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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!

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