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All About the Japanese National Anthem : Kimigayo 君が代

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Maybe you have heard of the Japanese national anthem on TV from World Cup football championship or commendation ceremonies of Olympic Games, but did you know that the Japanese national anthem “君が代 kimigayo” has first place in two categories? The lyrics of 君が代 kimigayo are the oldest among the world’s national anthems, and it is the shortest in the world! 

Originating from the pure art of Japanese ancient poetry, Kimigayo reflects the profound Japanese culture and art, yet it is also deeply related to the Japanese emperor system that has existed for over 1000 years and is an inextricable part of Japan. Embracing such long history and countless unfolding affairs in times, the Japanese national anthem is also cast a dark shadow by the wars, resulting in the controversy of its pros and cons until now.

In this article, we will introduce all the facts about the Japanese national anthem, including explanations about the lyrics, the history and how it evolved, occasions when the national anthem is sung, and the controversy over the different interpretations of Kimigayo. Let’s learn all about the Japanese national anthem here at Japanesepod101.com!

The Japanese National Flag with the Shadow of 3 Medals

国歌 kokka (“National Anthem”)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Japanese National Anthem Lyrics and Music
  2. History of Japanese National Anthem
  3. When is the Japanese National Anthem Typically Sung?
  4. Cultural or Political?
  5. Conclusion

1. Japanese National Anthem Lyrics and Music

1. Lyrics

As mentioned, the Japanese national anthem lyrics are the world’s oldest as well as the shortest, with a length of only 32 characters.

The lyrics are originally from the Japanese poem 和歌 Waka of the ancient anthology 古今和歌集 Kokin Wakashū from the 10th century. The original author of this poem is unknown, but it became the most well-known song in Japan many centuries later: the national anthem.

君が代  KimigayoThe Japanese National Anthem
KanjiHiraganaReading English
*君が代は 

千代に八千代に


**さざれ石の

巌となりて

苔のむすまで
きみがよは

ちよにやちよに


さざれいしの

いわおとなりて

こけのむすまで
kimi ga yo wa

chiyo ni yachiyo ni

sazare ishi no

iwao to narite

koke no musu made
*May your reign 

Continue for a thousand, eight thousand generations,


**Until the tiny pebbles

Grow into mighty rocks

And moss grow on them

*君が代 Kimigayo is often translated as “your reign / His Imperial Majesty’s Reign” when it’s talked in the context of the Emperor, yet legally no official translation of the lyrics has been established. In general, “君 kimi” means “you” and “代 yo” means “generation or lifetime.” In the original Waka poem, “You” meant the person who receives the celebration as it was originally a dedicated poem to celebrate the longevity of those who receive it. Therefore, it is translated as “May your life (last for a long time)” in the original meaning.

**さざれ石の 巌となりて 苔のむすまで sazare ishi no  iwao to narite  koke no musu made (“Until the tiny pebbles grow into mighty rocks and moss grow on them”)  expresses the endless years of eternity by conveying in a visual image.

さざれ石sazare ishi originally means small pebbles. 巌 iwao refers to a boulder conglomerate of calcareous breccia, which has been transformed into one large rock mass by filling the gaps between pebbles fragments with calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and iron hydroxide over long years. In some cases, this rock is also called sazare ishi.

Sazare-ishi Rock that Is Worshiped in a Shrine in Kyoto

さざれ石の巌となりて Sazare ishi no iwao to narite
(“small pebbles grow into massive rocks”)

2. Music

Although Kimigayo is very short music with a length of 11 measures and less than 45 seconds (when played with♩=60), the Kimigayo’s solemn and refined melody is majestically impressive and conveys the beauty of simplicity.

The current melody was adopted in 1880 and composed by the Court Music Division of the Ministry of the Imperial Household. It replaced the previous melody due to its unpopularity, which was made by composer John William Fenton, allegedly the first person to systematically teach the theory of Western music in Japan. From 1893, the harmony-arranged version was used for official ceremonies, and it was widely used as the national anthem by 1930. In 1999, the Act on National Flag and Anthem made it the official Japanese national anthem.

If you’d like to listen to Kimigayo, here are a few examples: 


The music score and lyrics of the Japanese national anthem

日本の国歌は君が代です。 Nihon no kokka wa Kimigayo desu. 
(“The national anthem of Japan is Kimigayo”)

To learn facts about the Japanese language, please check out Japanese Language Overview and Is Japanese Hard to Learn?

2. History of Japanese National Anthem

1. Ancient Poem

The lyrics of Japanese national anthem 君が代 Kimigayo are from the Kokin Wakashū 古今和歌集 (“Collection of Japanese Poems of Ancient and Modern Times”), an early anthology of the Waka form of Japanese poetry, dating from the Heian period the early 10th century.

In the original poem, “君 kimi” indicates a person who is close to you rather than referring to a specific person, and it is said to be a poem that celebrates his longevity.

On the other hand, there are other interpretations for the ancient time. Some interpret it as a poem about the eternal bond between men and women.

In the ancient Japanese language, it is considered that ”き ki” stands for male and “み mi” for female. The first male and female creator deities were イザナギ(キ)izanagi(ki) and イザナミ izanami  in the Japanese mythology, and gi/ki from izanagi(ki) meant male and mi from izanami meant female. From the concept that God is the perfect existence, it is believed “君 ki + mi “ refers to a men and women who have completely grown up physically and mentally (perfect existence). Thus, Kimigayo poem is interpreted as “May the grown up man and women get together and have strong bonds for a long time throughout the ages like small pebbles are combined into a mighty rock over time.”

The Old Paper Written in the Ancient Japanese

If you are interested in Japanese quotes, please check out Japanese Quotes That Will Enrich Your Life.

2. Kimigayo and Traditional Art Culture

Kimigayo and other ancient poems were used for a 朗詠 Rōei poem reciting (“singing joyfully in a loud voice”), and it had spread rapidly to the general public since the Kamakura period (12th – 14th century). 

It had also come to be used in various ways, not limited to 賀歌 Gaka (celebration poetry) but also for Buddhist events and a variety of Japanese entertainment arts, such as  田楽 Dengaku (rustic celebrations with music and dance), 猿楽 Sarugaku (“monkey music” a type of theater), and 謡曲 Yōkyoku (a type of dance-drama theater). Until the Meiji Era (19th -20th century), Kimigayo was sung and used mainly for the Japanese traditional arts.

If you want to know more about Japanese culture, please see A Brief Overview of Japanese Culture.

3. Kimigayo as Ceremonial Music

In 1869, the British Minister Harry Parks notified Japan that Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, would visit Japan and stay for about a month. On the occasion for his reception, the Irish military band leader, John William Fenton, realized there was no national anthem in Japan. He suggested that a national anthem or some ceremonial music should be created, and offered to compose one himself. The lyrics were chosen by the Japanese commander and the first official ceremonial song was created. However, it was not popular or welcomed among Japanese people because they believed the melody composed by Fenton lacked dignity.

The concept of a “national anthem” was born in modern Western culture and was indispensable for diplomatic ceremonies at the end of the Edo period when Japan opened the country to the world. Japanese military commanders and politicians came to be aware of the need for a national anthem on occasions of diplomatic ceremonies and the music score was revised in 1880. The music was arranged with Western style harmony for wind-instrument music by the German naval music teacher Franz Eckert and it had been played as the official ceremonial music in the various scenes, such as the reception of international honored guests and sporting events.

The Music Sheet of the Japanese National Anthem from 1888

1888年に対外正式公布 1888-nen ni taigai seishiki kōfu
(“Diplomatically officially promulgated in 1888”)

4. Kimigayo as National Anthem

Before the World War Ⅱ

Although Kimigayo was not the legal national anthem at the time, it was often performed and sung on official occasions. At the turn of the 20th century, Kimigayo began to be associated with the idea of honoring the Emperor along with the situation where wars arose. It also influenced Japanese education. In the textbooks for 4th-grade students at an elementary school, which was established in 1941, it was written “The song of Kimigayo means that the reign of the Emperor will continue to prosper for thousands of years. It is a song that the people sincerely praise and celebrate.” The Japanese people came to be familiarized with Kimigayo as the Japanese national anthem when there were waves of celebrations after the First Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese Wars victories. This trend continued until the end of the World War Ⅱ.

After the World War Ⅱ

During the American occupation of Japan from 1945, GHQ General Headquarters, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers totally banned the 日の丸 Hinomaru (“the circle of the sun” meaning the Japanese national flag) hoisting and banned singing Kimigayo, and singing of Kimigayo had been removed from the National School Ordinance Enforcement Regulations of 1946. During 1940’s various entities created new songs as an alternative to Kimigayo. However, none of them were adopted as the national anthem officially. After the San Francisco Peace Treaty in September 1951, Kimigayo was often performed again corresponding to the national anthem at official ceremonies.

After the restoration of sovereignty, the educational guideline in 1958 stated that “when performing ceremonies, it is desirable to raise the national flag and sing the national anthem of Japan” and since then Kimigayo had been sung at school widely. While Kimigayo had been played as a de facto national anthem for a long time, legislation had progressed later due to the lack of legal ground. The “Act on National Flag and Anthem” which legally established Japan’s national flag and the anthem was enacted on August 9, 1999, and it came into effect 4 days later. The Act states the interpretation of Kimigayo as: “Kimigayo indicates Japan as the country, in that the emperor symbolizes Japan and the unification of the Japanese people, based on the consensus of the Japanese people.”

In response to this, the 1999 educational guideline issued by the Ministry of Education decrees that “on entrance and graduation ceremonies, schools must raise the flag of Japan and instruct students to sing the national anthem Kimigayo, given the significance of the flag and the song.” 
If you want to learn how to talk about nationality in Japanese, please see our article Countries and Nationalities in Japanese.

Japanese national Flag fluttering in the wind

3. When is the Japanese National Anthem Typically Sung?

The national anthem 国歌 kokka (literally, “national song”) is the symbol of the nation and the people that glorifies the country with music presentations. The Japanese national anthem Kimigayo is sung on various important and formal occasions including national and international events as listed below.

国歌演奏 / 吹奏  kokka ensō / suisō (music performance/ brass band of the National Anthem)

  • Commendation ceremonies at Olympic Games 
  • Some radio and television stations play it at the beginning and end of the broadcast

国歌斉唱  kokka seishō (singing the National Anthem altogether)

国歌斉唱 kokka seishō means that all participants of events sing the national anthem altogether with (the brass band) musical performance at national events and other important events. When singing the national anthem, it is common manners to stand up and take off hats, pay attention to the national flag, and sing the anthem with respect.

  • Entrance and graduation ceremonies at school (elementary, middle high, high school, and university)
  • Coming-of-age ceremony
  • Convention of political party
  • National memorial service for the war dead
  • Japan self-defense forces marching festival etc.

Sports related events

  • National sports festival
  • Inter-high school athletics competition
  • Sumo wrestling tournament
  • Emperor’s prize horse race
  • Games of professional baseball, football, basketball, boxing etc.

Back of Two Japanese Girls Who Dressed Up in Kimono

国歌は成人式でも歌われます。Kokka wa seijinshiki de mo utawaremasu.
(“The national anthem is sung also at the ceremony of coming-of-age” )

国歌独唱  kokka dokushō (representative sings the National Anthem alone)

国歌独唱  kokka dokushō means that the representative sings the national anthem alone with the brass band music at national events and other important events. It is often at sports competition events, and like many other countries, a famous singer or music group is often invited to sing the national anthem in front of spectators.

[Sports related events]

  • High school baseball
  • Japan professional football league 
  • Japan professional baseball league 
  • Japan professional boxing title match
  • Tennis championship
  • Marathon championship
  • Bicycle race championship
  • Formula 1 etc.
The Illustration of a Japanese Graduation Ceremony

国歌は学校の式で歌われます。Kokka wa gakkō no shiki de utawaremasu.
(“The national anthem is sung at the ceremonies at school”)

4. Cultural or Political?

Kimigayo is probably one of the world’s most controversial national anthems. The controversy especially rose after World War 2 that Kimigayo is not appropriate as a national anthem because it associates with the military wartime as it was used to praise the Empire of Japan and honor the Emperor. 

The pro and con opinions may vary as we look into the history of Kimigayo from a cultural or political point of view. Below are opinions of the pros and cons;

Reasonings For Using It

  • The original Kimigayo is purely an artwork of Japanese culture and tradition, and it is a poem about blessing a long life and national peace.
  • It has been used as a celebratory song in various Japanese traditional arts over centuries and the political intention is merely an afterthought.
  • In the light of the classics, “君 kimi” simply means “you”, and therefore Kimigayo is a “song to pray for your health and longevity”, so the claim that the criticism of “the song of the emperor” does not apply in the first place.
  • Even if  “君 kimi” indicates “emperor”, it is nothing but “Emperor as a symbol of the unification of Japan and the Japanese people” stipulated in the Constitution of Japan. Therefore, the song praising him (emperor as a symbol) does not contradict the principle of the “Constitution of Japan”.
  • The singing of Kimigayo at school is indispensable for nurturing the awareness and pride of Japanese people in the hearts of children. In an era of active international exchange like today, it is even more important to establish a Japanese identity through the national anthem. In the first place, ritual practices for national anthems are international common sense, and teaching such common sense is reasonable education. What is more, it does not lead to the revival of militarism or totalitarianism.

Reasonings Against Using It 

  • Kimigayo is not appropriate as a national anthem of modern Japan because it is associated with military wartime and worshiping the emperor as a god.
  • It is the national anthem of the Empire of Japan, and the lyrics have a strong meaning of honoring the emperor.
  • Kimigayo meaning “the reign of the emperor” was appropriate for the Constitution of the Empire of Japan, where the emperor was an absolute authority, but not for the Constitution of Japan which is based on the principle of popular sovereignty. 
  • Before the war, the singing of Kimigayo at school was compulsory, and it has resulted in instilling a spirit of command hierarchy and selfless devotion in children and, as a result, promoting militarism and totalitarianism. Therefore, the compulsion of Kimigayo singing in education may lead to the revival of militarism and totalitarianism.
  • Although Kimigayo was stipulated as a national anthem by the “Act on National Flag and Anthem”, the deliberation of the Act was too quick, and it was hard to say that it had undergone adequate national debate.

Public Schools

The main discussion about Kimigayo is mainly centered on handling of Kimigayo and the national flag at public school. It is often a question of whether it is appropriate to instruct students to stand up when singing the national anthem, based on the legal basis of the New Curriculum Guidelines Chapter 6, Number 3 -3.

Supreme Court decisions on cases in 2007 and 2011 ruled that the school principal’s job order to instruct students to stand when singing the national anthem does not violate Article 19 of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of thought and conscience, and therefore it is constitutional. Controversy over Kimigayo at school was somewhat settled down after the Supreme Court decisions, however, some issues relating to singing of Kimigayo are occasionally brought up to the board of education and the court.

To learn Japanese classroom phrases, please visit Level Up with These Advanced Japanese Words.

The Shadows of People Who Wave Their Hands in the Air with the National Flags

長く深い歴史と文化 vs. 苦い戦争の面影 Nagaku fukai rekishi to bunka vs. nigai sensō no omokage
(“Long and deep history and culture vs. vestige of the bitter war”)

5. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced the facts about the Japanese National Anthem from various aspects, including:

  • Lyrics and Music 
  • History – ancient time to the present
  • When is it typically sung
  • Controversies over Kimigayo

Now you know all about the Japanese National Anthem! The world’s shortest lyrics make it easy to learn and you can sing it together the next time you listen to it at Olympic Games or International sports events!

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 are interested in learning more, the following articles are just right for you: 

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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100+ Useful Japanese Classroom Phrases & Vocabulary

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If you are taking a Japanese group lesson online, or planning to study as a foreign student in Japan or to teach your language as a teacher in Japan, it’s good to know Japanese classroom phrases well for effective learning and better communication in the class.

In this guide, we introduce the most useful Japanese classroom phrases and vocabulary from various aspects, including school vocabulary, classroom greetings and calls, explaining absence and tardiness, teacher’s phrases, student phrases, and school subjects. You will learn not only common Japanese classroom phrases and vocabulary but also the unique features of Japanese schools, such as the school system, school routines, and school supplies. Let’s get ready for your class with JapanesePod101.com!

Students Are Raising Their Hands, the Teacher Is Stand in Front of the Blackboard

答えがわかったら手を挙げて Kotae ga wakattara te o agete
(“Raise your hand if you know the answer”)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. School Vocabulary
  2. Classroom Greetings and Calls
  3. Explaining Absence and Tardiness/Leaving Early
  4. Teacher’s Phrases
  5. Student’s Phrases
  6. Talking About Subjects
  7. Conclusion

1. School Vocabulary

Before talking about Japanese classroom phrases, here are the lists of school vocabulary for the Japanese school system, school facilities, school personnel, school routines and school supplies.

1. Japanese School System

April is one of the most important months of the year in Japan as the school year or the fiscal year begins.  Classes are held from Monday to Friday in compulsory education and at public schools, and some private schools are also open on Saturdays. The Japanese school year usually consists of three terms (学期 gakki), and there are short spring and winter breaks or a long summer break between each school term.

Below is the basic Japanese school system;

Elementary school:  6 years (age 7 to 12)    [Compulsory Education]
Junior high school : 3 years (age 13 to 15) [Compulsory Education]
Senior high school : 3 years (age 16 to 18)

[Higher Education]
University: 4 years (6 years for Medicine, Pharmaceutical, Veterinary, and Dentistry School)
Junior college: 2 years (or 3, depending on the school)
Vocational school: 2 years (or 3, depending on the school)

Japanese Words for School Vocabulary 

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading
school学校がっこうgakkō
elementary school小学校しょうがっこうshōgakkō
junior high school中学校ちゅうがっこうchūgakkō
senior high school高校 /高等学校こうこう / こうとうがっこうkōkō  (short version) / kōtō gakkō
university大学だいがくdaigaku
junior college短期大学たんき だいがくtanki daigaku
vocational / technical school 専門学校せんもん がっこうsenmon gakkō

The Black Board, Desks and Chairs in a Classroom

教室 kyōshitsu (“classroom”)

2. School Facilities

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading
classroom 教室きょうしつkyōshitsu
faculty room職員室しょくいんしつshokuinshitsu
science laboratory理科室りかしつrikashitsu
arts / craft room  美術室 / 図工室びじゅつしつ / ずこうしつbijutsushitsu / zukōshitsu
library図書室 / 図書館としょしつ  / としょかんtoshoshitsu / toshokan
gymnasium体育館たいいくかんtaiikukan
infirmary保健室ほけんしつhokenshitsu
schoolyard校庭こうていkōtei
athletic ground運動場 / 校庭うんどうじょう / こうていundōjō / kōtei
school cafeteria学生食堂/ 学食がくせい しょくどう/ がくしょくgakusei shokudō/ gakushoku (short version)

Book Shelves, Desks and Chairs in a Library without People

図書室 toshoshitsu (“library”)

3. School Personnel

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading
student生徒せいとseito
teacher先生 *せんせいsensei
professor教授きょうじゅkyōju
faculty教員きょういんkyōin
vice principal教頭 / 副校長きょうとう / ふくこうちょうkyōtō / fukukōchō
school principal校長こうちょうkōchō
librarian司書ししょshisho
school caretaker用務員ようむいんyōmuin

*Generally, 先生 (sensei) is who teaches something, and 先生 (sensei) is commonly used for school teachers. On the other hand, a synonym word 教師 (kyōshi) is used as an occupation, for example, 私は教師です Watashi wa kyōshi desu. “I’m a teacher.” 

4. School Routines

EnglishKanji/KatakanaHiraganaReading
going to school登校とうこうtōkō
morning assembly朝礼ちょうれいchōrei
class授業じゅぎょうjugyō
examination試験しけんshiken
food service *給食きゅうしょくkyūshoku
break / recess休み時間やすみじかんyasumi jikan
cleaning **清掃せいそうseisō
club activityクラブ活動くらぶかつどうkurabu katsudō
leaving school下校げこうgekō

*Food Service  給食 kyūshoku is usually provided at elementary school and middle high school for very low monthly fees in Japan. They usually eat kyūshoku in the classroom. In high school, students either bring their own lunch boxes お弁当 o-bentō or use the school cafeteria.

**There is time allocated for cleaning, especially from elementary to high school, and students clean their school by themselves in Japan. Not only in their home classroom but also in corridors, bathrooms, gym, and other places in the school. In this way, Japanese schools teach students to clean, keep tidy, be responsible, use things with care, etc.

5. School Supplies

EnglishKanji / KatakanaHiraganaReading
pencil鉛筆えんぴつenpitsu
mechanical pencilシャーペン *しゃーぺんshāpen
penペンぺんpen
eraser消しゴムけしごむkeshigomu
pen case筆箱ふでばこfudebako
pencil sharpener鉛筆削りえんぴつけずりenpitsu kezuri
notebookノートのーとnōto
textbook教科書きょうかしょkyōkasho
bookほんhon
scissorsハサミはさみhasami
glueノリのりnori
ruler定規じょうぎjōgi
calculator計算機けいさんきkeisanki
school indoor shoes上履き **うわばきuwabaki
school backpack (elementary school)ランドセル ***らんどせるrandoseru

 * シャーペン shāpen (“mechanical pencil”) is 和製英語 Wasei-eigo (“Japanese-made English”)  word that is the shorter version of シャープペンシル “sharp pencil.”

** Wearing 上履き uwabaki (“school indoor shoes”) at school is something particular about Japan. This comes from the Japanese culture and etiquette that people are expected to remove their shoes when entering homes and other particular rooms or buildings.

*** ランドセル randoseru (“school backpack for elementary school kids”) is a unique Japanese school backpack usually made of leather with a firm structure. Traditionally, parents or grandparents give children as a gift upon entering elementary school. They use the same randoseru for 6 years until they graduate from elementary school. 

To enhance your Japanese vocabulary and learn more about Japanese basic nouns, please check out Guide to the Top 100+ Japanese Nouns.

Japanese Family, Father in Suits and Elementary School Kids Are Leaving Their Home

ランドセルは日本の小学校のかばんです。
Randoseru wa Nihon no shōgakkō no kaban desu.
(“Randoseru is a bag for elementary school in Japan” )

6. Example Sentences

タメ口 Tameguchi (“peer language”) or casual speech form can be used when talking among students. However, 敬語 keigo (“honorific speech”) or polite language should be used for teachers.

Here are some basic phrases in Japanese classrooms using school vocabulary:

[Japanese]     鉛筆を1本借りてもいい? Enpitsu o ippon karite mo ii?  (casual)                  
[English]        “May I borrow a (one) pencil? ”

*Japanese language learning: To learn more about Japanese numbers, see Japanese Numbers: Let’s Master the Basic Japanese Numbers!

[Japanese]    生物の教科書を失くしちゃった。    (casual)
                       Seibutsu no kyōkasho o nakushichatta. 
[English]        “I lost my biology textbook.”

[Japanese]    宿題を忘れました。 (polite)
                       Shukudai o wasuremashita.
[English]        “I forgot my homework.”

[Japanese]    消しゴム持ってる?     Keshigomu motte ru?    (casual)     
[English]        “Do you have an eraser?”

[Japanese]    これ使っていいよ。   Kore tsukatte ii yo.     (casual)   
[English]        “Here, you can use this.”

[Japanese]    ありがとう、後で返すね。  Arigatō, ato de kaesu ne.     (casual)   
[English]        “Thanks, I will return it to you later.”

[Japanese]    明日の朝は体育館で全校朝礼があります。     (polite)
                       Ashita no asa wa taiikukan de zenkō chōrei ga arimasu.
[English]        “We will have a whole school assembly at the gymnasium tomorrow morning. ”

[Japanese]    明日の化学の試験は何時だっけ?       (casual)
                       Ashita no kagaku no shiken wa nan-ji dakke?
[English]        “What time is the chemistry test tomorrow?”

*Please visit How to Tell Time in Japanese article and Japanese Calendar Dates: Reading Dates in Japanese & More on JapanesePod101 to learn how to tell time and date in Japanese.

Colorful Stationery Such as Pencils, Scissors, Tapes, Chalks, etc.

消しゴム持ってる?  Keshigomu motte ru?    (“Do you have an eraser?”)

2. Classroom Greetings and Calls 

Some of the most essential Japanese classroom phrases are greetings and calls used at school.
Here is the list of frequently used Japanese words and greetings in classrooms.

[Japanese]     先生 / 教授、おはようございます。 Sensei / kyōju, ohayō gozaimasu.  (polite)
[English]        “Good morning teacher / professor.”

*Japanese language learning: To learn more Japanese greetings, check out How to Say Hello in Japanese: Practical Japanese Greetings.

[Japanese]    おはよう。 Ohayō.   (casual)        
[English]        “Good morning.”

[Japanese]    バイバイ。 Bai bai.   (casual)        
[English]        “Bye bye.”

[Japanese]    また明日。 Mata ashita.  (casual)        
[English]        “See you tomorrow.”

[Japanese]    先生、さようなら。 Sensei, sayōnara.   (polite)        
[English]        “Good bye, teacher.”

[Japanese]    起立!     気をつけ!    礼!       着席!            (imperative)
                       Kiritsu ! Ki o tsuke ! Rei ! Chakuseki !
[English]        “Stand up! Attention (make a good posture)! Bow!  Seated down! ”

*This is the traditional call and ritual of bowing in Japan at the start and end of school class to greet the teacher. Usually, one of the students in a class is allocated to the call roll on a weekly or monthly basis.

When there is a whole school or classroom assembly, usually held in the gymnasium or schoolyard, the following phrases are used.

[Japanese]    集合!     Shūgō!     (imperative)     
[English]        “Assemble / gather!”

[Japanese]    一列に並べ。   Ichi-retsu ni narabe.     (imperative)   
[English]        “Line up in a row.”

[Japanese]    前へならえ。  Mae e narae.     (imperative)   
[English]        “Stand at arm’s length. (Literally: follow (do) as front)”

[Japanese]    解散! Kaisan !      (imperative)      
[English]        “Dismissed!”

3. Explaining Absence and Tardiness/Leaving Early 

1. Taking Attendance

At Japanese Schools, usually from elementary school to high school, students have a “home class” and a particular teacher (担任 tannin) who’s in charge of its home class. Students usually stay in the home classroom and 担任 (tannin) teaches all the basic subjects in elementary school, and teachers of each subject come to the classroom to give classes in junior highschool and senior highschool.

The teacher in charge of a home-class calls the roll in the morning meeting. 

Japanese Vocabulary for Taking Attendance

EnglishKanji HiraganaReading
take attendancecall the roll出欠を取るしゅっけつをとるshukketsu o toru
present出席しゅっせきshusseki
absent欠席けっせきkesseki
tardiness / late遅刻ちこくchikoku
leave early早退そうたいsōtai

2. Teacher

Following are some teacher’s basic phrases in Japanese for taking attendance:

[Japanese]    静かに。出欠を取ります。 Shizuka ni. Shukketsu o torimasu.      
[English]        “Quiet please, I will take attendance now.”

[Japanese]    名前を呼ばれたら返事をすること。   Namae o yobaretara henji o suru koto.     
[English]        “Respond when your name is called.”

[Japanese]    全員いますか。  Zen’in imasu ka.    
[English]        “Is everyone here?”

[Japanese]    誰か欠席の人いますか。 Dare ka kesseki no hito imasu ka.          
[English]        “Anybody absent?”

[Japanese]   [name]さんが今日欠席した理由を知っている人はいますか。
                      [name]-san ga kyō kesseki shita riyū o shitte iru hito wa imasu ka.
[English]     “Does anyone know why [name] is absent today?”

A Student Raises Her Hand in the Class

 はい、います。 Hai, imasu. (“Yes, I’m present”)

3. Student

Following are some student’s basic phrases in Japanese for taking attendance:

[Japanese]    はい、います。 Hai, imasu.      
[English]       “Yes, I’m present.”   (response when your name is called) 

[Japanese]    [name] さんがいません。[name]-san ga imasen.        
[English]      “[name] is not here.”

[Japanese]    すみません、寝坊したので遅刻しました。
                       Sumimasen, nebō shita node chikoku shimashita.
[English]        “I’m sorry, I was late because I overslept.”

[Japanese]    電車が人身事故で止まったので遅刻しました。
                       Densha ga jinshin jiko de tomatta node chikoku shimashita.
[English]        “I was late because the train stopped due to an injury accident.”

[Japanese]    [name]さんは昨日から体調が悪くて、今日は欠席です。 
                       [name]-san wa kinō kara taichō ga warukute, kyō wa kesseki desu.
[English]        “[name] has been sick since yesterday and is absent today.”

[Japanese]    足を骨折したので、体育の授業は見学します。 
                       Ashi o kossetsu shita node, taiiku no jugyō wa kengaku shimasu.
[English]        “I will just observe the PE class because I broke my leg.”

[Japanese]    すみません、とても気分が悪いので早退します。 
                       Sumimasen, totemo kibun ga warui node sōtai shimasu.
[English]        “Excuse me, I’m leaving early because I feel very sick.”

4. Teacher’s Phrases  

In the Japanese culture, names are called together with 敬称 keishō (“Japanese honorific title”), “さん san” is most commonly used.

When a teacher talks to a student : [student family name] + さん san 
In some cases, [family name of a male student] + 君 くん kun

The following are frequently used Japanese classroom phrases by teachers in a class.

1. Instructions

[Japanese]    みんな、席に着いて。 Minna, seki ni tsuite.      
[English]       “Everyone, be seated.”

[Japanese]    [name] 君、早く座りなさい。 [name]-kun, hayaku suwarinasai.        
[English]        “[name], sit down now.”

[Japanese]    では、始めます。 Dewa, hajimemasu.                      
[English]        “Well, let’s begin.”

[Japanese]    今日はXXXについて勉強します。    Kyō wa XXX ni tsuite benkyō shimasu.
[English]        “We are going to learn XXX today.”

[Japanese]    教科書のXXページを開いてください。  Kyōkasho no XX-pēji o hiraite kudasai. 
[English]        “Please open to page XX of your textbook.”

[Japanese]    これはとても重要です。   Kore wa totemo jūyō desu.      
[English]        “This is very important.”

[Japanese]    これはテストに出るので、しっかり理解してください。 
                       Kore wa tesuto ni deru node, shikkari rikai shite kudasai.
[English]        “Please understand this well because this will be on the test.”

[Japanese]   しっかり聞いてください。 Shikkari kiite kudasai.   
[English]       “Listen carefully.”

[Japanese]    黒板の図を見てください。 Kokuban no zu o mite kudasai.      
[English]        “Look at the diagram on the blackboard.”

[Japanese]    この質問の答えがわかる人は手をあげてください。 
                       Kono shitsumon no kotae ga wakaru hito wa te o agete kudasai.
[English]        “Raise your hand if you know the answer to this question.”

[Japanese]    最初に聞いてから、私の後で繰り返してください。    
                       Saisho ni kiite kara, watashi no ato de kurikaeshite kudasai.
[English]        “Listen first and repeat after me.”

[Japanese]    答えをノートに書いて。  Kotae o nōto ni kaite. 
[English]        “Write the answers in your notebook.”

[Japanese]    みんなで一緒に、2段落目から読みましょう。   
                       Minna de issho ni, ni-danraku-me kara yomimashō.
[English]        “Let’s read from the second paragraph together.”

[Japanese]    [name]さん、XXページを読んでください。
                       [name]-san, XX-pēji o yonde kudasai.
[English]        “[student name], read the page XX please.”

[Japanese]    紙を一枚ずつ取って、後ろの人に渡してください。
                       Kami o ichi-mai zutsu totte, ushiro no hito ni watashite kudasai.
[English]        “Take one sheet of paper and pass (the rest) to the person behind you.”

Teacher Is Writing on the Blackboard, Students Are Sitting in Front of Computers

これはとても重要です。 Kore wa totemo jūyō desu.   ( “This is very important.”)

2. Homework

[Japanese]    今日の宿題はXXXです。    Kyō no shukudai wa XXX desu.
[English]        “Homework for today is XXX.”

[Japanese]    宿題は教科書XXページの1番から5番です。
                       Shukudai wa kyōkasho XX-pēji no ichi-ban kara go-ban desu.
[English]        “The homework is from the number 1 to 5 on page XX of the textbook.”

[Japanese]    今日学んだことを家で復習してください。  
                       Kyō mananda koto o ie de fukushū shite kudasai.
[English]        “Review at home what you’ve learned today.”

[Japanese]    前回出された宿題は、先生の机の上に提出してください。
                       Zenkai dasareta shukudai wa, sensei no tsukue no ue ni teishutsu shite kudasai.
[English]        “Please submit the homework given last time on the teacher’s desk.”

[Japanese]    宿題の提出は成績に反映されます。
                       Shukudai no teishutsu wa seiseki ni han’ei saremasu.
[English]        “Your homework submission will be reflected in your grades.”

3. Questions

[Japanese]    質問はありますか。    Shitsumon wa arimasu ka.
[English]        “Any questions?”

[Japanese]    皆さん分かりましたか。  Mina-san wakarimashita ka.
[English]        “Did everyone understand this?”

[Japanese]    誰かこの問題を解答できますか。   Dare ka kono mondai o kaitō dekimasu ka.      
[English]        “Can anyone solve this problem?”

[Japanese]    正しい答えは何ですか。     Tadashii kotae wa nan desu ka.
[English]        “What is the correct answer?”

[Japanese]    ここまでで何か分からないことはありますか。
                       Koko made de nani ka wakaranai koto wa arimasu ka.
[English]        “Is there anything you don’t understand so far?”

The Teacher Is Pointing to the Blond Student Who Raises Her Hand

  正しい答えは何ですか。  Tadashii kotae wa nan desu ka.  ( “What is the correct answer?”)

4. Keeping the Order

[Japanese]    静かにしなさい。Shizuka ni shinasai.
[English]        “Be quiet.”

[Japanese]    おしゃべりはやめなさい。  Oshaberi wa yamenasai.
[English]        “Stop talking!”

[Japanese]    自分の席に戻りなさい。    Jibun no seki ni modorinasai.
[English]        “Go back to your seat!”

[Japanese]    授業に集中しなさい。 Jugyō ni shūchū shinasai.
[English]        “Focus on the class!”

[Japanese]    質問がある時は手をあげてください。   Shitsumon ga aru toki wa te o agete kudasai.
[English]        “Raise your hand if you have a question.”

Japanese language learning : To learn more Japanese angry phrases, please also check out Getting Angry in Japanese: 20+ Useful Japanese Angry Phrases

5. Student’s Phrases 

At schools in Japan, faculty is usually called by his/her title by students.
When students talk to a teacher:  先生 sensei (“Mr./ Mrs.“, Literally: teacher)
When students talk to a professor:  教授 kyōju (Literally: professor)

If you want to be more specific, add a name in front of a title, such as 高橋先生 Takahashi-sensei (Mr./ Mrs.Takahashi, Literally: Takahashi teacher).

Here is the list of most useful Japanese classroom phrases used by students, including when asking questions to a teacher and when talking with other students.

1. Asking Questions

[Japanese]    すみません、何ページですか。    Sumimasen, nan-pēji desu ka.
[English]        “Excuse me, what page are we on?”

[Japanese]    わかりません。Wakarimasen.
[English]        “I don’t understand.”

[Japanese]    過去分詞の使い方がわかりません。Kakobunshi no tsukaikata ga wakarimasen.
[English]        “I don’t understand how to use a past participle.”

[Japanese]    その部分をもう一度言ってください。 Sono bubun o mō ichi-do itte kudasai.
[English]        “Please repeat that part again.”

[Japanese]    もう一度ゆっくり言ってもらえますか。 Mō ichi-do yukkuri itte moraemasu ka.
[English]        “Can you say that again slowly?”

[Japanese]    もっとわかりやすく説明してください。Motto wakariyasuku setsumei shite kudasai.
[English]        “Please explain it in a more understandable way.”

[Japanese]    質問があります。Shitsumon ga arimasu.
[English]        “I have a question.”

[Japanese]    質問してもいいですか。  Shitsumon shite mo ii desu ka.
[English]        “Can I ask you a question?”

[Japanese]    先生は今何て言いましたか。 Sensei wa ima nante iimashita ka.
[English]        “What did the teacher just say?”

[Japanese]    これは何て発音しますか。 Kore wa nante hatsuon shimasu ka.
[English]        “How do you pronounce this?”

[Japanese]    XXXはどういう意味ですか。 XXX wa dō iu imi desu ka.
[English]        “What does XXX mean?”

[Japanese]    どうしてこの場合に未来完了形を使うのですか。
                       Dōshite kono bāi ni mirai kanryōkei o tsukau no desu ka. 
[English]        “Why do you use the future perfect tense in this case?”

[Japanese]    これは合ってますか。 Kore wa atte masu ka.
[English]        “Is this correct ?”

[Japanese]    これが正解ですか。 Kore ga seikai desu ka.
[English]        “Is this the correct answer?”

[Japanese]    やっと理解しました。Yatto rikai shimashita.
[English]        “I finally understood.”

[Japanese]    トイレに行ってもいいですか。 Toire ni itte mo ii desu ka.
[English]        “May I go to the bathroom?”

[Japanese]    気分が悪いので、保健室に行ってもいいですか。
                       Kibun ga warui node, hokenshitsu ni itte mo ii desu ka.
[English]        “May I go to the infirmary because I feel sick?”

Japanese Female Student Is Taking Notes in the Class

 質問があります。Shitsumon ga arimasu. (“I have a question.”)

2. Talking Among Students

The speech tone is very casual for conversations among students. The following are handy Japanese classroom phrases when you want to chat with your friends in a class.

[Japanese]    今どこ? Ima doko?
[English]        “Where are we at?”

[Japanese]    今何ページ? Ima nan-pēji?
[English]        “Which page are we on?”

[Japanese]    宿題やった? Shukudai yatta?  
[English]        “Did you do your homework?”

[Japanese]    宿題やったのに、家に忘れてきちゃった。Shukudai yatta noni, ie ni wasurete kichatta.
[English]        “Though I did my homework, I forgot it at home.”

[Japanese]    後でノート見せてもらってもいい?  Ato de nōto misete moratte mo ii?
[English]        “Can I see your notebook later?”

[Japanese]    今日の授業は全然わからなかった。Kyō no jugyō wa zenzen wakaranakatta.
[English]        “I didn’t understand today’s class at all.”

[Japanese]    この問題が分からないんだけど、教えて。 Kono mondai ga wakaranai n da kedo, oshiete.
[English]        “I don’t understand this problem, can you teach me?”

[Japanese]    宿題は何だっけ? Shukudai wa nan dakke?
[English]        “What is the homework?”

[Japanese]   教科書の何ページが試験範囲? Kyōkasho no nan-pēji ga shiken han’i?
[English]        “Which pages of the textbook will be covered in the exam?”

[Japanese]    英語のテストはいつだっけ?  Eigo no tesuto wa itsu dakke?
[English]        “When is the English exam?”

[Japanese]   試験の勉強は全然できてない。  Shiken no benkyō wa zenzen dekite nai.             
[English]        “I couldn’t study enough for exams at all.”

[Japanese]    テスト/試験 どうだった? Tesuto / shiken dō datta?
[English]        “How was your test / exams?”

[Japanese]   どうしよう、英語のテストが赤点*だった。Dō shiyō, Eigo no tesuto ga akaten* datta. 
[English]        “What should I do, I got a red mark on the English test.”

*赤点 akaten is a slang word for bad grades, it is literally translated as “red mark”, meaning “failing grades”.

[Japanese]   試験の結果は思ったより良かったよ。Shiken no kekka wa omotta yori yokatta yo.           
[English]        “The result of the exam was better than I thought.”

[Japanese]    試験期間が終わったら、カラオケに行こう! Shiken kikan ga owattara, karaoke ni ikō!
[English]        “When the exam period is over, let’s go to Karaoke!”

 Four Japanese High School Students Are Walking Together and Talking

テストどうだった? Tesuto dō datta? (“How was your test?”)

6. Talking About Subjects  

1. Subject Vocabulary [From Elementary To High School]

School subjects are one of the most essential parts when learning classroom phrases and vocabulary. 

The following is the list of subjects (科目 kamoku) that are taught from elementary school to high school in Japan. 

EnglishKanji HiraganaReading
arithmetic(elementary school)算数さんすうsansū
mathematics数学すうがくsūgaku
science (elementary and middle highschool)理科りかrika
physics物理ぶつりbutsuri
chemistry化学かがくkagaku
biology生物せいぶつseibutsu
geography地理ちりchiri
Japanese(national language) 国語こくごkokugo
modern literature現代文げんだいぶんgendaibun
classical literature古文こぶんkobun
English英語えいごEigo
social science社会しゃかいshakai
politics and economics政治経済せいじけいざいseiji keizai
Japanese History日本史にほんしNihonshi
world history世界史せかいしsekaishi
art and craft(elementary school)図工ずこうzukō
art美術びじゅつbijutsu
physical education体育たいいくtaiiku
home economics家庭科かていかkateika
music音楽おんがくongaku

Piled Books of Various Subjects

学科 gakka / 科目 kamoku (“School subjects”)

2. Subject Vocabulary [University]

Below are the common department / course of study (学科 gakka) taught in higher education, such as junior college or university.

EnglishKanji / KatakanaHiraganaReading
Psychology 心理学しんりがくshinrigaku
Law法学ほうがくhōgaku
Literature文学ぶんがくbungaku
Business Management経営学けいえいがくkeieigaku
Statistics 統計学とうけいがくtōkeigaku
Accounting会計学 かいけいがくkaikeigaku
Information Technology 情報技術じょうほうぎじゅつjōhō gijutsu
International Relations 国際関係 こくさいかんけいkokusai kankei
Education 教育学きょういくがくkyōikugaku
Medicine 医学いがくigaku
Pharmaceutics薬学やくがくyakugaku
Nursing看護学かんごがくkangogaku
Architecture 建築学けんちくがくkenchikugaku
Agriculture農学のうがくnōgaku
Foreign language外国語がいこくごgaikokugo
French フランス語ふらんすごFuransu-go
Germanドイツ語どいつごDoitsu-go
Spanish スペイン語すぺいんごSupein-go
Russian ロシア語ろしあごRoshia-go
Chinese 中国語ちゅうごくごChūgoku-go
Korean 韓国語   かんこくごKankoku-go

3. Example Sentences

Here are some basic phrases in Japanese using subject vocabulary:

[Japanese]    私の一番好きな科目は [subject] です。 
                       Watashi no ichi-ban suki na kamoku wa [subject] desu.
[English]        “My favorite subject is [subject].”

[Japanese]    私は [subject] が得意です。Watashi wa [subject] ga tokui desu.
[English]        “I’m good at [subject].”

[Japanese]    私は [subject] が苦手です。Watashi wa [subject] ga nigate desu.
[English]        “I’m not good at [subject].”

[Japanese]   [subject] は難しいので嫌いです。  [subject] wa muzukashii node kirai desu.
[English]        “I don’t like [subject] because it’s difficult.”

[Japanese]    何の科目が一番好きですか。 Nan no kamoku ga ichi-ban suki desu ka.
[English]        “What is your favorite subject?”

[Japanese]   何の科目が得意ですか。  Nan no kamoku ga tokui desu ka.            
[English]        “Which subjects are you good at?”

[Japanese]    大学では [subject] を学びたいです。 Daigaku de wa [subject] o manabitai desu.
[English]        “I’d like to learn [subject] at university.”

[Japanese]   専攻学科は何ですか。Senkō gakka wa nan desu ka.        
[English]        “What is your major?”

[Japanese]   私の専攻学科は [subject] です。 Watashi no senkō gakka wa [subject] desu.         
[English]        “My major is [subject].”

[Japanese]    第二外国語としてドイツ語のクラスをとっています。
                       Dai-ni gaikokugo toshite Doitsu-go no kurasu o totte imasu.
[English]        “I’m taking German class as a second foreign language.”

Japanese language learning : If you want to learn more about how to introduce yourself in Japanese, please see How to Say “My Name is,” in Japanese + More!

7. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced 100+ most useful Japanese Classroom Phrases and Vocabulary, including:

  • School vocabulary and the Japanese school system 
  • Useful Classroom Greetings and Calls
  • Explaining Absence and Tardiness/Leaving Early
  • Teacher’s Phrases
  • Student’s Phrases
  • Talking about Subjects

Whether you are taking a Japanese class or you want to teach at a Japanese local school and/or study with native students, our guide of Japanese Classroom Phrases and Vocabulary will make your school life easier and more adaptable.

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 are interested in more Japanese phrases sorted by situations, the following articles are just right for you: 

  • Japanese Travel Phrases for an Enjoyable Trip to Japan
  • 50+ Restaurants Phrases for Eating Out in Japan
  • Essential Business Japanese: Learn the Most Useful Phrases

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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50+ Restaurants Phrases for Eating Out in Japan

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Sushi, Ramen, Okonomiyaki… Japanese food is gaining fame around the world nowadays, and Japanese food lovers are increasing every year. Japan is known for delicious food, and everyone would be surprised by its variety of restaurants in every aspect when they come to Japan for the first time.

Whether you are a tourist or not, knowing the basic Japanese restaurant phrases is not only useful for smooth ordering but also for enjoying your dining time better. 

This article introduces the most useful Japanese restaurant phrases as well as tips and handy information about restaurants in Japan that would definitely help you make the most of your dining experience in Japan. Let’s start brushing up on your useful basic phrases in Japanese now!

Tables and Chairs Inside a Restaurant

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. How to Look for Good Restaurants in Japan
  2. Booking a Restaurant
  3. At a Restaurant
  4. After Dining
  5. Conclusion

1. How to Look for Good Restaurants in Japan

First of all, Japanese people are avid foodies and they are quite demanding and particular about food. Not only the fact that Tokyo is the world’s most Michelin-starred city, more than Paris and New York City, but also there are a wide variety of food genres and levels of restaurants in Japan. Before learning Japanese dining phrases, let’s take a look at facts about Japanese restaurants!

1. Restaurant Variations in Japan

Before learning Japanese restaurant phrases, let’s take a look at an overview of restaurants in Japan.

Ranging from various world cuisines to Japanese food, from one-coin 牛丼 gyūdon (beef bowl) restaurants to high-class Japanese traditional restaurants such as 高級料亭 kōkyū ryōtei and 懐石料理 Kaiseki ryōri , you never run out of choices of restaurants, and you will always find any restaurants you prefer according to your budget, mood, and preferences.

Some of the most popular world cuisines in Japan and their Japanese words are listed below. 

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading
Chinese (cuisines)中国 / 中華 料理ちゅうごく/ちゅうか りょうりChūgoku / Chūka ryōri 
Korean  (cuisines)韓国料理かんこく りょうりKankoku ryōri 
Vietnamese (cuisines)ベトナム料理べとなむ りょうりBetonamu ryōri 
Thai (cuisines)タイ料理たい りょうりTai ryōri 
Indian (cuisines)インド料理いんど りょうりIndo ryōri 
Mexican (cuisines)メキシコ料理めきしこ りょうりMekishiko ryōri 
French (cuisines)フランス料理ふらんす りょうりFuransu ryōri 
Italian (cuisines)イタリア料理いたりあ りょうりItaria  ryōri 

Foreign Customers Are Eating at Sushi Restaurant

When you sit at the counter at a sushi restaurant, you can directly order your menu from the chef.

Even if you say “Japanese food” as a general category, you will not find a single restaurant in Japan that provides all kinds of Japanese food. The reason why is that Japanese restaurants in Japan are mostly specialized according to  the kinds of Japanese food they serve, such as ラーメン Ramen, うどん Udon, そば Soba, お好み焼き Okonomiyaki, 焼肉 Yakiniku, 寿司 Sushi, etc. 

When you look at the chart below, you will see that “Japanese food” has a wide range of characteristics such as food genre and rank.

Chart Describing Restaurant Service

Even for “Sushi” restaurants, there are casual “立ち食い tachigui (“standing at a counter to eat”) and “回転寿司 kaitenzushi (“Sushi go-around”)” style restaurants which are usually more reasonable, and also high class and expensive “real” Sushi restaurants prepared by trained Sushi chefs with fresh and high-quality ingredients.

Some casual restaurants, such as 牛丼 Gyūdon and ラーメン Ramen, have the 食券 shokken (“meal ticket”) system where customers have to buy a meal ticket from a ticket machine usually set in the entrance for ordering food. Although their staff services are minimal, it’s very quick and reasonable.

Please check out A Guide to the Best Traditional Japanese Foods to learn more about Japanese food!

Japanese Ticket Machine for Ordering Meal

食券 shokken (“meal ticket”)
Some Japanese casual restaurants have ticket machines for ordering meals.

2. Search on the Internet / Apps

So, now you understand there is a wide range of restaurants to choose from in Japan. Then, how can you find a good restaurant that you prefer? Well, the easiest answer is the modern necessity, the Internet!

Due to such huge lists of restaurants with various characteristics in Japan, there are a lot of websites and apps that provide useful information about restaurants, and you can search by genre of food, budget, area, and keywords such as “for anniversary,” “children welcome,” “night view,” etc. 

Here are some examples:

  • ホットペッパーグルメ Hot Pepper Gourmet

    Hot Pepper Gourmet is positioned as one of the major restaurant search websites/apps in Japan, along with Gurunavi and Taberogu. Not only can users check information about restaurants, reviews, and menus, but also search for restaurants matched with their current position and make a reservation online. Users also benefit from coupons.

  • 食べログ Taberogu

    Taberogu is initially a restaurant review website as its name indicates: 食べ(る) tabe(ru) “eat” + ログ rogu “log.”  They have more than 130,000 subscribers and 2 billion page views a month. Taberogu is generally highly recognized as a review 口コミ kuchikomi (“word of mouth”) website for restaurants, and they evaluate restaurants based on the reviews from those who actually visited restaurants. Evaluation is updated twice a month, and a lot of people use the website as a reference for choosing a restaurant. On the website, users can make reservations and benefit from coupons.

  • ぐるなび Gurunavi

    Gurunavi, named after a short version of “gourmet navigation,” started as a restaurant booking website, and now the website has grown to have 56 million page views a month. They have information about over 60,000 restaurants and also provide pages for special features on seasonal or themed events. A variety of coupons are available, and not only can you reserve a table at restaurants, but you can also order delivery and takeaway.

  • レッティ Retty

    Retty started as a social networking service for foodies. Users can post reviews of restaurants they visited on their pages and share them with other users. Users can follow other users so that they will always have real and up-to-date reviews and information about new restaurants when following “gourmet nerds” or “super foodies.” Like other websites/apps, you can make an online restaurant reservation with Retty.

  • 一休.comレストラン  Ikkyu .com

    Ikkyu Restaurant focuses on restaurants, but Ikkyu.com is a booking website that also provides services for booking hotels and spas. Providing high-quality services through making a reservation at selected restaurants is their main objective. They are proud that all the restaurants, hotels, and spas listed on Ikkyu.com are selected ones that passed the distinctive standard of selection. If you are looking for something nice for special occasions or high-class luxury, Ikkyu Restaurant helps you perfectly. Subscribers will benefit from exclusive plans and offers.

Even if you don’t actually make a booking with these websites/apps, just looking at them can be an interesting way for Japanese language learning with a lot of pictures!

Useful Vocabs for Searching

Here is the list of useful and essential Japanese restaurant vocabulary and keywords that you can use for your search for restaurants. 

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading
No smoking table禁煙席 きんえんせきkin’enseki
Smoking table喫煙席 きつえんせきkitsuenseki
Private room個室 こしつkoshitsu
OK to bring children子連れOKこづれOKkozure ōkē
Night view夜景 やけいyakei
Girls’ party/gathering女子会 じょしかいjoshikai
For dateデートでーとdēto
Fashionable/ stylishお洒落おしゃれoshare
For anniversary/special day記念日きねんびkinenbi
All you can eat食べ放題たべほうだいtabehōdai
All you can drink飲み放題のみほうだいnomihōdai

A Person Is Touching a Smartphone with an Index Finger

It’s easy to search nice restaurants on Apps and websites nowadays.

3. Asking For Recommendations

Gathering information online is very easy and quick. However, it’s always good to listen to real, local opinions! Following are some Japanese restaurant phrases that you can use when asking someone for recommendations.

[Japanese]    この辺りでおすすめの [ イタリアン / 寿司屋 ] はどこですか。          
                     Kono atari de osusume no [ Itarian / sushiya ] wa doko desu ka.

[English]        “Which [Italian / Sushi restaurant ] is recommended around here?”

[Japanese]    [Area] で一番美味しいラーメン屋はどこですか。          
                      [ Area ] de ichi-ban oishii rāmen’ya wa doko desu ka.

[English]        “Where is the most delicious Ramen restaurant in [Area]?”

[Japanese]    [Area]で英語のメニューがあるカジュアルなレストランを知っていますか。          
                      [ Area ] de Eigo no menyū ga aru kajuaru na resutoran o shitte imasu ka.

[English]        “Do you know any casual restaurant with an English menu in [Area]?”

[Japanese]    デートに使えるおしゃれなレストランを知っていますか。         
                      Dēto ni tsukaeru oshare na resutoran o shitte imasu ka.

[English]        “Do you know any fashionable restaurant that you can use for a date?”

[Japanese]    [ name ] へ行ったことがありますか。美味しかったですか。          
                      [ name ] e itta koto ga arimasu ka. Oishikatta desu ka.

[English]        “Have you been to [name]? Was it good?”

[Japanese]    ベジタリアンの友達を連れて行くのに良いレストランはどこですか。          
                      Bejitarian no tomodachi o tsurete iku noni ii resutoran wa doko desu ka.

[English]        “Where is a nice restaurant to bring my vegetarian friend?”

In order to maximize your travel experience in Japan other than restaurants, please also check Tokyo Travel Guide: See Japan’s Incredible Capital City!

A Variety of Vegetables

ベジタリアンレストランを知っていますかBejitarian resutoran o shitte imasu ka.
(“Do you know any vegetarian restaurants?”)

2. Booking a Restaurant


1. Tips for Booking

The necessity of booking depends on what type of restaurant you would like to go to. You never need a reservation at most casual restaurants in Japan. However, a reservation is recommended for an 居酒屋 Izakaya, a Japanese kind of casual dining bar, if you plan to go on Friday night so you can secure a table. (Even if you don’t have a booking and are told it’s full, there are plenty of other dining bars and restaurants in lively areas in a big city, though!) 

Reservations are also recommended for popular restaurants, especially on weekends, and are probably considered reasonable etiquette for high-class restaurants.

Reserved Card on a Restaurant Table

予約席 yoyakuseki (“reserved seat”)

2. Booking Phrases

The following are useful Japanese restaurant phrases when you book a table at a restaurant. Some are very basic phrases in Japanese, and you can also use them on other booking occasions such as booking train tickets, etc.

Essential vocabularies:

  • 予約    よやく              yoyaku              (“reservation / booking”)
  • 予約する  よやくする         yoyaku suru      (“ to reserve / to make a reservation”)

[Japanese]    4月10日の夜8時に4人で予約できますか。           
                      Shi-gatsu tōka no yoru hachi-ji ni yo-nin de yoyaku dekimasu ka.

[English]        “Can I make a reservation for 4 people on the 10th of April?”

*To learn more about Japanese numbers and Japanese dates, see Japanese Numbers: Let’s Master the Basic Japanese Numbers and Japanese Calendar Dates: Reading Dates in Japanese & More.

[Japanese]    今日の夜7時頃に行きたいのですが、空いていますか。
                      Kyō no yoru shichi-ji goro ni ikitai no desu ga, aite imasu ka.

[English]        “We’d like to come around 7pm, do you have a seat?”

*Please visit the How to Tell Time in Japanese article on JapanesePod101 to learn how to tell the time in Japanese.

[Japanese]    大人2人と子供1人です。          
                      Otona futari to kodomo hitori desu.

[English]        “We are two adults and one child.”

[Japanese]    禁煙席で窓際希望です。          

                      Kin’enseki de madogiwa kibō desu.

[English]        “We would like a non-smoking seat and by the window.”

[Japanese]    名前はOOOで、電話番号はXXXです。          
                      Namae wa OOO de, denwa bangō wa XXX desu.

[English]        “My name is OOO, and the phone number is XXX.”

[Japanese]    5月の週末で予約可能な日はいつですか。        
                      Go-gatsu no shūmatsu de yoyaku kanō na hi wa itsu desu ka.

[English]        “When are available dates for booking on weekends in May?”

[Japanese]    記念日のディナーをしたいのですが、夜景の見える席を予約できますか。          
                      Kinenbi no dinā o shitai no desu ga, yakei no mieru seki o yoyaku dekimasu ka.

[English]        “I’d like to have dinner for the anniversary, can I reserve a table with a nice night view?”

[Japanese]    6人で利用できる個室を予約できますか。          
                      Roku-nin de riyō dekiru koshitsu o yoyaku dekimasu ka.

[English]        “Can I reserve a private room that can accommodate 6 people?”

[Japanese]    予約したいのですが、子連れでも大丈夫ですか。         
                      oyaku shitai no desu ga, kozure demo daijōbu desu ka.

[English]        “I’d like to make a reservation, but are children welcome?”

[Japanese]    30人位で誕生日パーティーを行いたいのですが、貸切にできますか。         
                      San-jū-nin kurai de tanjōbi pātī o okonaitai no desu ga, kashikiri ni dekimasu ka.

[English]        “I’d like to have a birthday party with about 30 people. Can I book the whole restaurant?”

A Japanese Woman Is Calling with a Mobile Phone

予約できますか。Yoyaku dekimasu ka. ( “Can I make a reservation?”)

3. At a Restaurant


1. Entering a Restaurant

Below is a list of Japanese restaurant phrases that will help you enter a restaurant smoothly. Some phrases are often asked by restaurant staff.

[Japanese]    予約はされていますか。            
                      Yoyaku wa sarete imasu ka.

[English]        “[staff] Do you have a reservation?”

[Japanese]    7時に3人で予約したOOOです。          
                      Shichi-ji ni san-nin de yoyaku shita OOO desu.

[English]        “I am OOO, I booked at 7 O’clock for 3.”

[Japanese]    OOOの名前で予約しています。          
                      OOO no namae de yoyaku shite imasu.

[English]        “I have a reservation under the name of OOO.”

[Japanese]    何名様ですか。          
                      Nan-mei-sama desu ka.

[English]        “[staff] How many people?”

[Japanese]    4人です。          
                      Yo-nin desu.

[English]        “We are four.”

[Japanese]    8人の席を作ってもらえますか。          
                      Hachi-nin no seki o tsukutte moraemasu ka.

[English]        “Can you arrange a table for 8 people?”

[Japanese]    窓際の席は空いてますか。         
                      Madogiwa no seki wa aite masu ka.

[English]        “Is a table by the window available?”

[Japanese]    子供用の椅子を一つ用意してもらえますか。        
                      Kodomoyō no isu o hitotsu yōi shite moraemasu ka.

[English]        “Could you please prepare one child’s chair?”

[Japanese]    ご案内するまで少々お待ちください。         
                      Go-annai suru made shōshō o-machi kudasai.

[English]        “[staff] Please wait for a moment, I will show you to your table shortly.”

[Japanese]    こちらへどうぞ。         
                      Kochira e dōzo.

[English]        “[staff] This way, please.”

A Waiter Is Guiding a Couple to the Table at a Restaurant

こちらへどうぞ。 Kochira e dōzo.  ( “This way, please.”)

2. Ordering

Most restaurants in Japan have menus with abundant pictures next to the names of dishes, therefore, you don’t have to worry too much about whether you would ever understand what’s written on a menu. However, it’s good to communicate with a restaurant staff to tell what you want and what you don’t want, as well as get information that is not written on a menu. 

These Japanese restaurant phrases below will help you order your meal smoother. Rather than just pointing at the menu and saying, “これにします I will have this,” let’s use the following Japanese dining phrases!

[Japanese]    今日のおすすめは何ですか。          
                      Kyō no osusume wa nan desu ka.

[English]        “What is today’s special?”

[Japanese]    一番人気の料理はどれですか。          
                      Ichi-ban ninki no ryōri wa dore desu ka.

[English]        “Which is the most popular dish?”

[Japanese]      英語のメニューはありますか。     
                      Eigo no menyū wa arimasu ka.

[English]        “Do you have a menu in English?”

[Japanese]    ベジタリアン用の料理はありますか。          
                      Bejitarian’yō no menyū wa arimasu ka.

[English]        “Do you have dishes for vegetarians?”

[Japanese]    ご注文はお決まりですか。       
                      Go-chūmon wa o-kimari desu ka.

[English]        “[staff] Have you decided what you want to order?”

[Japanese]    もう少し時間をください。          
                      Mō sukoshi jikan o kudasai.

[English]        “Can I have a little more time?”

[Japanese]    これに牛乳と卵は入っていますか。アレルギーがあります。      
                      Kore ni gyūnyū to tamago wa haitte imasu ka. Arerugī ga arimasu.

[English]        “Does this contain milk and egg? I have allergies.”

[Japanese]    これにお肉は入っていますか。お肉は食べられません。     
                      Kore ni o-niku wa haitte imasu ka. O-niku wa taberaremasen.

[English]        “Does this contain meat? I cannot eat meat.”

[Japanese]    これはどんな味ですか。        
                      Kore wa donna aji desu ka.

[English]        “What does this taste like?”

[Japanese]    これは辛いですか。   
                      Kore wa karai desu ka.

[English]        “Is this spicy?”

[Japanese]    辛いのは苦手です。唐辛子が入っていない料理はありますか。          
                      Karai no wa nigate desu. Tōgarashi ga haitte inai ryōri wa arimasu ka.

[English]        “I’m not good at spicy food. Are there dishes that do not contain chili peppers?”

[Japanese]    これとこれにします。          
                      Kore to kore ni shimasu.

[English]        “I will have this and this (by pointing on a menu).”

[Japanese]    Bランチセットをお願いします。          
                      B ranchi setto o onegai shimasu.

[English]        “I would like a B Lunch Set.”

[Japanese]    とんかつ定食と温かいお茶をください。        
                      Tonkatsu teishoku to atatakai o-cha o kudasai.

[English]        “I would like a Tonkatsu teishoku set and hot tea, please.”

[Japanese]    本日のスープとフィレステーキのミディアムレアをお願いします。        
                      Honjitsu no sūpu to fire sutēki no midiamu rea o onegai shimasu.

[English]        “I would like today’s soup and a medium-rare filet steak, please.”

[Japanese]    セットのドリンクはアイスティーをお願いします。          
                      Setto no dorinku wa aisu tī o onegai shimasu.

[English]        “I would like iced tea for the drink in the set.”

*You can choose either hot or cold (iced) coffee and tea at most restaurants in Japan. 

[Japanese]    ワイン/ 飲み物 のメニューはありますか。          
                      Wain / nomimono no menyū wa arimasu ka.

[English]        “Do you have a wine list / drink menu?”

[Japanese]    生ビールをください。         
                      Namabīru o kudasai.

[English]        “I’d like draft beer, please.”

[Japanese]    食後にホットコーヒーをお願いします。          
                      Shokugo ni hotto kōhī o onegai shimasu.

[English]        “I would like hot coffee after a meal.”

[Japanese]    いただきます
                      Itadakimasu.

[English]        “(Japanese greeting phrase before eating) Thankfully I have a meal.”

* In order to learn more about Japanese untranslatable phrases and words, please check Japanese Untranslatable Words: Let’s Talk like a Native!

[Japanese]    デザートのご注文はございますか。          
                      Dezāto no go-chūmon wa gozaimasu ka.

[English]        “[staff] Would you like to order desserts?”

For more about Japanese words for English speakers and Japanese nouns related to food and restaurants, see our Food – Utensils & Tableware and Restaurant vocabulary lists.

A Couple Is Ordering Dishes at a Restaurant

ご注文はお決まりですか Go-chūmon wa o-kimari desu ka.
(“Have you decided what you want to order?”)

3. Requesting

[Japanese]    すみません、お水 / ナプキンをもらえますか。           
                      Sumimasen, o-mizu / napukin o moraemasu ka.

[English]        “ Excuse me, can I have water / napkins?”

[Japanese]    小さい取り皿とスプーンをお願いします。          
                      Chiisai torizara to supūn o onegai shimasu.

[English]        “Can you bring me a small plate and a spoon, please?”

[Japanese]    お箸をもう一膳もらえますか。         
                      O-hashi o mō ichi-zen morae masu ka.

[English]        “Can I have one more set of chopsticks?”

[Japanese]    同じグラスワインをもう一杯ください。         
                      Onaji gurasu wain o mō ippai kudasai.

[English]        “I would like another glass of the same wine.”

[Japanese]    デザートのメニューをもらえますか。          
                      Dezāto no menyū o morae masu ka.

[English]        “Can I have a dessert menu, please?”

[Japanese]    ティラミスとカフェラテホットをお願いします。       
                      Tiramisu to kaferate hotto o onegai shimasu.

[English]        “I would like Tiramisu and a hot caffe latte.”

[Japanese]    お手洗い/化粧室はどこですか。       
                      O-tearai / keshōshitsu wa doko desu ka.

[English]        “Where is a wash / powder room? ”

* The word “化粧室 keshōshitsu (“powder room”)” is the more polite expression to use but it’s usually used by women.

A Man Is Calling a Waiter from a Table at a Restaurant

すみません、お水をもらえますか
                      Sumimasen, o-mizu o moraemasu ka. (“ Excuse me, can I have water?”)

4. After Dining

Apart from learning essential Japanese phrases for restaurants, here is information you need to know for after dining!

1. Etiquettes and Tips

  • After eating everything, you can ask for hot (green) tea FOR FREE at Japanese restaurants, especially at Sushi and Teishoku restaurants, etc. 
  • No Tip Needed: You never need to leave a tip in restaurants in Japan! If you leave money on your table, staff would run after you to tell you “you forgot your money”. 
  • Pay at a Cashier (not at the table): Unlike most restaurants in western culture, customers usually pay at a cashier at the entrance of a restaurant in Japan. After telling a waiter “Check, please”, he/she brings your bill to your table, but you need to take it to a cashier to pay. 
  • Though most casual restaurants allow customers to take leftovers home by offering a container, some restaurants refuse to do so due to hygiene and safety reasons. 

If you want to learn more about Japanese etiquette, please visit Japanese Etiquette and Manners!

Maki Sushi and Oriental Tea

温かいお茶をもらえますか Atatakai o-cha o moraemasu ka. (”Can I have hot tea?”)

2. Useful Phrases after Eating

Here are some useful Japanese restaurant phrases after finishing your meal.

[Japanese]    ごちそうさまでした。           
                      Gochisō-sama deshita.

[English]        “ (Japanese greeting phrase after eating) Thank you for good food.”

[Japanese]    とても美味しかったです。          
                      Totemo oishikatta desu.

[English]        “It was very delicious.”

[Japanese]    持ち帰りにできますか。         
                      Mochikaeri ni dekimasu ka.

[English]        “Can I take this home?”

[Japanese]    残った料理用に持ち帰り容器をもらえますか。        
                      Nokotta ryōriyō ni mochikaeri yōki o moraemasu ka.

[English]        “Can I have a container for leftovers?”

[Japanese]    お会計お願いします。          
                      O-kaikei onegai shimasu.

[English]        “Check, please.”

[Japanese]    現金/カードで払います。       
                      Genkin / kādo de haraimasu.

[English]        “I will pay by cash /card.”

[Japanese]    VISAカードは使えますか。 
                      Biza kādo wa tsukaemasu ka.

[English]        “Can I use a VISA card? ”

[Japanese]    決済アプリは使えますか。
                      Kessai apuri wa tsukaemasu ka.

[English]        “Can I use a payment application?”

*In Japan, payment applications such as  LINE Pay, PayPay, Rakuten Pay, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay etc. are popular alternatives to cash or credit.

[Japanese]    別々に払えますか。
                      Betsu-betsu ni harae masu ka.

[English]        “Can we pay separately? ”

[Japanese]    私が全部払います。
                      Watashi ga zenbu haraimasu.

[English]        “I will pay for everything.”

[Japanese]    美味しかったです。また来ます。 
                      Oishikatta desu. Mata kimasu.

[English]        “It was good, I (we) will come back again. ”

Front and Back of a Black Credit Card

カードで払います。Kādo de haraimasu.  (“I will pay by card.”)

5. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced the most useful Japanese Restaurant Phrases by situation as well as restaurant tips and information, including:

  • Restaurant Variations in Japan 
  • Useful Restaurant Search Websites/Apps
  • Phrase for Asking for Recommendations
  • Tips for Booking
  • Booking Phrases
  • Phrases for Entering a Restaurant
  • Phrases for Ordering 
  • Phrases for Requesting
  • Etiquette and Tips after Dining
  • Phrases after Dining

With these Japanese restaurant phrases and information, you’ll be able to maximize your dining experience in Japan along with delicious food!

If you would like to learn more about Japanese words for English speakers, 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 are interested in more Japanese phrases by situations, the following articles are just right for you: 

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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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!

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