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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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