which has more than 2000 characters.

2. Exploring the Different Dialects of Japanese

The Tokyo accent (or Standard Japanese) is the most common Japanese dialect, but there are many other regional dialects of the language. Although the dialects are mutually intelligible, there is quite a difference in pronunciation of Japanese words between one region and the other.

Here’s a look at some of the most widespread regional dialects:

A- Tohoku

Tohoku is a dialect that’s not always mutually intelligible from the other Japanese dialects. It’s considered a language isolate when compared to the two other significant dialects.

B- Kansai

Castle in Kyoto

Kansai is a dialect that’s widely spoken and mainly used in television production.

C- Okinawa

Okinawa

Okinawa is a dialect that reflects other indigenous languages that are endangered. These languages are collectively referred to as Ryukyuan.

3. Four Fascinating Japanese Language Facts

  • The East Asian language of Japanese is the native language of nearly 128 million people, and Japan is the only country that uses Japanese as its national language!
  • Although the Japanese language has no genealogically demonstratable relationship with Chinese, a large chunk of its vocabulary originates from the Chinese language.
  • We don’t know much about the prehistory of Japanese languages. There’s no direct evidence that depicts the earliest forms of the Japanese language.
  • The oldest Japanese language book is Kojiki. It was written in the year 712 and was written using Chinese characters.

4. Wrapping Up

There will probably always be somewhat of a linguistic dispute when it comes to the origins and history of Japanese languages. Most linguists and translation experts believe that the Japanese language trails back to the Ural-Altaic language family that includes East Asian languages like Turkish and Korean. Others think Indo-European languages might have influenced it with Greek or Latin roots. 

What is set in stone, however, is that the Japanese language is one that has the most apparent cultural influences of all. The fascinating language isolate has influenced many other cultures around the world. Although it’s one of the most fast-paced spoken languages on earth, its abundance of loanwords makes it easier to learn than its associates like Mandarin.

Author Bio:

Sean Patrick Hopwood is the President of Day Translations, an academic evaluation services company.

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Advanced Japanese Phrases to Help You Level Up

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If you’re an advanced learner or starting to move ahead to an upper level, you may soon face a phenomenon known as “diminishing returns.” The learning curve theory indicates that the more you advance, the slower your progress will be. This concept also applies to your Japanese language learning! As such, you’ll need to be patient and make a steady effort in order to achieve the advanced level of Japanese and reach true proficiency.

After learning the grammar and vocabulary of the intermediate level, all you need to do is increase your vocabulary by learning more advanced Japanese phrases. In particular, you’ll want to pick up a variety of idioms, proverbs, expressions, and slang terms. You’ll also benefit from expanding your knowledge of grammatical variations, such as 敬語 (Keigo), or “honorific speech,” as well as the very formal language for particular settings (e.g., only used in official letters or legal texts).

While conquering the advanced Japanese level may feel like an endless journey, remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step! You have already achieved so much since Day 1 to arrive at your current level. Now you just need to continue filling the holes in your vocabulary and learning new expressions through books, the news, TV, movies, and other media. 

Boost your journey with our list of the most useful advanced Japanese phrases for various occasions!

Business People Discussing Something at a Meeting Table

You can handle any situation if you’re at an advanced level.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Useful Phrases for Academic Writing
  2. Power Phrases for Your Cover Letter
  3. Smart Proverbs for Business and Meetings
  4. Advanced Japanese Idioms and Sayings for Everyday Usage
  5. Conclusion

1. Useful Phrases for Academic Writing

The use of logical and structured sentences is a key element in good academic writing. Below, we will introduce advanced Japanese phrases that are frequently used to organize, articulate, and connect thoughts in writing. These phrases are useful not only in writing but also in public speaking, where they allow the audience to more easily follow and understand the content. 

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
first of allまず初めにまずはじめにmazu hajime ni

Example:

まず初めに、本研究の趣旨について説明します。

Mazu hajime ni, hon kenkyū no shushi ni tsuite setsumei shimasu.

“First of all, I’d like to explain the purpose of this research.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
firstly
secondly 
thirdly
第一に
第二に
第三に
だいいちに
だいにに
だいさんに
daiichi ni
daini ni
daisan ni

Example:

小論文を書くために重要なことが三点ある。第一に、論理的であること。第二に、分かりやすいこと。第三に、納得できること、である。

Shōronbun o kaku tame ni, jūyō na koto ga san-ten aru.  Daiichi ni, rironteki de aru koto. Daini ni, wakariyasui koto. Daisan ni, nattoku dekiru koto, de aru.

“There are three important points in writing an essay. Firstly, it is logical. Secondly, it’s easy to understand. Thirdly, it is convincing.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
in regard to……に関して …にかんして…ni kanshite  

Example:

地球温暖化のトピックに関して意見を交換しましょう。

Chikyū ondanka no topikku ni kanshite iken o kōkan shimashō.

“Let’s exchange views in regard to global warming.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
according to……によると…ni yoruto

Example:

中小企業白書によると、日本の中小企業数は3,578,176社で全企業数のうち99.7%を占めています。

Chūshō kigyō hakusho ni yoruto, Nihon no chūshō kigyōsū wa 3,578,176 sha de,  zen kigyōsū no uchi  99.7% o shimete imasu.

“According to White Paper on Small and Medium Enterprises, the number of small and medium enterprises in Japan is 3,578,176, accounting for 99.7% of the total number of companies.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
in other words言い換えればいいかえればiikaereba

Example:

地球温暖化の問題は、言い換えれば、私たちひとりひとりの問題です。

Chikyū ondanka no mondai wa, iikaereba, watashi-tachi hitori hitori no mondai desu.

“The problem of global warming is, in other words, the problem of each one of us.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
moreover / furthermore / in addition更にさらにsara ni

Example:

パンデミックの発生は、人々の健康に影響を及ぼしました。 更に、国内および世界の経済にも大きな打撃となりました。

Pandemikku no hassei wa, hitobito no kenkō ni eikyō o oyoboshimashita. Sara ni, kokunai oyobi sekaijū no keizai ni mo ōkina dageki to narimashita.

“The outbreak of the pandemic has affected people’s health. In addition, it also had a major impact on the domestic and global economies.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
on the contrary /on the other hand 一方で いっぽうでippō de

Example:

九州地方では大雨警報が出ています。 一方で、北関東地方では干ばつが連日続いています。

Kyūshū chihō de wa ōame keihō ga dete imasu. Ippō de, kita Kantō chihō de wa kanbatsu ga renjitsu tsuzuite imasu. 

“Heavy rain warnings have been issued in the Kyushu region. On the other hand, droughts continue every day in the northern Kanto region.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
therefore / consequently 従ってしたがってshitagatte

Example:

日本は火山が多い。従って、天然の温泉も多い。

Nihon wa kazan ga ōi. Shitagatte, tennen no onsen mo ōi. 

“Japan has a lot of volcanic mountains. Therefore, there are also many natural hot springs.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
to some extent   ある程度あるていどaru teido

Example:

作業過程をある程度自動化してくれるツールがいくつかあります。

Sagyō katei o aru teido jidōka shite kureru tsūru ga ikutsuka arimasu. 

“There are some tools that automate the work process to some extent.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
as long as… / as far as…   …である限り…いる限り…であるかぎり    …いるかぎり…de aru kagiri…iru kagiri

Example:

津波が発生した時は、高台にいる限り身の安全を確保できます。

Tsunami ga hassei shita toki wa, takadai ni iru kagiri mi no anzen o kakuho dekimasu.

“When a tsunami occurs, you can secure your safety as long as you are on a hill.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
by / in contrast対照的にたいしょうてきにtaishōteki ni

Example:

日本列島の南に位置する沖縄の年間平均気温は摂氏23.1度です。対照的に、北に位置する北海道では8.9度です。

Nihon rettō no minami ni ichi suru Okinawa no nenkan heikin kion wa sesshi 23.1-do desu. Taishōteki ni, kita ni ichi suru Hokkaidō wa 8.9-do desu.

“The average annual temperature of Okinawa, located south of the Japanese archipelago, is 23.1 degrees Celsius. By contrast, it is 8.9 degrees in Hokkaido, which is located in the North.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
as a result  結果として けっかとしてkekka to shite

Example:

高速道路での大きな事故によりひどい渋滞に巻き込まれました。結果として、飛行機に乗り遅れました。

Kōsoku dōro de no ōkina jiko ni yori hidoi jūtai ni makikomaremashita. Kekka to shite, hikōki ni noriokuremashita.

“I was caught in a terrible traffic jam due to a big accident on the highway. As a result, I missed the flight.”

A Man Writing in a Library

2. Power Phrases for Your Cover Letter

When it comes to writing an official letter in Japanese, there are some particular rules and style guidelines to follow.

A cover letter (送付状 [sōfujō] or 添え状 [soejō] in Japanese) is a letter of introduction that a job seeker attaches to their resume or CV. In most cases, its function is to greet and to indicate what document(s) you’re sending by clarifying “to whom,” “by whom,” “what,” and “why.” It may also contain a supplementary explanation of what you want to emphasize in the main document.

Most importantly, however, it can be proof that you have business etiquette and common sense. Therefore, it should be a “decent” letter that follows the rules expected of an official document.

Here is a brief list of advanced-level Japanese phrases you should consider including in your cover letter.

Formal Greeting 拝啓、貴社ますますご清栄のこととお慶び申し上げます。 
Haikei, kisha masumasu go-seiei no koto to o-yorokobi mōshiagemasu.
EnglishDear sirs, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to you for considering my application. (in case you’re applying with a CV)
Literal TranslationHumbly (respectfully) I say, I am glad that your company is prospering more and more. 

Explanation: 

This is a common formal greeting that is used only in official writing. It should be used as the first line of your text, especially when you’re writing to a company. 

When beginning with 拝啓 (haikei), meaning “Dear sirs” (literally: “Humbly I say”) you have to finish the letter with 敬具 (keigu), meaning “Sincerely yours” (literally: “Humbly I said”).

Stating Reason for Writingこの度、貴社の___職の採用情報を拝見し、応募書類をお送りいたします。 
Kono tabi, kisha no ___shoku no saiyō jōhō o haiken shi, ōboshorui o o-okuri itashimasu. 
EnglishI saw your company’s employment information about the ___ position, and I’d like to send you the application documents.
Literal TranslationThis time, I humbly saw your company’s employment information for ___, and I will kindly send you the application documents.  

Discussing Interests貴社の求人で特に、___のグローバルプロジェクトについて関心を持ちました。 
Kisha no kyūjin de toku ni, ___ no gurōbaru purojekuto ni tsuite kanshin o mochimashita. 
EnglishIn your company’s job offer advertisement, I am particularly interested in the global projects of ___.

Talking About Your Experience    ___の分野において幅広い経験を持ち、新規顧客の獲得と売り上げの拡大に努めてまいりました。  
___ no bun’ya ni oite habahiroi keiken o mochi, shinki kokyaku no kakutoku to uriage no kakudai ni tsutomete mairimashita. 
EnglishHaving extensive work experience in (the field of) ___,  I have endeavored to acquire new customers and expand sales.

Explaining the Relevance of Your Experience  私のX年における___の経験をこのポジションで即戦力として活かし、貴社の業績拡大に貢献できると思っております。  
Watashi no X-nen ni okeru ___ no keiken o kono pojishon de sokusenryoku to shite ikashi, kisha no gyōseki kakudai ni kōken dekiru to omotte orimasu. 
EnglishI believe I can apply my X years of experience in ___ to this position from day one, and I will be able to contribute to the expansion of your business.

Asking for a Presentation Opportunity  是非私のプレゼンテーションとポートフォリオをご覧になっていただける機会をいただけたら幸いです。  
Zehi watashi no purezentēshon to pōtoforio o goran ni natte itadakeru kikai o itadaketara saiwai desu.
EnglishI would appreciate it if you could give me a chance to show you my presentation and portfolio.

Asking for an Interview   ご検討の上、是非面接の機会をいただけましたら幸いです。  
Go-kentō no ue, zehi mensetsu no kikai o itadakemashitara saiwai desu. 
EnglishI would appreciate it if you could give me a chance to have an interview.

Formal Closing何卒よろしくお願いいたします。
敬具  
[名前] 
Nanitozo yoroshiku onegai itashimasu. 
Keigu 
[Namae]
EnglishThank you very much for your consideration. 
Sincerely yours, 
[Name]
Literal TranslationPlease kindly be favorable.

Explanation: 

よろしくお願いいたします (yoroshiku onegai itashimasu) is an untranslatable Japanese phrase that is often used in business contexts. It’s a useful phrase in that it has many meanings and can be used in various situations to express gratitude, humbleness, and the desire to have a good relationship from that point forward.

And remember: When you use 拝啓 (haikei) at the beginning of your letter, you must finish it with 敬具 (keigu).


Resume, Pen, and Glasses

3. Smart Proverbs for Business and Meetings

In Japanese culture, idiomatic expressions (慣用表現 kan’yō hyōgen) and proverbs (ことわざ kotowaza) are often used in daily conversations in order to enrich statements or to include a moralistic meaning. The following phrases are popular Japanese idioms and proverbs that are frequently used in business contexts. 

Japanese埒があかない  
rachi ga akanai 
Literal Translationthe fence (of a horse riding ground) does not open
Meaningmake no progress / remain unsettled

Example: 

同じ議論を繰り返しても、埒があかない。

Onaji giron o kurikaeshite mo, rachi ga akanai.

“Repeating the same discussion does not make any progress.”

Japanese案ずるより産むが易し  
anzuru yori umu ga yasushi 
Literal TranslationIt’s easier to give birth than to worry about it.
MeaningIt’s easier to do something than to worry about it. / An attempt is sometimes easier than expected.

Example: 

案ずるより産むが易しと言います。まずはリスクを恐れずに実行することが大切です。

Anzuru yori umu ga yasushi to iimasu. Mazu wa risuku o osorezu ni jikkō suru koto ga taisetsu desu.

“It is said that it’s easier to do something than to worry about it; it’s important to take action without fear of risk.”

Japanese善は急げ  
zen wa isoge 
Literal Translationhurry up goodness
MeaningStrike while the iron is hot. / Good deeds (ideas) should be done quickly.

Example: 

それは良い案ですね!善は急げ、早速それをプロジェクトに取り入れましょう。

Sore wa ii an desu ne! Zen wa isoge, sassoku sore o purojekuto ni toriiremashō.

“That’s a good idea! Strike while the iron is hot; let’s adopt it into the project now.”

Japanese損して得取れ  
son shite toku tore
Literal Translationobtain benefit by losing
MeaningEven if you’re at a temporary loss, keep striving for virtue so that you will get a bigger return later. 

Example: 

損して得取れと言うように、設備投資による費用はかかりますが、長期的に見ると生産コストとCO2排出を大幅に削減できます。

Son shite toku tore to iu yō ni, setsubi tōshi ni yoru hiyō wa kakarimasu ga, chōkiteki ni miru to seisan kosuto to CO2 haishutsu o ōhaba ni sakugen dekimasu.

“As the proverb says, ‘Obtain benefit by losing.’ Although there are costs associated with capital investment, production costs and CO2 emissions can be significantly reduced in the long run.”

Japanese苦肉の策  
kuniku no saku 
Literal Translationidea of (from) suffering body
Meaninglast resort / desperate measure taken under pressure of necessity

Example: 

その企業は事業存続のために苦肉の策として、大手企業との業務提携に踏み切りました。

Sono kigyō wa jigyō sonzoku no tame ni kuniku no saku to shite, ōte kigyō to no gyōmu teikei ni fumikirimashita.

“The company has decided to make a business alliance with a major company as a desperate measure for business survival.”

Japanese乗りかかった船  
norikakatta fune
Literal Translationthe ship that already got on 
Meaninghaving started on something that you can’t quit / having gone too far to turn back

Example: 

一度引き受けた案件は、乗りかかった船です。情勢が変化しても全力でやり遂げましょう。

Ichi-do hikiuketa anken wa, norikakatta fune desu. Jōsei ga henka shite mo zenryoku de yaritogemashō.

“The project that we once undertook is the ship we have already gotten on. Even if the situation changes, let’s do our best to complete it.”

Japanese先んずれば人を制す  
sakinzureba hito o seisu
Literal TranslationIf you go ahead, you will get the better of (other) people.
MeaningTake the initiative, and you will win. / The foremost dog catches the hare.

Example: 

先んずれば人を制す。ライバル社が参入する前に新規事業を軌道にのせましょう。

Sakinzureba hito o seisu. Raibarusha ga sannyū suru mae ni shinki jigyō o kidō ni nosemashō.

“The foremost dog catches the hare. Let’s get the new business on track before our rivals enter the market.”

Japanese白羽の矢が立つ  
shiraha no ya ga tatsu
Literal TranslationAn arrow with a feather stands.
Meaningto be singled out / to be selected from among other people

Example: 

新規プロジェクトのリーダーとして、経験豊富な彼に白羽の矢がたった。

Shinki purojekuto no rīdā to shite, keiken hōfu na kare ni shiraha no ya ga tatta.

“As someone who is well experienced, he was chosen to be the leader of the new project.”

Japanese後の祭り 
ato no matsuri   
Literal Translation later festival
Meaninga day after the fair / a stage when it’s too late

Example: 

彼は間違って非常に重要な書類を破棄してしまった。後悔しても所詮、後の祭りだ。

Kare wa machigatte hijō ni jūyō na shorui o haki shite shimatta. Kōkai shitemo shosen, ato no matsuri da.

“He accidentally discarded the very important document. Even if he regrets it, it’s too late after all.”

Japanese  運を天に任せる    
un o ten ni makaseru     
Literal Translation leave luck to heaven 
Meaning to leave one’s fate to a deity / to leave the rest to heaven

Example: 

イベントの準備に最前を尽くしてきました。成功するかどうかは、あとは運を天に任せましょう。

Ibento no junbi ni saizen o tsukushite kimashita. Seikō suru ka dō ka wa, ato wa un o ten ni makasemashō.

“We have been doing our best to prepare for the event. Let’s leave luck to heaven as to whether we succeed or not.”

People in Suits Are Having a Business Meeting

4. Advanced Japanese Idioms and Sayings for Everyday Usage

Idiomatic expressions are frequently used not only in daily conversations but also in the stories that make our lives so rich and colorful. 

Japanese idioms are very fun to learn! They feature unique and sometimes eccentric combinations of words that would make no sense at all if you were to translate them word for word.

What do you imagine when you hear “bite a parent’s shin” (親のすねをかじる oya no sune o kajiru)? It does not refer to someone actually biting their parent’s shin, but rather to an adult who still lives off of their parents. 

Below are several idiomatic phrases in Japanese for advanced learners.

Japanese  油を売る   
abura o uru    
Literal Translation sell oil
Meaning  to loaf (particularly on the job) / to idle one’s time away

Example: 

彼はよく営業の外回り中に、カフェで油を売っている。

Kare wa yoku eigyō no sotomawarichū ni, kafe de abura o utte iru.

“He often idles his time away at a cafe when he’s meeting clients out of office.”

Japanese  顔に泥を塗る   
kao ni doro o nuru  
Literal Translation smear mud on one’s face
Meaning  disgrace somebody / make somebody lose face

Example: 

彼女は犯罪を犯して、誠実な両親の顔に泥を塗った。

Kanojo wa hanzai o okashite, seijitsu na ryōshin no kao ni doro o nutta.

“She committed a crime and disgraced her sincere parents.”

Japanese  口を酸っぱくする   
kuchi o suppaku suru  
Literal Translation make a mouth sour 
Meaning  to repeatedly admonish / to tell over and over

Example: 

口を酸っぱくして何度も言うように、交通事故には気をつけてください。

Kuchi o suppaku shite nan-do mo iu yō ni, kōtsū jiko ni wa ki o tsukete kudasai.

“As I tell you over and over, please be careful of traffic accidents.”

Japanese  さじを投げる    
saji o nageru   
Literal Translation throw a (small) spoon 
Meaning  give up hopelessly

Example: 

彼女はダイエットしようと決めたが、トレーニングと食事制限が辛くてさじを投げた。

Kanojo wa daietto o shiyō to kimeta ga, torēningu to shokuji seigen ga tsurakute saji o nageta.

“She decided to go on a diet, but she gave up because of the painful training and dietary restrictions.”

Japanese  雀の涙   
suzume no namida 
Literal Translation sparrow’s tears
Meaning  very small quantity

Example: 

世界的な不景気の影響で、今年のボーナスは雀の涙ほどでした。

Sekaiteki na fukeiki no eikyō de, kotoshi no bōnasu wa suzume no namida hodo deshita.

“Due to the global recession, this year’s bonus was very little.”

Japanese  喉から手が出る   
nodo kara te ga deru 
Literal Translation hands come out from a throat
Meaning  to want something desperately

Example: 

喉から手が出るほど、来月発売の新しいスマートフォンがほしい。

Nodo kara te ga deru hodo, raigetsu hatsubai no atarashii sumātofon ga hoshii.

“I desperately want the new smartphone that will be released next month.”

Japanese  根も葉もない   
ne mo ha mo nai  
Literal Translation no roots or leaves 
Meaning  completely untrue / groundless (rumor)

Example: 

根も葉もない噂を信じて人を判断しないでください。

Ne mo ha mo nai uwasa o shinjite hito o handan shinaide kudasai.

“Don’t judge people by believing groundless rumors.”

Japanese  身を粉にする    
mi o ko ni suru
Literal Translation make one’s body into powder 
Meaning  work hard / make the utmost effort

Example: 

彼女は身を粉にして働き、女手一つで3人の子供を育てました。

Kanojo wa mi o ko ni shite hataraki, onnade hitotsu de san-nin no kodomo o sodatemashita.

“She worked very hard and raised three children all by herself.”

Japanese  水に流す   
mizu ni nagasu   
Literal Translation flush in water 
Meaning  let bygones be bygones / forgive and forget

Example: 

過去のことは水に流して、今と将来のことに目を向けよう。

Kako no koto wa mizu ni nagashite, ima to shōrai no koto ni me o mukeyō.

“Let’s forgive and forget about the past, and focus on the present and the future.”

Japanese  胸が騒ぐ   
mune ga sawagu    
Literal Translation chest makes a fuss
Meaning  to feel uneasy / to feel a strange presentiment

Example: 

帰り道で救急車のサイレンを聞いて胸が騒いだので、家族を心配して家まで走って帰った。

Kaerimichi de kyūkyūsha no sairen o kiite mune ga sawaida node, kazoku o shinpai shite ie made hashitte kaetta.

“I felt uneasy when I heard the ambulance siren on my way home, so I ran home because I was worried about my family.”

Two Women Talking

5. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced the most useful advanced Japanese phrases for academic writing, cover letters, and business. We even included a few idioms and sayings for daily usage. Some of these phrases are only used in a particular context, such as the formal greeting for letters, and mastering such advanced Japanese phrases will make you appear more fluent!

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language and pick up additional Japanese phrases for different situations, you’ll find a lot more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons designed to help you improve your Japanese language skills. 

As you approach the advanced level in your Japanese studies, the following articles will also be very useful for you: 

And there’s so much more! Be a faster learner and enjoy studying Japanese at JapanesePod101.com!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese

Useful Intermediate Japanese Phrases

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Have you gotten bored of learning the basic Japanese grammar rules, reviewing beginner-level words, and practicing beginner phrases? Then it’s time to level up and start learning intermediate Japanese phrases! 

Once you’re confident in your ability to master the beginner levels (N5 and N4) of the JLPT (Japanese-Language Proficiency Test), you can aim to achieve the intermediate level (N3 and above). Achieving this level of proficiency will allow you to cope with more complicated everyday situations while in Japan. The intermediate level is surely more difficult, requiring continuous effort and patience; however, it’s also an enjoyable stage of learning as you’ll start being able to understand more complex things and express more subtle feelings.

In this article, we’ll introduce a list of the most useful intermediate Japanese phrases for various situations. Whether you want to talk about past events, change plans, or make recommendations, this useful phrase list here at JapanesePod101.com covers it all!

A Man and a Woman Socializing at a Party with Drinks

Knowing some intermediate-level phrases will make your conversations more enjoyable.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Talking About Past Events
  2. Making and Changing Plans
  3. Explaining and Giving Reasons
  4. Making Recommendations and Complaints
  5. Reaction Phrases for Everyday Conversations
  6. Etiquette Phrases for Social and Business Settings
  7. Conclusion

1. Talking About Past Events

When you first start learning Japanese, you primarily study and use the present tense. However, talking about the past and the future is inevitable in our daily lives; for example, we make plans for the weekend with friends and tell stories about our past experiences. 

When it comes to grammatical tense, Japanese is much simpler than other languages such as English or the Romance languages. This is because Japanese does not have a future tense nor any perfect tenses. Things concerning the future are expressed using the present tense and a time-indicating word, such as “later” or “tomorrow.” It is also relatively easy to use the past tense in Japanese because there is no verb conjugation according to “how far” in the past something took place. 

The only thing you need to pay attention to is the formality level you use (casual vs. formal) and 敬語 (Keigo), the Japanese honorific language. For each of the following intermediate phrases in Japanese, we have included both the casual version and the polite version.  

1.

[Casual] ___はさっき終わったよ。  
              ___ wa sakki owatta yo.

[Polite] ___はさっき終わりました
            ___ wa sakki owarimashita.

[English]  ___ has just finished. 

2.

[Casual]  今日は忙しくてとても疲れ。     
               Kyō wa isogashikute totemo tsukareta.

[Polite]    今日は忙しくてとても疲れました
              Kyō wa isogashikute totemo tsukaremashita.

[English]  Today was busy, and I got really tired. 

3.

[Casual]  今日は幸運/不運な日だった
               Kyō wa kōun/fūn na hi datta.

[Polite]    今日は幸運/不運な日でした
              Kyō wa kōun/fūn na hi deshita.

[English]  Today was a lucky/unlucky day.

4.

[Casual]  昨日のパーティーは楽しかった
               Kinō no pātī wa tanoshikatta yo.

[Polite]    昨日のパーティーは楽しかったです
              Kinō no pātī wa tanoshikatta desu.

[English]  The party yesterday was fun. (I enjoyed the party yesterday.)

5.

[Casual]  去年の夏にハワイへ旅行した
               Kyonen no natsu ni Hawai e ryokō shita.

[Polite]    去年の夏にハワイへ旅行しました
              Kyonen no natsu ni Hawai e ryokō shimashita.

[English]  I traveled to Hawaii last summer.

6.

[Casual]  私はこの会社で5年前から働いてい
               Watashi wa kono kaisha de go-nen mae kara hataraite iru.

[Polite]    私はこの会社で5年前から働いています
              Watashi wa kono kaisha de go-nen mae kara hataraite imasu.

[English]  I have been working for this company for five years.

7.

[Casual]  昔「ポチ」という犬を飼ってい
               Mukashi “Pochi” to iu inu o katte ita.

[Polite]    昔「ポチ」という犬を飼っていました
              Mukashi “Pochi” to iu inu o katte imashita.

[English]  I used to have a dog called Pochi (in the past).

8.

[Casual]  子供の頃は東京に住んでい
               Kodomo no koro wa Tōkyō ni sunde ita.

[Polite]    子供の頃は東京に住んでいました
              Kodomo no koro wa Tōkyō ni sunde imashita.

[English]  I used to live in Tokyo when I was a kid.

Many People Playing and Relaxing on a Beach in Hawaii

去年の夏にハワイへ旅行しました。(Kyonen no natsu ni Hawai e ryokō shimashita.)
“I traveled to Hawaii last summer.”

2. Making and Changing Plans

As mentioned in the section above, we can use the present tense to express the future by using a time-indicating word. This is the structure we use when making or changing plans. 

In order to form a question, you only have to add a question mark to the end of a casual sentence or か (ka) to the end of a formal sentence. In Japanese, the subject is often omitted when it’s obvious who is speaking or whom you are talking to.

Below are a few examples of how to use this type of intermediate Japanese sentence structure to talk about plans. 

1.

[Casual]  来週空いている日ある?
               Raishū aite iru hi aru?

[Polite]    来週空いている日ありますか
              Raishū aite iru hi arimasu ka.  

[English]  Do you have a free day next week?

2.

[Casual]  来月都合の良い日はいつ
               Raigetsu tsugō no yoi hi wa itsu

[Polite]    来月都合の良い日はいつですか
              Raigetsu tsugō no yoi hi wa itsu desu ka.

[English]  When is your convenient day next month? (When is the best day next month for you?)

3.

[Casual]  お寿司食べに行く?
               O-sushi tabe ni iku?

[Polite]    お寿司食べに行きませんか
              O-sushi tabe ni ikimasen ka.

[English]  Would you like to go eat sushi?

4.

[Casual]  彼氏/彼女も連れて来ていい
               Kareshi/ kanojo mo tsurete kite ii ?

[Polite]    彼氏/彼女も連れて来ていいですか。
              Kareshi/ kanojo mo tsurete kite ii desu ka.

[English]  Can I bring my boyfriend/girlfriend?

5.

[Casual]  スケジュールを確認してまた連絡するよ。
               Sukejūru o kakunin shite mata renraku suru yo.

[Polite]    スケジュールを確認してまた連絡しますね。
              Sukejūru o kakunin shite mata renraku shimasu ne.

[English]  I will let you know after checking my schedule.

6.

[Casual]  来週にスケジュールを変更できる?
               Raishū ni sukejūru o henkō dekiru?

[Polite]    来週にスケジュールを変更できますか。
              Raishū ni sukejūru o henkō dekimasu ka.

[English]  Is it possible to reschedule for next week?

7.

[Casual]  今週の金曜日にオンライン会議で詳細を話そう
               Konshū no kin-yōbi ni onrain kaigi de shōsai o hanasō.

[Polite]    今週の金曜日にオンライン会議で詳細を話しましょう。 
              Konshū no kin-yōbi ni onrain kaigi de shōsai o hanashimashō.

[English]  Let’s discuss the details during the online meeting this Friday.

Someone Flipping through Pages on Their Monthly Calendar

来週にスケジュールを変更できますか。(Raishū ni sukejūru o henkō dekimasu ka.)
“Is it possible to reschedule for next week?”

3. Explaining and Giving Reasons

If you’re a native speaker of English or a Romance language, you may feel that giving reasons in Japanese is a bit awkward due to the Japanese word order and sentence structure. Contrary to English and many other languages, we usually mention the reason before the action or event.

For example:

[English]         I drank a glass of water because it was hot.
                (a person’s action) (the reason why)

[Japanese]     暑かったので、  グラス1杯の水を飲みました。
                Atsukatta nodegurasu ippai no mizu o nomimashita.
                 (the reason why) (a person’s action)

1.

[Polite]    アレルギーがあるので卵を食べられません。 
                 Arerugī ga aru node tamago o taberaremasen.

[English]  I can’t eat eggs because I have an allergy.

2.

[Polite]    雨が降っているので、今日の花火大会は中止になりました。
              Ame ga futte iru node, kyō no hanabi taikai wa chūshi ni narimashita.

[English]  Today’s fireworks festival has been canceled because it is raining.

3.

[Polite]    風邪をひいて頭痛がひどいです。そのため、今日は早く帰ります。
              Kaze o hiite zutsū ga hidoi desu. Sono tame, kyō wa hayaku kaerimasu.

[English]  I caught a cold, and I have a severe headache. For that reason, I will go home early today.

4.

[Polite]    午後に会議が予定されています。このため、会議室は使用できません。
              Gogo ni kaigi ga yotei sarete imasu. Kono tame, kaigishitsu wa shiyō dekimasen.

[English]  A meeting is scheduled in the afternoon. Therefore, the meeting room is not available.

5.

[Polite]    最近少し太ったのでダイエットをしています。 
              Saikin sukoshi futotta node daietto o shite imasu.

[English]  I’m on a diet because I’ve gained a little weight recently.

6.        

[Polite]    終電を逃してしまったため、歩いて家に帰りました。
              Shūden o nogashite shimatta tame, aruite ie ni kaerimashita.

[English]  I missed the last train, so I walked back home.

7.

[Polite]    私がこの車を選んだのには三つ理由があります。
              一つ目はデザイン、二つ目は機能性、そして最後は価格が理由です。

              Watashi ga kono kuruma o eranda no ni wa mittsu riyū ga arimasu.
              Hitotsu-me wa dezain, futatsu-me wa kinōsei, soshite saigo wa kakaku ga riyū desu.

[English]  There are three reasons why I chose this car. 
               Firstly, because of its design; secondly, its functionality; and lastly, its price.

An Empty Meeting Room

午後に会議が予定されています。このため、会議室は使用できません。
(Gogo ni kaigi ga yotei sarete imasu. Kono tame, kaigishitsu wa shiyō dekimasen.)
“A meeting is scheduled in the afternoon. Therefore, the meeting room is not available.”

4. Making Recommendations and Complaints

Giving your opinion by recommending or complaining about something is a good way to share and exchange ideas in a conversation. 口コミ情報, or word-of-mouth information, is somewhat reliable as it comes from one’s firsthand experience. Sharing experiences and insights is not only useful when deciding what to buy or try, but it also creates rapport between speakers.

The following are frequently used words and phrases for making recommendations and complaints.

  • おすすめ (osusume) = recommendation [noun]
  • おすすめする (osusume suru) = to recommend [verb]
  • おすすめしない (osusume shinai) = not to recommend [verb]

1.

[Casual]  この映画は今年見た中で一番面白いよ。
               Kono eiga wa kotoshi mita naka de ichi-ban omoshiroi yo.

[Polite]    この映画は今年見た中で一番面白いです。
              Kono eiga wa kotoshi mita naka de ichi-ban omoshiroi desu.

[English]  This movie is the most interesting I’ve seen this year.

2.

[Casual]  広島に旅行するなら、厳島神社に行くことをおすすめするよ。
               Hiroshima ni ryokō suru nara, Itsukushima Jinja ni iku koto o osusume suru yo.

[Polite]    広島に旅行するなら、厳島神社に行くことをおすすめします
              Hiroshima ni ryokō suru nara, Itsukushima Jinja ni iku koto o osusume shimasu.

[English]  If you’re traveling to Hiroshima, I recommend you go to Itsukushima Shrine.

3.

[Casual]  本当においしいお寿司を食べたいなら、銀座の次郎が有名だよ。
               Hontō ni oishii o-sushi o tabetai nara, Ginza no Jirō ga yūmei da yo.

[Polite]    本当においしいお寿司を食べたいなら、銀座の次郎が有名です。
              Hontō ni oishii o-sushi o tabetai nara, Ginza no Jirō ga yūmei desu.

[English]  If you want to eat really delicious sushi, Jiro in Ginza is famous.

4.

[Casual]  この携帯電話の充電器はメーカーの純正を使った方が良いよ。
               Kono keitai denwa no jūdenki wa mēkā no junsei o tsukatta hō ga ii yo.

[Polite]    この携帯電話の充電器はメーカーの純正を使った方が良いですよ。
              Kono keitai denwa no jūdenki wa mēkā no junsei o tsukatta hō ga ii desu yo.

[English]  It’s better to use the manufacturer’s genuine charger for this mobile phone.

5.

[Casual]  あのホテルはカスタマーサービスが最悪だよ。
               Ano hoteru wa kasutamā sābisu ga saiaku da yo.

[Polite]    あのホテルはカスタマーサービスが最悪です
              Ano hoteru wa kasutamā sābisu ga saiaku desu.

[English]  That hotel has the worst customer service.

6.

[Casual]   あそこは値段が高い割においしくないので、おすすめしないよ。
                Asoko wa nedan ga takai wari ni oishikunai node, osusume shinai yo.

[Polite]     あそこは値段が高い割においしくないので、おすすめしません。
              Asoko wa nedan ga takai wari ni oishikunai node, osusume shimasen.

[English]  I don’t recommend that place because it’s not delicious for the expensive price.

7.

[Casual]  商品が1回使ってすぐ壊れた。このショップからは二度と購入しない。 
               Shōhin ga ikkai tsukatte sugu kowareta. Kono shoppu kara wa ni-do to kōnyū shinai.

[Polite]    商品が1回使ってすぐ壊れました。このショップからは二度と購入しません。
              Shōhin ga ikkai tsukatte sugu kowaremashita. Kono shoppu kara wa ni-do to kōnyū shimasen.

[English]  The product broke immediately after I used it once. I will never buy anything from this shop.

Itsukushima Shrine in Japan

広島に旅行するなら、厳島神社に行くことをおすすめします。 
(Hiroshima ni ryokō suru nara, Itsukushima Jinja ni iku koto o osusume shimasu.)
“If you’re traveling to Hiroshima, I recommend you go to Itsukushima Shrine.

5. Reaction Phrases for Everyday Conversations

You’ll also need some intermediate Japanese phrases for reacting to others’ statements. Knowing various ways to reply to someone will help make your conversations more colorful and enjoyable. Below, we have included a few short conversation samples using common reaction phrases. 

1.

A:
昨日のパーティーは楽しかったね。 
Kinō no pātī wa tanoshikatta ne.
The party last night was fun.

B: 
うん、みんなに会って話せて良かったよ!
Un, minna ni atte hanasete yokatta yo!
Yeah, I was glad to meet and talk to everyone!

2.

A: 
来週空いている日ある ? 
Raishū aite iru hi aru?
Do you have a free day next week?

B: 
土曜日なら一日中空いてるよ。
Do-yōbi nara ichi-nichijū aite ru yo.
I’m free all day next Saturday.

3.

A: 
この映画は今年見た中で一番面白いよ。
Kono eiga wa kotoshi mita naka de ichi-ban omoshiroi yo. 
This movie is the most interesting I’ve seen this year.

B: 
そうなんだ。Netflixで配信されたら見てみるよ。
Sō nan da. Nettofurikkusu de haishin saretara mite miru yo.
Oh yeah? I’ll watch it when it’s released on Netflix.

4.

A: 
来週にスケジュールを変更できますか。
Raishū ni sukejūru o henkō dekimasu ka.
Is it possible to reschedule for next week?

B: 
はい、大丈夫です。来週の月曜日から金曜日の午後なら調整できます。
Hai, daijōbu desu. Raishū no getsu-yōbi kara kin-yōbi no gogo nara chōsei dekimasu.
Yes, it’s okay. I can make adjustments in the afternoon from next Monday to Friday.

5.

A: 
アレルギーがあるので卵を食べられません。
Arerugī ga aru node tamago o taberaremasen.
I can’t eat eggs because I have an allergy.

B: 
卵を使用していないメニューはこちらです。
Tamago o shiyō shite inai menyū wa kochira desu.
Here is the menu that does not contain eggs.

6.

A: 
あのホテルはカスタマーサービスが最悪です。
Ano hoteru wa kasutamā sābisu ga saiaku desu.
That hotel has the worst customer service.

B: 
本当ですか?有名なホテルなのに残念ですね。
Hontō desu ka? Yūmei na hoteru na noni zannen desu ne.
Really? It’s a shame, though; it’s a famous hotel.

A Couple Looking through a Menu Together while a Waitress Stands Nearby

小麦粉を使用していないメニューはこちらです。
(Komugiko o shiyō shite inai menyū wa kochira desu.)
“Here is the menu that does not contain wheat.”

6. Etiquette Phrases for Social and Business Settings

Japanese has some very unique and polite expressions that are frequently used in social and business settings. It’s good to know such phrases even if you’re a traveler to Japan, as you’ll hear them often in restaurants, shops, and hotels.

1.

[Polite]    いらっしゃいませ。
              Irasshaimase.

[English]  Welcome. (Staff members of shops and restaurants will say this to customers.)

2.

[Very Polite]    少々お待ち下さいませ。 
                       Shōshō o-machi kudasai mase.

[English]  Please wait for a moment.

3.

[Very Polite]    大変お待たせしました。 
                      Taihen o-matase shimashita.

[English]  Thank you very much for your patience. (Literally: I made you waiting for long time.)

4.

[Very Polite]    ごゆっくりお過ごしください。
                      Go-yukkuri o-sugoshi kudasai.

[English]  Please have a relaxed time. 

5.

[Very Polite]    何かご質問がありましたらお知らせください。 
                      Nani ka go-shitsumon ga arimashitara o-shirase kudasai.

[English]  Please let us know if you have any questions.

6.        

[Very Polite]    お忙しい中お時間をいただき、どうもありがとうございます。
                      O-isogashii naka o-jikan o itadaki, dōmo arigatō gozaimasu.

[English]  Thank you very much for your time while you are busy.

7.

[Very Polite]    お返事お待ちしております。
                      O-henji o-machi shite orimasu.

[English]  I look forward to hearing from you.

8.

[Very Polite]    お気をつけていってらっしゃいませ。
                      O-ki o tsukete itterasshai mase.

[English]  Please take care and have a safe trip.

A Woman Waiting at a Hotel’s Front Desk

少々お待ち下さいませ。
(Shōshō o-machi kudasai mase.)
“Please wait for a moment.”

7. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced the most useful intermediate Japanese phrases for various situations, including:

  • Talking about past events
  • Making and changing plans
  • Explaining and listing reasons
  • Making recommendations and complaints
  • Reacting to others during a conversation
  • Being polite in social and business settings

With these intermediate phrases, you’ll be able to have more complex conversations and explain what you want to say in more detail.

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language, you’ll find a lot more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. This is the best place to learn Japanese online, providing a variety of free lessons designed to help you improve your Japanese-language skills. 

If you’re at the intermediate level in your Japanese studies, the following articles are a great place to start: 

And there’s so much more! Be a faster learner and enjoy studying Japanese at JapanesePod101.com!

Before you go, let us know in the comments if there are any specific topics or situations you’d like to learn Japanese phrases for. We’d be glad to help, and we look forward to hearing from you!

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The Top 12 Podcasts for Learning Japanese

Thumbnail

Are you listening to any good podcasts at the moment? 

Maybe podcasts are not as popular as other services like YouTube or Netflix, but they’re still one of the most useful and entertaining forms of online media. As of April 2021, there were over two million podcasts (and over 48 million episodes) on various topics, including many helpful Japanese podcasts for learning the language. 

Did you know that you could benefit from these useful podcasts by adding them to your Japanese study routine? Listening to podcasts in Japanese will allow you to learn the language efficiently and effortlessly from anywhere you are—even without having direct access to native speakers. 

Since there are plenty of Japanese podcasts out there, choosing the right channels and finding the right resources for you are the keys to more effective learning.

In this article, we’ll introduce the twelve best podcast channels to supplement your Japanese studies, including our JapanesePod101 podcast!

An Asian Boy Lying Down with Headphones On and an A+ Paper beside Him

Listening to podcasts is one of the most easygoing ways to learn Japanese.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Why learn Japanese with podcasts?
  2. The 12 Best Japanese Podcasts
  3. How to Make the Most of Podcasts for Japanese Learning
  4. Conclusion

1. Why learn Japanese with podcasts?

Before we get to our list, let’s talk about why improving your Japanese with podcasts is totally possible—and why it may just be a gamechanger! 

1 – Benefits of Passive Learning 

Along with more traditional methods, such as taking a class or studying grammar from textbooks, one of the most effective ways to learn a new language is to experience it through immersion. 

If it’s not feasible to live and study in Japan, you can still take full advantage of the internet and technology! Whether it’s streaming audiobooks, listening to online radio, watching YouTube videos, or discovering your favorite podcasts, we recommend making it a habit to listen to Japanese daily. This way, you can efficiently learn even when you’re driving, exercising at the gym, doing chores around the house, etc.

Even such effortless passive learning brings a lot of benefits:

  • Improving your listening skills
  • Helping you get used to real pronunciation
  • Familiarizing you with real-life conversations 
  • Upgrading your vocabulary on chosen topics 
  • Training you to recognize and confirm the usage of grammar rules you’ve already learned

You’ll also benefit from “Nagara Learning,” or ながら勉強 (Nagara benkyō) in Japanese. 

ーながら (-nagara) means “while —ing.” In other words, you listen to and learn a language while you’re doing something else, such as commuting, walking, or cooking. The advantage of Nagara Learning is that you can use your time efficiently and stay motivated due to the less stressful (and more entertaining) nature of your study time. 

2 – Benefits of Podcasts

So why do we recommend podcasts for learning Japanese when there are various other online services? Well, it’s because podcasts have some advantages over other media when it comes to learning. 

A podcast is basically an episodic series of digital audio files that you can download onto your device. Therefore, you’re able to listen easily at any time and from anywhere—even without internet access. 

You can find podcasts in a wide range of genres and covering various topics. Some podcasts are also exclusively auditory, which means you won’t have to rely on visual aids and will be able to concentrate on listening.

Many episodes are only a few minutes in length, which will allow you to easily shift into and out of your “focusing mode.” In addition, short episodes are ideal for repetition learning, which can keep you focused and interested; repetition is one of the most important elements for learning and for retaining memories. Their short length will also contribute to keeping you motivated rather than suffocating you in endlessly lengthy content.

3 – How to Choose the Best Channel for You

Firstly, choose topics you’re into. The important things are to keep yourself interested and make learning a daily habit. As a Japanese proverb says: 

  • 好きこそ物の上手なれ (Suki koso mono no jōzu nare) – “What one likes, one will do well!” 

There are a variety of popular Japanese podcasts to choose from, and you’ll definitely find one (or more) that suits your interests and needs. Even new learners can find different podcasts suited to their level, including those focusing on topics such as daily conversations, everyday news, etc.

Secondly, whether you’re new to the world of Japanese or already have a solid understanding of it, choosing the right level for you is essential for effective learning. If you’re a complete beginner, don’t jump into an IT podcast right away, even if tech is a great interest of yours. The language used would be too far ahead of where you are since you still don’t know the basic Japanese vocabulary or verb conjugations.

Books of Different Colors Held Together with a Pair of Headphones

It’s free, easy, and convenient.

2. The 12 Best Japanese Podcasts

1 – Let’s Talk in Japanese

Level: Beginner to Advanced
Theme: Lesson Podcast
Features: Covers levels N5-N1 (JLPT)

This Japanese learning podcast is hosted by Tomo, a real teacher who gives Japanese lessons to foreigners. There are more than 170 episodes (as of June 2021), and most episodes are around 10 minutes long—just the right length for listening practice! 

Although the podcast is made for Japanese learners, the episodes are not laid out like traditional lessons. Tomo talks about a variety of topics, from daily life to private thoughts, in easy (but not too easy) Japanese. You can just relax and enjoy. The level (N5 to N1) is indicated beside the title of each episode so that you can easily pick one that’s suitable for you. 

This podcast is quite popular among learners, having a high customer rating score of 4.8 on Apple Podcast. Listeners are happy to learn not only the Japanese language but also about Japanese culture and society. 

2 – Sakura Tips

https://sakuratips.com/
https://podcastranking.jp/1536540690

Level: Beginner
Theme: Daily Stories
Features: Japanese and English transcripts available on the website

Although this podcast is completely in Japanese, don’t be afraid! The host of Sakura Tips, Mari, speaks Japanese very slowly and uses simple vocabulary. This channel is suitable for beginners who want to get used to spoken Japanese but feel that the dialogue in Japanese TV series or movies is too fast.

Each episode is short (around 4-5 minutes), and you can listen without stress. Her slow speech and the mellow background music will make you feel relaxed, and you’ll always look forward to tuning in again. The topics of her stories vary, covering everything from daily life activities to general topics, so you’re not likely to get bored.

Mari also has an online community for those who are learning Japanese. Check it out if you want to meet like-minded people and make friends. 

3 – JapanesePod101

https://www.japanesepod101.com/
JapanesePod101 (Apple Podcast)

Level: Absolute Beginner to Advanced
Theme: Lesson Podcast
Features: Structured online lessons and useful learning tools for free + paid premium content

If you’ve just started learning Japanese and researching the best online learning platforms, you’ve probably come across JapanesePod101.com. Our website is an expert resource for Japanese learners at every level. All language lessons and learning materials on the JapanesePod101 podcast are designed with foreign students in mind. Our website and app feature an array of tools: 

  • Audio and/or video material
  • Slowed-down audio
  • PDF lesson notes
  • Transcripts
  • Vocabulary lists

Especially if you’re a complete beginner, you’ll find it useful that we explain everything in English. Our lessons cover a range of topics, from everyday vocabulary and conversational phrases to Japanese culture, so you can always find something that interests you. And while our lessons vary in length, most of them are around 5-10 minutes long for easy listening. 

4 – NHK Easy Japanese

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/
NHK World (Apple Podcast)

Level: Complete Beginner and Beginner
Theme: Lesson Podcast
Features: Structured online lessons and programs; domestic and international news

NHK is a major Japanese media broadcaster that offers structured lessons and programs online in addition to domestic and international news channels.

NHK’s Easy Japanese podcast has 48 episodes of about 10 minutes each. They are not currently uploading new episodes, but the podcast includes everything you need for a solid introduction to the Japanese language. This is especially true if you’re a complete beginner who prefers audio learning. 

In each episode, there is a Japanese dialogue that focuses on the topic at hand; this is followed by an explanation in English about the usage and grammar of the Japanese used. Some episodes focus on things like grammar and vocabulary, while others focus on tips for improving your Japanese.

This podcast is more like a lesson than entertainment, but it’s a good choice to begin with if you prefer mastering the basics and getting used to Japanese with audio. 

5 – Learn Japanese w/ Manga Sensei

Learn Japanese w/Manga Sensei (Apple Podcast)

Level: Beginner to Intermediate 
Theme: Lesson Podcast
Features: Plenty of episodes and topics to choose from (best audio learning for JLPT N5-N3 levels)

This podcast offers abundant content for learners of Japanese, containing more than 630 episodes. You’ll find it easy to listen daily and stay engaged since the host also explains lots of non-textbook, more natural expressions and information. It also helps that the episodes are only 5 minutes long and focus on just one topic each. Manga Sensei is especially suitable for those who are studying in line with the JLPT or plan on taking the exam soon. 

The host explains Japanese grammar and spoken expressions in English, so you don’t have to worry about understanding the content itself. However, it’s probably better for you to learn the very basic grammar and standard speech rules of Japanese first. After you master that, this podcast would be a great tool for improving your Japanese. 

6 – Beginning Japanese

Level: Beginner to Upper Beginner 
Theme: Lesson Podcast
Features: Very short episodes

No matter what study method you follow, you can casually add this podcast to your routine without stress. Why? Because each episode is very short (only 2 or 3 minutes). 

The host explains a Japanese word or expression in English and then provides an example Japanese sentence, which is repeated at both normal speed and slow speed. You’ll probably master a given word or expression quickly after just a few listens, as it will really stick in your brain.

The content might be a little too simple, but that’s one of the reasons why you’ll be able to increase your vocabulary so quickly. There are no lengthy explanations or excessive examples to bog you down. If you’re a beginner, spare a few extra minutes listening to this podcast every day—you’ll be amazed at the results! 

7 – Japanese Podcast for Beginners (Nihongo Con Teppei)

https://nihongoconteppei.com/
Nihongo Con Teppei (Apple Podcast)

Level: Intermediate 
Theme: Life, Culture, Small Talk
Features: An all-Japanese podcast on various topics; slow speech

The Nihongo Con Teppei podcast has more than 420 episodes, most of which are around 5 minutes long. The content consists of Teppei (the host) making small talk and sharing opinions about various topics, including daily life, culture, social issues, food, and even private matters.

Although the podcast title says “for beginners,” this channel is probably most suitable for intermediate learners who already have some basic Japanese vocabulary and listening experience. Indeed, Teppei speaks very slowly and pronounces words clearly, but we imagine that beginners would find it difficult to understand the all-Japanese content without transcripts. 

If you want to strengthen your Japanese listening skills and are interested to know how a Japanese person views certain topics, this podcast is for you. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the talk. It’s rather addictive to listen to Teppei’s slow speech and low tone of voice.

8 – News in Slow Japanese

News in Slow Japanese (Apple Podcast)

Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Theme: News
Features: Super short episodes in very slow Japanese

This Japanese news podcast is unique in that each episode consists of two versions: a 1-minute version where the host speaks at a fast speed and a 2-minute version where she uses slow speech. While you would think this type of podcast had been around a while, News in Slow Japanese was the first of its kind.

You’ll be able to easily pick up every word the host Sakura says, as she speaks very slowly and clearly. This podcast is made for learners who are studying for JLPT levels N3, N2, or N1, though it’s also useful for beginners thanks to her slow speech. While listening to this Japanese podcast, you’ll also get to learn about daily news and current events in Japan. 

This is one of the best audio tools for practicing the language, especially in terms of shadowing. You can also download transcripts and translations with ふりがな (Furigana), or Japanese reading aid, from their website.

9 – バイリンガルニュース (Bilingual News)

https://bilingualnews.libsyn.com/
Bilingual News (Apple Link)

Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Theme: News
Features: Japanese- and English-speaking hosts; no sponsors or ads

The hosts, Mami and Michael, introduce several recent news stories from around the world in Japanese and English. Their explanations and opinions regarding the news are presented as a bilingual conversation. 

This podcast serves as a great tool for listening practice, especially for intermediate- and advanced-level Japanese language learners. You’ll be able to learn colloquial speech and new vocabulary from their casual and unedited Japanese-English conversation. You may find it a bit difficult when a news topic is about science, technology, etc., as it will require a high level of vocabulary to follow along. 

There are over 460 episodes so far, and a new episode is released weekly. The length of each episode is very long (usually from 1 to 3 hours), so it’s good to listen while you’re cooking or commuting rather than using it for intensive studying. In case you want to check what they’re saying, transcripts are also available from the official Bilingual News app.

10 – Tofugu

Tofugu (Apple Podcast)
https://www.tofugu.com/podcast/

Level: Beginner to Intermediate 
Theme: Language Lessons and Culture
Features: Lots of info on Japanese words, phrases, and grammar

The Tofugu podcast has around 100 episodes so far, and it’s updated regularly. Each episode focuses on a certain Japanese word, phrase, or tip on how to do things in Japan. The podcasters explain the topic in English, providing many examples and giving useful information on the cultural context. 

Episodes are around 30 minutes to an hour long. Each one contains plenty of informative explanations, which makes it an ideal Japanese podcast for supplementing your studies and becoming familiar with new vocabulary and grammar. But you can still relax while listening due to the easygoing nature of audio learning. 

In addition to its podcasts, Tofugu offers a lot of information about the Japanese language and how to get around in Japan on their website. It’s specifically designed for foreigners who want to visit or live in Japan.

11 – Japanese Swotter

https://japaneseswotter.wordpress.com/
Japanese Swotter (Apple Podcast)

Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Theme: Lesson Podcast
Features: Focuses on speaking and shadowing practice

Yoko, the host, makes this Japanese learning podcast very easy to follow. In a 6- to 10-minute episode, she explains slowly (in English and Japanese) the meaning and usage of a word or phrase. She also introduces examples in the form of simple dialogue. All you need to do is listen to the explanation in English and repeat in Japanese after Yoko. 

Japanese Swotter covers the upper beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, even going into detail about 敬語 (Keigo), or Japanese honorific speech. Although the podcast has less of an entertainment atmosphere compared to the others on our list, it’s a useful tool for those who prefer to study Japanese intensively with audio. 

On her website, you can find some information and tips for learning. In addition, the transcripts and translations are provided on Patreon with a paid subscription.

12 – Rebuild

https://rebuild.fm/
Rebuild (Apple Podcast)

Level: Advanced
Theme: Tech, Software Development, Gadgets
Features: All-Japanese

With over 420 episodes and a customer rating of 4.7, the Japanese podcast Rebuild has a lot of hardcore fans. This all-Japanese podcast is hosted by Tatsuhiko Miyagawa, who has unscripted conversations with a different guest speaker in each episode. The main themes are tech, software, and gadgets; sometimes it expands to topics about culture and social issues, but it’s always discussed from the angle of technology or science. 

If you’re already at an advanced level and can listen to Japanese without much difficulty, this podcast will serve as a good Japanese vocabulary builder for you. This is mainly because they use many technical terms and produce plenty of tech-geek content.

We recommend sitting back and listening to it like a radio show as each free talk is around 2 to 3 hours long. 

3. How to Make the Most of Podcasts for Japanese Learning

(1) Stimulate your interests.

Follow podcasts that cover topics you enjoy, as this will make you feel like listening more without the sense of having a study obligation. However, it’s also true that you need to have the basics down to understand spoken Japanese on any topic. Even if you’re at the beginner level, try different Japanese podcasts for beginners to find one that attracts you.

(2) Don’t stress yourself.

The important thing is to continue learning. Don’t aim high from the very beginning; rather, start with an easier level until you get used to it. Enjoy learning and make it a daily habit in order to avoid stress.

(3) Repetition helps you learn faster.

Once you find your favorite podcasts and episodes, just repeat, repeat, repeat! Long-term memories are often created or fixed through habitual activities or repeated input, like how an infant starts to speak their native language. Not only is repeated listening effective, but so is the repeated imitation of speech (also called “shadowing”). 

(4) Immerse yourself.

The key is not to listen once a week for long hours, but rather to get daily exposure for even just a couple of minutes a day. “I’m busy” is never a plausible excuse. No matter who you are, you definitely have a few minutes to spare every day—while you’re getting ready to go out, commuting to work, relaxing before bed, etc. You can find podcasts with 1- to 5-minute episodes for busy weekdays, and use those with longer episodes for the weekends or when you have free time.

(5) Put in a little extra effort.

Okay, whatever thing you’re working on (sports, work, studying, or a favorite hobby), you need to make an effort to improve and excel, right? The same thing goes for audio learning. Passive learning is easy to take up and is more relaxed than traditional study methods; however, just listening repeatedly won’t take you to the next level anytime soon. To be more efficient and effective, put in a little more effort: listen with and without transcripts, write down new words and phrases in your notebook, use a recorder to shadow the podcast host, etc.

Someone Moving a Token Piece from Circle 1 to Circle 2

Your continuous efforts will be rewarded.

4. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced the twelve best podcasts for learning Japanese at different levels. Once you find your favorite and most suitable podcast, listening every day will really help you improve your skills (especially in listening, speaking, and pronunciation). Continuation and repetition are the keys for effective learning. Let’s get started and make the most of your Japanese podcast time!

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language, from basic grammar to practical phrases for any occasion, you’ll find a lot more useful content on JapanesePod101.com. Together with the JapanesePod101 podcast channel, our variety of free lessons and materials will help you improve your Japanese skills in every key area. 

Our personal 1-on-1 coaching service, MyTeacher, is also available when you subscribe to a Premium PLUS membership with us. Your private teacher will help you practice pronunciation, and you’ll get personalized feedback and advice to help you improve more efficiently.

And we have so much more to offer you! Learn Japanese faster and enjoy studying at JapanesePod101.com.

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Japanese Phrases for Beginners

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If you’re a beginner, one of the easiest ways to get familiar with Japanese is to learn and practice the most frequently used Japanese phrases for beginners.

According to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), Japanese is a Category IV language. This means it’s considered one of the most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn—but don’t lose heart! Japanese might just be easier than you think. 

While it could take a very long time to master the Kanji, the listening comprehension and speaking aspects are quite easy to pick up. Here are just a few reasons why Japanese is actually simpler than English or Latin languages: 

  • There are no separate singular/plural forms.
  • There are no articles.
  • There is no verb conjugation for person (I am / she is / they are / etc.).
  • We also have fewer vowel and consonant sounds than English does, making Japanese pronunciation much simpler. 

In this article, we’ll introduce you to the most useful Japanese beginner phrases: greetings and self-introduction phrases, courtesy and social expressions, dining and shopping phrases, and expressions for getting help.

Let’s master Japanese beginner phrases here at JapanesePod101.com!

An Image Depicting the Continual Growth of a Plant

The best way to improve at this stage is to learn the most useful phrases for beginners.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Greetings and Self-introductions
  2. Courtesy Phrases & Social Expressions
  3. Dining & Shopping Phrases
  4. Asking for Help
  5. Conclusion

1. Greetings and Self-introductions

The very first thing you should learn as a beginner is how to use the most common greeting phrases, starting with “hello.” In Japanese, there are two types of expressions: polite (formal) and casual (informal). The polite language is referred to as 敬語 (Keigo), and the type of polite language used for addressing others is called 丁寧語 (Teineigo). We recommend learning these expressions first, as they’re useful for most social situations. Casual language is only used among close friends and family. 

1 – Greetings 

EnglishFormalityKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
Good morning.
[Literally: It’s early.] 
Polite:おはようございますohayō gozaimasu
Casual:おはようohayō
Hello.
[Literally: today is]
Polite / Neutral:こんにちはkon’nichiwa
Good evening.
[Literally: tonight is] 
Polite / Neutral:こんばんはkonbanwa
Goodnight.
[Literally: Rest (well).] 
Polite:おやすみなさいoyasuminasai
Casual:おやすみoyasumi
Hello.
(on the phone)
Polite / Neutral:もしもしmoshi-moshi
Goodbye.Polite:さようならsayōnara
Casual:バイバイbaibai
Bye.Casual:じゃあねjā ne
See you later.
[Literally: again]
Casual:またねmata ne
See you tomorrow.
[Literally: again tomorrow]
Casual:また明日またあしたmata ashita
How are you?
[Literally: (Are you) well?]
Polite:(お)元気ですか(お)げんきですか(o)-genki desu ka*
Casual:元気?げんき?genki?
I’m good.
[Literally: (I’m) well.] 
Polite:元気ですげんきですgenki desu
Casual:元気だよげんきだよgenki da yo
Long time, no see.
[Literally: long (time)]
Polite:(お)久しぶりです(お)ひさしぶりです(o)-hisashiburi desu*
Casual:久しぶりひさしぶりhisashiburi

*It becomes more polite if you add お (o) in front.

Examples:

  • おはよう!よく眠れた?  [casual]
    Ohayō! Yoku nemureta?
    “Good morning! Did you sleep well?”
  • もしもし、鈴木です。高木さんと話したいのですが。[polite / on the phone]
    Moshimoshi, Suzuki desu. Takagi-san to hanashitai no desu ga.
    “Hello, I’m Suzuki. I’d like to speak to Mr. Takagi.”
  • じゃあね、また明日学校で![casual]
    Jā ne, mata ashita gakkō de!
    “Bye, see you tomorrow at school!”

To learn more, please check out our blog articles on how to say hello in Japanese, how to say sorry in Japanese, and Japanese phone phrases.

A Woman Waving Hello to Someone

久しぶり!元気? [informal]
Hisashiburi! Genki?
“Long time, no see! How are you?”

2 – Self-introduction

When meeting someone for the first time, you should introduce yourself using polite language. Here are some essential Japanese phrases you can use when introducing yourself. 

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading
Nice to meet you.初めましてはじめましてhajimemashite
My name is…私の名前は…ですわたしのなまえは…ですwatashi no namae wa…desu
What is your name?(お)名前は何ですか(お)なまえはなんですか(o)-namae wa nan desu ka*
I am…私は…ですわたしは…ですwatashi wa…desu
Where are you from?出身はどこですかしゅっしんはどこですかshusshin wa doko desu ka
I’m from……出身です…しゅっしんです…shusshin desu
I come from……から来ました…からきました…kara kimashita
How old are you?何歳ですかなんさいですかnan-sai desu ka
(お)いくつですか(o)-ikutsu desu ka*
I’m … years old.…歳です…さいです…sai desu

*It becomes more polite if you add お (o) in front.

Examples:

  • 初めまして、私の名前は田中まりです。  
    Hajimemashite, watashi no namae wa Tanaka Mari desu.
    “Nice to meet you. My name is Mari Tanaka.”
  • 出身はイタリアです。私は東京大学の留学生です。
    Shusshin wa Itaria desu. Watashi wa Tōkyō daigaku no ryūgakusei desu.
    “I’m from Italy. I’m an international student at Tokyo University.”
  • 失礼ですが、おいくつですか。
    Shitsurei desu ga, o-ikutsu desu ka.
    “I’m sorry if I’m rude, but how old are you?”

For more details about self-introduction in Japanese, check out our article How to Say “My Name is,” in Japanese + More!

A Japanese Businessman Shaking Hands with a Colleague, while Another Colleague Stands Nearby

初めまして、私は田中です。[formal]
Hajimemashite, watashi wa Tanaka desu.
“Nice to meet you. I am Tanaka.”

2. Courtesy Phrases & Social Expressions

Our next set of beginner phrases in Japanese consists of expressions you can use in different social situations to show respect and be polite. Memorize and practice these phrases to put your best foot forward and impress native Japanese speakers. 

EnglishFormalityKanjiHiraganaReading
Yes.Polite / Neutral:はいhai
Casual:うんun
No.Polite / Neutral:いいえiie
Casual:ううんūn
Thank you.Polite / Neutral:ありがとうございますarigatō gozaimasu
Casual:ありがとうarigatō
You’re welcome.Polite / Neutral:どういたしましてdōitashimashite
I’m sorry.Polite / Neutral:すみませんsumimasen
Polite / Neutral:ごめんなさいgomen nasai
Casual:ごめんgomen
I’m terribly sorry.Polite:申し訳ございませんもうしわけございませんmōshiwake gozaimasen
Excuse me.Polite:すみませんsumimasen
Polite:失礼しますしつれいしますshitsurei shimasu*
Best regards. /Favorably, please.Polite:よろしくお願いしますよろしくおねがいしますyoroshiku onegai shimasu**
Casual:よろしくyoroshiku**
Please take care.Polite:お気をつけておきをつけてo-ki o tsukete
Take care of yourself. / Get well soon. Polite:お大事にどうぞおだいじにどうぞo-daiji ni dōzo
Casual:お大事におだいじにo-daiji ni
Good luck. / Do your best.Polite:頑張ってくださいがんばってくださいganbatte kudasai 
Casual:頑張ってねがんばってねganbatte ne 

* 失礼します(shitsurei shimasu) literally translates as “I do rudeness,” but it means “I’m sorry if I’m rude, but excuse me.” This phrase is normally used when parting ways with someone, leaving an office, or knocking on the door before entering someone’s room/office.

** よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) is an untranslatable Japanese word that can mean different things depending on the context. This phrase is most often used when someone is entering a situation or environment that is new to them: meeting new people at work, starting a new job or project, greeting someone who will be taking care of them, etc. 

Examples:

  • 今日からこのチームに加わりました木村です。よろしくお願いします。 
    Kyō kara kono chīmu ni kuwawarimashita Kimura desu. Yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
    “I’m Kimua, who joined this team today. Best regards / Thank you for your cooperation.”
  • お大事にどうぞ、怪我が早く治りますように。
    O-daiji ni dōzo, kega ga hayaku naorimasu yō ni.
    “Take care of yourself; I hope your injury will heal soon.”
  • 明日の国家試験、頑張ってくださいね! 
    Ashita no kokka shiken, ganbatte kudasai ne!
    “Good luck on the national exam tomorrow!”

Two Japanese Businessmen Greeting Each Other with a Bow

よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) is one of the most frequently used courtesy phrases in Japanese.

3. Dining & Shopping Phrases

When speaking with waiters/waitresses or shop staff, it’s appropriate to use polite language. Below are some simple Japanese phrases for beginners to learn and start using right away; they’ll help you make the most of your dining and shopping experiences in Japan! 

1 – Restaurants

EnglishKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
I have a reservation under…予約した…ですよやくした…ですyoyaku shita … desu
We are [number]. / There are [number] of us.[number] 人です[number] にんです[number]-nin desu
May I have the menu, please?メニューをくださいmenyū o kudasai
What do you recommend?お勧めは何ですかおすすめはなんですかosusume wa nan desu ka
I have an allergy to……のアレルギーがあります… no arerugī ga arimasu
Does this contain…?これに…は入っていますかこれに…ははいっていますかkore ni … wa haitte imasu ka
I’ll have this one.これにしますkore ni shimasu
Could you bring me some water?お水をくださいおみずをくださいo-mizu o kudasai
Check, please.お会計をお願いしますおかいけいをおねがいしますo-kaikei o onegai shimasu

Examples:

  • 4人です。テーブル席を希望します。 
    Yo-nin desu. Tēburu seki o kibō shimasu.
    “There are four of us. We would like a table.”
  • 卵のアレルギーがあります。これに卵は入っていますか。
    Tamago no arerugī ga arimasu. Kore ni tamago wa haitte imasu ka.
    “I am allergic to eggs. Does this contain eggs?”
  • お腹いっぱいなので、デザートはいりません。お会計をお願いします。
    Onaka ippai na node, dezāto wa irimasen. O-kaikei o onegai shimasu.
    “I’m full and don’t want dessert. Check, please.”

To learn more relevant vocabulary, please visit our articles on Japanese numbers and the top 100 Japanese nouns.

A Couple Ordering Food at a Restaurant

お勧めは何ですか。
Osusume wa nan desu ka.
“What do you recommend?”

2 – Shopping 

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
How much is this? これはいくらですか kore wa ikura desu ka
I’m looking for… … を探しています… をさがしています… o sagashite imasu
Do you have other colors/sizes?  他の色/サイズはありますかほかのいろ/サイズはありますかhoka no iro/saizu wa arimasu ka
Can I try it on? 試着してもいいですかしちゃくしてもいいですかshichaku shite mo ii desu ka
It’s a little big/small. ちょっと大きい/小さいです ちょっとおおきい/ちいさいですchotto ōkii /chiisai desu
I’ll think about it.ちょっと考えます ちょっとかんがえますchotto kangaemasu
I’ll buy this.これを買いますこれをかいますkore o kaimasu
Can I use a credit card? クレジットカードは使えますかクレジットカードはつかえますかkurejitto kādo wa tsukaemasu ka
I’ll pay in cash / by card.現金/カードで支払います げんきん/カードでしはらいますgenkin/kādo de shiharaimasu
I don’t need a shopping bag.袋はいらないです ふくろはいらないですfukuro wa iranai desu

Examples:

  • 黒いシャツを探しています。Mサイズはありますか。
    Kuroi shatsu o sagashite imasu. Emu saizu wa arimasu ka.
    “I’m looking for a black shirt. Do you have one in medium?”
  • これを買います。VISAのクレジットカードは使えますか。
    Kore o kaimasu. Biza no kurejitto kādo wa tsukaemasu ka.
    “I’ll buy this. Can I use a VISA credit card?”
  • 自分のバッグに入れるので、袋はいりません。
    Jibun no baggu ni ireru node, fukuro wa irimasen.
    “I put it in my bag, so I don’t need a shopping bag.”
Someone Handing Over Their Credit Card to Pay for Something

クレジットカードは使えますか。 
Kurejitto kādo wa tsukaemasu ka.
“Can I use a credit card?”

4. Asking for Help

If you’re visiting Japan for the first time, it’s quite possible that you’ll get lost at some point or not know how to get somewhere. In addition, you never know when communication issues or actual emergencies will crop up! Get prepared for any situation by learning these easy Japanese beginner phrases for getting help. 

1 – Directions / Communication

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
Where is a toilet / … station? トイレ/… 駅は     どこですかといれ/… えきはどこですかtoire /… eki wa doko desu ka
How can I get to…? … へどうやって行けばいいですか… へどうやっていけばいいですか… e dō yatte ikeba ii desu ka
I don’t know/understand. 分かりませんわかりません wakarimasen
Do you speak English? 英語を話せますか えいごを                 はなせますかEigo o hanasemasu ka
Does anyone speak English? 英語を話せる 人はいますかえいごをはなせる ひとはいますかEigo o hanaseru hito wa imasu ka
Can you repeat slowly? もう一度ゆっくり言ってください もういちどゆっくりいってくださいmō ichi-do yukkuri   itte kudasai
How do you say … in Japanese? … は日本語で何と言いますか … はにほんごでなんといいますか… wa Nihon-go denan to iimasu ka

Examples:

  • すみません、新宿駅の南口はどこですか。
    Sumimasen, Shinjuku eki no minamiguchi wa doko desu ka.
    “Excuse me, where is the southern exit of Shinjuku Station?”
  • 日本語がわかりません。英語を話せる人いますか?
    Nihongo ga wakarimasen. Eigo o hanaseru hito wa imasu ka?
    “I don’t understand Japanese. Does anyone speak English?”
  • すみません、もう一度ゆっくり言ってください。
    Sumimasen, mō ichi-do yukkuri itte kudasai.
    “I’m sorry, but can you repeat slowly?”

To learn more useful phrases for travel, please read our article on Japanese travel phrases.

A Tourist Asking Someone for Directions while They Look at a Large Map

渋谷駅はどこですか。
Shibuya eki wa doko desu ka.
“Where is Shibuya Station?”

2 – Emergency

EnglishKanjiHiragana Reading
Please help me. 助けてくださいたすけてくださいtasukete kudasai
I lost… … を失くしました … をなくしました…  o nakushimashita
I feel sick.気分が悪いです きぶんがわるいですkibun ga warui desu
I got injured.怪我をしましたけがをしましたkega o shimashita
Where is the police station?警察署はどこですかけいさつしょはどこですかkeisatsusho wa doko desu ka
Please call the ambulance/police. 救急車/警察を呼んでください きゅうきゅうしゃ/けいさつをよんでくださいkyūkyūsha/keisatsu oyonde kudasai
It’s an emergency. 緊急事態です きんきゅうじたいですkinkyū jitai desu
What is it? 何ですかなんですかnan desu ka
What happened?どうしましたかどうしましたかdō shimashita ka
I’m okay.大丈夫ですだいじょうぶですdaijōbu desu
I’m not okay.大丈夫ではありません だいじょうぶではありませんdaijōbu de wa arimasen

Examples:

  • 財布を失くしました。警察署はどこですか。
    Saifu o nakushimashita. Keisatsusho wa doko desu ka.
    “I lost my wallet. Where is the police station?”
  • 友達が事故で怪我をしました。救急車を呼んでください!
    Tomodachi ga jiko de kega o shimashita. Kyūkyūsha o yonde kudasai!
    “My friend got injured in an accident. Please call the ambulance!”
  • 電車がずっと止まったままです。どうしましたか。
    Densha ga zutto tomatta mama desu. Dō shimashita ka.
    “The train has been stopped for a long time. What happened?”

A Man on an Airplane Throwing Up into a Paper Bag

すみません、気分が悪いです。
Sumimasen, kibun ga warui desu.
“Excuse me, I feel sick.”

5. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced useful Japanese beginner phrases in a number of categories: 

  • Greetings and self-introductions
  • Courtesy phrases and social expressions
  • Dining and shopping phrases
  • Phrases for getting directions and asking for help

With these Japanese beginner phrases, you’ll be able to survive your travels in Japan and communicate with locals! 

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language and culture, you’ll find much more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons designed to help you improve your Japanese language skills in the fastest, easiest, and most fun way possible. 

If you’re a beginner, you’re sure to find the following articles useful: 

And there’s so much more! Be a faster learner and enjoy studying Japanese at JapanesePod101.com!

Before you go, let us know in the comments if there’s any specific topic you’d like to learn words and phrases for! We’d be glad to help, and look forward to hearing from you.

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Level Up with These Advanced Japanese Words

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If you’re looking at this page, it means that you’ve achieved the intermediate level and are interested in moving ahead to advanced-level Japanese. That’s great—you’re in the right place!

Levels N1 and N2 of the JLPT (Japanese-Language Proficiency Test) are equivalent to the advanced level, and aiming to pass these levels would be a good source of motivation at this point in your studies. It surely takes tremendous effort and dedication to reach this stage, especially when it comes to learning the more difficult Kanji that are mostly used for special occasions or in official settings. 

Apart from conventional studying, however, there are more enjoyable ways to learn advanced Japanese words. For example, you could start reading books in Japanese and watching Japanese movies or TV shows in more serious genres; history shows, biographies, thrillers, and action films are great examples. Once you learn enough advanced Japanese words, you can utilize such tools to reinforce your knowledge and memory.

In this article, we will introduce a list of frequently used advanced Japanese words, including nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, as well as other sophisticated words you can use to substitute basic everyday words. Let’s start climbing to the summit here at JapanesePod101.com!

The News Displayed on a Tablet, a Cell Phone, and Newspapers

You will be able to more easily read Japanese newspapers with advanced Japanese words.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Nouns – 名詞 (Meishi)
  2. Verbs – 動詞 (Dōshi)
  3. Adjectives – 形容詞 (Keiyōshi)
  4. Adverbs – 副詞 (Fukushi)
  5. Alternative Words for Greater Sophistication
  6. Conclusion

1. Nouns – 名詞 (Meishi)

The Kanji for advanced Japanese nouns is often complicated and difficult. However, the good news is that you’ll never have to worry about which article to use or how to change a word from singular to plural. 

Advanced Japanese nouns are usually just as simple as beginner nouns in terms of reading and pronunciation, but learning the high-level Kanji will take a lot of time and effort. 

1 – Advanced Academic Words 

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading
concept概念 がいねんgainen
precision精密 せいみつseimitsu
expansion / extension拡張 かくちょうkakuchō
pressure圧力 あつりょくatsuryoku
efficiency効率 こうりつkōritsu
specimen / sample標本ひょうほんhyōhon
evidence証拠 しょうこshōko
verification / inspection検証けんしょうkenshō
atom原子 げんしgenshi
molecule分子 ぶんしbunshi
radioactivity放射能  ほうしゃのうhōshanō
concentration / density​濃度 のうどnōdo
coagulation / solidification​凝固  ぎょうこgyōko
fusion / melting / liquefaction融解 ゆうかいyūkai 

Examples:

  • この実験は新しい説の分析と検証です。
    Kono jikken wa atarashii setsu no bunseki to kenshō desu.
    “This experiment is an analysis and verification of a new theory.”
  • この地域は放射能の濃度が高く危険です。
    Kono chiiki wa hōshanō no nōdo ga takaku kiken desu.
    “This area is dangerous because of its high concentration of radioactivity.”
  • その物質は温度の変化により凝固と融解を繰り返した。
    Sono busshitsu wa ondo no henka ni yori gyōko to yūkai o kurikaeshita.
    “The substance repeatedly solidified and melted by changes in temperature.”

Two Researchers Experimenting with Liquids in a Laboratory

物質の濃度を測る (busshitsu no nōdo o hakaru)
“measure the concentration of the substance”

2 – Advanced Business Words

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading
negotiation交渉 こうしょうkōshō
strategy 戦略 せんりゃくsenryaku
capital / fund資本 しほんshihon
stockholder /  shareholder株主 かぶぬしkabunushi
revenue歳入 さいにゅうsainyū
investment投資 とうしtōshi
securities  / stock証券 しょうけんshōken
loan / financing融資 ゆうしyūshi
repayment /  payment / settlement返済へんさいhensai
debt債務 さいむsaimu
mortgage /  guarantee担保 たんぽtanpo
credit債権 さいけんsaiken
assets資産 しさんshisan 
bankruptcy倒産 とうさんtōsan 
trademark商標 しょうひょうshōhyō
patent特許 とっきょtokkyo  
employment雇用  こようkoyō
dismissal /  termination of employment​解雇  かいこkaiko
company director  / board member取締役 とりしまりやくtorishimariyaku
board of  directors理事会りじかいrijikai 
permanent  employee正社員  せいしゃいんseishain
contract-based  employee契約社員 けいやくしゃいんkeiyaku shain 
outsourced  temporary employee派遣社員  はけんしゃいんhaken shain 

Examples:

  • その証券会社は巨額の債務を抱え倒産しました。
    Sono shōkengaisha wa kyogaku no saimu o kakae tōsan shimashita.
    “The securities company went bankrupt with huge debt.”
  • 新しい事業のため銀行から融資を受けたいです。
    Atarashii jigyō no tame ginkō kara yūshi o uketai desu.
    “I’d like to get a loan from a bank for a new business.”
  • 革新的な技術の特許を取得した後、その企業の株価が上がりました。
    Kakushinteki na gijutsu no tokkyo o shutoku shita ato, sono kigyō no kabuka ga agarimashita.
    “After acquiring the patent of an innovative technology, the company’s stock price went up.”

Several Colleagues Sitting Around a Table and Discussing Ideas

交渉を有利に行う戦略 (kōshō o yūri ni okonau senryaku)
“a strategy to negotiate favorably”

3 – Advanced Medical Words 

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading
medical care医療 いりょうiryō
  gene遺伝子いでんしidenshi
immunity免疫 めんえきmen’eki
artery動脈 どうみゃくdōmyaku 
vein静脈じょうみゃくjōmyaku 
blood  transfusion輸血 ゆけつyuketsu
spinal cord脊髄せきずいsekizui 
radioactive ray放射線 ほうしゃせんhōshasen
medical treatment / therapy治療 ちりょうchiryō
department of surgery外科 げかgeka 
  internal medicine内科ないかnaika
symptom症状 しょうじょうshōjō
infection感染かんせんkansen
inflammation炎症 えんしょうenshō
fit / spasm / seizure発作 ほっさhossa
paralysis / palsy麻痺まひmahi 
coma昏睡 こんすいkonsui 
tumor腫瘍しゅようshuyō
bruiseあざaza 
vomiting嘔吐おうとōto
diarrhea下痢 げりgeri
pneumonia肺炎はいえんhaien
cancerがんgan

Examples:

  • 日本の医療システムは国民健康保険で成り立っています。
    Nihon no iryō shisutemu wa kokumin kenkō hoken de naritatte imasu.
    “The Japanese medical system works with National Health Insurance.”
  • 昨日から嘔吐と下痢の症状があります。
    Kinō kara ōto to geri no shōjō ga arimasu.
    “I have had the symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea since yesterday.”
  • その男性は発作を起こして昏睡状態になりました。
    Sono dansei wa hossa o okoshite konsui jōtai ni narimashita.
    “The man had a seizure and went into a coma.”

A Doctor Looking at an Image of a Human Body on a Screen

放射線治療で癌を治す (hōshasen chiryō de gan o naosu)
“cure cancer with radiation therapy”

4 – Advanced Legal Words 

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading 
arrest逮捕たいほtaiho
detention / custody拘留こうりゅうkōryū
prosecution / indictment起訴きそkiso
probation / suspension of sentence執行猶予しっこうゆうよshikkō yūyo
arbitration / mediation調停 ちょうていchōtei
trial裁判 さいばんsaiban
court裁判所さいばんしょsaibansho
judge裁判官 さいばんかんsaibankan
plaintiff / accuser原告げんこくgenkoku 
defendant / accused被告 ひこくhikoku
public prosecutor検察官けんさつかんkensatsukan
imprisonment / penal servitude懲役ちょうえきchōeki
appeal控訴こうそkōso 
detention center / jail拘置所 こうちしょkōchisho
prison刑務所 けいむしょkeimusho
death penalty / capital punishment死刑 しけいshikei 
fraud詐欺さぎsagi
bribery賄賂 わいろwairo
tax evasion脱税 だつぜいdatsuzei
forgery / falsification / counterfeiting偽造 ぎぞうgizō
threatening / intimidation脅迫 きょうはくkyōhaku
theft / stealing窃盗 せっとうsettō
assault / act of violence暴行 ぼうこうbōkō
murder / homicide殺人 さつじんsatsujin 

Examples:

  • 彼は懲役5年執行猶予3年の判決を受けました。
    Kare wa chōeki go-nen shikkō yūyo san-nen no hanketsu o ukemashita.
    “He was sentenced to five years in prison suspended for three years.”
  • あの会社の元社長は脱税罪で刑務所にいます。
    Ano kaisha no moto shachō wa datsuzeizai de keimusho ni imasu.
    “The former president of that company is in prison for tax evasion.”
  •  日本には死刑制度があります。
    Nihon ni wa shikei seido ga arimasu.
    “Japan has the death penalty system.”

A Gavel on Top of a Book

裁判官の判決 (saibankan no hanketsu)
“judgment by a judge”

To review the basic Japanese nouns, please check out our blog post titled Guide to the Top 100+ Japanese Nouns.

2. Verbs – 動詞 (Dōshi)

Below, we have divided the most important advanced Japanese verbs into two groups: general verbs and those that are formed using the word する(suru) – “do.”

1 – General Verbs

EnglishKanjiHiragana  Reading
force / compel強いる しいるshiiru
range / lie in a line / stretch out 連なるつらなるtsuranaru 
go through / pierce貫く つらぬくtsuranuku 
rub / chafe擦れるすれるsureru 
judge裁く さばくsabaku 
dedicate / commit / give捧げる ささげるsasageru 
prosper栄える さかえるsakaeru
prohibit / ban禁じるきんじるkinjiru
endure / bear / tolerate / withstand耐えるたえるtaeru 
deal / treat / handle取り扱うとりあつかうtoriatsukau
accompany / entail伴うともなうtomonau 
nod頷く うなずくunazuku
influence / affect / exert / cause及ぼす およぼすoyobosu 
become weak / become old衰える おとろえるotoroeru
control / regulate /  manage 取り締まるとりしまるtorishimaru
investigate / examine取り調べる   とりしらべるtorishiraberu 
remove取り除くとりのぞくtorinozoku
be made up of / consist of / be composed of成り立つなりたつnaritatsu
install / attach備え付ける そなえつけるsonaetsukeru 

Examples:

  • その地位は重大な責任を伴う。
    Sono chii wa jūdai na sekinin o tomonau.
    “The position entails grave responsibility.”
  • この古い建物は大きな地震に耐えてきた。
    Kono furui tatemono wa ōkina jishin ni taete kita.
    “This old building has withstood big earthquakes.”
  • 警察は彼を賄賂の疑いで取り調べた。
    Keisatsu wa kare o wairo no utagai de torishirabeta.
    “Police investigated him on suspicion of bribery.”

A Man Installing a Satellite Antenna for a Home

アンテナを備え付ける (antena o sonaetsukeru)
“install an antenna”

2 – Verbs Formed Using [ Noun + する (suru) ] 

This type of Japanese verb is formed with the following pattern: 

  • [ Noun ] + [ する (suru) – “do” ]

For example:

  •  運動する(undō suru) – “to exercise” 
    • 運動 (undō) – “exercise” + する (suru) “do”

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading 
fermentate発酵する はっこうするhakkō suru
make use of / have a command駆使するくしするkushi suru
vibrate振動する しんどうするshindō suru 
bear (a cost, a responsibility, etc.)負担するふたんするfutan suru 
deploy / lay out  配置する はいちするhaichi suru 
shut down / lock out閉鎖するへいさするheisa suru 
evacuate避難するひなんするhinan suru
criticize / blame / condemn非難するひなんするhinan suru 
intervene / interfere干渉する かんしょうするkanshō suru
collapse / break down崩壊するほうかいするhōkai suru

Examples:

  • ブドウを発酵させてワインを作ります。
    Budō o hakkō sasete wain o tsukurimasu.
    “Ferment the grapes to make wine.”
  • その建物は人々が避難した後に崩壊した。
    Sono tatemono wa hitobito ga hinan shita ato ni hōkai shita.
    “The building collapsed after people evacuated.”
  • 私が車の修理費を負担します。
    Watashi ga kuruma no shūrihi o futan shimasu.
    “I will bear the car repair cost.”

To review the basics regarding Japanese verbs, please check out our articles The 100+ Most Common Japanese Verbs and Japanese Verb Conjugations.

A Car Engine

エンジンが振動する (enjin ga shindō suru)
“engine vibrates”

3. Adjectives – 形容詞 (Keiyōshi)

As you approach an advanced level in Japanese, you should start strengthening your vocabulary with more nuanced descriptive words. Below is a list of Japanese adjectives to get you started. 

1 – I Adjectives

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading 
suitable / appropriate / compatible相応しい ふさわしいfusawashii
delusive / misleading / confusing紛らわしい まぎらわしいmagirawashii
grateful有難い ありがたいarigatai 
brave/ courageous勇ましい いさましいisamashii
shameful / pitiful情けない なさけないnasakenai
equal等しい ひとしいhitoshii
regrettable惜しい おしいoshii
great偉い えらいerai 
dangerous / critical危うい あやういayaui
hurried / busy / frantic慌しい あわただしいawatadashii
impudent / shameless図々しいずうずうしいzūzūshii
quick素早いすばやいsubayai
incredible / enormous / dreadful物凄い ものすごいmonosugoi 
odious / hateful憎らしい にくらしいnikurashii
chilly肌寒いはだざむいhadazamui
careful / cautious / vigilant用心深い ようじんぶかいyōjinbukai 
extreme / terrible甚だしい はなはだしいhanahadashii

Examples:

  • これはあなたに相応しい車です。
    Kore wa anata ni fusawashii kuruma desu.
    “This is a suitable car for you.”
  • 今日は慌ただしい一日でした。
    Kyō wa awatadashii ichinichi deshita.
    “Today was a very frantic day.”
  • 彼はとても用心深い男で、人を簡単に信用しない。
    Kare wa totemo yōjinbukai otoko de, hito o kantan ni shin’yō shinai.
    “He is a very cautious man, and he does not trust people easily.”

2 – NA Adjectives

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading 
immature未熟みじゅくmijuku
thoughtless / careless軽率けいそつkeisotsu 
generous寛容かんようkan’yō 
essential / main point肝心 かんじんkanjin 
depressed / melancholic / gloomy憂鬱ゆううつyūtsu 
sensitive敏感 びんかんbinkan 
quick / rapid / prompt迅速 じんそくjinsoku 
loyal忠実ちゅうじつchūjitsu
cruel残酷ざんこくzankoku
detailed詳細しょうさいshōsai

Examples:

  • 私はいつも肝心なところで失敗する。
    Watashi wa itsumo kanjin na tokoro de shippai suru.
    “I always fail where it matters.”
  • この化粧品は敏感な肌に適しています。
    Kono keshōhin wa binkan na hada ni tekishite imasu.
    “This cosmetic is suitable for sensitive skin.”
  • 自然破壊が進む残酷な現実に目を向けなければならない。
    Shizen hakai ga susumu zankoku na genjitsu ni me o mukenakereba naranai.
    “We must face the cruel reality of the destruction of nature.”

A Businessman Feeling Gloomy and Depressed After a Bad Day at Work

仕事で失敗した憂鬱な日 (shigoto de shippai shita yūtsu na hi)
“a gloomy day that failed at work”

To review the basics of Japanese adjectives, please check out Learn the Top 100 Essential Japanese Adjectives and -I vs. -NA Adjectives in Japanese on our blog.

4. Adverbs – 副詞 (Fukushi)

Another set of words you’ll need to add to your advanced Japanese vocabulary is adverbs. You likely know a few of these already, but below is a list of more refined adverbs you can start practicing right away. 

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading 
at once / right away / promptly / suddenly咄嗟にとっさにtossa ni 
just as one thought / as usual 案の定 あんのじょうannojō
by far / far off 遥かにはるかにharuka ni 
indeed / truly / certainly如何にもいかにも ikanimo 
taking the trouble to do / intentionallyわざわざ wazawaza 
dare to do / not necessarily to do 敢えて あえてaete
above all何よりなによりnaniyori
quite / reasonably / fairly結構けっこうkekkō
once / before / never beforeかつて katsute 
in spite of / regardless of​かかわらず kakawarazu 
as it is / as you areありのままarinomama  
naturally当たり前に あたりまえにatarimae ni
vaguely / ambiguouslyあやふやに ayafuya ni 
easily / lightlyあっさり assari 
properly / neatlyきちんと kichinto 
thoughtlessly / recklesslyむやみに muyami ni 
quite / very (emphasizing a size, frequency, etc.)ごくgoku

Examples:

  • 問い詰められて私は咄嗟に嘘をついた。
    Toitsumerarete watashi wa tossa ni uso o tsuita.
    “Being pressed for an answer, I lied promptly.”
  • 敢えてそうする訳を教えてください。
    Aete sō suru wake o oshiete kudasai.
    “Please tell me why you dare to do so.”
  • ごくわずかな違いで結果が大きく変わります。
    Goku wazuka na chigai de kekka ga ōkiku kawarimasu.
    “A very subtle difference greatly changes the result.”

Two People Bowing

きちんとお辞儀する (kichinto ojigi suru)
“bow properly”

5. Alternative Words for Greater Sophistication

Whether you aim to get higher scores on writing exams or you want to write proper sentences for official documents, using high-level vocabulary and the appropriate expressions will refine your writing. 

In Japanese, many basic words have more nuanced or formal synonyms. A great example of these advanced counterparts are 熟語 Jukugo (Kanji compounds), which are combinations of different Kanji that create words at different levels of difficulty and specify a meaning.

In addition, having a good command of 敬語 Keigo (“honorific language”) in Japanese is a sign of being at an advanced level, which is essential for official occasions and business settings.  

In this section, you’ll learn the more sophisticated counterparts of simple Japanese words, including frequently used Keigo.  

1 – Alternative Verbs

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading 
生むうむ (umu)to give birth / to generate / to produceto be born出生するしゅっしょうするshusshō suru
to be born誕生するたんじょうするtanjō suru 
to derive / to generate from something派生するはせいするhasei suru
to produce / to yield産出するさんしゅつするsanshutsu suru 
to generate生成するせいせいするseisei suru

始めるはじめる (hajimeru)to start / to beginto begin / to commence開始するかいしするkaishi suru
to start / to initiate始動するしどうするshidō suru
to start / to undertake着手するちゃくしゅするchakushu suru
to start / to get down to / to set about  取りかかるとりかかるtorikakaru
to start / to set up / to be established発足するほっそくするhossoku suru

言ういう (iu)to sayto say / to state述べるのべるnoberu
to speak発言するはつげんするhatsugen suru
to mention / to refer to言及するげんきゅうするgenkyū suru

見るみる (miru)to see / to look / to watchto view / to browse 閲覧するえつらんするetsuran suru
to stare / to gaze凝視するぎょうしするgyōshi suru
to watch / to look carefully注視するちゅうしするchūshi suru
to see / to visit (a temple, a shrine, etc.)拝観するはいかんするhaikan suru

食べるたべる (taberu)to eatto eat食すしょくすshokusu
to eat / to take in 摂取するせっしゅするsesshu suru

書くかく (kaku)to writeto write (a thesis, a book, etc.)執筆するしっぴつするshippitsu suru
to write / to transcribe / to take notes筆記するひっきするhikki suru

読むよむ (yomu)to readto read (books)読書するどくしょするdokusho suru
to read well or thoroughly 熟読するじゅくどくするjukudoku suru
to read carefully精読するせいどくするseidoku suru

描くえがく (egaku)to draw / to paint / to depictto depict / to portray描写するびょうしゃするbyōsha suru
to imitate and draw模写するもしゃするmosha suru

比べるくらべる (kuraberu)to compareto compare比較するひかくするhikaku suru
to compare and check each other照らし合わせるてらしあわせるterashiawaseru

調べるしらべる (shiraberu)to search / to look up / to examineto examine / to investigate調査するちょうさするchōsa suru
to examine / to inspect検査するけんさするkensa suru
to check / to inspect点検するてんけんするtenken suru

Examples:

  • 彼は新しい本を書き始めた。          →   彼は新しい本の執筆に着手した
    Kare wa atarashii hon o kakihajimeta.    Kare wa atarashii hon no shippitsu ni chakushu shita.
    “He started writing a new book.”
  • 実験結果の違いを比べます。     →      実験結果の違いを比較します
    Jikken kekka no chigai o kurabemasu.      Jikken kekka no chigai o hikaku shimasu.
    “Compare the differences in the experimental results.”
  • 車の調子が悪いので、エンジンを調べてください。        →  車の調子が悪いので、エンジンを点検してください。
    Kuruma no chōshi ga warui node, enjin o shirabete kudasai.     Kuruma no chōshi ga warui node, enjin o tenken shite kudasai.
    “The car has a problem, so please check the engine.”

2 – Alternative Adjectives & Adverbs

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading  
今いま (ima)nownow / present現在げんざいgenzai
今日きょう (kyō)todaytoday本日ほんじつhonjitsu
前にまえに (mae ni)beforebefore / earlier / back in the past以前いぜんizen
後であとで (ato de)laterlater on /  afterwards後ほどのちほどnochihodo
この先このさき (kono saki)from this time onfrom now on / in the future / hereafter今後こんごkongo
簡単にかんたんに (kantan ni)easilyeasily容易によういにyōi ni
もっと(motto)morewhat is more / furthermore / moreover更にさらにsara ni
even more / all the moreより一層よりいっそうyori issō
本当にほんとうに (hontō ni)reallyreally / truly正にまさにmasani
それぞれ(sorezore)eacheach各々おのおのono’ono
まだ(mada)yet / stillas yet / still依然としていぜんとしてizen toshite
少しすこし (sukoshi)a little / a fewa little / a small quantity少々しょうしょうshōshō

Examples:

  • 後で資料を送ります。            →   後ほど資料を送信します。
    Ato de shiryō o okurimasu.                Nochihodo shiryō o sōshin shimasu.
    “I will send the document later.”
  • 原因はまだはっきりしない。    →      原因は依然としてはっきりしない。
    Gen’in wa mada hakkiri shinai.                 Gen’in wa izen toshite hakkiri shinai.   
    “The cause is still unclear.”
  • 少し待ってください。          →   少々お待ちください。
    Sukoshi matte kudasai.        Shōshō o-machi kudasai.
    “Please wait for a moment.”

3 – 敬語 (Keigo) [Japanese Honorific Language]

Meaning KeigoKanjiHiraganaReading  
見るみる (miru)look / watch / seeRespectfulご覧になるごらんになるgoran ni naru
Humble拝見するはいけんするhaiken suru
食べるたべる (taberu)eatRespectful召し上がるめしあがるmeshiagaru
Humble頂くいただくitadaku
言ういう (iu)sayRespectfulおっしゃるossharu
Humble申す申し上げるもうすもうしあげるmōsumōshiageru
いる(iru)be there / exist Respectfulいらっしゃるirassharu
Humbleおるoru
する(suru)doRespectfulなさるnasaru
Humbleいたすitasu
行くいく (iku)goRespectfulいらっしゃるirassharu
Humble参るまいるmairu
くれる (kureru)give me/usRespectfulくださるkudasaru
Humble
あげる (ageru)give someone somethingRespectful
Humble差し上げるさしあげるsashiageru
知るしる (shiru)know Respectfulご存じごぞんじgozonji
Humble存じ上げるぞんじあげるzonjiageru
聞くきく (kiku)ask / listenRespectfulお聞きになるおききになるo-kiki ni naru
Humble伺ううかがうukagau

Examples:

  • [Normal Polite] 彼は流れ星を見ました。  Kare wa nagareboshi o mimashita.    
           (“He saw a shooting star.”)

    [Respectful]  こちらのデータをご覧ください。Kochira no dēta o goran kudasai.
           (“Please look at this data.”)

    [Humble]  求人広告を拝見し、応募いたしました。Kyūjin kōkoku o haiken shi, ōbo itashimashita.
         (“I saw the job advertisement and applied.”)

  • [Normal Polite] 彼女は会議で意見を言いました。  Kanojo wa kaigi de iken o iimashita.    
           (“She gave her opinion in the meeting.”)

    [Respectful]  社長は会議でご意見をおっしゃいましたShachō wa kaigi de go-iken o osshaimashita.
           (“The president gave her/his opinion in the meeting.”)

    [Humble]  私は会議で意見を申し上げました。   Watashi wa kaigi de iken o mōshiagemashita.
         (“I gave my opinion in the meeting.”)

  • [Normal Polite]  この新しい技術を知っていますか。  Kono atarashii gijutsu o shitte imasu ka.
            (“Do you know this new technology?”)

    [Respectful]  この新しい技術をご存じですか。  Kono atarashii gijutsu o gozonji desu ka.
           (“Do you know this new technology?”)

    [Humble]  この新しい技術を存じ上げております。  Kono atarashii gijutsu o zonjiagete orimasu.
         (“I know this new technology.”)

6. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced the most frequently used advanced Japanese words, including nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and sophisticated alternative words. Although the Kanji is difficult at this level, once you conquer it, you’ll be able to successfully work in Japan and watch any Japanese movie without stress!

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language and pick up other useful Japanese phrases for different situations, you’ll find more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons to help you improve your Japanese-language skills. 

If you want to review and check your knowledge of the intermediate level, the following articles will be very useful: Intermediate Japanese Words, Essential Business Japanese, and Japanese Phone Phrases. On the other hand, if you’re ready to press onward, then we recommend visiting our advanced Japanese course

And there’s so much more! Learn Japanese faster and enjoy studying at JapanesePod101.com!

Before you go, let us know in the comments if there are Japanese words related to any specific topic you want to know! We’d be glad to help, and we look forward to hearing from you! 

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Intermediate Japanese Words

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So, you’ve already mastered the beginner level in Japanese? Congratulations! That means you know how to write Hiragana, Katakana, and the basic Kanji, as well as the basic grammar rules. Now you’re ready to level up to intermediate Japanese! 

At some point during your studies, you probably heard about the JLPT (Japanese-Language Proficiency Test). This is a standardized test that evaluates the Japanese-language proficiency of non-native speakers, including their language knowledge (vocabulary/grammar), reading ability, and listening ability. Level N3 is equivalent to the intermediate level, and setting a goal for yourself to pass this level would be a good source of motivation to help you keep up your studies.

You faced the first challenge when you started learning Japanese, a language with a totally new set of characters and grammar rules from English. However, the beginner level is rewarding in that you can easily see your progress the more you study. On the other hand, the intermediate level is when things start getting hard—you need continuous effort and patience to make meaningful advances at this stage. Although the progress may seem very slow, you’ll steadily move forward as long as you don’t give up!

In this article, we’ll introduce a list of frequently used intermediate Japanese words, including larger numbers, nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and even conjunctions and Japanese particles. Let’s start the journey toward conquering the next level here at JapanesePod101.com!

A Silhouette of One Person Helping Another Climb Up a Mountain

The Japanese intermediate level gets harder, but you can still have fun learning with JapanesePod101.com.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Larger Numbers
  2. Nouns – 名詞 (Meishi)
  3. Verbs – 動詞 (Dōshi)
  4. Adjectives – 形容詞 (Keiyōshi)
  5. Adverbs – 副詞 (Fukushi)
  6. Conjunctions – 接続詞 (Setsuzokushi)
  7. Auxiliary Words and Particles – 助詞 (Joshi)
  8. Conclusion

1. Larger Numbers 

Once you know the basic Japanese numbers, counting to larger numbers is fairly simple. We can easily express these numbers with Kanji using relatively few digits. 

Keep in mind, however, that we group larger numbers by every 10,000 (rather than every 1,000 like in Western counting). That said, when we do write the Arabic numbers in Japan, it’s common to use commas for every thousand just like it’s done in the West. 

Arabic NumberKanji HiraganaReading
100ひゃくhyaku
1,000せん sen
10,000まんman
100,000十万じゅうまん jū-man
1,000,000百万ひゃくまん hyaku-man
10,000,000千万せんまん sen-man
100,000,000おくoku
1,000,000,000十億じゅうおくjū-oku
10,000,000,000百億ひゃくおくhyaku-oku
100,000,000,000千億せんおくsen-oku
1,000,000,000,000ちょうchō

Number-related Vocabulary

EnglishKanji HiraganaReading
number数字すうじsūji
calculation計算けいさんkeisan
arithmetic算数さんすうsansū
mathematics数学すうがくsūgaku
addition足し算たしざんtashizan
subtraction引き算ひきざんhikizan
multiplication掛け算かけざんkakezan
division割り算わりざんwarizan

Examples:

  • 私のいとこは宝くじで2億円を当てました。
    Watashi no itoko wa takarakuji de ni-oku-en o atemashita.
    “My cousin won 200 million Yen in the lottery.”
  • 2020年の日本の国家予算は約103兆円です。
    Ni-sen ni-jū-nen no Nihon no kokka yosan wa yaku hyaku san-chō-en desu.
    “Japan’s national budget in 2020 was around 103 trillion Yen.”
  • 私は毎日その日の利益を計算します。 
    Watashi wa mainichi sono hi no rieki o keisan shimasu.
    “I calculate the profit for the day every day.”

A Calculator Showing 1,000,000

We can easily express larger numbers with Kanji.

2. Nouns – 名詞 (Meishi)

Our next set of intermediate Japanese vocabulary words will cover the most practical nouns in a range of categories. At this stage in your learning journey, picking up as many new nouns as possible will help you better express yourself and allow you to hold conversations on a greater number of topics. 

Time

EnglishKanji HiraganaReading
sunrise日の出ひのでhinode
sunset日没にちぼつnichibotsu
instant (a very short moment)一瞬いっしゅんisshun
a whole life / lifetime /  for life一生 いっしょうisshō
a time / while / one time一時 いちじichiji
a short period or term短期たんきtanki
a medium-length period or term中期ちゅうきchūki
a long period or term長期 ちょうきchōki
a school term / semester学期 がっきgakki
this time今回こんかいkonkai
hereafter / from now on / onward今後 こんごkongo

Examples:

  • 夏は日の出が早く、日没が遅い。
    Natsu wa hinode ga hayaku, nichibotsu ga osoi.
    “In summer, the sunrise (time) is early and the sunset (time) is late.”
  • 彼は短期目標を設定しました。
    Kare wa tanki mokuhyō o settei shimashita.
    “He has set a short-term goal.”
  • 私は今後一切タバコを吸いません。 
    Watashi wa kongo issai tabako o suimasen.
    “I will never smoke cigarettes from now on.”

2. People

EnglishKanji HiraganaReading
individual個人こじんkojin
group 集団しゅうだんshūdan
citizen市民しみんshimin
people (of a country) or  nation国民こくみんkokumin
man / boy / male男子 だんしdanshi
woman / girl / female女子 じょしjoshi
infant幼児ようじyōji
young man / young people / youth青年せいねんseinen
elderly年配ねんぱいnenpai
old person / the aged老人ろうじんrōjin
stranger / others他人たにんtanin
colleague / coworker同僚どうりょうdōryō
boss / superior上司じょうしjōshi
subordinate部下ぶかbuka
employee / staff社員しゃいんshain
president / head (of a company)社長しゃちょうshachō

Examples:

  • 国民の三大義務は、教育、労働、納税です。
    Kokumin no sandai gimu wa, kyōiku, rōdō, nōzei desu.
    “The three major duties of the people in Japan are education, labor, and paying taxes.”
  • あの青年は老人介護施設で働いています。
    Ano seinen wa rōjin kaigo shisetsu de hataraite imasu.
    “That young man works at a nursing home for the elderly.”
  • 私の目標は起業して社長になることです。 
    Watashi no mokuhyō wa kigyō shite shachō ni naru koto desu.
    “My goal is to start a business and become president.”

To learn more work-related vocabulary words with audio, we recommend you check out our wordlists Jobs / Work and Workplace.

Four Colleagues Chatting with Each Other at Work

昼休みに同僚と雑談する (hiruyasumi ni dōryō to zatsudan suru)
“chat with colleagues during lunch break”

3. Other Nouns

EnglishKanji HiraganaReading
start / beginning 開始かいしkaishi
end / close / termination終了しゅうりょうshūryō
stop / suspension停止ていしteishi
base / fundament / standard基本きほんkihon
basis / foundation基礎きそkiso
(practical) application応用おうようōyō
input / entry / filling in / filling out記入きにゅうkinyū
article記事きじkiji
right 権利けんりkenri
rules / regulations規則きそくkisoku
law法律ほうりつhōritsu
accounting会計かいけいkaikei
business / commerce商売しょうばいshōbai
profit利益りえきrieki
product製品せいひんseihin
lack / shortage / deficiency不足ふそくfusoku
income収入しゅうにゅうshūnyū
documents書類しょるいshorui
cooperation / collaboration協力きょうりょくkyōryoku
satisfaction / contentment満足まんぞくmanzoku
dissatisfaction不満ふまんfuman

Examples:

  • 開始と終了の時間に、ベルが鳴ります。
    Kaishi to shūryō no jikan ni, beru ga narimasu.
    “The bell rings at the start and end times.”
  • 法律に基づき、18歳以上の国民は投票する権利があります。
    Hōritsu ni motozuki, jū hassai ijō no kokumin wa tōhyō suru kenri ga arimasu.
    “By law, citizens over 18 years old have the right to vote.”
  • パンデミックの影響で、衛生製品が不足しています。 
    Pandemikku no eikyō de, eisei seihin ga fusoku shite imasu.
    “Due to the influence of the pandemic, there is a shortage of hygiene products.”

Someone Writing Something Down in a Notebook

書類に記入する (shorui ni kinyū suru)
“fill out the document”

To learn more Japanese nouns, please check out Guide to the Top 100+ Japanese Nouns on our website. 

3. Verbs – 動詞 (Dōshi)

Verbs, like nouns, make up a huge chunk of any language’s vocabulary. At the beginner level, you picked up a number of useful action words and auxiliaries to get your point across—but as you approach the intermediate level, you may find yourself needing more advanced verbs to clearly express your thoughts. Below is a list to get you started.

General Verbs

EnglishKanji HiraganaReading
to encounter / to meet / to come across出会うであうdeau
to remove / to undo外すはずすhazusu
to like / to be pleased with気に入るきにいるki ni iru
to fall down / to fall over転ぶころぶkorobu
to receive受け取るうけとるuketoru
to take (something) out取り出すとりだすtoridasu
to divide / to split / to separate分けるわけるwakeru
to give up諦めるあきらめるakirameru
to lose interest in / to get tired of 飽きるあきるakiru
to be enough / to be sufficient足りるたりるtariru
to remain / to be in excess余るあまるamaru
to appear / to show up / to turn up現れるあらわれるarawareru
to express / to show表すあらわすarawasu
to treat / to handle / to deal with扱うあつかうatsukau
to put together / to combine / to add to / to match合わせるあわせるawaseru
to deposit / to consign / to entrust預けるあずけるazukeru
to touch触れるふれるfureru
to shake / to tremble / to vibrate / to shudder / to shiver震えるふるえるfurueru
to prevent / to guard against防ぐふせぐfusegu
to wear (trousers, skirt, shoes) / to put on履くはくhaku
to discuss話し合うはなしあうhanashiau
to separate / to keep apart / to isolate離すはなすhanasu
to release / to free / to let go放すはなすhanasu
to decrease減るへるheru
to pull引くひくhiku
to celebrate祝ういわうiwau
to dislike嫌がるいやがるiyagaru
to be concerned with / to engage in / to be related to関わるかかわるkakawaru
to hide隠すかくすkakusu 
to earn / to make money稼ぐかせぐkasegu
to pile up / to put on top of one another重ねるかさねるkasaneru
to shine / to sparkle輝くかがやくkagayaku
to repeat繰り返すくりかえすkurikaesu
to stretch / to get longer / to grow伸びるのびるnobiru
to remove / to get rid of / to exclude除くのぞくnozoku

Examples:

  • 諦めたらそこで試合は終了です。
    Akirametara soko de shiai wa shūryō desu.
    “If you give up, the game ends there.”
  • あなたに預けた書類を受け取りに来ました。
    Anata ni azuketa shorui o uketori ni kimashita.
    “I came to pick up the documents I entrusted to you.”
  • 彼は彼女に関わることを嫌がった。 
    Kare wa kanojo ni kakawaru koto o iyagatta.
    “He disliked getting involved with her.”

[ Noun + する (suru) ] Verbs 

This type of Japanese verb is formed by using this pattern: noun + する (suru). You may remember that する (suru) means “do,” and in this case, we use it to create verbs. For example: 

  • 期待する (kitai suru) or “to expect” = 期待 (kitai) “expectation” + する (suru) “do” 

EnglishKanji HiraganaReading
to go out外出するがいしゅつするgaishutsu suru
to make (an) effort努力するどりょくするdoryoku suru
to memorize / to store data記憶するきおくするkioku suru
to expect / to hope to期待するきたいするkitai suru
to grow (up)成長する せいちょうするseichō suru
to lack不足するふそくするfusoku suru
to match / to coincide一致するいっちするitchi suru
to agree with / to support (a measure)賛成するさんせいするsansei suru
to oppose / to object反対するはんたいするhantai suru
to concentrate集中するしゅうちゅうするshūchū suru
to import輸入するゆにゅうするyunyū suru
to export輸出するゆしゅつするyushutsu suru
to sell販売するはんばいするhanbai suru
to zoom / to enlarge / to expand拡大するかくだいするkakudai suru
to shrink / to reduce / to diminish縮小するしゅくしょうするsyukushō suru

Examples:

  • 彼は彼女に会えることを期待して外出しました。 
    Kare wa kanojo ni aeru koto o kitai shite gaishutsu shimashita.
    “He went out hoping to see her.”
  • この会社は日本茶を海外へ輸出して、世界中で販売しています。
    Kono kaisha wa nihoncha o kaigai e yushutsu shite, sekaijū de hanbai shite imasu.
    “This company exports Japanese tea overseas and sells it all over the world.”
  • 勉強する時はテレビを消して集中しなさい。 
    Benkyō suru toki wa terebi o keshite shūchū shinasai.
    “When you study, turn off the TV and concentrate.”

To learn more about Japanese verbs, please check out our articles The 100+ Most Common Japanese Verbs and Ultimate Japanese Verb Conjugation Guide.

A Woman Studying Late at Night

努力して試験に合格 (doryoku shite shiken ni gōkaku)
“passing the exam by making an effort”

4. Adjectives – 形容詞 (Keiyōshi)

As a beginner, you probably spent most of your time memorizing nouns, verbs, and practical sentence patterns. But once you have the basics down, picking up a few common adjectives can help you enrich your conversations and add flavor to your writing. Below, we’ve listed the most useful adjectives for intermediate Japanese learners. 

i-Adjectives

EnglishKanji HiraganaReading
intense / hard / violent / fierce / furious激しいはげしいhageshii
nostalgic / dear懐かしいなつかしいnatsukashii
shameful / pitiful / miserable情けないなさけないnasakenai
frightening / terrifying / fearful恐ろしいおそろしいosoroshii
persistent / insistentしつこいshitsukoi
powerful力強いちからづよいchikarazuyoi
smart / wise / clever賢いかしこいkashikoi
childlike / childish / infant幼いおさないosanai
hard / tough / painful / bitter辛いつらいtsurai
jealous / envious羨ましいうらやましいurayamashii
loose / lax緩いゆるいyurui
equal / equivalent等しいひとしいhitoshii
itchy痒いかゆいkayui
noisy騒がしいさわがしいsawagashii
funny可笑しいおかしいokashii
empty / void / fruitless空しいむなしいmunashii
refreshing / refreshed清々しいすがすがしいsugasugashii
menial / vulgar / greedy卑しいいやしいiyashii
lovely / adorable可愛らしいかわいらしいkawairashii
missed / longed for恋しいこいしいkoishii
smelly / stinky臭いくさいkusai
tight / hard / toughきついkitsui
detailed詳しいくわしいkuwashii
regretful / mortifying悔しいくやしいkuyashii
dazzling / bright眩しいまぶしいmabushii
poor貧しいまずしいmazushii
gentle / mild / quiet大人しいおとなしいotonashii
fortunately / luckily幸いさいわいsaiwai
sharp鋭いするどいsurudoi
dull / slow鈍いにぶいnibui
rough / harsh / wild荒いあらいarai

Examples:

  • 台風の影響で激しい雨が降っています。 
    Taifū no eikyō de hageshii ame ga futte imasu.
    “It is raining hard due to the typhoon.”
  • 公園で可愛らしい女の子が一人で遊んでいました。
    Kōen de kawairashii onnanoko ga hitori de asonde imashita.
    “The adorable girl was playing alone in the park.”
  • 彼は大人しいが、鋭い洞察力を持っています。 
    Kare wa otonashii ga, surudoi dōsatsuryoku o motte imasu.
    “He is quiet but has keen insight.”
The Sun Shining Brightly in a Blue Sky

太陽が眩しい。 (Taiyō ga mabushii.)
“The sun is bright.”

na-Adjectives

EnglishKanji HiraganaReading
serious / earnest真面目まじめmajime
eager / zealous / ardent熱心ねっしんnesshin
advantageous有利ゆうりyūri
flat / even平らたいらtaira
troublesome / cumbersome厄介やっかいyakkai
rich / abundant / fertile豊かゆたかyutaka
luxurious贅沢ぜいたくzeitaku
slight / subtle僅かわずかwazuka
obstructive邪魔じゃまjama
obvious明らかあきらかakiraka
troublesome / annoying / unwelcome迷惑めいわくmeiwaku
troublesome / onerous / perplexing面倒めんどうmendō

Examples:

  • この箱は平らな所に置いてください。 
    Kono hako wa taira na tokoro ni oite kudasai.
    “Please place this box on a flat surface.”
  • 私は僅かな可能性があれば、希望を捨てない。
    Watashi wa wazuka na kanōsei ga areba, kibō o sutenai.
    “I will not lose hope if there is a slight possibility.”
  • 彼は明らかな間違いを犯しました。 
    Kare wa akiraka na machigai o okashimashita.
    “He made an obvious mistake.”

To learn more about Japanese adjectives, please check out our articles Learn the Top 100 Essential Japanese Adjectives and -I vs. -NA Adjectives in Japanese.

5. Adverbs – 副詞 (Fukushi)

While adjectives describe nouns, adverbs provide additional information about verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. At this stage in your learning journey, having a few Japanese adverbs up your sleeve will allow you to give more detailed descriptions of events and help your writing flow more smoothly. 

EnglishKanji HiraganaReading
at once / immediately / promptly / right away早速さっそくsassoku
as … as possibleなるべくnarubeku
carelessly / thoughtlesslyうっかりukkari
probably / presumably恐らくおそらくosoraku
quite / prettyかなりkanari
approximately / about / roughlyおよそoyoso
just like / as ifまるでmarude
abruptly / suddenly急にきゅうにkyū ni
ratherむしろmushiro
kind of / sort of / fairly / reasonablyなかなかnakanaka
what is more / furthermore / moreover更にさらにsara ni
already既にすでにsude ni
for some time / for a while暫くしばらくshibaraku
surely / definitely / indeed確かにたしかにtashika ni
rather / quite a 随分ずいぶんzuibun
at one time / at once / all at once一度にいちどにichi-do ni
all / whole全てすべてsubete
desperately / frantically必死にひっしにhisshi ni
deliberately / on purposeわざとwazato
increasingly / more and more益々ますますmasumasu
one after another次々とつぎつぎとtsugitsugi to
anytime / at all timesいつでもitsu demo
before one is aware / before one knows いつの間にかいつのまにかitsunomanika
indeed / really実にじつにjitsu ni
as it isそのままsonomama
each / respectivelyそれぞれsorezore
sometimes時々ときどきtokidoki
always / at all times / constantly常につねにtsune ni
suddenly突然とつぜんtotsuzen
in/at the beginning始めにはじめにhajime ni
early / earlier / ahead of time早めにはやめにhayame ni
before long / shortly間もなくまもなくmamonaku
at least少なくともすくなくともsukunakutomo
by chance / accidentally / unintentionallyたまたまtamatama
in particular / particularly別にべつにbetsu ni
anyways / in any caseとにかくtonikaku
by all meansどうしてもdōshitemo
again / once again再びふたたびfutatabi
together共にともにtomo ni
a short while ago / a moment ago先程さきほどsakihodo

Examples:

  • なるべく早く返信してください。 
    Narubeku hayaku henshin shite kudasai.
    “Please reply as soon as possible.”q145
  • 間もなく電車が到着します。
    Mamonaku densha ga tōchaku shimasu.
    “The train will arrive shortly.”
  • 私は別にこれを欲しくない。 
    Watashi wa betsu ni kore o hoshikunai.
    “I don’t want this in particular.”

A Businesswoman Getting Lots of Creative Ideas for Work

次々と良い案が浮かぶ (tsugitsugi to ii an ga ukabu)
“come up with good ideas one after another”

6. Conjunctions – 接続詞 (Setsuzokushi)

EnglishKanji HiraganaReading
finally / at last遂についにtsuini
to sum up / in short / in a wordつまりtsumari
therefore / accordingly / consequently従ってしたがってshitagatte
so / therefore / henceゆえにyueni
therefore / whereforeそれゆえにsoreyueni
and thenするとsuruto
howeverしかしながらshikashinagara
and yet / but even soそれなのにsorenanoni
nevertheless / in spite of それにも関わらずそれにもかかわらずsorenimo kakawarazu
having said thatとは言うもののとはいうもののtowa iumonono
and / as well as及びおよびoyobi
besides / moreover / alsoかつkatsu
and also / both…and並びにならびにnarabini
first / first of all最初にさいしょにsaisho ni
next / secondly次につぎにtsugi ni
at last / finally最後にさいごにsaigo ni
moreover / besides / on top of しかもshikamo
in addition加えてくわえてkuwaete
moreover / in additionその上でそのうえでsonouede
on the one hand一方いっぽうippō
conversely / contrarily逆にぎゃくにgyaku ni
while / on the other hand反面はんめんhanmen
the reason why is / becauseなぜかと言うとなぜかというとnaze ka to iu to
still / yet / evenなおnao
on the condition that…ただしtadashi
by the wayちなみにchinamini
in truth / in fact実はじつはjitsu wa
namely / that is to sayすなわちsunawachi
in short / in a word /to sum up要するにようするにyōsuruni
especially / in particular特にとくにtokuni
above all / in particularとりわけtoriwake
anyhow / in any case / either way / anywayいずれにしてもizurenishitemo
anyways / above all thingsともあれtomoare
then / if that is the caseそれではsoredewa

Examples:

  • 従って、規則によりこれは無効となります。 
    Shitagatte, kisoku ni yori kore wa mukō to narimasu.
    “Therefore, this is invalid according to regulation.”
  • レストランは12時に閉まります。なお、ラストオーダーは11時です。
    Resutoran wa jū ni-ji ni shimarimasu. Nao, rasuto ōdā wa jū ichi-ji desu.
    “The restaurant closes at twelve. Yet, the last order is at eleven.”
  • いずれにしても、納期は守ってください。 
    Izurenishitemo, nōki wa mamotte kudasai.
    “In any case, please keep the delivery date.”

Coworkers Pointing to and Examining Charts and Graphs

いずれにしても、来月は赤字になりそうです。
Izurenishitemo, raigetsu wa akaji ni narisō desu.
“In any case, it looks like it will be in the red next month.”

7. Auxiliary Words and Particles – 助詞 (Joshi)

Japanese particles, or 助詞 (joshi), are suffixes or short words that follow a modified noun, verb, adjective, or sentence. Particles play a very important role in Japanese grammar because even a slight difference in this regard could change the meaning/nuance of a sentence. Memorizing and becoming familiar with how to use these particles is a great way to start improving your Japanese as an intermediate learner. 

EnglishHiraganaReading
the more…the moreば…ほどba…hodo
would have / should haveば…のにba…noni 
degree / extentほどhodo
is not as…as ほど…ないhodo…nai
no matter how いくら…てもikura…te mo
through / from [A] to [B][A]から[B]にかけて[A] kara [B] ni kakete
only / just / since / after…きり…kiri 
for sure (emphasizes the preceding word)…こそ…koso
if / supposeもしも…たらmoshimo…tara
although / despite …ながらも…nagaramo
even if / even though / regardless of…ても…te mo
to / for / as far as…is concerned / regarding …にとって… ni totte
even / so much as / not evenさえsae 
if only / as long asさえ…ばsae…ba

Examples:

  • 勉強すればするほど賢くなります。 
    Benkyō sureba suru hodo kashikoku narimasu.
    “The more you study, the smarter you become.”
  • もしも大金があったら、豪華客船で世界一周したい。
    Moshimo taikin ga attara, gōka kyakusen de sekai isshū shitai.
    “If I had a lot of money, I would want to go around the world on a luxury cruise ship.”
  • あなたさえ良ければ、一緒に行きませんか。
    Anata sae yokereba, issho ni ikimasen ka.
    “If only you’re okay, would you like to go with us?”
A Girl Sleeping on Class

いくら寝ても眠い。 (Ikura nete mo nemui.)
“(I’m) sleepy no matter how much I sleep.”

Conclusion

In this article, we introduced the most frequently used intermediate Japanese words, including large numbers, nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, and particles—we even threw in some example sentences for you. Some Kanji are a bit harder than those you learned at the beginner level, but you’ll now be able to deal with a wider range of topics and converse in more detail.

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language and culture, you’ll find a lot more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons designed to help you improve your Japanese language skills. 

If you’re at the intermediate level in your Japanese studies, you’ll find the following articles very useful: 

And there’s so much more! Learn Japanese faster and enjoy studying with JapanesePod101.com!

Before you go, let us know in the comments if you would like to learn Japanese words related to any specific topic. We’d be glad to help, and look forward to hearing from you! 

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Japanese Animal Names

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Like many other countries, Japan is blessed with beautiful nature and all kinds of animals. 

When you start learning the Japanese language, picking up the most common Japanese animal names will be an inevitable part of the process! Animals play a central role in our lives, so learning what to call them is important. Doing so will not only allow you to talk about your pets or favorite animals with native speakers, but also help you understand Japanese idioms and stories related to them. 

The good news is that learning Japanese animal names is actually very easy! Do you know why? It’s because animal names in Japanese are often short and simple, and we also use plenty of loanwords from other languages (usually English) to label foreign animals.

While the Kanji for many Japanese animal names is difficult, don’t let this worry you. Even ordinary Japanese people don’t know how to write or read them, so the much simpler Hiragana and Katakana are more commonly used. 

In this article from JapanesePod101.com, you’ll learn popular animal names in Japanese, from pets and farm animals to sea animals and insects. We’ll also introduce animal sounds in Japanese and animal-related Japanese proverbs.

Ready to boost your vocabulary and cultural knowledge? Let’s go!

Several Common Housepets
Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Pets
  2. Farm Animals
  3. Wild Animals
  4. Sea Animals
  5. Bugs and Insects
  6. Birds
  7. Reptiles
  8. Animal Body Parts
  9. Animal Sounds
  10. Animal-Related Proverbs
  11. Conclusion

1. Pets

The Japanese word for “animal” is 動物 (dōbutsu). Literally, this breaks down to 動 (“moving”) + 物 (“thing”). 

Japanese does not distinguish between singular and plural nouns, so the word 動物 (dōbutsu) and all of the animals listed in this article can refer to one animal or many.

To talk about baby animals in Japanese, we add the word for “child” to the beginning of the animal name in question: 子 こ (ko).

  • うさぎ (usagi) – “rabbit” → うさぎ (kousagi) – “baby bunny”

The most common Japanese counter word for animals is 匹 ひき (hiki), which we place after the number. Or, if we’re counting larger animals, we can use the word 頭 とう (), meaning “head.” 

For example:

  • 私は犬を2飼っています。
    Watashi wa inu o ni-hiki katte imasu.
    “I have two dogs.”

To learn more about numbers in Japanese, please check out our article Japanese Numbers: Let’s Master the Basic Japanese Numbers!

Following is a list of popular pet animals in Japan.

EnglishKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
“dog”いぬinu
“puppy”子犬こいぬkoinu
“cat”ねこneko
“kitten”子猫こねこkoneko
“rabbit”うさぎusagi
“hamster”ハムスターhamusutā
“mouse” / “rat”ねずみnezumi
“budgerigar”インコinko
“parrot”オウムōmu
“goldfish”金魚きんぎょkingyo
“hedgehog”ハリネズミharinezumi * literally “needle mouse” in Japanese.

* The Kanji for “rabbit” (兎) and “mouse” (鼠) are difficult and uncommon. We normally use Hiragana or Katakana for these words.

Several Dogs and Cats, as Well as a Bunny, Bird, and Mouse

Like many other countries, dogs and cats are popular pets in Japan.

2. Farm Animals

Popular farm animals in Japan include cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, and horses. Ducks and swans are commonly seen in the countryside. 

In addition to the counter words 匹 ひき (hiki) and 頭 とう(), meaning “head,” there’s also a counter used for birds: 羽 わ (wa), meaning “feather.”

For example:

  • この農場には馬が4います。
    Kono nōjō ni wa uma ga yon- imasu.
    “There are four horses on this farm.”
  • この湖には白鳥が10います。
    Kono mizūmi ni wa hakuchō ga jū-wa imasu.
    “There are ten swans in this lake.”

Here’s a list of animals in Japanese you’re likely to find on a farm or in the countryside: 

EnglishKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
“cow”牛  うしushi
“calf”子牛こうしkoushi
“pig”ぶたbuta
“piglet”子豚こぶたkobuta
“horse”うまuma
“foal”子馬こうまkouma

“sheep”
ひつじhitsuji
“baby sheep”子羊こひつじkohitsuji
“goat”山羊やぎyagi
“donkey”ロバroba
“chicken”にわとりniwatori*literally “garden bird” in Japanese.
“chick”ひよこhiyoko
“duck”かもkamo

“goose”
ガチョウgachō
“swan”白鳥はくちょうhakuchō* literally: “white bird” in Japanese

You can also hear the pronunciation of these words on our Animal Names vocabulary list.

Two Sheep Standing in a Field

Sheep farms are famous in Hokkaido.

3. Wild Animals

Now that we’ve looked at a few domesticated creatures, it’s time to learn the names of different wild animals in Japanese. Below, you’ll also find some interesting facts about indigenous animals in Japan and how mythology influenced our naming of the giraffe! 

A- In the Forest

Did you know that Japan is actually a country of forests, despite the image foreigners often have of a sushi-eating island country surrounded by the sea? Around 73% of the land in Japan is mountainous, 66% of which is forested.

This means there are a lot of forest animals! Some of you might have seen pictures of Japanese monkeys enjoying natural hot springs (温泉 Onsen) in the snowy weather, for example. 

Forest animals often appear in Japanese folktales, idioms, and proverbs. Monkeys are considered clever and are thought to be the closest animal to humans. Raccoon dogs and foxes are often seen as animals that have mysterious powers and the ability to play tricks on humans.

Since many of the following forest animals are indigenous to Japan, they have original names in Japanese (including their own Kanji). 

EnglishKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
“deer”鹿しかshika
“bear”くまkuma
“monkey”さるsaru
“wild boar”いのししinoshishi
“raccoon dog”たぬきtanuki
“fox”きつねkitsune
“squirrel”栗鼠 *りすrisu
“wolf”おおかみōkami

* The Kanji for “squirrel” (栗鼠) is difficult and uncommon. We normally use Hiragana or Katakana instead.

Japanese Monkeys in Onsen Hot Springs

Japanese monkeys love Onsen hot springs.

B- Safari Animals (and Others)

There is no Kanji for animals that originate from places that are very far away from Japan, such as safari animals or those from Oceania. They’re typically expressed in Katakana as loanwords or named in Japanese after their characteristics.

Some animals—such as elephants, tigers, and leopards—have Kanji because they’re indigenous to Asian countries (China, India, etc.), and they became known to Japan through trading. Such Kanji were directly imported from the Chinese language, but the names (phonetic readings) are original to Japanese.

EnglishKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
“elephant”ゾウ
“giraffe”キリンkirin
“lion”ライオンraion
“tiger”トラtora
“panda bear”パンダpanda
“zebra”シマウマshimauma*literally “striped horse” in Japanese.
“hippopotamus”カバkaba
“rhinoceros”サイsai
“ostrich”ダチョウdachō*It means “camel bird” in Japanese.
“baboon”ヒヒhihi
“hyena”ハイエナhaiena
“cheetah”チーターchītā
“leopard”ヒョウhyō
“koala bear”コアラkoara
“kangaroo”カンガルーkangarū
“camel”ラクダrakuda

A Giraffe and Its Baby

The キリン (kirin), or “giraffe,” was named after the Chinese dragon-like mythical animal called 麒麟 (qílín). 

4. Sea Animals

A recent study revealed that there are about 34,000 species of sea animals living in the oceans near Japan, including everything from plankton to mammals. This means that about 13.5% of all confirmed marine life abound in less than 1% of the world’s ocean. 

As a country blessed with lots of ocean, Japan has an abundance of words related to fish, called 魚 さかな (sakan), and sea animals. However, most of their Kanji are difficult, so Hiragana and Katakana are more commonly used to express their names.

Again, loanwords are used for sea animals that are not indigenous to Japan, such as ペンギン (pengin), or “penguin.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
“whale”くじらkujira
“dolphin”海豚イルカiruka
“shark”サメsame
“seal”海豹アザラシazarashi
“sealion”海馬トドtodo
“penguin”ペンギンpengin
“sea turtle”海亀うみがめumigame
*literally “sea turtle” in Japanese
“jellyfish”海月くらげkurage
“pufferfish”河豚ふぐfugu
“octopus”たこtako
“squid”烏賊いかika
“crab”かにkani
“shrimp” / “prawn”海老えびebi
“shell”かいkai
“starfish”人手ヒトデhitode
* literally “human hand” in Japanese

You can also hear the pronunciation of these words (and more) in our vocabulary list Marine Animals & Fish.

All Kinds of Aquatic Life in the Ocean

鮫 サメ (same) – “shark”

5. Bugs and Insects

As with sea animals, there is a lot of vocabulary related to bugs and insects in Japan. Most of their Kanji are very difficult, so Hiragana and Katakana are more commonly used to express their names. 

Considering the abundance of mountains and forests in Japan, it’s said that there could be as many as 100,000 insect species in the country. It’s possible that only about 10,000 of these species have been published in books.

Below are the names of some well-known bugs and insects that are commonly seen in Japan.

EnglishKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
“bugs” / “insects”むしmushi
“bee”ハチhachi
“fly”ハエhae
“mosquito”ka
“butterfly”チョウchō
“moth”ga
“cicada”セミsemi
“dragonfly”蜻蛉トンボtonbo
“ant”アリari
“spider”蜘蛛クモkumo
“ladybug”天道虫てんとうむしtentōmushi
“beetle”甲虫かぶとむしkabutomushi
“grasshopper”飛蝗バッタbatta
“mantis”蟷螂カマキリ kamakiri

ladybugs

てんとう虫 (tentōmushi) – “ladybug”

6. Birds 

Thanks to the wealth of nature in Japan, the country is home to a diverse range of birds. There are 658 species of birds here, 22 of which are foreign.

Despite the rich variety of birds in Japan, the ones we see most often are pigeons, crows, sparrows, and swallows. In Japan, swallows are said to be “summer birds.” This is because seeing them is a sign that summer is coming, as swallows spend winter in the warmer southern areas (such as Taiwan, the Philippines, and Malaysia) before flying back to Japan in spring to raise their chicks.

There are also Japanese superstitions related to birds. For example, it’s believed that sparrows bring good luck and that crows bring bad luck. 

EnglishKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
“bird”とりtori

“small (baby) bird”
小鳥ことりkotori
“pigeon”はとhato
“crow”からすkarasu
“sparrow”すずめsuzume
“swallow”つばめtsubame
“seagull”かもめkamome
“eagle”わしwashi
“crane”つるtsuru
“owl”ふくろうfukurō

Owl

The フクロウ (fukurō), or “owl,” is considered an animal of good omen.

7. Reptiles

In Japanese, reptiles are called 爬虫類 はちゅうるい (hachūrui). 

There are 142 reptile species in Japan (19 species of newt, 39 species of frog, 10 species of turtle, 32 species of lizard, and 42 species of snake). Some reptiles, such as turtles and snakes, are popular as pets in Japan. 

Reptiles are normally expressed in Katakana, even though most of them have Kanji. 

EnglishKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
“turtle”カメkame
“crocodile” / “alligator”ワニwani
“snake”ヘビhebi
“frog”カエルkaeru
“lizard”蜥蜴トカゲtokage
“chameleon”カメレオンkamereon

A Crocodile

ワニ (wani) – “crocodile” / “alligator”

8. Animal Body Parts  

Now that you’ve learned the names of several different animals in Japanese, you should take some time to study the words for animal body parts. Keep in mind that many of the basic body parts listed below are the same for humans and animals. You can learn even more useful words, along with their pronunciation, on our vocabulary list Body Parts in Japanese

EnglishKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
“horn”つのtsuno
“beak”口ばしくちばしkuchibashi
“wing” (birds)つばさtsubasa
“wing” (insects) / “feather”はねhane
“tusk”きばkiba
“mane”立て髪たてがみtategami
“fur”毛皮けがわkegawa
“claw”鉤爪かぎつめkagitsume
“tail”尾 / 尻尾お / しっぽo / shippo
“hoof”ひづめhizume
“fin”ひれhire
“gill”えらera
“scale”うろこuroko

A Ram

角 つの (tsuno) – “horn”

9. Animal Sounds

The Japanese language has a wide range of onomatopoeia, and animal sounds are one of the most common 擬声語 (gisei-go), or “animate phonomimes” we use. 

Here are the sounds animals make in Japanese:

AnimalKatakanaReading
dogワンワンwanwan
catニャーニャーnyānyā
mouseチューチューchūchū
pigブーブーbūbū
sheepメーメーmēmē
cowモーモーmōmō
horseヒヒーンhihīn
small birdチュンチュンchunchun
crowカーカーkākā
chickenコケコッコーkokekokkō
pigeonポッポーpoppō
owlホーホーhōhō
lionガオーgaō
elephantパオーンpaōn
cicadaミーンミーンmīnmīn

A Growling Lion

Lions say ガオー (Gaō) in Japanese.

10. Animal-Related Proverbs

There are many Japanese proverbs and sayings that mention animals. Here are some of the most common ones: 

  •  猿も木から落ちる  
    Saru mo ki kara ochiru.
    “Even monkeys fall off trees.”

    Meaning: Even Homer sometimes nods. / Even someone who is the best at what they do can make mistakes.

    Example:

    気にすることないよ。猿も木から落ちると言うし、誰でも失敗することがあるよ。
    Ki ni suru koto nai yo. Saru mo ki kara ochiru to iu shi, dare de mo shippai suru koto ga aru yo.
    “Don’t worry. It says ‘Even monkeys fall off trees,’ and anyone can make mistakes.”

  • 飼い犬に手を噛まれる
    Kaiinu ni te o kamareru
    “To have one’s hand bitten by one’s own dog”

    Meaning: To be betrayed by one’s trusted follower

    Example: 

    ずっと面倒をみていた部下に裏切られて、飼い犬に手を噛まれた気分だ!
    Zutto mendō o mite ita buka ni uragirarete, kaiinu ni te o kamareta kibun da!
    “I feel like I got my hand bitten by my dog, as my subordinate, whom I have been taking care of, betrayed me!”

  • 猫の手も借りたい  
    Neko no te mo karitai
    “Wanting even the help of a cat”

    Meaning: Being extremely busy, so that you need every little bit of help you can get

    Example:

    昨日は猫の手も借りたいほど、とても忙しかったです。
    Kinō wa neko no te mo karitai hodo, totemo isogashikatta desu.
    “Yesterday was so busy that I even wanted to get help from a cat.”

  • 捕らぬ狸の皮算用  
    Toranu tanuki no kawazanyō
    “Counting fur of raccoon dogs which you haven’t caught yet”

    Meaning: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. / Do not count on something that has not yet happened. / Do not expect all your hopes to come true.

    Example:

    昇給とボーナスを期待して家を買うのは、捕らぬ狸の皮算用だよ。
    Shōkyū to bōnasu o kitai shite ie o kau no wa, toranu tanuki no kawazanyō da yo.
    “Buying a house because you expect a pay-raise and a bonus is like counting the fur of raccoon dogs which you haven’t caught yet.”

To learn more Japanese proverbs, please visit our blog post Japanese Proverbs – Gain Japanese Wisdom and Insight.

A Cute Raccoon

捕らぬ狸の皮算用
Toranu tanuki no kawazanyō 
“counting fur of raccoon dogs which you haven’t caught yet” = “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”

11. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced Japanese animal words for a number of categories: 

  • Pets
  • Farm animals
  • Wild animals
  • Sea animals
  • Birds
  • Insects
  • Reptiles

In addition, we covered the most important animal body parts, Japanese animal sounds, and proverbs related to animals. If you happen to know of any other animal words, sounds, or idioms we didn’t include, please share them in the comments! 

Do you want to continue learning about the Japanese language and culture? Then create your free lifetime account on JapanesePod101.com today! We provide a variety of free lessons designed to help improve your Japanese language skills. Also, with our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, you’ll have personal 1-on-1 coaching with your own private teacher.

If you want to increase your Japanese vocabulary even further, you’ll find the following articles quite useful:  

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Before you go, let us know in the comments if there are any topics or situations you’d like to learn Japanese words for! We’d be glad to help, and we look forward to hearing from you.

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