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Tokyo Travel Guide: See Japan’s Incredible Capital City!

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Have you ever been to Tokyo or thought about visiting? Japan is a very unique and fascinating country, and you can never get bored in Tokyo, one of the biggest capital cities in the world!

Tokyo has a range of sights and experiences for travelers to take in: traditional and cutting-edge modern culture, a wide variety of food choices, shopping, entertainment, nightlife, and even nature and outdoor activities. With so many reasons to visit Tokyo, it’s worth making the trip at least once in a lifetime to enjoy what this wonderful city has to offer.

In this Tokyo travel guide, we’ll help you plan a visit to Tokyo by introducing you to some of the best locations in the city. We will also provide you with basic city and travel information, as well as a list of useful Japanese travel phrases. Let’s get you all ready for your Tokyo adventure!

Central Tokyo Has a Range of Skyscraper Buildings.

Central Tokyo has a range of skyscraper buildings.


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Table of Contents
  1. Basic Information for Traveling
  2. Must-See Places for a 1-3 Day Trip
  3. Highly Recommended Places for a 4-7 Day Trip (or Longer)
  4. Nature and Outdoor Activities in Tokyo
  5. Japanese Survival Phrases for Travelers
  6. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

1. Basic Information for Traveling

While international travel can be fun, exciting, and relaxing, we know that it can also be a stressful experience. To give you a hand, we’ve compiled some of the most useful information about Tokyo, including when and how to visit for the best experience. 

City of Tokyo

Facts

Tokyo is one of the biggest cities in the world, with a population of approximately 14 million (2020) and a total land area of 2,194 km². To give you an idea, this is larger than London (approx. 9.3 million & 1,572 km²), New York (approx. 19 million & 1,213 km²), and Paris (approx. 2.3 million & 105km²).

History

The history of modern-day Tokyo can be traced back to the Edo period, some 400 years ago. The Tokugawa Shogunate was established by a Shōgun (Japanese General) named 徳川家康 (Tokugawa Ieyasu) in 1603. Over time, the city grew to become the capital of Japan and has flourished to this day. Prior to this, 京都 (Kyoto) was Japan’s capital for more than a thousand years.

People and Language

Being a huge capital city, Tokyo serves as the center of business, culture, and fashion. This draws many Japanese people from other prefectures to study and work here. 

Although Japanese is the main language used here, there are many people in Tokyo who can communicate in English, especially among the younger generations. English is also used at public transportation facilities and large commercial buildings, as well as in some restaurants (especially those in central areas and touristic places).

Food and Accomodation

In this huge city of Tokyo, you can find food and accommodation to suit any budget. Whether you’re a backpacker or a posh traveler who seeks only the finest lodging and dining, Tokyo has what you need. 

There’s a variety of restaurants, from those offering one-coin meals (¥500 Yen coin) to high-end Michelin-starred restaurants. You can also find a wide diversity of cuisines here: Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian, French, American, Greek, Turkish, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, and the list goes on. Believe it or not, Tokyo is the world’s most Michelin-starred city, with 226 restaurants receiving stars for the thirteenth consecutive year, according to the Michelin Guide Tokyo 2020!

居酒屋 (Izakaya)-style bars are also popular among locals and they make for a great experience for those visiting the city. You’ll get to taste variations of Japanese tapas and Japanese sake for a relatively low price.

Likewise, you can find any type of accommodation in Tokyo, from hostels/guest houses to five-star luxury hotels. 

To learn more about Japanese food, please check out our Guide to the Best Japanese Foods.

The Best Time to Visit Tokyo

The two best seasons to visit are spring and cherry blossom season, but you can enjoy traveling in Japan any time of year. Do keep in mind that the middle of summer can be very hot and winter can be a bit too cold to get around comfortably. But with the right preparation, the weather won’t prevent you from enjoying the city! 

Each season has its own positive features and benefits. Following are the key points of each season.

  • Spring (March, April, May)

    The climate starts to warm up in March, and April is the best time to view beautiful full-bloom cherry blossoms. The month of May also has nice and comfortable weather, and it’s the final month of mild temperatures before it gets really hot in the summer.
  • Summer (June, July, August)

    The rainy season, or 梅雨 (Tsuyu), starts in June and lasts until the beginning of July. There are many rainy days during this time, which makes it less pleasant to spend time outdoors. Although there are a lot of indoor facilities and activities you can enjoy in Tokyo, it’s recommended to avoid traveling during this season.

    After Tsuyu is over, full-blown summer arrives and the temperature increases to as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). The heat usually continues until the middle of September.

    Because the summer season is so hot and humid, it’s a bit tiring to get around outdoors. But don’t worry too much, as Japanese trains and subways have cool air conditioning!
  • Autumn (September, October, November)

    Autumn is a nice season to visit Tokyo as the temperature has cooled down but is not yet cold. In addition, there is far less rainy weather during this season. The Japanese consider autumn to be 食欲の秋, or a “season of good appetite,” and you can enjoy a lot of good foods made with seasonal ingredients.

    In November, it’s very beautiful to see the leaves changing colors on the mountains with a gradation of yellow, orange, and red. It’s worth visiting mountains in the outskirts of Tokyo, which are less than two hours from the center.
  • Winter (December, January, February)

    If you plan to visit Tokyo during winter, keep in mind that it gets very cold, with temperatures often plummeting below freezing; sometimes it even snows in January and February. However, as long as you wear warm clothes, it’s still manageable. It’s a good season to enjoy 温泉 (Onsen), or “hot springs,” and a variety of 鍋料理 /鍋物 (Nabemono), or “hot pot dishes.”

    Depending on how much time you have, you can also extend your Tokyo trip to include ski resorts so you can enjoy winter sports activities.

How to Get Around

Due to the massive size of Tokyo, trains are the most useful means of transportation. The train systems connect the different smaller cities within Tokyo, including so-called Central Tokyo with its 23 wards (each of which can be broken down into smaller cities and areas, as well). 

First-time visitors may find the train system in Tokyo a bit complicated at first. There are many lines for overground trains, which include the public JR (Japan Railway) service and the private Odakyu Line, Seibu Line, and Keiō Line services. There are also two subway systems in central Tokyo: Tokyo Metro and the Toei Subway (which literally means, “metropolis managed subway”). 

While you can buy tickets each time you need to board, it’s recommended to get one of the smart cards (Suica or Pasmo). These are rechargeable contactless cards which you can use to pay fare; they can also be used as electronic money to buy things at kiosks and convenience stores, for example. They’re available at train/subway stations. 

If you plan to visit other regions and cities outside of Tokyo (such as Kyoto, Osaka, or Hiroshima) by using 新幹線 (Shinkansen), or the super express train, buy the Japan Rail Pass in advance. This will allow you to use transportation at a cheaper price. 

Taxis are available anywhere in the central part of Tokyo, but fare can be expensive. Also, the doors of Japanese taxis open automatically, so don’t be surprised!

Other Travel Tips

  • What to Bring

    It’s recommended to have some Japanese Yen in cash while you’re traveling in Japan. Although there are many places where credit cards and Smart Pay are available, cash transactions are still big in Japan, especially at local stores and restaurants.

    You should also buy a SIM card so you can use the internet on your phone at the airport. Availability of free public wifi is still limited even in Tokyo, although there’s free wifi at most of the JR and Subway stations as well as in the main touristic areas. Internet access is the most useful thing for traveling!

    In case of an unexpected rainy day, a foldable umbrella would be useful; you can buy one at any convenience store in Japan. As a matter of fact, you can find almost anything you could need in Japan—especially in Tokyo—so don’t worry too much!
  • Emergency

    In case of an emergency, here are some important phone numbers you can call for free:

    110: 警察 (Keisatsu) – “Police”
    119: 救急車 (Kyūkyūsha) – “Ambulance”
    119: 消防 (Shōbō) “Fire Fighting”

    You should also find the telephone number and location for an embassy of your country in advance; this will be useful in case you lose your passport or run into a similar issue.

2. Must-See Places for a 1-3 Day Trip

Just a couple of days isn’t enough to experience what Tokyo has to offer, but if you plan to stay in other regions and spare a few days in Tokyo, the following cities and areas are not to be missed!

新宿 (Shinjuku)

Shinjuku is the busiest city in Tokyo. The Shinjuku Station is the hub of many extended lines that connect to various regions, including the surrounding prefectures.

Shinjuku itself is a big city which can be divided into different areas, each with its own unique aspects.  

From the center of the station, there are a few key places to visit, outlined below. Note that it’s very easy to get lost around the Shinjuku Station because there are hundreds of exits and paths, both underground and aboveground. Make sure you have Google Maps with you.

  • West (West Exit) 

    After passing the Izakaya bars close to the station, you’ll find a range of skyscraper buildings, most of which are offices and luxury hotels. One of the tallest buildings is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Its observatory on the 45th floor (202m from the ground) is very famous and it’s popular among tourists as well as locals. What’s even more amazing is that it’s free of charge to visit!

    Drinking a cocktail at the “Peak Bar” of Park Hyatt Tokyo on the 41st floor will take you to the world of the movie Lost in Translation.
  • Southeast & East (South Exit and Central East Exit) 

    There are thousands of dining bars and restaurants here, but this area is especially a paradise for shopping-lovers! There are many department stores and large shopping buildings, starting from above the station itself. In addition to clothing and fashion shops, there are also mega electronic stores that are not to be missed. Even if you don’t purchase anything, just window shopping can be very interesting.

    Further southeast, there is an oasis in the midst of the Tokyo Desert (a metaphor for a crowded city with buildings, neons, and concrete), which is 新宿御苑 (Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden). You’ll enjoy relaxing in the beautiful Japanese garden after your time in the hustle and bustle of the city areas.
  • Northeast (East Exit) 

    There are thousands of bars and restaurants here as well, but this area—known as 歌舞伎町 (Kabukichō)—is famous for its nightlife and for being a red-light district. There are thousands of neons around Shinjuku that never go off and it’s a city that never sleeps. When you walk around this area at night (it’s safe to walk around at night), you’ll see some interesting people.

    Some of the most popular places to visit in this area among tourists are ゴールデン街 (Golden Gai) and ロボットレストラン (Robot Restaurant). Golden Gai is a small area which preserves the traditional small buildings for restaurants and bars. Its retro atmosphere reminds one of the old times and foreigners find it fascinating. Robot Restaurant is literally a restaurant that features huge robots which people can actually get on.

    Throughout the area, customers can enjoy shows while having meals and drinks in the colorful restaurants decorated with thousands of flashy neons.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

The observatory in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is one of the most famous observatories in Tokyo.

渋谷 (Shibuya)

Shibuya is known as the epicenter of younger generations, new cultures, and venture and startup businesses. The city has everything that young people and trendsetters need: fashion shops, art galleries, shared workspaces, hip cafés and bar restaurants, night clubs, entertainment facilities, and the list goes on. 

If you’re interested in Japan, you may have seen a picture of Shibuya’s iconic scramble crossing where thousands of people cross the street in just a few minutes. While chaotic, this crossing is also rather organized and reputable because Japanese people follow the traffic lights decently—even during the more hectic times of year like Halloween and New Year’s Eve. Another iconic feature is the faithful dog Hachiko statue in front of the Shibuya Station; the story behind it is so famous that it even became a Hollywood movie.

Shibuya is another energetic city that never sleeps, as youngsters enjoy drinking and clubbing all night long till dawn.

A Huge Crowd of People Crossing at Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing is famous for thousands of people crossing in a couple of minutes.

原宿 (Harajuku)

Harajuku is famous for new fashion and the “Kawaii” culture of the younger generations, especially teenagers and those in their early 20s. 

There are thousands of trendy fashion shops, hair salons, and cafés on every street in Harajuku. The most famous streets, which have recently become a bit too touristy, are 竹下通り (Takeshita Dōri) and キャットストリート (Cat Street).

If you keep walking east, there’s a big main street for high fashion called 表参道 (Omotesando Street), where many fashion-conscious people love to go. At the end of Omotesando Street, there’s another trendy area called 青山 (Aoyama). Here, there are many chic fashion shops, hair salons, art galleries, fancy bars, and trendy restaurants. This area is regarded as a sophisticated city for stylish adults. You might even have a chance encounter with Japanese celebrities! 

Harajuku is a city within Shibuya Ward, which is the first municipality in Japan to acknowledge same-sex partnership. In addition, Harajuku and Shibuya lead the new LGBTQ+ culture. The biggest rainbow parade in Japan is conducted in Harajuku every year.

While the Harajuku area is renowned for its openness to new cultures, you can also find old Japanese traditions preserved here. A great example is the 明治神宮 (Meiji Shrine). Located just behind Harajuku Station, it’s one of the largest and most famous shrines in Tokyo. Here, VIPs conduct festive events and celebrities have traditional Japanese weddings.

Right next to Meiji Shrine, there is 代々木公園 (Yoyogi Park) where you can find flea markets, world food festivals, and other events on the weekend. 

The Meiji Jingu Shrine

明治神宮 (Meiji Jingu Shrine) is the most famous and important shrine in Tokyo.

皇居 (Imperial Palace and Imperial Garden)

In order to deepen your understanding of the hearts of Japanese people, it’s recommended to visit the Imperial Palace and gain insight on the Imperial House system

Located right in the center of Tokyo (next to Tokyo Station), the Imperial Palace is a symbol of Japan. To enroll in a guided tour of the Imperial Palace and walk around the beautiful Imperial Garden, you have to queue in the time slots which are limited per day. Make sure you check the opening schedule on their official website (there’s an English page). 

The surroundings of the Imperial Palace are stunning during cherry blossom season, as you can see hundreds of beautiful cherry trees along the moat of the palace.  

The architecture and landscape of the Imperial Palace and Imperial Garden represent the ultimate sense of Japanese beauty. That said, you may be surprised to see that it’s far from luxurious when compared to palaces in Europe. The Japanese sense of beauty values simplicity and quality rather than luxury.

The Japanese Imperial Palace in Tokyo

The Japanese Imperial Palace is located close to Tokyo Station.

浅草 (Asakusa)

In Tokyo, you can find both old and new traditions downtown. In Japanese, downtown is called 下町 (Shitamachi), and literally translates to “down town.” It’s the physically low part of central Tokyo along the east side of the Sumida River, and it refers to areas that are traditional and rooted in local communities from the Edo period.

Asakusa is one such Shitamachi city in Tokyo. The most famous things here are:

  • 雷門 (Kaminarimon) – “Thunder Gate”
  • 浅草寺 (Sensō-ji Temple)
  • 仲見世通り (Nakamise Dōri) – the street that approaches the temple

Along the lively street of Nakamise Dōri, there are hundreds of gift shops that sell a variety of traditional Japanese goods, arts, and crafts, as well as traditional snacks and sweets. 

After visiting the temple and tasting some delicious Japanese snacks, you can enjoy strolling around the Asakusa area or riding on the 人力車 (Jinrikisha) or Rickshaw (“human-powered vehicle”), which is pulled by a man dressed in traditional clothing.

Or, you can also enjoy the river cruise. Right next to Asakusa is the mighty Sumida River, along which there are many landmarks. These include the Tokyo Skytree Tower and the huge golden sculpture on the Asahi headquarters building. From the pier near Asakusa Station, you can cruise up to 日の出 (Hinode Pier), お台場 (Odaiba) Marine Park, 浜離宮 (Hama-rikyu Japanese Gardens), and 豊洲 (Toyosu).

Many People Visiting the Kaminarimon Gate of Sensō-ji

The 雷門 (Kaminarimon Gate of Sensō-ji) Temple is a popular site for taking pictures.

上野 (Ueno)

Ueno is another well-known Shitamachi city and it has some features that are worth visiting.

  • Ueno Park: 上野公園 (Ueno Park) is very famous for cherry blossoms and お花見 (O-hanami) parties where people view the blossoms. Even after cherry blossom season, you can enjoy walking around this huge park.
  • Museums: Next to Ueno Park, there are a range of famous museums, such as the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Western Art, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. If you’re a fan of art and science, you’ll need to set aside more than a day to explore the many museums located here! 
  • Ueno Zoo: This is the only zoo you can find in central Tokyo. Here, you can meet cute panda bears.
  • Ameyoko Market Street: アメヤ横丁 (Ameya Yokochō), or アメ横  (Ameyoko) for short, is a bustling market street where you can find a variety of things at relatively low prices: vegetables, fish, dried foods, spices, snacks, utensils, clothing, etc. It’s interesting to see the lively markets.

Up-close Shot of Cherry Blossoms Blooming at Ueno Park

Ueno Park is famous for the beautiful blooming of cherry blossoms and hanami parties.

秋葉原 (Akihabara)

If you’re a fan of gadgets, Anime, and Manga, you can’t miss this city. Akihabara is known for electronics and Anime/Manga, so it’s often called the city of オタク (Otaku), or “geeks,” and subcultures.

There are hundreds of shops selling all kinds of electronics and gadgets, video games, Manga comics, Anime figures, cosplay costumes, and accessories. You may also see cosplayers and amateur pop-idols gathering on the street of Akihabara on the weekends, as well as Otaku photographers having photo sessions.

Maid café and other themed cafés (such as a particular Manga comic theme or an animal café where you can see and touch animals such as cats, owls, or hedgehogs) are also popular and fun to experience!

The Street of Akihabara in Tokyo

Akihabara is a famous city in Tokyo, known for Anime and Manga.

3. Highly Recommended Places for a 4-7 Day Trip (or Longer)

Are you planning a longer trip? Great! That means you’ll also be able to experience these must-visit Tokyo places. 

お台場 & ゆりかもめモノレール (Odaiba & Yurikamome Monorail) 

Odaiba is the waterfront area of Tokyo Bay. Not only does it have a spectacular ocean and city view, but there are also so many things to enjoy on these artificial islands.

  • Shopping Malls: There are huge shopping malls here, such as Diversity, Venus Fort, and Aqua City.
  • Entertainment Facilities: If you’re bored of shopping or walking around, there are tons of other things you can enjoy:

    Cinema
    A Virtual Reality (VR) experience
    Joypolis (an indoor amusement park that offers arcade games and amusement rides)
    RoundOne/Spoccha

    The last place we mentioned is an all-you-can-play amusement center that offers a variety of indoor/outdoor activities. These include bowling alleys, arcade games, karaoke, Manga room, billiards, batting cages, basketball, volleyball, tennis, futsal, driving range, rollerblades, and more.
  • Museums: The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation is fun to explore and allows you to enjoy a huge planetarium. The Tokyo Water Science Museum is an interactive museum where you can learn about water.
  • Yurikamome Monorail: Running from 新橋 (Shinbashi) all the way to 豊洲 (Toyosu), this monorail system is not only a means of transportation but also a fun ride that allows you to explore the waterfront and enjoy the wonderful 360° view of Tokyo Bay.  
  • Onsen Hot Spring: 大江戸温泉 (Ōedo Onsen) is a hot spring facility. Onsen is an important aspect of Japanese culture, and you can enjoy Onsen in the central city! When you’re tired from walking around all day, you can wash your sweaty body and relax in a hot tub.

Odaiba and the Replica of the Statue of Liberty

Odaiba is located right in Tokyo Bay, which is the artificial land. There is a replica of the Statue of Liberty here.

六本木 (Roppongi)

Roppongi is traditionally known as a city of nightlife, having many bars and popular nightclubs. In addition, many foreign embassies are located around the Roppongi area and lots of expats enjoy the city’s nightlife as much as the locals do. This gives the city a sort of international atmosphere.

In recent decades, Roppongi has undergone a variety of new development projects and has become a place to enjoy high-end shopping, fancy restaurants, and posh entertainment thanks to the mega-complex buildings called Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown. Both buildings are huge skyscrapers incorporating office spaces, luxury apartments, shops, restaurants, cafés, movie theatres, a museum, a hotel, an outdoor amphitheatre, and some parks.

The Tokyo Midtown Building in Roppongi

Roppongi is famous for night clubs and high-grade shops and restaurants in commercial skyscraper buildings.

銀座 & 築地 (Ginza & Tsukiji)

If you love sophisticated shopping, go to Ginza. 

銀座中央通り (Ginza Chūō-dōri), or Ginza Central Avenue, is the Tokyo version of 5th Avenue in New York. It’s very famous for shopping, and its main road turns into a pedestrian precinct that bans cars on the weekends. There are a number of high-end boutiques, department stores, commercial buildings, hair salons, beauty shops, and exclusive restaurants in Ginza. 

Even if you’re a budget traveler who’s trying to avoid expensive shopping, please don’t miss the デパ地下 (Depachika), or “basement floors of department stores,” such as those in 銀座三越 (Ginza Mitsukoshi) and 松屋銀座 (Matsuya Ginza). There are thousands of delicious choices of sweets, delicatessen foods, and ingredients sold in Depachika and it’s all worth tasting!

If you’re interested in the traditional Japanese Kabuki theatre, visit 歌舞伎座, or Kabukiza Theatre, in Higashi Ginza (East Ginza). Kabuki is a classical dance-drama which has more than 400 years of history behind it and is registered as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO. You have to buy tickets in advance to see a Kabuki performance, but you can also visit the Kabukiza building if you just want to buy souvenirs.

If you keep walking southeast from Ginza, you’ll enter the 築地 (Tsukiji) area. It’s traditionally famous for the world’s biggest fish market, called 築地市場 (Tsukiji Shijō), as well as its tuna bidding (マグロの競り). The fish market itself was relocated to 豊洲 (Toyosu) in 2018, but there are still many sushi restaurants and seafood shops just outside the area of the old market. Tsukiji is home to 江戸前寿司 (Edomaezushi), or Tokyo-style sushi, and it remained a famous place to eat fresh sushi even after the relocation of the fish market.

People Walking Around Ginza

Ginza is a high fashion street that turns into a pedestrian precinct that bans cars on weekends and national holidays.

東京タワーとスカイツリー (Tokyo Tower and Skytree)

If you want to visit iconic landmarks and see the city of Tokyo from different angles, Tokyo Tower and Skytree Tower are both wonderful options. 

Established in 1958, Tokyo Tower is one of the earliest landmarks in Tokyo. It’s 333m tall, which is taller than the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris at 300m. Tokyo Tower has two observatories: the main deck at 150m and the top deck at 250m. You’ll get to enjoy a stunning 360° view of the world’s metropolitan city.

Tokyo Skytree is a relatively new landmark, established in 2012. The tower is 634m and it’s the tallest building in Japan. The observatory is 450m above the ground, and there are also restaurants with skyscraper views. In addition to taking in the view, you can enjoy shopping and cinemas in the complex commercial building.

The Skytree Tower in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo Skytree, the tallest tower in Japan, is the new iconic tower of Tokyo.

東京ディズニーランド & ディズニーシー (Tokyo Disney Resort & DisneySea)

Whether you’re a Disney fan or not, the Tokyo Disney Resort is worth visiting—especially Tokyo DisneySea, which is the only sea-themed Disney park in the world! You’ll experience something amazing and unique that can only be found in Tokyo. Located right next to Tokyo in the Tokyo Bay, it will take you to a dream world with a scent of sea breeze. The parks are very crowded on weekends and holidays, so it’s recommended to visit during weekdays.

DisneySea in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo DisneySea is the only sea-themed Disney park in the world.

Outside of Central Tokyo

There are many more cities outside of Tokyo’s city center. 

If you have plenty of time, take a twenty-minute ride on the Chūō Line of the JR train from Shinjuku to visit 吉祥寺 (Kichijoji). There are shopping department stores, shopping arcades, movie theaters, and 井の頭公園 (Inokashira Park) which is often used as a shooting location for TV dramas and movies.

Also, if you’re a big fan of Ghibli movies and director 宮崎駿 (Hayao Miyazaki), you can visit Studio Ghibli Museum in 三鷹 (Mitaka) to immerse yourself in the world of Ghibli. Make sure you make a booking in advance.

If you’re a fan of Ghibli Anime movies, the Ghibli Museum is worth visiting.

4. Nature and Outdoor Activities in Tokyo

Don’t be surprised that there are mountains in Tokyo! As a prefecture, Tokyo Metropolis spreads to the mountains in the west. Believe it or not, Tokyo has an abundance of nature less than two hours from the central city. 

Following is a list of places that are worth visiting when you have a lot of time in Tokyo and want to do something different.

高尾山 (Mt. Takao)

Located two hours away when taking a train from the Shinjuku 中央本線 (Chūō Line), Mt. Takao is one of the most-visited mountains in Tokyo. The mountain is just 599m above sea level, and it offers an easy hiking/climbing path while allowing you to get out in the fresh air and enjoy the spectacular nature view. You don’t need a heavy set of gear for the mountain, but sneakers are a good idea.

Once you come down from the mountain, you can refresh and relax at the Onsen facility called 極楽湯 (Gokurakuyu). 

奥多摩 (Okutama)

Okutama is another popular destination from the city center, and it’s a two-hour train ride from Shinjuku and at the end of the train line 青梅線 (Ōme Line). Basically, Okutama is in a location between mountains where you’ll find 奥多摩湖 (Lake Okutama), valleys and rivers, a water dam, 日原鍾乳洞 (Nippara Limestone Caves), and more.

You can enjoy hiking in the forests, fishing, rafting, canyoning, BBQ by the riverside, local cuisine, and the Onsen hot spring at もえぎの湯 (Moeginoyu). There are also camping sites and lodges for overnight stays.

秋川 (Akigawa)

Akigawa is another great option for nature and outdoor activities. It’s about 1.5 hours by train from Shinjuku to the final station of 武藏五日市線 (Musashi-itsukaichi Line).

It’s a popular spot for hiking in the forest, fishing, BBQ, and riverside activities in 秋川渓谷 (Akigawa Keikoku Valley).

There are also Onsen hot spring facilities at つるつる温泉 (Tsurutsuru Onsen) and 瀬音の湯 (Seotonoyu Spa), where you can relax in an open‐air bath with beautiful views of nature and the greenery. Onsen facilities also offer massages and restaurants where you can taste local cuisines. 

If you want to stay overnight, there are camping sites and lodges.

5. Japanese Survival Phrases for Travelers

Due to Tokyo’s diverse cultural scene and immense size, many younger Japanese people do pretty well with English. That said, knowing at least a few Japanese phrases will make your whole trip go a lot smoother and allow you to form deeper connections with locals. Here are just a few survival phrases you should definitely try to memorize before your trip! 

Hello. 

Japanese: こんにちは (Kon’nichiwa)

Example

こんにちは、私たちはカナダから来ました。
Kon’nichiwa, watashi-tachi wa Kanada kara kimashita.
“Hello, we come from Canada.”

Thank you.

Japanese: ありがとう (Arigatō)

In order to say it more politely, add ございます (gozaimasu) so that it becomes: ありがとうございます (Arigatō gozaimasu).

For the past tense, add ございました (gozaimashita).

Example

親切にしていただき、ありがとうございます。
Shinsetsu ni shite itadaki, arigatō gozaimasu.
“Thank you for being kind to me.”

Goodbye.

Japanese: さようなら (Sayōnara)

Example

どうもありがとうございました、さようなら。
Dōmo arigatō gozaimashita, sayōnara.
“Thank you very much, goodbye.”

I’m sorry.

Japanese: すみません (Sumimasen)

Sumimasen is a very useful phrase that can also be used to say, “Excuse me.”

To express a deeper apology, you can also say ごめんなさい (gomen nasai) or, more politely, 申し訳ございません (mōshiwake gozaimasen). This is something you would hear staff members/businesspeople saying to customers.

Example

[When you bump into someone or take someone else’s baggage by mistake]

すみません! 
Sumimasen!
“I’m sorry!”

To learn more on the topic, please read our articles about Japanese Etiquette and How to Say Sorry.

I don’t understand. / I don’t know.

Japanese: わかりません (Wakarimasen)

Example

すみません、日本語がわかりません。
Sumimasen, Nihon-go ga wakarimasen.
“Sorry, I don’t understand Japanese.”

Is there anyone who speaks English?    

Japanese: 英語を話せる人はいますか。(Eigo o hanaseru hito wa imasu ka.)

Example

すみません、英語を話せる人はいますか。
Sumimasen, Eigo o hanaseru hito wa imasu ka.
“Excuse me, is there anyone who speaks English?”

Where is the restroom?

In Japanese: トイレはどこですか (Toire wa doko desu ka.)

Example

ここから一番近いトイレはどこですか。
Koko kara ichi-ban chikai toire wa doko desu ka.
“Where is the nearest restroom from here?”

How much is it?

Japanese: いくらですか (Ikura desu ka.)

Example

これはいくらですか。
Kore wa ikura desu ka.
“How much is this?”

I want/take this.

Japanese: これをください (Kore o kudasai)

Example

[While pointing out what you want on the menu or at a store:]

これをください。いくらですか。
Kore o kudasai. Ikura desu ka.
“I’ll have this. How much is it?”

For more useful phrases for restaurants, please check out our vocabulary lists of Vocabulary and Phrases at the Restaurant and Restaurant.

Help!

Japanese: たすけて! (Tasukete!)

In order to say it more politely, add ください (kudasai) to make it: 助けてください (Tasukete kudasai).

Example

助けてください! 友達が事故にあいました。
Tasukete kudasai! Tomodachi ga jiko ni aimashita.
“Please help! My friend had an accident.”

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

A Couple Ordering Something from a Waitress

これをください (Kore o kudasai) – “I’ll have this one.”

How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

In this article, we introduced the must-visit places in Tokyo, gave you an overview of the city, presented you with useful travel tips, and went over a few practical Japanese travel phrases. I hope you enjoyed this article and that it made you feel like traveling to Tokyo right away! Which of the locations we mentioned is first on your list, and why? 

If you would like to learn the Japanese language together with cultural information, you’ll find a lot more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons to help you improve your Japanese language skills. Here are some pages with useful words and phrases for Japan travel:

You can also get personal one-on-one coaching through our MyTeacher service, which is available when you subscribe for a Premium PLUS membership. Your private teacher will help you practice pronunciation and give you personal feedback to help you constantly improve.

And there’s so much more! Enjoy studying Japanese with JapanesePod101.com!

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English Words in Japanese: Do You Know Japanglish?

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The Japanese language can be very difficult for English speakers to learn as these two languages are completely different in every aspect: origin, writing system, grammar, and phonetics. But when it comes to vocabulary, you may be surprised to hear that this isn’t really the case. There are actually quite a few English loanwords in Japanese!

There’s even a name for the mixing of these two languages: Japanglish. 

Some of the English words used in Japanese have the same meaning as the original ones, while others have been localized and modified (often shortened), combined with Japanese words, and/or used with a completely different meaning. 

In this article, we’ll introduce English words that are commonly used in Japanese. Although you may find some of them very weird, learning Japanglish is one of the easiest parts of learning Japanese and it will be helpful in your language studies.

A Map of Japan

There is a lot of Japanglish vocabulary used in Japan.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Introduction to Japanglish
  2. Typical English Loanwords in Japanese
  3. Japanglish Wasei Eigo
  4. How to Say These Names in Japanese
  5. English Words Borrowed From Japanese
  6. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

1. Introduction to Japanglish

There are two types of English words used in the Japanese language: loanwords and Wasei-Eigo. Let’s take a closer look at each group. 

Loanwords Used in Japanese

Loanwords, or 外来語 (gairai-go), are commonly used in modern Japanese. After two centuries of isolation, called 鎖国 (Sakoku), Japan became “open” to foreign countries in the mid-nineteenth century. This new status brought with it influences from Western cultures, and many of the first loanwords in Japan came from Portuguese, Dutch, French, and German. English loanwords started to gain prevalence during the post-World War II period. Since then, Japanglish has continued to evolve and grow in popularity. 

While the younger Japanese generations often use loanwords without even realizing they’re originally from foreign languages, the older population hardly uses or understands them.

The most basic loanwords are English words used in Japanese with the same meaning, but with Japanese pronunciation. Examples include: 

  • カメラ (kamera) – “camera”
  • タクシー (takushī) – “taxi”
  • クリック (kurikku) – “click”

You have to keep in mind that loanwords are normally written with カタカナ (Katakana) letters and follow Japanese pronunciation rules. Also, when they’re written in alphabet form using ローマ字 (Roma-ji), or the romanization of Japanese, the spelling is often different from that of the original English words. This is because they’re transcribed according to how the Japanese read and pronounce words.

For example, all of the consonants in Japanese end with a vowel (あ a, い i, う u, え e, お o). In addition, since there’s no particular distinction between L and R in Japanese, all of the “L” sounds in English are expressed using “R” in Japanese. Thus, “click” is expressed as kurikku in Japanese.

To learn more about Japanese pronunciation, please see our “Japanese Pronunciation” article!

A Katakana chart

カタカナ (Katakana) characters are used to write loanwords.

Japanglish Wasei-Eigo: English Made in Japan 

There are also English words used in Japanese that have been more fully integrated into the language. These are called 和製英語 (Wasei Eigo), or literally, “English made in Japan.”

Wasei Eigo refers to English words adopted into Japanese with unique meanings, word combinations, and/or abbreviations only used in Japan. Examples include:

  • サラリーマン (sararīman
    • from “salaryman,” meaning “businessman who works at a company and gets a monthly salary”
  • シャーペン (shāpen) 
    • short for “sharp pencil,” meaning “mechanical pencil”

A Japanese Businessman Getting Ready to Leave for Work

サラリーマン (sararīman), or “salaryman” meaning “businessman,” is one of the most typical Japanglish words.

2. Typical English Loanwords in Japanese

These loanwords have the same meaning as their English counterparts and are commonly used in daily Japanese conversations.

LoanwordRoma-ji / ReadingEnglish Word
グラスgurasuglass
スプーンsupūnspoon
フォークfōkufork
ナイフnaifuknife
ビールbīrubeer
ワインwainwine
バスbasubus
バイクbaiku(motor) bike
コンピューターconpyūtācomputer
インターネットintānettointernet
ウェブサイトwebusaitowebsite
ホテルhoteruhotel
レストランresutoranrestaurant
テーブルtēburutable
サービスsābisuservice
エレベーター erebētāelevator
ドアdoadoor
サイズsaizusize
シャツshatsushirt
ネクタイnekutainecktie
サンダルsandarusandal
サングラスsangurasusunglasses
テストtesutotest

A Table Set with Wine Glasses, Silverware, and Plates

Words that are associated with Western-style restaurants are often used as loanwords in Japanese. These include レストラン (resutoran) – “restaurant” / ナイフ (naifu) – “knife” /ワイン (wain) – “wine.”

3. Japanglish Wasei Eigo

Learning Wasei-Eigo may be a bit more difficult, as these words and phrases have undergone alterations during their journey into the Japanese language. In this section, we’ll give you several Japanglish examples and explain them in more detail as needed.

English Words Used With Different Meanings

Wasei EigoRoma-ji / ReadingEnglish WordMeaning
マンションmanshonmansionapartment (bigger building than アパート)
アパートapātoapartapartment (smaller building than マンション)
コンセントconsentoconsent electrical outlet

Many Japanese people use the word “consent” to mean “electrical outlet.” It is said that it originates from the word “concentric plug.”
メイクmeikumakemakeup
リンスrinsurinsehair conditioner
アイスaisuiceice cream
ホットケーキhotto kēkihot cakepancake
スーパーsūpāsupersupermarket
レジrejiregisterIt originally comes from “cash register,” meaning “checkout counter” or “cashier.”
ファイト!faito!fightThis word is used to cheer someone up. It can mean “Hang in there,” “You can do it,” or “Do your best.”
ハイテンションhai tenshonhigh tensionvery excited / hyper
テキストtekisutotexttextbook / school manual 
カンニングkanningucunningcheating on an exam
タレントtarentotalenttelevision personality / entertainer

Examples

  • 次の試合は必ず勝つよ!ファイト
    Tsugi no shiai wa kanarazu katsu yo! Faito!
    “You will definitely win the next match! Do your best!”
  • 彼は昨日なぜかとてもハイテンションでした。
    Kare wa kinō naze ka totemo hai tenshon deshita.
    “He was very excited yesterday for some reason.”
  • あなたの一番好きなタレントは誰ですか。
    Anata no ichi-ban suki na tarento wa dare desu ka.
    “Who is your most favorite TV personality?”

Two Pancakes on a Griddle

 ホットケーキ (hotto kēki), or “hot cake,” means “pancake” in Japan.

Abbreviated Word Combinations

In Japanese, it’s common for two or more English words to be shortened into one word (usually with four syllables). Let’s see some examples.

Wasei EigoRoma-ji / ReadingEnglish WordMeaning / Description
リモコンrimokonremote controllerremote controller

In Japanese, the first syllables from each word are combined.
マスコミmasukomimass communicationmass communication / mass media / the press / journalism
エアコン/ クーラーeakon / kūrāair conditioner / cooler air conditioner

クーラー (kūrā), or “cooler,” is also commonly used to mean “air conditioner.”
パソコンpasokonpersonal computercomputer

Along with コンピューター (conpyūtā), パソコン (pasokon) is also commonly used when talking about computers.
コンビニkonbiniconvenience storeThis word refers to convenience stores that are open 24 hours a day and seen everywhere throughout Japan.
イメチェンimechenimage changeThis refers to changing one’s image, especially in terms of one’s hairstyle or clothing.
OL (オーエル)ōeruoffice ladySimilar to “salaryman,” this word refers to a woman who works at an office. This word is also an abbreviation.
CM (シーエム)shīemucommercial messagecommercial

This abbreviation is used to mean “commercial” in Japanese.
BGM (ビージーエム)bījīemubackground musicThis refers to background music, especially when it’s played in a store, cafe, restaurant, etc. 

Examples

  • 昨日私の古いパソコンが壊れました。
    Kinō watashi no furui pasokon ga kowaremashita.
    “Yesterday, my old computer broke.”
  • イメチェンしたいなら髪型を変えるのが一番だよ!
    Imechen shitai nara kamigata o kaeru no ga ichi-ban da yo!
    “If you want to change your image, it’s best to change your hairstyle!”
  • あのカフェのBGMはジャズがかかっていておしゃれです。
    Ano kafe no bījīemu wa jazu ga kakatte ite oshare desu.
    “That cafe plays jazz as background music and it’s fashionable.”

Someone about to Change the Channel with a Remote Controller

リモコン (rimokon) is an abbreviation of “remote controller.”

Words That Combine English and Japanese

Wasei Eigo can also get creative, with some words being a combination of an English loanword and a Japanese word. 

Wasei EigoRoma-ji / ReadingComposition of WordsMeaning
省エネshōene省 (Kanji that represents “save”) + energyenergy-saving 
軽トラkeitora軽 (Kanji that represents “light”) + trucklight (engine) truck / small truck
ガス欠gasuketsugas + 欠 (Kanji that represents “lack”)running out of gasoline (petrol)
懐メロnatsumero懐 (Kanji that represents “nostalgic”) + melodynostalgic song / all-time favorite song
ドタキャンdotakyan土壇場 (dotanba), meaning “last moment” + cancellationcancellation at the last moment
イタ飯itameshiItalian + 飯 (meal/food)Italian food
猛ダッシュmōdasshu猛 (Kanji that represents “fierce” / “intense” / “acute”) + dash sprint / run as fast as one can

Examples

  • 新しい冷蔵庫は省エネモデルです。
    Atarashii reizōko wa shōene moderu desu.
    “The new refrigerator is an energy-saving model.”
  • ガス欠により道の真ん中で車が止まった。
    Gasuketsu ni yori michi no mannaka de kuruma ga tomatta.
    “The car stopped in the middle of a road due to running out of gasoline.”
  • まりこはいつもデートをドタキャンする。
    Mariko wa itsumo dēto o dotakyan suru.
    “Mariko always cancels a date at the last moment.”

Loanwords Turned Into Japanese Verbs

By adding the Japanese word する (suru), or “to do,” after a loanword (whether it’s a noun or a verb), it becomes a verb in Japanese.

Wasei EigoRoma-ji / ReadingComposition of WordsMeaning
ドライブするdoraibu surudrive + suruto go for a drive
ノックするnokku suruknock + suruto knock
キャンセルするkyanseru surucancel + suruto cancel
ジョギングするjogingu surujogging + suruto jog
リラックスするrirakkusu sururelax + suruto relax
ジャンプするjanpu surujump + suruto jump
キスするkisu surukiss + suruto kiss
メイクするmeiku surumake + suruto put on makeup
パーティーをするpātī o suruparty + o + suruto party
ギャンブルするgyanburu surugamble + suruto gamble

Examples

  • 私はお風呂に入ってリラックスするのが好きです。
    Watashi wa o-furo ni haitte rirakkusu suru no ga suki desu.
    “I like to take a bath and relax.”
  • 私たちは週末に誕生日パーティーをする予定です。
    Watashi-tachi wa shūmastu ni tanjōbi pātī o suru yotei desu.
    “We plan to have a birthday party over the weekend.”
  • 入る前にドアをノックしてください。
    Hairu mae ni doa o nokku shite kudasai.
    “Please knock on the door before entering.”

To learn all about conjugation in Japanese, please see our article on Japanese Verb Conjugations.

A Party

パーティーをする (pātī o suru) – “to party”

4. How to Say These Names in Japanese

In Japan, world-famous brand names are pronounced according to Japanese pronunciation rules and are sometimes called something different. Here are a few examples.

  • Google: グーグル (Gūguru)
  • Apple: アップル (Appuru)
  • Starbucks: スターバックス (Sutābakkusu)

     A shortened version, スタバ (Sutaba), is commonly used in daily conversations.
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken: ケンタッキー フライド チキン (Kentakkī furaido chikin)

    There are also a couple of shortened versions often used in daily conversations: ケンタッキー (Kentakkī) and ケンタ (Kenta).
  • McDonald’s: マクドナルド (Makudonarudo)

    Depending on the region of Japan, there are different shortened versions for this brand name.
      ➢ Kanto (Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama, Kanagawa) and other regions: マック (Makku)
      ➢ Kansai region (around Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hyogo, etc.): マクド (Makudo)

A McDonald’s Cheeseburger and French Fries

There are even different dialect forms for “McDonald’s” in Japanese!

5. English Words Borrowed From Japanese

Due to globalization, there are also plenty of popular Japanese words in English! Let’s look at a few of these borrowed words: 

Food-Related WordsKanji / HiraganaMeaning / Description
Sushi寿司 / すしSushi is a famous Japanese food, consisting of vinegared rice and raw and/or cooked seafood.
Teriyaki照り焼き / てりやきTeriyaki is a Japanese cooking technique and flavor. Foods are broiled or grilled with a glaze of sauce made of soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. 照り(teri) refers to a shine/luster and 焼き (yaki) means “grill.”
Tofu豆腐 / とうふTofu is bean curd made of soybeans. The Japanese word Tofu originates from the Chinese word 豆腐 (dòufu), which literally means  (“bean”) + (“curdled” or “fermented”).
Edamame枝豆 / えだまめEdamame is a dish of immature soybeans, usually boiled and salted.
Sake酒 / さけSake literally means “alcoholic drink” in Japanese, but it often refers to Japanese rice wine, or 日本酒 (Nihonshu).
Matcha抹茶 / まっちゃMatcha refers to green tea leaves that have been finely ground into a powder. Green tea leaves for Matcha are grown and processed using a specific method.
Bento弁当 / べんとうBento is a reusable lunch box that can contain a single-portion meal, usually consisting of rice and some sides.

Culture-Related WordsKanji / HiraganaMeaning / Description
Bonsai盆栽 / ぼんさいBonsai is an artform of planting that uses cultivation techniques to produce small trees in containers. Bonsai literally means “tray planting.”
Origami折り紙 / おりがみOrigami is the art of folding papers, usually done with square papers that have color on one side and white on the other side. Origami breaks down as:

折り(ori) – “fold” 



紙 (kami/gami) – “paper”
Emoji絵文字 / えもじEmoji is a type of pictograph that is used in electronic messages, originally invented in Japan. Emoji breaks down as:

絵 (e) – “picture”



文字 (moji) – “character”
Manga漫画 / まんがManga refers to Japanese-style comics that are often animated.
Cosplay (Kosupure)コスプレThe word コスプレ (Kosupure) comes from “costume play.” It is a type of performance art in which participants (cosplayers) dress up as characters from their favorite manga or anime. 
KaraokeカラオケKaraoke is a shortened version of 空 (kara), meaning “empty,” and オーケストラ (ōkesutora), meaning “orchestra.” 

It is a form of entertainment where an amature sings popular songs using a microphone, following along with the instrumental music/melody and lyrics displayed on a video screen.   
Sudoku数独 / すうどくSudoku is a logic-based number-placement puzzle. The word 数独 (Sudoku) is an abbreviation that means “number” + “single,” coming from the rule of this puzzle: “the digits must be single” or “the digits are limited to one occurrence.”

 Other Famous WordsKanji / HiraganaMeaning / Description
Kaizen改善 / かいぜん改善 (Kaizen) is literally translated as “improvement.” Kaizen in English often refers to “continuous improvement” in business atmospheres. It became known as the Japanese way of doing business to optimize processes and produce better results.
Karoshi過労死 / かろうし過労死 (Karoshi) literally means “death of overwork.” It refers to death as the result of mental and/or physical illness from working too much or being under too much pressure.
Tsunami 津波 / つなみ津波 (Tsunami) literally means “port wave.” It is a series of huge waves, usually in an ocean. A Tsunami can be caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and other underwater explosions.
Typhoon 台風 / たいふうA Typhoon is a huge tropical cyclone that can be seen in the Northern Hemisphere, in the region called the Northwestern Pacific Basin. The Japanese word 台風 (taifū) became the English “typhoon.”

A Tsunami Washing Over Buildings

Tsunami (津波) is one of the most famous Japanese words that was adapted into English.

How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

In this article, we introduced English words used in Japanese. We covered the history of loanwords in Japan and how Japanglish developed, basic loanwords from English and various types of Wasei Eigo, as well as famous Japanese words in English. While some Japanglish terms sound funny and weird, they are definitely helpful to learn and can help you understand Japanese better!

Did you learn anything new about Japanese today? Are there any important words or terms you know about that we didn’t include? Let us, and your fellow language learners, know in the comments! 

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language and culture, you’ll find a lot more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons to help you improve your Japanese language skills. For example, you can view the following vocabulary lists to learn the very basics of Japanese: 

You can also take advantage of our personal one-on-one coaching service, MyTeacher, when you subscribe to a Premium PLUS membership. Your private teacher will help you practice pronunciation and give you personalized feedback and advice to help you improve efficiently. 

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

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A Brief Overview of Japanese Culture

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What do you know about Japanese culture? While you may be familiar with sushi, anime & manga, and maybe even martial arts such as Karate and Jūdō, there’s so much more! 

Japanese culture is unique and multifaceted, characterized by rich traditions that boast thousands of years of history. It’s continuously evolving and influencing both domestic and international society, especially in the fields of subculture, cuisine, fashion, and technology. 

Understanding and immersing yourself in the culture of Japan will not only make any future visits more enjoyable, but also accelerate your language learning. In this overview of Japanese culture from JapanesePod101.com, you’ll learn about its most essential aspects: Japanese values, philosophy, beliefs and religions, family, work, art, food, and traditional holidays. 

Are you ready? Then let’s begin.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Japanese Values and Philosophies
  2. Religions and Beliefs
  3. The Family and Home
  4. School and Work
  5. Art and Entertainment
  6. Table Etiquette and Food
  7. Traditional Holidays and Celebrations
  8. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

1. Japanese Values and Philosophies

A Japanese Girl Wearing a Kimono and Holding a Fan in Front of Her Face

Japanese culture is unique and fascinating.

Japan is said to be one of the most socially and ethically homogenous countries in the world. Although Japan does have a minority ethnic group, the アイヌ (Ainu) people of the Hokkaido prefecture, the Japanese as a whole share essential values. 

Unlike other countries, which place importance on diversity and house multiple ethnic groups and cultures, 和 (wa), or “harmony,” is the most important value in Japan. Japanese people prioritize the harmonious balance and peace of a society (and of the groups they belong to), rather than asserting and pursuing one’s personal desires. Doing so would be considered bad manners as it would break the balance of harmony and create disorder. 

Japanese culture values collectivism, contrary to most Western societies which promote individualism. Thus, Japanese people are generally polite and kind to others, and they try to avoid causing conflict. For example, expressing an opinion contrary to that of the majority can be considered a source of conflict.

Confucianism has also influenced Japanese values, particularly those revolving around seniority. Respecting parents and seniors is important, and the concept of seniority is often seen in school club activities (where senior students have a more confident attitude than juniors, even if the juniors perform better) and in traditional workplaces (where seniority affects pay raise and promotion). 

Many Japanese values are based on the idea of 神道 (Shinto), which is the traditional Japanese religion. Shinto is polytheistic and believes that “gods” or “divine spirits” inhabit all things in nature, and thus, all things should be treated with respect. As a result, the Japanese tend to subconsciously respect things and handle things with care.

The Jizō Statuettes in Japan

Harmony, or 和 (wa), is one of the most important Japanese values.

2. Religions and Beliefs

Japanese religious beliefs can be characterized as a mix of Shinto and Buddhism, both of which greatly influence Japanese cultural values.

Shinto originated from Ancient Japan, making it almost as old as Japanese culture itself. During that time, people believed in an animistic spirituality. According to this belief, every single thing in nature contained an enormous number of divine spirits referred to as 八百万の神 (Yaoyorozu no Kami), or literally “eight million gods.” Buddhism came later from India via China in the sixth century and the two religions have been coexisting since then.

However, Japanese people nowadays are not religious nor do they gather together to worship like believers of many other religions do. This is because Shinto and Buddhism are more like moral codes or philosophies on how to live. 

In Japanese culture, Shinto and Buddhism are embedded in a variety of festive and life events, such as New Year, festivals, births, coming of age ceremonies, and funerals. For such occasions, Japanese people visit shrines and temples and follow the religious ceremonies, but people regard them as cultural traditions rather than displays of religious piety.

In this way, Japanese people are not religious and their mindset toward religions is quite open. Interestingly, the Japanese import other religious traditions into the culture as “entertaining events,” without adding (or even knowing) their religious meaning. Examples include exchanging gifts and eating cakes on Christmas, conducting wedding ceremonies at church (often a fake one) with a white wedding dress, and giving chocolates to loved ones on St. Valentine’s Day. It’s said that real Christians in Japan comprise only about 0.7% of the total population.

What’s the difference between Shrines and Temples?

Many people, including the Japanese themselves, don’t clearly know the difference between shrines and temples. Basically, shrines are of Shinto and temples are of Buddhism. 

The easiest way to identify shrines is by the 鳥居 (Torii), a huge wooden gate (usually vermillion red in color) placed before the premises or in front of the shrine. It is a symbol of the border between the mundane world and the sacred place. Vermillion red is often used for the pillars and frames of shrine buildings as well.

On the other hand, Buddhist temples are identified by Buddhist statues and the temple cemetery. Buddhist monks live in temples and chant Buddhist sutras as necessary. Most temples are dark in color, usually constructed of brown wood and a gray tiled roof.

A Shrine in Japan with a Red Gate

There are thousands of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples throughout Japan.

3. The Family and Home 

Every culture has its own perception of family and facilitates a certain way of life. Let’s delve into the specifics of Japanese culture and customs associated with family and the home.

A- Japanese Family

The Japanese family system is traditionally very patriarchal. This is represented by the Imperial Family—which has a history of over a thousand years—where only a male offspring can inherit the imperial throne. 

In Japanese society, the nuclear family is very common and the average Japanese family has one or two children. There is a patriarchal tendency in the household, with the husband/father acting as breadwinner and the wife/mother filling the role of caregiver. Even in families where both parents work, the wife/mother often has more of a burden in terms of household chores and childcare.

Although modernization and changes in the family structure have been influential in making the modern family less patriarchal over time, the first son in a family is still considered its successor and is expected to live with and take care of his elderly parents.

Due to this patriarchal tradition and subconsciously embedded mindset, Japan is still a strongly male-dominant society, as seen in the Global Gender Gap Report 2020. Further, Japan ranks 121st out of 153 countries in terms of gender equality, way below the average for OECD countries.


A Japanese Family Consisting of a Mother, a Father, and Two Children

A nuclear family with one or two kids is very common in Japan.

B- Japanese Houses

In Japanese culture, taking off shoes before entering the main part of a house is important. A Japanese home, whether it’s an independent housing unit or a small apartment, has an entrance area called 玄関 (genkan) where you remove your shoes. Genkan is located inside of the main door and its floor is lower than that of the main part of the house. It separates the dirty/dusty shoe area and the clean, dirt-free home area. The height of the elevated floor depends on the house, from as low as 5 cm to knee-level. 

When entering a house, it’s good manners to say one of the following greetings:

  • ただいま (Tadaima) – “I’m home.”
    • when coming back to your own home
  • おじゃまします (Ojama shimasu) – Literally: “I disturb.” / Meaning: “Let me enter,” in a polite way.
    • when you’re visiting someone else’s house

The toilet and bath are usually located in separate rooms, except in small apartments for one person. Every household has a bathtub as the Japanese bathe in hot water to relax or soothe their fatigue after a long day. Benefitting from its volcanic geography, Japan has a lot of areas and towns where people can enjoy 温泉 (Onsen), or “hot springs.”

A Wild Monkey Enjoying an Onsen During Winter

Hot springs, or 温泉 (Onsen), are also popular among wild monkeys in the mountains, especially during winter.

Traditional Japanese-style houses and rooms use 畳 (tatami) mats, which are made of woven soft rush straw, for flooring. 

If you were to go to a traditional 旅館 (ryokan) hotel in Japan, the guest room would have tatami flooring. You would sit on the floor with a low table for eating and sleep in 布団 (futon) bedding placed directly on the tatami without using a bed.

A Tatami Floor

Tatami floors are seen in traditional Japanese houses.

4. School and Work 

Are you looking to work or study in Japan? Then you should become familiar with typical Japanese culture in business and school. 

A- School and Education

The Japanese school system has four levels: elementary school (six years starting from age 6), middle school (three years), high school (three years), and higher education. Higher education can consist of junior college (two years), university (four years), or vocational school (one to three years). Elementary school and middle school are compulsory and for free.

Most schools have a school uniform and school rules that keep order and uniformity among students. Also, students are taught throughout their education that they should follow the rules, not cause trouble for other people, and prioritize uniformity. Students are also taught, especially in elementary schools, the importance of taking responsibility and keeping things clean for the public good. For example, they learn to serve lunch themselves at lunch time and to clean classrooms and school facilities themselves after school. 

Educated in such a way, Japanese people are good at cooperation and uniformity in states of emergency, such as natural disasters. In most cases, people act in a decent manner to minimize panic and try to help each other. During these times, looting and violence hardly ever happen in Japan.

While these Japanese culture characteristics are part of what make the country so beautiful, they’re not without criticism. Some argue that teaching students to prioritize uniformity discourages the cultivation of personality and keeps individuals from fine-tuning their gifts and abilities. This may result in a person who is unable to state his or her opinions with confidence.

A Group of Four Japanese Students Wearing Uniforms, Talking with Each Other

Most Japanese middle and high schools have school uniforms and school rules that keep order and uniformity among students.

B- Work

Japanese people are known for being diligent, responsible, and punctual workers. This is a very good thing for customers or clients who benefit from fast, accurate, punctual, polite, and kind services. However, the workers who are expected to deliver such excellent services (and Japanese customers/clients do expect such a high standard) may struggle and suffer a bit.

As mentioned before, Japanese people are taught to keep harmony and not to cause trouble for others. This applies to Japanese workplaces as well. No matter how tight the schedule is or how much work you have, you’re expected to meet deadlines and/or clients’ requirements. Thus, working overtime is common in most traditional Japanese workplaces. Workers are unable to say, for example, “I have a family to take care of, I will continue tomorrow,” at 5 or 6 pm (which is supposedly the end of the work day). Taking consecutive paid holidays can also be difficult, as Japanese employees feel guilty about taking leave while other colleagues have to cover their absence.

Another essential aspect of Japanese work culture is social drinking with colleagues and bosses—or even with clients—to create rapport for smoother work. These occasions are often very difficult to decline, as it can be considered rude or uncooperative to do so.

There are still a lot of traditional Japanese practices to be improved upon, such as: 

These aspects of Japanese business culture encourage employee retention until retirement, and base promotions and pay raises on age (regardless of performance). On one hand, this is good for less-capable employees as employment and salary are secured. On the other hand, such customs result in low productivity, unfair opportunity, and an inflexible labor market. In addition, male-dominant workplaces accelerate the gender inequality in job positions, salaries, and stability of employment.

However, the government is eager to reform the work environment by introducing new policies, and the situation has been slowly improving among large corporations in particular. That said, it may take a little more time to create the ideal work environment.


5. Art and Entertainment

In many ways, the country’s rich history of art and entertainment is what makes Japanese culture unique. In this section, we’ll discuss some of the most popular Japanese art forms and entertainment industries.

A- Ukiyo-E Art

浮世絵 (Ukiyo-e) is one of the traditional Japanese painting styles, which flourished between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. As the name 浮世絵 (Ukiyo-e), literally meaning “picture of floating/transient world,” indicates, it depicts the lifestyle of the Edo period, especially the pleasure-seeking aspects. 

The subjects range from people to landscapes, and from folk tales and travel scenes to erotica. One of the most internationally famous Ukiyo-e paintings is 葛飾 北斎 (Katsushika Hokusai‘s) The Great Wave off Kanagawa which illustrates huge waves making a big splash and features Mt.Fuji in the background. Today, some Ukiyo-e paintings are used as designs for T-shirts and other products.

An Ukiyo-e Depicting a Kabuki Actor.

An Ukiyo-e depicting a Kabuki actor.

B- Shodō

書道 (Shodō), which literally means “way of writing,” refers to Japanese calligraphy used for special purposes or artistic reasons. Examples of when this would be used include 書き初め (Kakizome), or “first calligraphy” written at the beginning of the year, and 年賀状 (Nengajō) meaning “New Year’s Day postcards.”

Japanese calligraphy originated from that of Chinese, as Kanji originally came from China. There are several writing styles and techniques that can be used to leave different impressions. 

Shodō is taught at every elementary school and some middle schools in Japan.

C- Kabuki

歌舞伎 (Kabuki) is a traditional Japanese drama theatre that’s performed by only male actors. 

Kabuki theatre is characterized by its unique drama and acting style as well as the exquisite stage makeup called 隈取 (Kumadori) worn by Kabuki actors. Basically, major Kabuki actors and their names are passed down from generation to generation according to the hereditary system. Kabuki theatre is managed by the strict traditional system and rules.

Kabuki theatre is said to have been created in the seventeenth century and it was listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2008. 

D- Haiku

俳句 (Haiku) is a Japanese poetry form characterized by its use of three phrases. Part of the Haiku’s artistic appeal is that it has to portray an idea well using a balanced choice of words. 

In order to make a Haiku, one must follow these three specifications: 

  • The first phrase must have 5 syllables, the second must have 7, and the third must have 5. The Japanese morae or syllable is called 音 (On). 
  • The Haiku must include 季語 (kigo), or a word that is associated with a particular season, to provide economy of expression.
  • It must also have the essence of 切れ (kire), or “cutting,” which cuts the phrase with an accent of sound. Good kire is said to give the words a sense of feeling. Within a small interval, readers are evoked to imagine its scene and context, as well as the emotion of the author.

The Haiku is thought to have developed from the early modern period around the fifteenth or sixteenth century. One of the most famous Haiku poets, 松尾芭蕉 (Matsuo Bashō), enhanced its artistic quality in the seventeenth century.

In addition to the Haiku, there are two other forms of Japanese poetry: 和歌 (Waka) and 短歌 (Tanka). These forms are longer than the Haiku

E- Manga and Anime 

There are two modern Japanese art genres that are very popular today:

  • 漫画 (Manga) – “comics” 
  • アニメ (Anime) – “animated cartoon film” 

There are many Manga/Anime fans in a range of different age groups.

Japanese Manga is said to have developed during the late nineteenth century. From the 1950s to this day, Manga has been evolving to become one of the most popular Japanese subcultures. There are numerous genres of Manga, from adventure and comedy, to science fiction, horror, and erotica. 

Manga is so influential that popular Manga are made into cartoon films and movies, which are then translated into multiple languages and broadcasted in many different countries. Manga and Anime have also created new industry opportunities and subcultures, such as コスプレ (Kosupure), or “costume play.” This is a performance art where cosplayers wear costumes and fashion accessories to pretend to be a specific character from Manga/Anime


F- Video Games

Japan is known for its video games, many of which have been influencing countless children and adults all around the world. Before the emergence of the internet and gaming apps in smartphones, the Japanese gaming industry was prosperous with major electronic and video game companies, such as Nintendo, Sony, Sega, Conami, Bandai Namco, Capcom, and the list goes on. 

A number of popular video game hardwares and softwares have been created in Japan and the video game subculture has become a phenomenon. Today, due to the fast-changing technology and trends (such as Virtual Reality and social gaming), as well as the multi-platform availability of video games, the gaming industry has become more competitive than ever. New types of video games are being created every day.

In addition to games for individuals, there are many video games and gaming entertainment facilities in Japan for the public in Japan. These include game centers and amusement parks where people can enjoy real physical games and attractions.

6. Table Etiquette and Food

Japanese culture and food go hand in hand. The country is famous for its range of tasty dishes, from Sushi to Rāmen—but how much do you know about the full spectrum of Japanese cuisine? Or the proper table etiquette while dining in Japan? Keep reading to learn more!

A- Table Etiquette 

Japanese people like to be clean, and kids grow up being taught to wash their hands after using the toilet, when coming back home after being outside, and before eating.

At restaurants, おしぼり (oshibori), or a wet hand towel, is usually provided to clean your hands. In Japan, it’s uncommon to pick up food directly with your hands (a common occurrence in many other countries when eating bread, for example). 

It’s considered important to be grateful for the food and to respect the cook. Traditionally, proper etiquette requires that you say these greeting words before and after eating:

Before:

  • いただきます (itadakimasu) – “I eat/receive.” [Humble]

After:

  • ごちそうさまでした (gochisō-sama deshita) – “It was delicious food.” [Grateful and respectful]

For Japanese people, these greetings are as natural as cleaning their hands before eating.

Also keep in mind that playing with chopsticks or food is considered bad manners. In addition, never stick chopsticks vertically on rice in a bowl as this is associated with funerals (specifically, the food offered to the deceased in heaven). 

On the other hand, drinking (miso) soup directly from a bowl and making slurping sounds while eating soup noodles are not considered bad manners in Japan. Don’t be surprised when you hear people making noise while eating Soba, Udon, or Rāmen in Japan.


B- Japanese Food

Japanese food culture is one of the best in the world, proven by the fact that Tokyo has been announced the world’s most Michelin-starred city for the thirteenth consecutive year according to the Michelin Guide Tokyo 2020. That’s right: it’s not Paris or Rome, but the capital city of Japan. Japanese people are known to be foodies who can wait in line for two hours just to get a bowl of Rāmen.

Japanese cuisine is characterized by its diversity, ranging from local casual food to traditional authentic Japanese food. You’ll find restaurants throughout the country where you can get a meal for as little as ¥300 (around $3) as well as super high-end restaurants. You can find delicious food at any level, any budget, and any restaurant type. (Not to mention there are also international cuisines available in Japan!)

Another place you can experience the rich Japanese food culture is in convenience stores and supermarkets. There are all kinds of bento boxes, delicatessen foods, and dried and instant foods. After all, instant cup noodles are a notable invention of Japan!

A Variety of Japanese Dishes Arranged on a Table

Appetizers of Kaiseki cuisine, consisting of multiple dishes. Each dish is usually small and artistically decorated.

7. Traditional Holidays and Celebrations

There are many traditional holidays and celebrations in Japan. 

  • January 1 –  元旦 (gantan), “New Year’s Day”

    The official national holiday is only on January 1, but New Year’s Day celebrations usually last until at least January 3. These extended celebrations are referred to as 正月 (O-shōgatsu), and this is one of the biggest celebrations in Japan. To welcome the new year, family members and relatives get together, visit shrines to pray for happiness, have a special meal such as 御節 (Osechi) or お雑煮 (O-zōni), give お年玉 (Otoshidama) or “gift money” to children, and so on.
  • Second Monday of January – 成人の日 (Seijin no hi), “Coming of Age Day”

    20 years old is the official age of adulthood in Japan. Every year on Coming of Age Day, all the young people who turn 20 that year celebrate their adulthood, typically dressed up in traditional 着物 (kimono).

Japanese Women Dressed in Traditional Kimonos for Coming of Age Day Ceremony

On Coming of Age Day, those who turned 20 years old that year dress up in traditional Kimono and celebrate their official adulthood.

  • February 11 – 建国記念日 (Kenkoku kinenbi), National Foundation Day

    This holiday celebrates the mythological foundation of Japan, and the date corresponds to when the first Emperor of Japan came to power on February 11, 660 BC. Festive ceremonies are conducted at major shrines throughout Japan.
  • March 3 – ひな祭り (Hinamatsuri), “Girls’ Day

    Although this day is not a public holiday on which public services and schools close, it’s one of the remarkable traditional celebrations of Japan. To celebrate the healthy growth of girls, it’s tradition to display 雛人形 (hina-ningyō), or a set of ornamental dolls that represent the Emperor, Empress, attendants, and musicians in the traditional court dress of the Heian period.
  • April 29 to May 5 – ゴールデンウィーク (Gōruden Wīku), “Golden Week”

    It is called “Golden Week” because it contains many national holidays, making it a whole holiday week when combined with Saturday and Sunday. April 29 is Shōwa Day, May 3 is Constitution Day, May 4 is Greenery Day, and May 5 is Children’s Day.

    Around Children’s Day, it is tradition to put 鯉のぼり (Koinobori), or “carp-shaped windsocks,” outside of one’s house to wish for the healthy growth of children.

Three Koinobori Waving against a Blue Sky

Around Children’s Day, a lot of households put Koinobori carp flags outside to wish for the healthy growth of children.

  • Around August 15 – お盆 (O-bon)

    While this is not an official holiday, August 15 and the surrounding days are considered important. This is when families get together to honor the spirits of their ancestors. Derived from Buddhist custom, it’s believed that ancestors come down from heaven to earth around this time, once a year. Many Japanese people return to their parents’ or grandparents’ home, spend family time together, and then visit their ancestors’ graves to clean them and leave offerings.
  • Third Monday of September – 敬老の日 (Keirō no hi), “Respect for the Aged Day

    Influenced by Confucianism, Japanese culture values respecting and taking care of the elderly. This day is to show gratitude and respect for them. Usually, families celebrate and give gifts to their grandfather and grandmother.
  • December 31 – 大晦日 (Ōmisoka), “End of Year Day”

    Ōmisoka is not an official national holiday, but most companies offer time off for winter holidays as well as the Year End and New Year holidays. It is Japanese tradition to celebrate the last day of the year with family by giving thanks for having come through the previous year safe and sound, and by welcoming the new year with hope for good things to come.

    In order to welcome the fresh new year, Japanese people clean their house and eat 年越しそば (Toshikoshi soba), or “year-crossing noodle,” to wish for a long life. Before midnight, families go to a temple to hit a 除夜の鐘 (Joya no kane), or “bell,” to remove all unwanted states of mind. This custom originally derives from Buddhism.

To learn the essential vocabulary for New Year’s, check out our list of Japanese Vocabulary for New Year’s Holiday!

8. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

In this Japanese culture overview, we covered a range of essential topics from values and religions, to family, art, and food. I hope you enjoyed learning these unique facts and that you’re now more interested in this fascinating culture! 

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language and culture, JapanesePod101.com contains plenty of useful information for learners at every level. We provide a variety of free lessons to help you improve your Japanese language skills in the most fun way possible. To give you a small sample of what we have to offer, here is some content on the basics of Japanese:

You can also take advantage of our personal one-on-one coaching service, MyTeacher, when you create a Premium PLUS account. Your private teacher will help you practice pronunciation and give you personalized feedback and advice so you can improve efficiently. 

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

Before you go, let us know in the comments what you learned about Japanese culture today. Were there any facts that caught your attention? We look forward to hearing from you!

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Japanese Showa Day: The First Day of Golden Week

While many of us are enjoying the beginning of spring and looking forward to all that April (and May and June…) have in store, this feeling of excitement is perhaps strongest in Japan right now. 

You see, April 29 (Showa Day) marks the beginning of Golden Week! This is a several-day period during which many Japanese people receive time off work, allowing them to travel and enjoy the refreshing spring weather at will. 

The Showa Day holiday in Japan, or 昭和の日 (Shōwa no hi), commemorates one of the most trying (and most successful) periods of the nations’ history: the Showa era. In this article, you’ll learn all about Showa Day in Japan and gain some knowledge about the emperor behind it!

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1. What is Showa Day in Japan?

A Sketch Drawing of Emperor Showa

Showa Day is meant to be a time of reflection on the past and anticipation of the future, or 将来 (shōrai). The day shares a name with 昭和天皇 (Shōwa tennō), or Emperor Showa, who ruled as Emperor of Japan from 1926 to 1989—the Showa Period, which was marked by both crippling obstacles and amazing successes. 

In Japanese, the word 昭和 (Shōwa) means “enlightened peace.” This is the name given Emperor Hirohito (Showa) posthumously and the name of the era during which he reigned. 

Many consider Emperor Showa to have been a strong leader and credit him with having helped Japan recover economically following such tragedies as World War II, the Second Sino-Japanese War, and Japan’s first-ever occupation by foreign forces. Despite these setbacks, the nation was able to rise and become one of the leading nations from an economic standpoint—this success was further spurred onward by the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

    → Want to learn more about Japan’s most notable figures? Then head over to our lesson series Top 10 Japanese Historical Figures to learn about such people as Ieyasu Tokugawa and Takeda Shingen.

2. Showa Day Traditions

Several People Admiring Cherry Blossoms

Because Showa Day marks the beginning of Golden Week, many people begin making travel plans far in advance. 

Showa Day celebrations in Japan tend to be laidback in nature, with many people traveling to see friends, family, and other loved ones for quiet reunions. Emperor Showa was well-known for his great love of nature and the outdoors; in this spirit, many people opt to spend the day cherry blossom viewing or organizing other outdoor activities such as picnics. 

Some people also visit shrines, museums, or the Musashino Imperial Mausoleum in Tokyo (where the body of Emperor Showa is buried). Many museums, such as the National Showa Memorial Museum in Tokyo, hold lectures on this day and teach visitors about the Showa Period and World War II.


3. Greenery Day

Once upon a time, April 29 was known as Greenery Day. It was so named because of Emperor Showa’s love of nature, and the day encouraged things such as spending time outdoors and promoting environmental health. 

In 2007, Greenery Day was moved to May 4, and April 29 was renamed Showa Day. This allowed for Golden Week to contain a holiday dedicated to Emperor Showa himself and another holiday for the environment.

Even earlier on, before Emperor Showa’s death, April 29 was simply the Emperor’s holiday. 

Confused, yet? 


4. Essential Vocabulary for Showa Day in Japan

Black and White Image of the Show Era in Japan

Want to impress your Japanese-speaking friends by talking about Showa Day in Japanese? Here are some of the vocabulary words from the article, plus a few more. 

  • 祝日 (shukujitsu) – holiday [n.]
  • 誕生日 (tanjōbi) – birthday [n.]
  • 将来 (shōrai) – future [n.]
  • 昭和の日 (Shōwa no hi) – Showa Day [n.]
  • 昭和天皇 (Shōwa tennō) – Emperor Showa [p.]
  • 昭和 (Shōwa) – Showa era [n.]
  • 4月29日 (shigatsu nijū kunichi) – April 29 [p.]
  • 偲ぶ (shinobu) – commemorate [v.]
  • 復興 (fukkō) – reconstruction [n.]
  • 日本国憲法 (Nihonkoku kempō) – Constitution of Japan [p.]
  • 文化功労者 (Bunka kōrōsha) – Person of Cultural Merit [p.]
  • 顧みる (kaerimiru) – think back [v.]

Make sure to visit our Showa Day vocabulary list to hear and practice the pronunciation of each word and phrase! 

Final Thoughts

Due to the strength of leadership shown by Emperor Showa, Japan was able to bounce back better than ever after some of the nation’s most unfortunate and trying times. 

Are there any leaders of your nation, past or present, who have immensely helped your country in hard times? Is there a holiday to commemorate them? We look forward to hearing from you! 

If you enjoyed this lesson and would like to read more insightful blog posts on Japanese culture or the language, you might enjoy these articles:

To get the most out of your JapanesePod101 learning experience, create your free lifetime account today and gain access to tons of practical and fun lessons. Not ready to commit yet? Then head over to the JapanesePod101 YouTube channel and watch any number of our exciting, engaging video lessons.

Happy learning!

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A Guide to the Best Traditional Japanese Foods

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How many different Japanese foods have you eaten? Have you ever ventured outside of the familiar Sushi and Rāmen? 

Japanese cuisine features a variety of delicious dishes ranging from cheap, local foods to high-end meals. In Japan, you’ll find both authentic and traditional foods as well as foods that have evolved through the influence of other cultures.

Believe it or not, Tokyo is the world’s most Michelin-starred city—it’s not Paris or Rome, but the capital city of Japan! According to the Michelin Guide, 226 of its restaurants received stars for the thirteenth consecutive year. Japanese people are avid foodies and they’re quite picky when it comes to the taste of their food. 

In this article, we’ll introduce a list of Japanese foods you must try. We’ll also give you some tips to help you enjoy Japanese food even more, an overview of unique Japanese dishes, food-related Japanese vocabulary, and a couple of easy Japanese recipes! 

Ready to explore Japanese cuisine with JapanesePod101.com? Then let’s go!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Let's Cook in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Must-Try Japanese Food
  2. Authentic Japanese Food vs. Overseas Japanese Food
  3. Unique Japanese Foods
  4. Food-Related Japanese Vocabulary
  5. Easy and Simple Recipes
  6. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

A Variety of Japanese Dishes

1. Must-Try Japanese Food

There are a few Japanese cuisine staples that everyone should try at least once. Exploring the flavors, ingredients, and presentation of these dishes will work wonders for your language studies by immersing you in the culture! 

1 – 寿司 (Sushi)

Sushi is one of the most popular Japanese food items, both internationally and in Japan. In old times (before there were refrigerators), Sushi was originally a preserved food using pickled fish. In the Edo Period, fresh fish and shellfish were used on rice seasoned with vinegar; this is the same style of Sushi we have today.

As an island country surrounded by Mother Seas, Japan benefits from affluent fresh seafoods. 

There are various types of Sushi, such as: 

  • にぎり(Nigiri) – “hand-formed”
  • 軍艦 (Gunkan) – “warship-roll”
  • 太巻き (Futomaki) – “thick-rolled”
  • 細巻き (Hosomaki) – “thin-rolled”
  • 手巻き (Temaki) – “hand-rolled”
  • ちらし寿司 (Chirashizushi) – “(ingredients) scattered sushi”

In Japan, people can easily enjoy Sushi through takeout from casual Sushi restaurants or by purchasing it from supermarkets. There are also specialized Sushi restaurants for celebrations or special occasions.

There are several types of Sushi restaurants, ranging from budget Conveyor Belt Sushi / Sushi-Go-Round (回転寿司) restaurants to high-end restaurants that cost at least ¥20,000-¥30,000 (around $190-$280) per person. The price differences account for the quality and freshness of ingredients, how skilled the Sushi chef is, and the restaurant’s level of service and hospitality.

A Dish of Authentic Japanese Sushi

Authentic Japanese Sushi uses a variety of fish.

2 – ラーメン (Rāmen)

Originally imported from China, Japanese Rāmen evolved uniquely and became a very popular casual dish in Japan. Rāmen is inexpensive and you can find Rāmen restaurants, or ラーメン屋 (Rāmen’ya), throughout the country. Some Rāmen restaurants are very popular and have long lines to enter.

Rāmen is a bowl of soup noodles with various types of ingredients. There are several different soup flavors based on the ingredients used, such as: 

  • しょうゆ (Shōyu) – “soy sauce-flavored broth”
  • とんこつ (Tonkotsu) – “creamy broth made of pork bones and vegetables”
  • みそ (Miso) – “fermented soybean paste-flavored broth”
  • しお (Shio) – “salt-flavored broth”
  • 鶏白湯 (Toripaitan) – “creamy broth made of chicken bones and vegetables”

The soup is a very important element of Japanese Rāmen. It’s made with bones and vegetables, typically boiled for several hours or even for days, to extract flavors that have depth and richness. Every Rāmen restaurant has its own soup recipe, and some Rāmen restaurants are so popular that you have to wait in a long line to enter.

The 麺 (Men), or “noodle,” used in Rāmen is just as important as the soup. Each type of soup is matched with a certain type of noodle; the noodles can be thin, thick, straight, or curly. A good soup-noodle combination should have a good balance of stiffness, taste, and texture.

Rāmen is an easy and budget-friendly option when you’re traveling in Japan. Make sure you research which Rāmen restaurants are popular and have good local reviews in advance!

A Bowl of Japanese Ramen Featuring Egg, Meat Slices, Dried Seaweed, and Narutomaki

For Japanese Rāmen, the taste of the soup is very important and it takes several hours to make.

3 – カレーライス (Japanese Curry Rice)

Japanese curry is definitely one of the most popular Japanese foods! It’s usually cooked at home, but you can also find it in specialized curry restaurants called カレー屋 (karēya) or other restaurants. It’s typically a casual dish.

Originally from India, curry was introduced to Japan in the Meiji Era. Since then, its flavor and preparation/serving methods have developed to reflect Japanese food culture. Thus, the texture and flavor of Japanese curry is very different from those in Indian curry, Thai curry, or any other type of curry.

Japanese curry is served with white steamed rice and it’s commonly called カレーライス (karē raisu) or ライスカレー (raisu karē), both meaning “curry rice” in Japanese. Japanese curry typically uses a カレールー (karē rū), or “curry roux,” which is concentrated curry seasoning in block or powder form; it’s composed of curry powder, flour, oils, and other various flavorings. 

Curry is cooked with various ingredients, typically meat and vegetables. One of the most popular curry recipes is カツカレー (Katsu karē), which is a perfect coupling of a Japanese pork cutlet and curry rice. There are a few other variations of Japanese curry, such as: 

  • スープカレー (sūpu karē) – “soup-style curry”
  • カレーうどん (karē udon) – “curry-flavored udon noodle”
  • カレードリア (karē doria) – “curry-flavored béchamelle on rice baked with cheese”

A Dish of カツカレー (Katsu Karē)

Katsu (pork cutlet) curry is one of the most popular recipes for Japanese curry rice.

4 – 天ぷら (Tempura)

Tempura is another one of the famous Japanese cuisine dishes you should try. It’s typically served at 和食 (wasyoku) Japanese restaurants or in specialized Tempura restaurants. You can have Tempura in casual, inexpensive restaurants as well as in high-class restaurants. 

Tempura is made using a variety of ingredients, typically seasonal vegetables and seafood. The ingredients are lightly battered and delicately deep-fried, then served with 天つゆ (tentsuyu) dipping sauce and grated Japanese radish. It’s recommended to eat this dish while it’s still hot, immediately after frying, to enjoy the crispy texture.

Tempura is eaten as a main dish served with white rice and miso soup, though it’s also popularly served as 天丼 (Tendon), which is a Tempura bowl with salty-sweet soy sauce, or as a topping for noodle dishes such as うど(Udon) and そば (Soba).

A Tempura Plate Using Prawns and Vegetables

The main ingredients of Tempura are vegetables and seafood, especially prawns.

5 – しゃぶしゃぶ (Shabu-shabu)

Shabu-shabu is a Japanese hot pot dish with a variety of vegetables, tofu, and thin-sliced meat. It’s typically served at specialized Shabu-shabu restaurants and you’re expected to share a hot pot with at least one other person.

The hot pot, filled with だし (dashi) soup (seasoned broth), is placed in the middle of a table with a stove, and the ingredients are brought to the table raw. The fun part of this dish is to cook the ingredients yourself. Firstly, you put all vegetables into the pot to boil. While you wait for them to be boiled, you can pick up a very thin slice of meat with chopsticks and submerge it into the pot’s soup, swishing it back and forth for a few seconds as it quickly cooks. The name Shabu-shabu is the onomatopoeia of the swishing movement.

Once the vegetables and meat are cooked, you dip them in a citrus-based ポン酢 (ponzu) sauce or sesame sauce before eating them.

It’s most popular in the colder seasons of autumn and winter, as cooking and eating this delicious soup will warm you up.

A Shabu-shabu Hot Pot Bowl with Vegetables Being Boiled

Ultra-thin meat boils quickly when it’s dipped and stirred in the hot pot.

6 – 丼ぶり (Donburi) 

丼ぶり (Donburi), or “bowl,” dishes feature white rice on the bottom and other ingredients on top of the rice. Donburi dishes are also called  丼もの (donmono), or “bowl meals.”

There are various types of Donburi dishes and they’re available at casual budget restaurants as well as 和食 (washoku), or “Japanese food,” restaurants. Many people also cook these meals at home. There are two popular versions of this dish:

  • 牛丼 (Gyūdon)

牛丼 (Gyūdon), meaning “beef bowl,” is one of the most popular bowls. The ingredients include thin-sliced beef, onions, and sometimes しらたき (shirataki) noodles topped with pickled ginger. The ingredients are simmered in a slightly sweet sauce seasoned with soy sauce, みりん (mirin) or “sweet rice wine,” and だし (dashi) or “fish stock.”

A 牛丼 (Gyūdon) Dish
  • カツ丼 (Katsudon)

Katsu means “pork cutlet.” This is a breaded deep-fried pork, also called とんかつ (tonkatsu). 

Katsudon is prepared by simmering tonkatsu and onion with beaten eggs on rice. It’s then flavored with some soy sauce, みりん (mirin) or “sweet rice wine,” and だし (dashi) or “fish stock.”

There are some variations, such as the ソースカツ丼 (sōsu katsudon), or “sauced cutlet bowl.” Here, とんかつ (tonkatsu) is served on rice without simmering the onion and eggs, and it’s flavored with a tonkatsu sauce.

A カツ丼 (Katsudon) Dish

Katsudon is a rice bowl with a Japanese pork cutlet, usually boiled with egg (Photo by Hajime Nakano, under CC BY 2.0).

  • 天丼 (Tendon)

Tendon is served with several Tempura on rice with salty-sweet soy sauce. Popular ingredients are prawn, eggplant, pumpkin, sweet potato, and squid.

A 天丼 (Tendon) Dish

Tendon is a Tempura bowl with sweet-salty soy sauce.

7 – 麺 (Men) – Traditional Japanese Noodles

There are many types of traditional Japanese noodles, and the ones on our list are the most popular in both restaurants and homes. Japanese noodle dishes are typically inexpensive.

  • そば (Soba)

Soba is a traditional Japanese noodle made from buckwheat and wheat flour with water. The noodle is squared and typically around two millimeters in width. Soba is enjoyed hot in soups with toppings or cold with つゆ (tsuyu) dipping sauce. 

  • うどん (Udon)

Udon is another type of traditional noodle that’s made of white wheat flour and water. This thick and round noodle has a five- to six-millimeter width. Udon is also served hot or cold, in hot soups with toppings or with cold dipping sauce.

A うどん (Udon) Noodle Dish
  • そうめん (Sōmen)

Sōmen noodles, made of wheat flour, are very popular in the summertime. The noodles are very thin and typically eaten cold with つゆ (tsuyu) dipping sauce. It’s considered to be a very easy meal that cooks in just a few minutes in boiling water.

A そうめん (Sōmen) Noodle Dish

(Photo by A. Koto, under CC BY 2.0)

2. Authentic Japanese Food vs. Overseas Japanese Food

Since Japanese cuisine gained its worldwide popularity, it’s easy to find Japanese restaurants in any big city in the world. However, many overseas Japanese restaurants are not Japanese-owned nor are the foods cooked by Japanese chefs. Some dishes look and taste very different from the authentic ones.

An Overseas Japanese Sushi Dish

Although some creative Sushi dishes taste good, some are very different from authentic Sushi.

1 – Overseas Sushi

Sushi ranks among Japan’s most popular foods and it’s eaten all around the world. As it becomes more popular, especially in Western countries, Sushi is being made in various styles. Overseas chefs are using their bold imagination and creativity to create Sushi dishes featuring different forms and flavors.

Transformed Sushi, often seen in 巻き寿司 (makizushi) or “roll sushi,” uses various ingredients that are never used in authentic Sushi, such as avocado, cream cheese, chili sauce, and sometimes even mangos and strawberries! In addition, some “healthy” Sushi uses brown rice or black rice instead of traditional white rice.

In addition to using different ingredients, overseas chefs are offering Sushi dishes in a variety of forms. Take for example the 裏巻き (uramaki), or “inside-out roll,” represented by the California roll and the Tempura roll (or fried Sushi) where the entire roll is battered and fried Tempura-style.

A Dish of Strawberry Sushi

Would you try Strawberry Sushi?

2 – Overseas Rāmen

Due to the increasing popularity of Japanese cuisine nowadays, Rāmen restaurants are booming overseas. However, real Rāmen is much more than just noodles in soup. Some restaurants serve soup noodles and name it “Rāmen,” though these dishes are very different from authentic Japanese Rāmen. 

As mentioned earlier, the soup and noodles are crucial elements of Japanese Rāmen. The soup in particular is very difficult to make as it requires perfectly balanced ingredients and many hours of boiling.

If you want to taste good Rāmen with authentic flavor, go to a specialized Rāmen restaurant (Rāmen’ya) that exclusively serves Rāmen. In most cases, “Rāmen” served in restaurants with a variety of other menu items have disappointing soup or use different kinds of soup noodles.

A Vietnamese Ramen Dish

Don’t get the wrong idea that Rāmen is similar to Chinese or Vietnamese soup noodles! Authentic Rāmen tastes totally different from other soup noodles.

3 – Overseas Japanese Curry Rice 

Japanese-style curry is also becoming well-known and you can find it in big cities overseas, sometimes even at Japanese fast-food franchise restaurants. Katsu curry (pork cutlet curry) is especially popular.

However, some of the Japanese curry dishes available overseas don’t taste authentic. Some probable reasons include not using the proper ingredients or using less Japanese curry roux blocks in favor of other seasonings. 

If you want to taste authentic Japanese curry overseas, make sure you ask if the restaurant’s owner or its chefs are Japanese! 

3. Unique Japanese Foods

Are you planning a trip to Japan and want to try some unique dishes? For the best food experiences in Japan, we highly recommend the following foods!

1 – B-Class Cuisine: Casual, Inexpensive Local Cuisine

So-called B級グルメ (B kyū gurume), or “B-class cuisine,” is very popular in Japan.

B-class cuisine is unofficially distinguished from other “decent” Japanese dishes in that they are very casual, low-budget, and locally available.

Following is a Japanese food list of some notable B-class cuisine items. 

お好み焼き (Okonomiyaki)

Okonomiyaki (meaning “as-you-like-it pancake”) is essentially a salty pan-fried pancake. It’s often cooked at home, but it’s also available at specialized Okonomiyaki restaurants.

You can choose any ingredients you’d like and put them into the batter (which is made of flour and cabbage). Common ingredients include meat, seafood, vegetables, cheese, and rice cakes. Put the mixture onto a pan or griddle and fry both sides until it’s cooked. It’s served with:

  • Okonomiyaki sauce
  • 青のり (aonori), or “dried seaweed particles”
  • かつお節 (katsuobushi), or “dried bonito flakes” 
  • Japanese mayonnaise

お好み焼き (Okonomiyaki) Being Cooked

Okonomiyaki is originally from Osaka region (Photo by Marcel Montes, under CC BY-SA 3.0).

タコ焼き (Takoyaki)

Takoyaki is a very popular B-class cuisine item and snack. It’s cooked at home and is also available at 屋台 (yatai), or market stalls often seen at festivals. 

Takoyaki can be explained as “octopus balls,” where octopus is the main ingredient. It’s used together with wheat flour batter, Tempura scraps or 天かす (tenkasu), pickled ginger or 紅しょうが (beni shoga), and green onion or ネギ (negi). It’s cooked in a special molded pan that features many holes shaped like half-balls. 

This dish is eaten with all of the same toppings as Okonomiyaki is, and it’s usually eaten with toothpicks.

A Takoyaki Dish

Takoyaki is also originally from Osaka region (Photo by heiwa4126, under CC BY 2.0).

コロッケ (Korokke)

Korokke is a Japanese deep-fried dish originally inspired by the French croquette. This dish is typically cooked at home, though it’s also sold at specialized Korokke shops and delicatessen corners in supermarkets.

Standard Korokke is made of mashed potato and minced beef, shaped into flat and oval forms. Each patty is coated with flour, beaten eggs, and パン粉 (panko), or “Japanese breadcrumbs,” and then deep-fried until the surface becomes brown. 

There are some popular Korokke flavor variations: 

  • カニクリーム (Kani kurīmu) – “crab meat and white sauce”
  • かぼちゃ (kabocha) – “pumpkin”
  • カレー (karē) – “curry-flavored potato”

A コロッケ (Korokke) Dish

2 – Other Unique Foods

Here are a few more traditional Japanese dishes that are a bit higher-grade than those in the previous section. 

納豆 (Natto)

Natto is made of fermented soybeans and is often eaten with white rice. It’s known as a Japanese superfood that offers many nutritional benefits. Natto is normally eaten at home (purchased from supermarkets), but it’s not usually available in restaurants.

Although Natto has a mild taste, some people may not be able to accept its unique smell and slimy texture. Without any forewarning, a foreigner may be shocked after smelling it and seeing its texture for the first time. If you focus on the taste, however, you’ll enjoy its flavor in combination with the white rice.

A Natto Dish

Natto is made of fermented soybeans.

馬刺し (Basashi)

Horse meat is eaten in some regions of Japan. 馬刺し (basashi), or sliced raw horse meat, is especially  popular, eaten with grated ginger or garlic, sliced onions, and soy sauce. It’s served at 居酒屋 (Izakaya)-style dining bars.

A 馬刺し (Basashi) Dish

Raw horse meat tastes similar to beef.

海藻 (Kaisō)

Kaisō, or “seaweed,” is commonly eaten in Japan, usually as an ingredient in みそ汁 (miso) soup or salad. There are several kinds of seaweed, but わかめ (wakame) is one of the most popular types.

A 海藻 (Kaisō) Dish

Kaisō is often eaten in salad or as a small side dish.

4. Food-Related Japanese Vocabulary

Now that we’ve whetted your appetite, it’s time to look at some Japanese food vocabulary that you can start practicing today! 

1 – Ingredients

English KanjiHiraganaReading 
meat肉 にくniku
chicken meat鶏肉とりにくtoriniku
pork豚肉ぶたにくbutaniku
beef牛肉ぎゅうにくgyūniku
fish魚 さかなsakana
vegetable野菜やさいyasai
mushroomきのこkinoko
egg卵・玉子たまごtamago
milk牛乳ぎゅうにゅうgyūnyū
riceご飯ごはんgohan
noodleめんmen
soy sauce醤油しょうゆshōyu
saltしおshio
sugar砂糖さとうsatō
spices香辛料こうしんりょうkōshinryō

To learn more food-related vocab with audio, please check out our vocabulary lists “Food” and “What’s Your Favorite Japanese Food?

2 – Cooking Methods

English KanjiHiraganaReading 
deep-fried揚げたあげたageta
stir-fried /pan-fried炒めたいためたitameta
steamed蒸したむしたmushita
boiled茹でたゆでたyudeta
simmered煮たにたnita
fermented発酵したはっこうしたhakkō shita
half-cooked半熟のはんじゅくのhanjuku no
raw生のなまのnama no
matured / aged / ripened熟成したじゅくせいしたjukusei shita

3 – Phrases for Ordering Food

  • メニューをもらえますか。(Menyū o moraemasu ka.) – “Can I have a menu?”
  • これはどんな料理ですか。(Kore wa donna ryōri desu ka.) – “What kind of food is this?”
  • 私は___を食べられません。(Watashi wa ___ o taberaremasen.) – “I cannot eat ___.”
  • 私は___のアレルギーがあります。(Watashi wa ___ no arerugī ga arimasu.) – “I am allergic to ___.”
  • これに___は入っていますか。(Kore ni ___ wa haitte imasu ka.) – “Does this have ___ inside?”
  • これはどのくらい辛いですか。(Kore wa dono kurai karai desu ka.) – “How hot/spicy is this?”
  • おすすめは何ですか。(Osusume wa nan desu ka.) – “What do you recommend?”
  • これをお願いします。(Kore o onegai shimasu.) – “I will have this one, please”

For more phrases, see our list of Useful Phrases for Ordering Food and learn useful vocabulary with audio.

5. Easy and Simple Recipes

Before you go, check out these easy recipes for Japanese cuisine to make at home! With only a few ingredients and a little spare time, you can eat delicious Japanese food without needing to find a specialized restaurant. 

1 – Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is very simple to make! Basically, all you need to do is mix all of the ingredients together and pan-fry it. Serve with Okonomiyaki sauce and toppings.

For two servings, 

Ingredients:

  • 100g wheat flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 120ml water
  • 3 teaspoons spoons dashi powder
  • 200g cabbage, sliced and roughly chopped
  • your favorite ingredients (e.g. sliced pork meat / seafood mix / cheese / spinach)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Sauce & toppings:

  • Okonomiyaki sauce
  • Katsuobushi / Bonito flakes
  • Aonori seaweed flakes
  • Japanese mayonnaise

Step 1: Mix all ingredients well in a bowl. For sliced pork meat, add in the next step.

Step 2: Put vegetable oil into a small- or middle-sized heated pan. Pour the mixture onto a heated pan and spread it to approximately 2 cm thickness. If you’re using thin-sliced pork meat, place it on the mixture.

Step 3: Fry it until the frying surface is cooked and turns brown. Flip Okonomiyaki over and cook it for about 5 minutes with the lid on.

Step 4: Open the lid and fry it until it’s well-cooked inside. Flip it again to cook as needed.

Step 5: Serve Okonomiyaki with Okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and aonori seaweed flakes on top.

2 – Oyakodon

Oyakodon is one of the easiest bowl dishes to make at home. Oyako means “parent and child,” referencing the dish’s ingredients: chicken and egg.

For two servings,

Ingredients:

  • 400g cooked white rice (Japanese rice) 
  • 1 small onion, cut in half and thin-sliced 
  • 200g chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 eggs, beaten 
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Condiments:

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cooking sake (or white wine)
  • 2 tablespoons mirin 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dashi powder

Step 1: Pour vegetable oil into a pan on middle heat. Stir fry the chicken meat until it changes color.

Step 2: Add onions and cook until they become soft and then pour all the condiments into a pan.

Step 3: Simmer until liquid is evaporated to about half the original amount, and then pour ⅔ of the beaten eggs.

Step 4: When eggs are cooked, add the rest of the beaten eggs and cook it for around 10-15 seconds.

Step 5: Put it on the warm white rice in a donburi / bowl and serve. If you have nori/seaweed paper, sprinkle it on the top.

An Oyakodon Dish

6. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

In this article, we introduced several Japanese foods that you must try, including those you should only eat in Japan and others to make at home. We also provided you with some useful food-related vocabulary for cooking and ordering. I hope you enjoyed this article and that you’ve become more interested in such a fascinating cuisine!

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language and culture, you’ll find more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons to help you improve your Japanese language skills. If you’re just starting out, here are a few vocabulary lists we recommend you review:

Personal one-on-one tutoring is also available through our MyTeacher service when you upgrade to Premium PLUS. Your private teacher will help you practice pronunciation and you’ll get personalized feedback and advice to improve efficiently. 

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

Before you go, let us know in the comments what you learned about Japanese food today. How many of these dishes have you tried before? We look forward to hearing from you.

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An Easy Guide to Japanese Grammar

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Are you interested in learning Japanese and wondering where to start? Or have you been studying a while and want to know more about Japanese grammar and the logic behind it? Our easy guide to Japanese grammar will give you insight into the essentials of the Japanese language.

Japanese grammar works quite differently from that of English, but that doesn’t mean it’s more difficult. Some rules are actually much simpler and easier to understand than those in English or the Romance languages. For example, Japanese does not have articles, gender, or the singular/plural forms; Japanese has only the present and past tenses. Learning the characteristics of Japanese grammar will deepen your understanding of the language and accelerate your language acquisition. 

Without further ado, JapanesePod101.com’s concise summary of Japanese grammar!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. General Japanese Grammar Rules
  2. Nouns & Pronouns
  3. Verbs
  4. Adjectives
  5. Ancillary Words
  6. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

1. General Japanese Grammar Rules 

When written, Japanese sentences do not have spaces between the words like English does. This may be confusing for foreign learners at first, but you’ll quickly get used to it once you learn the basic rules. Here’s an example of what a Japanese sentence looks like: 

  • 私の母は仕事へ行きました。(“My mother went to work.”)

Keep in mind that literal translation from English to Japanese doesn’t work because the grammar rules and sentence structures are different. 

Words, Phrases, and Sentences

  • Words, or 単語 (tango), are the minimum unit in a sentence and cannot be reduced any further.

For example, this is a breakdown of each word in, “My mother went to work.”

私 (Watashi)の (no)母 (haha)は (wa)仕事 (shigoto)に (ni)行きました。 (ikimashita.)
“I”” -‘s ““mother”topic-particle“work”locative-particle“went”

  • Phrases, or 文節 (bunsetsu), are the smallest coherent components that form a sentence. 

Here’s a breakdown of the phrases in the same sentence:

私の (Watashi no)母は (haha wa)仕事に (shigoto ni)行きました。(ikimashita.)
“My”“mother”“to work”“went”

Japanese phrases are divided into the minimum components that still make sense (have meaning).

When breaking down a sentence, phrases are typically divided before 独立語 (dokuritsugo), or “independent words,” such as nouns, adjectives, and verbs.

  • Sentences, or 文 (bun), are texts that end with 句点 (kuten), the punctuation mark (“。”), which is comparable to a full stop (“.”) in English. 

Sentences consist of phrases, which typically contain a subject and a predicate to convey a statement or question. Sentences and phrases are also punctuated with 読点 (tōten), the Japanese comma (“、”).

今朝、私の母は仕事に行きました。(Kesa, watashi no haha wa shigoto ni ikimashita.)
“This morning, my mother went to work.”

Classification of Phrases

There are several types of Japanese phrases, classified by function. They include:

  • 主語 (shu-go) – “subject”
  • 述語 (jutsu-go) – “predicate”
  • 修飾語 (shūshoku-go) – “modifier”
  • 接続語 (setsuzoku-go) – “conjunction”
  • 独立語 (dokuritsu-go) – “independent phrase”

Subject Phrase

A subject phrase indicates “what” or “who” in a sentence. It usually takes the form of a noun followed by a grammatical particle, such as は (wa), が (ga), orも (mo).

Examples:

  • 私は学生です。(Watashi wa gakusei desu.) – “I am a student.”
  • 彼も食べます。(Kare mo tabemasu.) – “He eats, too.”

Predicate Phrase

A predicate phrase explains something about the subject, usually what it is or what it’s like. The predicate is located at the end of a sentence. 

Examples:

  • 彼は医者です。(Kare wa isha desu.) – “He is a doctor.”
  • その子は痩せています。(Sono ko wa yasete imasu.) – “That kid is skinny.”

Modifier Phrase

A modifier phrase adds detail to other phrases within a sentence. 

Examples:

  • 私は赤いりんごを買いました。(Watashi wa akai ringo o kaimashita.) – “I bought a red apple.”

Here, “a red apple” explains what “I bought.”

  • 桜の花がとてもきれいです。(Sakura no hana ga totemo kirei desu.) – “Cherry blossoms are very beautiful.”

Here, “very” further explains “Cherry blossoms are beautiful.”

Conjunction Phrase

A conjunction phrase connects a phrase to a sentence, or one sentence to another sentence. 

Examples:

  • 私は雨が嫌いです。しかし、雪は好きです。(Watashi wa ame ga kirai desu. Shikashi, yuki wa suki desu.) – “I don’t like rain. However, I like snow.” 

“However” connects the former sentence with the latter.

  • 紅茶にしますか、それとも コーヒーにしますか。(Kōcha ni shimasu ka, soretomo kōhī ni shimasu ka.) – “Would you like tea or would you like coffee?”

“Or” connects the former phrase with the latter.

Independent Phrase

An independent phrase does not have a direct relationship with another phrase or sentence. 

Examples:

  • さあ、出かけましょう。(, dekakemashō.) – “Well, let’s go out.” 

“Well” is independent from “Let’s go out.”

  • こんにちは、 お元気ですか。(Kon’nichiwa, o-genki desu ka.) – “Hello, how are you?”

“Hello” is independent from “How are you?”

Word Class System

Japanese words are classified into two categories: 

  • 自立語 (jiritsu-go) – “independent words” that have lexical meaning
  • 付属語 (fuzoku-go) – “ancillary words” that have grammatical functions

自立語 (jiritsu-go) and 付属語 (fuzoku-go) are further divided into two groups: 

    ❖ 活用語 (katsuyōg-o) – word classes that conjugate
    ❖ 非活用語 (hikatsuyō-go) – word classes that do not conjugate

There are ten word classes (nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc.) as follows:

Chart of Grammatical Classes

SOV Sentence Structure

Japanese is an SOV language, which means the basic word order of a sentence is: S (Subject)O (Object)V (Verb). This is different from English, which is an SVO language with the S (Subject)V (Verb)O (Object) pattern.

     (S)    (O)      (V)

Japanese: 私は寿司を食べます。(Watashi wa sushi o tabemasu.)

                (S)     (V)     (O)

English:  “I  eat   sushi.”

Compared to English, the Japanese sentence structure is flexible:

  • The subject can be omitted (especially when you can guess the subject from the context).
  • The subject and object(s) can be placed in a variable order.

For example, “I will eat sushi later,” can be expressed in Japanese as:

    ❖ (私は)寿司を後で食べます。([Watashi wa] sushi o ato de tabemasu.) 
    ❖ (私は)後で寿司を食べます。([Watashi wa]  ato de sushi o tabemasu.)

Note that the subject 私は (watashi wa), or “I,” can be omitted.

For more explanation about Japanese word order, please see our article on Japanese Sentence Structure & Word Order.

Differences From English

When foreigners first start learning Japanese grammar, they may think it’s a difficult language to learn. However, in regard to the following points, Japanese grammar is simpler and easier than that of English. 

Simple Tense System

Japanese has only the present tense and the past tense, while English has several more. For example, English also uses the future tense (“I will go”), perfect tense (“I have done“), and past perfect tense (“I had known“).

In Japanese, things to take place in the future are expressed using the present tense combined with a “time” word that indicates the future. These words include 後で (ato de), meaning “later,” and 来月 (raigetsu), meaning “next month.”

Things about the past are all expressed in the past tense, regardless of other factors such as timing.

No Singular / Plural 

Unlike English and the Romance languages, Japanese grammar does not distinguish between the singular and plural forms. A plural state is expressed by simply adding a word that indicates a number or quantity.

No Articles

Japanese doesn’t use any articles (such as “a” or “the”).

No Conjugation by Person 

In Japanese grammar, verb conjugation is consistent regardless of the 人称 (ninshō), or “grammatical person.” This is different from English, where verbs do conjugate according to grammatical person (“I am” / “she is” / “he does” / “they do“).

A Page in a Book Forming a Heart

Learning gives us pleasure.

2. Nouns & Pronouns

Next up in our Japanese grammar overview are a few quick notes concerning how nouns and pronouns are used. 

Nouns

  • Nouns do not undergo declension; they are independent words that have lexical meaning. 
  • Nouns can be the subject of a sentence.
  • Japanese nouns do not have grammatical gender, number (singular/plural), or articles. 

For example, 子供 (kodomo) can be translated as “child,” “children,” “a child,” “the child,” or “some children,” depending on the context. 

In order to specify, we add a demonstrative or numeral word to a noun. For example, その子供 (sono kodomo) means “that child” and 二人の子供 (futari no kodomo) means “two children.”

For example:

    ➢ 皿 (sara) – “plate”              : お皿       (o-sara)
    ➢ 挨拶 (aisatsu) – “greeting” : ご挨拶 (go-aisatsu)

To learn more about Japanese nouns, please see our Guide to the Top 100+ Japanese Nouns.

Pronouns

  • Pronouns are used to substitute nouns (typically people or things) in a sentence.
  • Pronouns can be the subject of a sentence, though do remember that Japanese can just omit the subject altogether if it’s clear from the context.
  • There are different types of pronouns, especially for the first person. These are used according to gender and politeness level.

For example, here are some of the commonly used pronouns:

First Person (“I”): 

    ➢ 私 (watashi)      [unisex, polite/informal]
    ➢ 私 (watakushi)  [unisex, very polite]
    ➢ あたし (atashi) [female, informal]
    ➢ 僕 (boku)          [male, polite/informal]
    ➢ 俺 (ore)             [male, impolite]

Second Person (“you”)

    ➢ あなた (anata)               [plain, polite]
    ➢ あなた様 (anata-sama) [very polite]
    ➢ 君    (kimi)                     [informal]
    ➢ お前 (omae)                  [very impolite]
    ➢ あんた (anta)                [very impolite]

Third Person  

    ➢ 彼 (kare)                [“he,” plain/polite]
    ➢ 彼女 (kanojo)         [“she,” plain/polite]
    ➢ あの人 (ano hito)   [“that person,” plain/polite]
    ➢ あの方 (ano kata)  [“that person,” very polite]
    ➢ あいつ (aitsu)        [“that person,” impolite]
    ➢ 彼ら  (kare-ra)       [“they,” plain/informal]

For more details about Japanese pronouns, please check out Your Ultimate Guide to Japanese Pronouns.

Japanese Nouns

Japanese nouns don’t have articles or singular/plural forms.

3. Verbs 

Because verbs are one of the most important parts of speech, it’s crucial that you know how they work in Japanese!

  • In Japanese grammar, verbs are 自立語 (jiritsu-go), or “independent words,” and they conjugate.
  • Verbs represent movement, action, existence, and the presence of things.
  • The conjugation of Japanese verbs is consistent regardless of person, number, or gender (e.g. English verb conjugation: I am / He is / You are / We go / She eats).
  • Japanese verbs always end in “u” or “ru” when written in ローマ字 (Rōmaji), and verbs are categorized into three groups: (1) U-verbs, (2) Ru-verbs, and (3) Irregular verbs. 

For example:

(1) U-verbs: 行く (iku) – “go” / 話す (hanasu) – “talk” / 習う (narau) – “learn”

(2) Ru-verbs: 乗る (noru) – “ride” / 着る (kiru) – “wear” / 忘れる (wasureru) – “forget”

(3) Irregular verbs: する (suru) – “do” / 来る (kuru) – “come”

  • Japanese verbs consist of a stem and a suffix. The suffix conjugates according to the form, such as casual, polite, plain, or negative.

For example, look at the conjugation of the U-verb 話す・はなす (hana-su), meaning “talk.” The stem is はな (hana-) and the suffix is す(-su).

    ❖ 話す (hana-su)                       : standard/casual form
    ❖ 話します (hana-shimasu)      : polite form
    ❖ 話さない (hana-sanai)           : negative/casual form
    ❖ 話しません (hana-shimasen) : negative/polite form

Once you’ve memorized the patterns and rules of conjugation, it will become simple and easy to use Japanese verbs. In addition, there are only two irregular verbs: する (suru), meaning “do,” and 来る (kuru), meaning “come.”

For more details about Japanese verbs, please see The 100+ Most Common Japanese Verbs and our Ultimate Japanese Verb Conjugation Guide.

Japanese Verbs

The conjugation of Japanese verbs is not influenced by person, number, or gender.

4. Adjectives 

You need adjectives to spice up your writing and conversations. Here are the basics for you!

  • Adjectives are 自立語 (jiritsu-go), or “independent words,” and they undergo inflection.
  • Adjectives can modify nouns or serve as the predicate of a sentence.
  • Adjectives explain characteristics, a state of being, or the condition of something.
  • Japanese adjectives are not influenced by grammatical person, gender, or number.
  • Most Japanese adjectives end with the Hiragana い (i) or な (na) in the present tense, and they are categorized as I-adjectives and Na-adjectives.

Example:

静か人  (Shizuka na hito) – “quiet person”
彼の家は大き。(Kare no ie wa ōkii.) – “His house is big.”

  • Japanese adjectives consist of a stem and a suffix. The suffix changes according to the form, such as casual, polite, plain, or negative, in the present or past tense. 

Let’s look at the inflection of the I-adjective 強い・ つよい (tsuyo-i), meaning “strong.” The stem is つよ (tsuyo-) and the suffix is い (-i).

    ➢ 強い (tsuyo-i)                                      : standard/casual form
    ➢ 強いです (tsuyo–i desu)                     : polite form
    ➢ 強くない (tsuyo-kunai)                       : negative/casual form
    ➢ 強くありません (tsuyo-ku arimasen) : negative/polite form

To learn more about Japanese adjectives, please see our article on The Top 100 Essential Japanese Adjectives.

Japanese Adjectives

There are two types of Japanese adjectives: I-adjectives and Na-adjectives. Can you guess which type these are?

5. Ancillary Words

An ancillary word doesn’t have meaning itself, but rather becomes part of a phrase when it’s placed after independent words.

However, ancillary words play a very important role in Japanese sentences. A sentence only makes sense when ancillary words are used. 

Example:

私 家 食べる。     (Watashi ie taberu.)            – “I” / “home” / “eat”
食べる。(Watashi wa ie de taberu.) – “I eat at home.”

Grammatical Particles

In Japanese grammar, particles called 助詞 (joshi), also known as てにをは (te-ni-o-ha), are suffixes and postpositions that do not inflect. Particles immediately follow the modified component (such as a noun, verb, adjective, or sentence).

Please note that there are exceptions in the pronunciation and spelling of the following particles:

  • wa (written は [ha] in Hiragana, pronounced わ [wa] as a particle)
  • e (written へ [he], pronounced え [e]) 
  • o (written を [wo], pronounced お [o])

There are various types of particles, and each type has different functions.

  • Case markers / 格助詞 (kakujoshi
    • 青い。(Sora ga aoi.) – “The sky is blue.”
    • It represents a theme/topic/subject.
  • Parallel markers / 並立助詞 (heiritsu-joshi)
    • 彼はりんごみかんを買った。(Kare wa ringo to mikan o katta.) – “He bought an apple and an orange.” 
    • It’s used to enumerate things.
  • Adverbial particles / 副助詞 (fukujoshi)
    • まで数えてください。(Hyaku made kazoete kudasai.) – “Please count up to 100.”
    • It indicates a range, limit, or reaching point of something. Adverbial particles follow a noun. 
  • Conjunctive particles / 接続助詞 (setsuzoku-joshi)
    • やったけれども達成できなかった。(Yatta keredomo dekinakatta.) – “Although I did, I couldn’t achieve.”
    • It connects sentences by representing a semantic relationship.
  • Sentence ending particles / 終助詞 (shūjoshi)
    • 明日は雨が降る。(Ashita wa ame ga furu yo.) – “It will rain tomorrow.”
    • It has a nuance of telling someone an idea, suggestion, notice, warning, etc.
  • Interjectory particles / 間投助詞 (kantō-joshi)
    • あの、私、(Ano ne, watashi ne,) – “You know, I….”
    • It’s used in casual conversations to soften one’s tone of voice.

Auxiliary Verbs

  • Auxiliary verbs are placed after the stem forms of verbs or adjectives, and they conjugate as verbs.
  • Auxiliary verbs do not have meaning when used alone, but they add meaning when attached to verbs or adjectives.

Examples:

    ➢ ます (-masu) : makes a sentence polite
       食べる (tabe-ru) – “to eat” → 食べます (tabe-masu) – “to eat” in a polite form
    ➢ れる・られる (-reru/-rareru) : makes a verb passive/potential/honorific
       見る (mi-ru) – “to see” → 見られる (mi-rareru) – “to be seen”
       読む (yo-mu) – “to read”  → 読まれる (yo-mareru) – “to be read” or “to read” in a respectful form
    ➢ せる・させる (-seru/-saseru) : makes a verb causative
       作る (tsuku-ru) – “to make” → 作らせる (tsuku-raseru) – “to cause to make”
       知る (shi-ru) – “to know” → 知らせる (shi-raseru) – “to cause to know”

Japanese Grammatical Particles

Use of 助詞 (joshi), or “grammatical particles,” is essential in Japanese.

6. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

In this Japanese grammar guide, we introduced you to the very basics of Japanese grammar. I hope you have a better understanding of how Japanese grammar works and that we’ve encouraged you to keep learning! 

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language, you’ll find much more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons to help you improve your Japanese language skills. Here are some vocabulary lists you can study to get started:

Of course, you can also check out our Japanese grammar resources to fine-tune your understanding of the topics we covered today. 

And we still have so much more to offer you! 

For example, you gain access to our personal one-on-one coaching service, MyTeacher, when you sign up for a Premium PLUS account. Your private teacher will help you practice your pronunciation, give you personalized feedback, and offer advice on how to improve efficiently. 

Learn faster with JapanesePod101.com!

Before you go, let us know in the comments what you learned about Japanese today. Were there any facts that caught your attention? We look forward to hearing from you!

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Japanese Quotes That Will Enrich Your Life

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Do you have a favorite quote or saying? All it takes is a look at social media posts, framed wall decorations, and postcards to see that insightful quotes and proverbs inspire people and touch their hearts.

Proverbs are the fruit of wisdom, accumulated through the ages to reflect a given culture. By studying Japanese sayings, you’ll also learn about Japanese culture and values, as well as historical facts. For example, did you know that many Japanese quotes were influenced by ancient China and 儒教 (Jukyō), or “Confucianism“?

Today, we’ll introduce you to popular Japanese quotes and proverbs on a variety of topics. Whether you want life-changing motivation or are seeking relationship advice, you’ll love reading these words of wisdom. Learn Japanese and get inspired here at JapanesePod101.com!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Quotes About Success
  2. Quotes About Life
  3. Quotes About Time
  4. Quotes About Love
  5. Quotes About Family & Friends
  6. Quotes About Language Learning
  7. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

1. Quotes About Success

A Beautiful Sea

Quotes, or 格言 (Kakugen), and proverbs, or ことわざ (Kotowaza), give people inspiration and motivation.

Do you have big plans for your future, or maybe an upcoming task you’re concerned about? These practical Japanese quotes on success will give you the encouragement you need to go above and beyond!

1 – 継続は力なり 

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Keizoku wa chikara nari

Literally: “Continuance is power.”

Meaning: Continuity is the father of success. / Persistence pays off.

This is one of the most famous Japanese proverbs for success. 

It highlights the importance of continuous effort, even if you only do a little bit. When you progress one unit per day, the result after 100 days will be 100. But if you don’t do anything, the result will be zero after any number of days. You’ll eventually gain the strength and power to achieve your goal, as long as you put in the effort and overcome the difficulties involved.

This Japanese proverb is often used to encourage someone in their studies, sports, music (e.g. playing piano), and so on. 

2 – 七転び八起き 

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Nanakorobi yaoki

Literally: “Stumbling seven times but standing up eight”

Meaning: However many setbacks you face, never give up and always keep trying. 

While the numbers “seven” and “eight” have no intrinsic meaning, they’re used to represent “many times.”

The fact that the number for standing up (eight) is one higher than the number for stumbling (seven) is said to be rooted in Buddhism. When a person is born, he can’t walk by himself; he stands up for the first time with support from other people. This extra one is counted.

This proverb is also used to express that life always has ups and downs, so there’s no reason to give up.

3 – 振り向くな、振り向くな、後ろには夢がない 

[by 寺山修司 (Shuji Terayama), a Japanese playwright and poet]

Romanization: Furimuku na, furimuku na, ushiro ni wa yume ga nai

Meaning: Don’t look back, don’t look back, there is no dream in the back.

This encouraging quote is from the late Japanese multi-creator Shuji Terayama, who challenged the new era and was labeled a maverick. 

One must face forward in order to walk steadily; no one can walk backwards well. In other words, no matter how much you regret the past, you can only change the future to make a brighter life for yourself. 

4 – 人を信じよ、しかし、その百倍も自らを信じよ 

[by 手塚治虫 (Osamu Tezuka), a Japanese manga artist and animator]

Romanization: Hito o shinjiyo, shikashi, sono hyaku-bai mo mizukara o shinjiyo

Meaning: Believe in people, but believe in yourself a hundred times more. 

Believing in yourself is the most important thing when you want to achieve something big. 

This Japanese quote is very convincing and has encouraged people for decades. Osamu Tezuka had to believe in himself to become the pioneering manga and anime creator he was. He is known for his innovative techniques and his ability to redefine genres.


Center of A Street

振り向くな、振り向くな、後ろには夢がない。(Furimuku na, furimuku na, ushiro ni wa yume ga nai.) – “Don’t look back, don’t look back, there’s no dream in the back.”

2. Quotes About Life

Are you feeling stuck or unsatisfied with your day-to-day existence? Maybe you just need some Japanese quotes about life to get yourself back in the right direction. 

5 – 残り物には福がある 

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Nokorimono ni wa fuku ga aru

Literally: “There’s luck in the leftovers.”

Meaning: The greatest fortune and value in life are those things left behind by others.

This Japanese proverb comes from a line of a story in 浄瑠璃 (Jōruri), a form of traditional Japanese narrative music during the Edo period.

It’s often used to cheer someone up when they have to take the last turn doing something. People also use it as a warning toward someone who is greedy and selfish, scrambling to get things for him- or herself.

The proverb implies that good luck comes to those who are generous and give away their valuable possessions. It reflects the Japanese values that put importance on cooperativeness and thoughtful consideration for others.

6 – 井の中の蛙大海を知らず 

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: I no naka no kawazu taikai o shirazu

Literally: “A frog in the well knows nothing of the great ocean.”

Meaning: Those who live in a small world think that what they see is everything; all the while, they never know about the bigger outside world.

The proverb originally came from Zhuangzi, ancient Chinese Taoist literature. When it was brought to Japan, the Japanese turned the following line into a proverb: “The reason why you can’t talk about the ocean with a frog in the well is that a frog only knows about a hole.”

This proverb warns against putting too much value on one’s own knowledge. It criticizes a narrow perspective and closed mindset, and encourages the broadening of one’s horizons.

7 – 人生に失敗がないと、人生を失敗する 

[by 斎藤茂太 (Shigeta Saito), a Japanese psychiatrist and essayist]

Romanization: Jinsei ni shippai ga nai to, jinsei o shippai suru

Literally: “If you have no failure in life, you will fail in life.”

Meaning: If you want to succeed in life, you must learn from your failures.

This quote tells us that there are always ups and downs in life, and that no one can lead a perfect and successful life without learning from failures. It’s crucial to take failures and setbacks as opportunities for growth and to change yourself with the lessons you learn.

This quote is from Shigeta Saito, who encouraged many distressed people as a “great doctor of mind” as well as a writer and lecturer. His words inspire and encourage people who face failures and difficulties.

8 – 人生には、テキストもノートも助っ人も、何でも持ち込めます  

[by 森博嗣 (Hiroshi Mori), a Japanese writer and engineer]

Romanization: Jinsei ni wa, tekisuto mo, nōto mo suketto mo, nan demo mochikomemasu

Literally: “You can bring textbooks, notes, supporters, anything into life.”

Meaning: Make maximum use of resources and opportunities to make your life better.

Unlike an examination, where you’re not allowed to bring a cheat sheet or helper, you can utilize any kind of supporting tools in life. Some people may feel hopeless and desperate when they face difficulties or when they can’t achieve something all by themselves. However, by benefiting from others’ knowledge and ideas, these kinds of problems could be easily resolved. This quote also suggests that you can do anything with your life, as there is no rule about how to live.

This quote is a persuasive life lesson that award-winning Hiroshi Mori practices. He has created multiple works of literature and has also worked as an assistant professor of architectural engineering.

A Sign of Victory

人生に失敗がないと、人生を失敗する (Jinsei ni shippai ga nai to, jinsei o shippai suru) –
“If you have no failure in life, you will fail in life.”

3. Quotes About Time

Time is what binds us to our own mortality, and it’s the topic of many Japanese quotes of wisdom. Check it out!

9 – 急がば回れ  

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Isogaba maware

Literally: “If you are in a hurry, go the long way around.”

Meaning: Haste makes waste.

This Japanese proverb means that when someone is in a hurry, it’s wise to choose the secure and stable path, even if it takes a little longer. Using a shortcut may involve risks and uncertainty.

This proverb comes from a line of classical Japanese poetry, 短歌 (Tanka), written by the poet 宗長 (Sōchō) in the Muromachi period. He wrote that when warriors go to Kyoto (the capital city back then), using a bridge was more secure and reliable than crossing 琵琶湖 (Lake Biwa) with a board; this is because the strong wind from 比叡山 (Mt.Hiei) could blow and move the board. Of this poem, the phrase 急がば回れ (isogaba maware) is the most popular today.

When in a hurry, don’t rush and head for what looks like an easier way. Rather, think calmly and make a wiser choice.

10 – 歳月人を待たず  

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Saigetsu hito o matazu

Literally: “Time and tide wait for no man.”

Meaning: Time flows without regard for humans’ convenience.

This proverb is said to originate from the following line in a poem by ancient Chinese poet, 陶潜 (Táo Qián): “Youth never comes back again. There is no morning twice a day. Work and study hard, cherishing each moment and without wasting time.”

In other words, make each day count and use time wisely, as it’s limited and never comes back. 

11 – 石の上にも三年という。しかし、三年を一年で習得する努力を怠ってはならない。

[by 松下幸之助 (Kōnosuke Matsushita), a Japanese businessman, inventor, and founder of Panasonic]

Romanization:Ishi no ue ni mo san-nen” to iu. Shikashi, san-nen o ichi-nen de shūtoku suru doryoku o okotatte wa naranai.

Meaning: Proverb says: “Three years on a stone (Perseverance prevails).” However, we must not neglect our efforts to try to acquire things in one year, not three.

Japanese culture puts importance on the value of perseverance, which is expressed by the proverb: Ishi no ue ni mo san-nen (“Three years on a stone”). It means that even a stone will become warm when you sit on it patiently for three years. In other words, you can achieve things when you remain patient and put in the effort, even if it’s difficult and painful.

On the other hand, Kōnosuke Matsushita says that patience is essential, but it’s more important to put in extra effort to thrive and to accelerate your results. 

The words of the great inventor and businessman Kōnosuke are very encouraging and convincing. His endeavors, in only a limited amount of time, resulted in a number of innovations. 

12 – 人生において 最も大切な時 それはいつでも いまです 

[by 相田みつを (Mitsuo Aida), a Japanese poet and calligrapher]

Romanization: Jinsei ni oite mottomo taisetsu na toki sore wa itsu demo ima desu

Meaning: The most important time in life is always the present.

No one can retrieve the past and you can only change the future. However, the future is merely a continuation of the present. 

Mitsuo Aida, known as The Poet of Zen, emphasizes the utmost importance of “now” in life because the present is what shapes the future. Even if you have regrets about the past or worries about the future, focus on what you can do right now to make your life better.

A Compass

急がば回れ  (Isogaba maware) – “Haste makes waste.”

4. Quotes About Love

Are you madly in love with someone? Or maybe you’re a hopeless romantic? Either way, we think you’ll enjoy these heartwarming Japanese quotes about love!

13 – 思えば思わるる  

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Omoeba omowaruru

Literally: “When you care about (someone), you will be cared about.”

Meaning: Love and be loved. / Love is the reward of love.

When you’re kind and well-disposed toward others, they will also be nice to you. Likewise, when you have a hateful and hostile attitude, it will come back to you.

This proverb encourages people to have a generous heart and to be kind to others. This quote is also said to be the floral language of Gypsophila.

14 – かわいい子には旅をさせよ  

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Kawaii ko ni wa tabi o saseyo

Literally: “Make a beloved child travel.”

Meaning: Spare the rod and spoil the child.

Children learn better through experiencing different things than by being kept close to their parents and getting spoiled. If you truly love your child, let them see the world and experience bitterness themselves; it will make them grow stronger and wiser.

This proverb teaches us that watching over someone quietly from afar is indirect, but also a sign of firm and trusting love.

15 – 恋とは自分本位なもの、愛とは相手本位なもの

[by 美輪明宏  (Akihiro Miwa), a Japanese singer, actor, director, composer, author, and drag queen]

Romanization: Koi to wa jibun hon’i na mono, ai to wa aite hon’i na mono

Meaning: Romance is self-oriented; love is companion-/partner-oriented.

When people are romantically in love with someone, they tend to think and see things from an egoistic perspective: “I want to go out with her.” / “I want to be his girlfriend.” / “I don’t want her to disappoint me.” 

On the other hand, real love is more generous and giving. It makes a person look at things from the other person’s point of view: “She would be happy if she got flowers.” / “My family would enjoy it if I went on holiday and took them to Disneyland.”

These words founded in Akihiro Miwa’s experience get to the heart of the matter, as he went through difficult times while living an extraordinary life.

16 – 愛の前で自分の損得を考えること自体ナンセンスだ  

[by 岡本太郎 (Tarō Okamoto), a Japanese artist]

Romanization: Ai no mae de jibun no sontoku o kangaeru koto jitai nansensu da

Meaning: It’s nonsense to think about your profits and losses in front of love.

Love is sincere and profoundly tender; it comes from one’s genuine heart and feelings, without any lies. If you act from self-interest, it is not true love.

Unconventional artist Tarō Okamoto’s quote strikes a chord and makes people realize what it’s really like to love someone.


Men and Women Forming Heart with Their Hands

思えば思わるる (Omoeba omowaruru) – “When you care about (someone), you will be cared about.”

5. Quotes About Family & Friends

Family and friends are the most important people in our lives. Read through the following Japanese quotes on friendship and family to gain some cultural insight!

17 – 親しき仲にも礼儀あり  

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Shitashiki naka ni mo reigi ari

Literally: “Courtesy should be exercised even among intimate relationships.”

Meaning: A hedge between keeps friendships.

The origins of this proverb can be traced back to the Cheng–Zhu school, which was a major philosophical school of Neo-Confucianism. In the Analects of Confucius, an ancient Chinese book, it’s written that even if there is harmony, order can’t be maintained without courtesy.

Close relationships include friends, neighbors, relatives, and family. To keep sound relationships, one must always observe the boundaries. 

18 – 類は友を呼ぶ  

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Rui wa tomo o yobu

Literally: “Same kind calls friends.”

Meaning: Birds of a feather flock together.

People who have things in common naturally tend to get closer and become friends. These similarities can be anything: a sense of values, personality, background, environment, hobbies, experiences, and so on. The proverb can also be used to warn people to be wise in choosing friends, because if you hang out with bad people, you would become steeped in vice as well. 

This proverb derives from the I Ching or Yi Jing (“Book of Changes”), the oldest Chinese classic and a major divination text. It was brought to Japan and has become very widespread since.

19 – 家族とは、「ある」ものではなく、手をかけて「育む」ものです

[by 日野原重明 (Shigeaki Hinohara), a Japanese physician]

Romanization: Kazoku to wa, “aru” mono de wa naku, te o kakete “hagukumu” mono desu

Meaning: Family is not something that is “there,” but something that is “fostered” with care and time.

Family is the most important thing. It is your family that you call first in an emergency, such as an earthquake or hurricane, to confirm their safety. However, a loving family is never made by itself; it has to be created by each member with love and care, over time.

With this quote, Shigeaki Hinohara, who devoted his whole life to being a doctor even after he turned 100 years old, reminds people not to take their family for granted. Rather, one should cherish and take good care of them. 

20 – 人生最大の幸福は一家の和楽である  

[by 野口英世 (Hideyo Noguchi), a Japanese bacteriologist who discovered the agent of syphilis]

Romanization: Jinsei saidai no kōfuku wa ikka no waraku de aru

Meaning: The greatest happiness of life is happy and quality time with family.

The base of any kind of happiness lies in family. No matter how difficult a goal you achieve, nothing is happier than sharing positive feelings and celebrating with loved ones.


Three Men Looking at the Sunset

類は友を呼ぶ  (Rui wa tomo o yobu) – “Birds of a feather flock together.”

6. Quotes About Language Learning

Finally, let’s look at a couple of Japanese language quotes that you can apply to your language learning journey!

21 – 為せば成る 為さねば成らぬ何事も 成らぬは人の為さぬなりけり

[by 上杉鷹山 (Yōzan Uesugi), a powerful Japanese feudal lord]

Romanization: Naseba naru, nasaneba naranu nanigoto mo, naranu wa hito no nasanu nari keri

Meaning: You can accomplish anything by simply doing it. Nothing will get done unless you do it. If something was not accomplished, that’s because no one did it.

Most things in this world can be done with a strong will and ceaseless effort. As a similar English proverb also says: “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

This is from a poem of Yōzan Uesugi, who was known as the greatest lord in the Edo period. He gave this poem to his vassals as a cautionary lesson. It’s said that he also followed the words of the powerful warrior 武田信玄 (Shingen Takeda) and the warlords of the Sengoku period (fifteenth to sixteenth century): “It is human frailty that people give up by thinking they can’t, although anything can be achieved if they have a strong will.”

The first part—Naseba naru (“You can accomplish if you do it”)—is one of the most famous Japanese quotes for encouraging people who are up against a challenge. Don’t find reasons that you can’t do something and complain about them; instead, try to think about how you can do that thing and put your ideas into action.

22 – 努力は必ず報われる。もし報われない努力があるのならば、それはまだ努力と呼べない。  

[by 王貞治 (Sadaharu Ō), a former baseball player and manager in Japan]

Romanization: Doryoku wa kanarazu mukuwareru. Moshi mukuwarenai doryoku ga aru no naraba, sore wa mada doryoku to yobenai.

Meaning: Effort is always rewarded. If there is an unrewarding effort, it can not yet be called an effort.

Like the quote above, this quote tells the importance of making an effort and emphasizes that anything can be achieved with enough effort. 

These words from Sadaharu Ō strike the hearts of many people. He is a man of effort, and has numerous career highlights and awards, as well as records in Japan and worldwide. His ceaseless effort and passion is seen not only in his playing days, but also in his career as a coach, leading his team to victory a number of times.

His quote is very inspiring, especially for language learners!


A Woman Reading Book while Standing in a Train

努力は必ず報われる。もし報われない努力があるのならば、それはまだ努力と呼べない。
(Doryoku wa kanarazu mukuwareru. Moshi mukuwarenai doryoku ga aru no naraba, sore wa mada doryoku to yobenai.) – “Effort is always rewarded. If there is an unrewarding effort, it can not yet be called an effort.”

7. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

In this article, we introduced the most inspirational Japanese quotes and proverbs in several categories. I hope you enjoyed today’s topic and were encouraged by these Japanese words of wisdom! 

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language, you’ll find much more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons to help you improve your Japanese language skills. Here are some more inspiring Japanese quotes and motivational phrases for language learning: 

And we have so much more to offer you!

For instance, you’ll gain access to our personal one-on-one coaching service, MyTeacher, when you subscribe for a Premium PLUS membership. Your private teacher will help you practice your pronunciation and offer you personalized feedback and advice to ensure effective learning. 

Learn Japanese in the fastest and easiest way possible with JapanesePod101.com!

Before you go, let us know in the comments which of these Japanese quotes is your favorite, and why! We look forward to hearing from you.

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Essential Business Japanese: Learn the Most Useful Phrases

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Now that you’ve been learning Japanese for a while, do you plan on working in Japan or with Japanese speaking clients? Knowing the basic Japanese business phrases will help you communicate smoothly and build better relationships with your colleagues and clients.

Business Japanese is quite different from the casual Japanese used in daily life. It’s important to know particular expressions for work and how to express yourself formally in context of the Japanese business etiquette and culture. Even if you’re not yet fluent, being able to give a courteous greeting in Japanese can make a huge difference, even if it’s just for a business trip to Japan.

In this article, we’ll introduce the most useful Japanese business phrases you need to know for job interviews, meetings, communication with coworkers, handling phone calls and emails, and helpful tips about Japanese business culture. 

Bring yourself up a level here at JapanesePod101.com!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Business Words and Phrases in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Japanese Business Culture
  2. Nail Your Job Interview
  3. Interact with Coworkers
  4. Sound Smart in a Meeting
  5. Handle Business Phone Calls
  6. Handle Business Emails
  7. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

1. Japanese Business Culture

Jobs

Before diving into the Japanese business phrases, let’s cover the basics of Japanese business culture and how it works.

1 – Japanese Business Etiquette

Politeness and respect are the most important values in Japanese culture, and these values are emphasized even more in the business world. 

This is clearly pronounced in the Japanese ritual of greeting and bowing. There are various ways to bow according to the level of politeness and whom you’re greeting:

  • 会釈 (Eshaku) – light greeting for colleagues / bow with upper body to fifteen degrees 
  • 敬礼 (Keirei) – respectful greeting for clients, gratitude, and apologies / bow with upper body to thirty degrees
  • 最敬礼 (Saikeirei) – the most respectful greeting for VIP and deep apologies / bow with upper body to forty-five degrees

Exchanging business cards, called 名刺 (Meishi), is another basic formality in business situations. This is typically done when you’re meeting someone for the first time, especially if the person works for another company. Business cards are considered to be one’s “face” in Japan, and therefore must be treated politely.

Here are some tips on Japanese business card usage:

When exchanging cards, stand face-to-face and offer your card with both hands, usually with a slight bow. The card must be facing toward the other person so that the receiver can read it. Accept the other person’s card with both hands, and after taking a look at it, you must put it on the table near the receiver’s seat in a neat manner. It’s considered very rude to give/receive a card with just one hand, treat it brusquely, or put the card in a card holder right after receiving it.

A Man and Woman Exchanging Business Cards

Exchanging business cards is one of the most important business etiquette rules in Japan.

2 – Keigo (Honorific Language) is a Must

Being able to use the appropriate Japanese business honorifics is considered good manners in Japan. 

In business settings, people may be regarded as incompetent if they can’t command 敬語 (Keigo), or honorific language, properly.

The Japanese honorific language has three different forms of respectful speech: 

  • 丁寧語 (Teineigo) – polite language
  • 尊敬語 (Sonkeigo) – respectful language
  • 謙譲語 (Kenjōgo) – humble language

There are different ways of saying a given verb depending on whom you’re talking to and whose action you’re referring to. For example:

EnglishBasic Verb丁寧語 (Teineigo polite language 
express things politely – general politeness
尊敬語 (Sonkeigorespectful language 
talk about superior people, clients, and customers 
謙譲語 (Kenjōgohumble language 
talk about yourself in a humble way
doする
suru
します
shimasu
なさいます
nasaimasu
いたします
itashimasu

3 – Finding a Job in Japan

Working in Japan can be difficult for foreigners because of visas, language barriers, limited options, and an unfamiliar working culture. However, there are opportunities for foreigners to find a job in Japan.

Although English is not an official language here, Japan is still one of the strongest countries economically, with a number of international companies in big cities and numerous local companies aiming to go abroad. There is also a big demand for English speakers in Japan’s educational sector.

Depending on what skills and competencies you have, your mother tongue, and how fluent you are in Japanese, finding a job in Japan is within your reach!

Our article about How to Find a Job in Japan provides detailed information for you. Check it out!

4 – Business Japanese Vocabulary

Here’s a list of frequently used vocabulary words for work.

 EnglishKanji HiraganaReading
1company会社かいしゃkaisha
2corporation / enterprise企業きぎょうkigyō
3office事務所じむしょjimusho
4department部署ぶしょbusho
5meeting 会議かいぎkaigi
6interview面接めんせつmensetsu
7job vacancy求人きゅうじんkyūjin
8salary給料きゅうりょうkyūryō
9overtime残業ざんぎょうzangyō
10work (noun)仕事しごとshigoto
11work (verb)働くはたらくhataraku
12report (verb)報告するほうこく するhōkoku suru
13commute (verb)通勤するつうきん するtsūkin suru
14president社長しゃちょうshachō
15boss / superior上司じょうしjōshi
16colleague同僚どうりょうdōryō
17subordinate部下ぶかbuka
18document書類しょるいshorui
19client顧客こきゃくkokyaku
20customerお客様おきゃくさまo-kyaku-sama

You can find even more words, and their pronunciation, on our Workplace vocabulary list.

2. Nail Your Job Interview

Job Interview

When you get the opportunity to have an interview, make sure you give them the best impression you can!

In conjunction with a relaxed smile, a willing attitude, and confidence, the following business phrases in Japanese can help you stand out and get your dream job.

1 – ___と申します。(___ to mōshimasu.)

Translation: “My name is ___.”

The first thing you do when entering the interview room is introduce yourself.

申します (mōshimasu) is 謙譲語 (Kenjōgo), or humble language, for 言う (iu), which means “to say.” The phrase is literally translated as: “I say myself as ___,” in a humble way.

In any business setting, using Kenjōgo when referring to yourself gives the interviewer the impression that you’re very polite and decent.

2 – どうぞよろしくお願いいたします。(Dōzo yoroshiku onegai itashimasu.

Translation: “I beg your kindness.” / “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Dōzo yoroshiku onegai itashimasu is a more polite version of yoroshiku onegai shimasu, one of the most commonly used phrases in Japanese. In fact, it’s unique to the Japanese language, and not easily translatable into other languages.

This phrase is very useful in any formal situation. It can be used to say something like:

  • “Nice to meet you.” 
  • “Favorably please.” 
  • “Best regards.” 
  • “Please take care of me.”

By saying this, it shows your gratitude and humbleness in hoping to have a good relationship from that point forward.

Say this phrase after giving your name and introducing yourself, and before starting the actual interview. 

3 – 私の 強み / 弱み は___です。(Watashi no tsuyomi / yowami wa ___ desu.) 

Translation: “My strength / weakness is ___.”

強み (tsuyomi) is “strength” and 弱み (yowami)  is “weakness.”

In order to let the interviewer know that you are an ideal candidate for the position, explain your strengths. In addition, it leaves a good impression when you’re able to explain your weaknesses and how you can improve. This shows that you have good analysis skills, problem-solving skills, and a positive attitude.

Example:

私の強みはチームをまとめるリーダーシップと決断力です。
Watashi no tsuyomi wa chīmu o matomeru rīdāshippu to ketsudanryoku desu.
“My strengths are the leadership to pull a team together and decision-making ability.”

私の弱みは時々楽観的になり過ぎることです。
Watashi no yowami wa tokidoki rakkanteki ni narisugiru koto desu.
“My weakness is that I sometimes become too optimistic.”

4 – 私は___の経験があります。(Watashi wa ___ no keiken ga arimasu.

Translation: “I have experience as ___.”

経験 (keiken) is “experience.”

Use this phrase when explaining your experience to show that you are a competent candidate.

Example:

私は20人のチームマネージャーの経験があります。
Watashi wa 20-nin no chīmu manējā no keiken ga arimasu.
“I have experience as a team manager of twenty members.”

5 – もう一度おっしゃっていただけますか。(Mō ichido osshatte itadakemasu ka.) 

Translation: “Could you please say it again?”

おっしゃる (ossharu) is 尊敬語 (Sonkeigo), or respectful language, for 言う (iu), which means “to say.” It respectfully refers to an action the other speaker performed.

This phrase is a very polite way to ask someone to repeat what they said when you couldn’t hear or understand the first time.

You can also use this phrase if you want a little bit more time to think about how to respond. You can earn some extra time by saying this to your interviewer, without an awkward silence!

6 – いくつか質問してもいいですか。(Ikutsu ka shitsumon shite mo ii desu ka.) 

Translation: “Can I ask you some questions?”

If something is unclear during the interview, you can use this phrase to let the interviewer know that you have some questions. This phrase is also very versatile; you can use it anytime and with anyone.

7 – 面接のお時間をいただき、どうもありがとうございました。(Mensetsu no o-jikan o itadaki, dōmo arigatō gozaimashita.) 

Translation: “Thank you very much for making time for the interview.”

At the end of the interview, say this phrase with a smile. Make sure you don’t forget a polite bow, or 敬礼 (Keirei), before leaving the interview room.

A Businessman and Businesswoman Performing an Interview

面接を受けます (Mensetsu o ukemasu) – “take an interview”

3. Interact with Coworkers

When you talk with colleagues, it’s usually sufficient to use 丁寧語 (Teineigo), or polite language, as long as they’re your subordinate, of a similar age, or hold a similar level of job position. 

However, when you’re talking to superiors, bosses, or someone respectable—such as a company president—you should use 尊敬語 (Sonkeigo), or respectful language, and 謙譲語 (Kenjōgo), or humble language, properly.

Some people use casual language when talking to their subordinates, but it’s recommended that you never use casual language in the workplace, even if you’re close to your colleagues.

1- おはようございます (Ohayō gozaimasu.)

Translation: “Good morning.”

This is the first word you should say when you show up at your workplace. Most people arrive at work in the morning, but in some industries where work starts later in the day, they still use this phrase as the first greeting upon arrival, even if it’s in the afternoon or evening. 

2 – お疲れ様です/でした (Otsukare-sama desu/deshita.)

Translation: “Good work today.” / “Goodbye.”

This is another untranslatable Japanese word that is frequently used among colleagues. 

It’s literally translated as “(You must be) tired” (with respect), but it can also mean “hello,” “well done,” “see you,” “goodbye,” etc. Yes, it’s a very useful phrase. Just remember that です (desu) is present tense and でした (deshita) is past tense. 

When you pass by one of your colleagues in a hallway, for example, you can say this phrase to them as “hi,” which has a nuance of caring and respect. You can also use this to mean “well done” after someone finishes their presentation, and as “goodbye” or “see you” when you leave the office. 

Examples:

お疲れ様でした。プレゼンとても良かったです。
Otsukare-sama deshita. Purezen totemo yokatta desu.
“Well done. The presentation was very good.”

お疲れ様でした。ではまた明日。
Otsukare-sama deshita. Dewa mata ashita.
“See you tomorrow, then.”

3 – お先に失礼します (Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu)

Translation: “Please excuse me leaving before you.”

The literal translation, broken down, is:

  • お先に (osaki ni) – “before you”
  • 失礼します (shitsurei shimasu) – “I do rude/impolite”

This phrase reflects the Japanese working culture, in which people feel guilty for leaving the office while their colleagues are still working. Traditionally, there is an implicit rule that you should not leave before your boss or team, even if you’ve finished your own work. This is because it’s considered impolite to do so, and it may indicate that you’re not as hard of a worker as those who are still working. 

Such tradition is disappearing nowadays, but by using this phrase, you can leave the office without guilt while still being courteous to your colleagues.

4 – いってきます / いってらっしゃい (Ittekimasu. / Itterasshai.)

Translation: “I’m leaving now.” / “Take care.”

This is a standard greeting pair for when someone leaves the office to visit clients or even just to have lunch (and intend to come back later). 

It’s polite to announce that you’re leaving by saying: いってきます (ittekimasu), meaning “I’m going.” Those who remain in the office should respond with the phrase いってらっしゃい (itterasshai), which means: “(You) go” with a respectful nuance. 

If you want to be even more polite, you can also say いってまいります (Ittemairimasu), which is  謙譲語 (Kenjōgo), or humble language, for “I go.” 

Example:

___へいってきます
___ e ittekimasu.
“I’m going to ___.”

いってらっしゃい
Itterasshai.
“Take care.”

5 – ただいま戻りました / おかえりなさい (Tadaima modorimashita. / Okaerinasai.)

Translation: “I’ve returned now.” / “Welcome back.”

This is another set of polite Japanese business phrases, used when someone has come back to the office. 

It may sound a bit strange that you should announce when you’re leaving and coming back, but there’s a reason for it. The Japanese work culture places great value on teamwork and the concept of 報告・連絡・相談(Hō-Ren-Sō), or “Report-Inform-Consult,” for better work efficiency.

By announcing where you are to your colleagues, whether you’re going or coming back, it will make things easier on everyone. For example, if you get a phone call while you’re away or there’s an emergency, your colleagues will know where you are. 

Example:

お昼休憩から戻りました。
O-hiru kyūkei kara modorimashita.
“I’m back from a lunch break.”

おかえりなさい
Okaerinasai.
“Welcome back.”

Business Phrases

4. Sound Smart in a Meeting

In most workplaces, meetings are inevitable. 

Use our list of useful Japanese phrases for business meetings to really be present during the conversation and show your colleagues how well you’re performing. 

1 – 会議を始めましょうか。(Kaigi o hajimemashō ka.) 

Translation: “Shall we start the meeting?”

2 – 今日の議題は___です。(Kyō no gidai wa ___ desu.)

Translation: “Today’s agenda is ___.”

3 – ___さん、プレゼンをお願いします。(___-san, purezen o onegai shimasu.) 

Translation: “Mr./Ms. ___, please start the presentation.”

さん (-san) is the most common Japanese honorific title to refer to someone politely, including colleagues. It can be used for both males and females, and it’s equivalent to the English titles “Mr.” and “Ms.” On the other hand, when you’re talking to clients or customers, you should use the more respectful 様 (-sama). 

4 – この事案について、何か意見はありますか。(Kono jian ni tsuite, nani ka iken wa arimasu ka.)

Translation: “Do you have any opinions / questions on this matter?”

You can replace 意見 (iken), or “opinion,” with 質問 (shitsumon), meaning “question,” to ask: “Do you have any questions on this matter?”

To say it more politely, when talking to a client or customer for example, put the polite particle ご (go) in front of 意見 (iken) or 質問 (shitsumon). Also change ありますか (arimasu ka) to ございますか (gozaimasu ka). The end result will be:

何かご質問/ご意見はございますか。
Nani ka go-iken / go-shitsumon wa gozaimasu ka.

5 – 私は___さんの意見に賛成です。(Watashi wa ___-san no iken ni sansei desu.)

Translation: “I agree with Mr./Ms. ___’s opinion.”

You can also replace 賛成 (sansei), meaning “agree,” with 反対 (hantai), meaning “disagree.” 

6 – 次の会議までに報告書を提出してください。(Tsugi no kaigi made ni hōkokusho o teishutsu shite kudasai.) 

Translation: “Please submit a report by the next meeting.”

A Group of Businessman Having a Meeting

会議を始めましょうか。(Kaigi o hajimemashō ka.) – “Shall we start the meeting?”

5. Handle Business Phone Calls

Unlike business customs in other countries, Japanese business etiquette is quite strict and requires delicate attention, especially when it comes to dealing with clients and customers.

There are a lot of detailed rules for handling business phone calls, and these are considered the basics of business. They include: 

    ➢ Prepare a memo pad and pen 
    ➢ Talk with a friendly voice and speak clearly
    ➢ Be conscious of your role as a company representative 
    ➢ Answer the phone in three rings
    ➢ When receiving a phone call, ask for the name of the speaker and company, and repeat it back to them
    ➢ When concluding the conversation, wait until the client/customer hangs up
    ➢ Never put the phone down roughly

Here’s a list of commonly used phrases for business Japanese phone conversations.

1 – はい、もしもし、___でございます。(Hai, moshimoshi, ___ de gozaimasu.)

Translation: “Hello, this is ___.” 

This one is simple. When receiving a phone call, give the person your name or your company’s name.

2 – いつもお世話になっております。(Itsumo o-sewa ni natte orimasu.

Translation: “Thank you for always being a good business partner with us.”

This is another untranslatable Japanese phrase, used as a typical greeting toward clients/customers when answering phone calls, writing emails, and even talking with them in person.

It’s literally translated as “I’m always taken care of,” and it means something along the lines of “Thank you for your always kind cooperation.” This phrase shows gratitude toward clients/customers for their favor, support, or cooperation. 

3 – ___ さんはいらっしゃいますか。(___-san wa irasshaimasu ka.)

Translation: “Is Mr./Ms. ___ there?”

いらっしゃる (irassharu) is 尊敬語 (Sonkeigo), or respectful language, for いる (iru), which means “be (there).”

4 – 少々お待ちくださいませ。(Shōshō o-machi kudasai mase.) 

Translation: “Please wait for a moment.”

5 – ___ はただいま外出しております。(___ wa tadaima gaishutsu shite orimasu.) 

Translation: “___ is currently out of the office.”

Remember that you should not use an honorific title when talking about your colleague to a client/customer.

6 – ___ へ折り返しお電話をさしあげるよう申し伝えます。(___ e orikaeshi o-denwa o sashiageru yō mōshitsutaemasu.)

Translation: “I will tell ___ to call you back,” in a respectful way.

This is a very polite and respectful expression. さしあげる (sashiageru) and 申し伝える(mōshitsutaeru) are 謙譲語 (Kenjōgo), or humble language, for “give” and “tell,” respectively.

7 – お電話いただき、どうもありがとうございました。(O-denwa itadaki, dōmo arigatō gozaimashita.)

Translation: “Thank you very much for calling.”

Man Using the Telephone

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

6. Handle Business Emails

Like phone call etiquette, Japanese business email etiquette adheres to a number of detailed rules.

Following are the basics of writing professional emails:

    ➢ Write a simple and precise subject
    ➢ Use TO, CC, BCC correctly and appropriately
    ➢ It is rude to use a read receipt function
    ➢ Use line breaks and shorter sentences to increase readability
    ➢ Write the name of the company/department/recipient at the top of the body
    ➢ Write a polite greeting at the beginning and the end
    ➢ Reply back as soon as possible, within twenty-four hours at the latest

Here’s a list of the most useful phrases for writing business emails.

1 – ___ 様 / ___ さん (___-sama / ___-san)

Translation: (“Dear Mr. ___ / Ms. ___”)

Use 様 (-sama) for clients/customers and さん (-san) for colleagues.

2 – 平素よりお世話になっております。(Heiso yori o-sewa ni natte orimasu.) 

Translation: “Thank you for always being a good business partner with us.”

Here, 平素より (heiso yori) is a more polite expression than いつも (itsumo) for “always/usually.”

3 – ___の件でメールいたしました。(___ no ken de mēru itashimashita.) 

Translation: “I’m writing regarding ___.”

To break it down, いたす (itasu) is 謙譲語 (Kenjōgo), or humble language, for する (suru), meaning “do.” 

When you combine メール (“[e]mail”) and する (“do”), it becomes: メールする (“write/send email”).

4 – 添付資料をご確認くださいませ。(Tenpu shiryō o go-kakunin kudasai mase.) 

Translation: “Please check the document attached.”

5 – 何かご不明点、ご質問がございましたら、ご遠慮なくお知らせください。(Nani ka go-fumeiten, go-shitsumon ga gozaimashitara, go-enryo naku o-shirase kudasai.

Translation: “Should anything be unclear or if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

7. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

In this article, we introduced the most useful Japanese business phrases and talked about Japanese business etiquette and culture. I hope you enjoyed today’s topic and that you were able to learn more about the Japanese culture and workplace.

If you would like more information about the Japanese language, you’ll find much more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons to help you improve your Japanese language skills. Here are some more pages on our website related to work: 

And there’s so much more! 

For example, when you subscribe to our Premium PLUS plan, you’ll get a personal one-on-one coaching service called MyTeacher. Your private teacher will help you practice your pronunciation and give you personalized feedback and advice to help you improve efficiently. 

Learn Japanese in the fastest and most fun way with JapanesePod101.com!

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

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Top 10 Japanese YouTube Channels to Improve Your Japanese

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Thanks to information technology nowadays, learning Japanese isn’t as difficult as you think. You can acquire the language quickly, even if you live outside of Japan and don’t have access to native speakers. There are various sources on the internet (like YouTube) that can help you learn Japanese!

While there are plenty of Japanese YouTube channels, not all of them are useful or efficient for learning. Using the right tools and resources is the key to faster and more effective learning, so in this article, we’ll introduce the ten best YouTube channels to supplement your Japanese studies.

These channels provide informative and entertaining content, and we’ll include channels in a variety of categories. And at the end, we’ll show you why the JapanesePod101 YouTube channel is the best place to learn Japanese on YouTube!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. NHK World Japan
  2. Easy Japanese
  3. Baka Proof
  4. TOFUGU
  5. Japanese Ammo with Misa
  6. Ask Japanese
  7. Rachel & Jun
  8. Paolo from TOKYO
  9. Nihongo no mori
  10. JapanesePod101
  11. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

A Woman Editing a Video for YouTube
ユーチューブで日本語を学ぼう (YouTube de Nihon-go o manabō) – “Let’s learn Japanese on YouTube.”

1. NHK World Japan

Category: News, Documentary, Culture, Language
Level: All

NHK, or 日本放送協会 (Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai), stands for the Japan Broadcasting Corporation, which is Japan’s national broadcaster. It has terrestrial and satellite television channels, as well as domestic and international radio networks. 

Their YouTube channel, NHK World Japan, offers a variety of interesting videos, including:

  • An “Easy Japanese Lessons” series for learning Japanese
  • News
  • Sports (Sumo wrestling)
  • Documentaries on various topics about Japan
  • Much more

Most of the videos are narrated in English, and some are in Japanese with English subtitles. 

Their “Easy Japanese Lesson” playlist is especially useful for beginners looking to learn basic Japanese. Each episode follows a short skit in Japanese on a particular topic, such as answering phone calls or how to politely ask someone to repeat something. The videos have subtitles in both Japanese and English. Then, the host explains the dialogue and phrases in English (or in Japanese with English or Rōma-ji subtitles). 

All of their videos are well-produced. This channel is useful not only for learning Japanese, but also for deepening your knowledge about Japan and its culture.

2. Easy Japanese

Category: Culture, Japanese Street Interviews
Level: All

Easy Language has many language channels on YouTube, including Easy Japanese.

This is one of the best Japanese YouTube channels for immersion, and it introduces learners to how Japanese natives speak in everyday conversations. The videos feature interviews with Japanese people on the street, where the interviewer asks their opinions on certain topics. These topics may include things like Japanese public transportation, love, sushi, onomatopoeia, and Valentine’s Day in Japan. 

It’s very easy to follow along with, and its captions are in English, Japanese script, and Rōma-ji for effective learning. It’s not a conventional language lesson, but it’s helpful for learning spoken Japanese.

3. Baka Proof

Category: Learn with Anime
Level: Beginner – Intermediate

If you’re a fan of anime, then the Baka Proof channel is just right for you! This Japanese anime YouTube channel uses famous anime to introduce Japanese phrases, vocabulary, and grammar points. 

The videos on this channel first show a snippet of an anime scene with Japanese audio and English subtitles. Then, there’s an explanation (in English) of the Japanese phrases used in that scene. Even if you don’t have any basic knowledge, you can easily follow along with the videos and start learning basic Japanese. 

It’s an ideal channel for anime-lovers who want to learn spoken Japanese and eventually watch anime in the original language.

4. TOFUGU

Category: Culture, Subculture
Level: Beginner

When you get bored of formal lessons and textbook-style content, you’ll find the TOFUGU channel fun and entertaining.

This channel deals with many aspects of Japanese culture, covering various topics that will keep you focused and entertained. You’ll find videos on topics such as Japanese gestures, weird and interesting restaurants in Japan, Hiragana lessons, news, travel, and old Japanese myths. 

All of the videos are narrated in English so that absolute beginners can enjoy the videos. On the other hand, we only recommend this channel as a supplement to your normal Japanese studies. This is because the hosts don’t speak Japanese in the videos nor do they offer traditional-style lessons.

5. Japanese Ammo with Misa

Category: Language
Level: All

YouTuber Misa is a cute bilingual Japanese girl who will teach you practical Japanese phrases with grammatical explanations. She gives fun and easy-going Japanese lessons in English, with both Japanese and English subtitles.

Whether you’re a beginner or advanced learner, you’ll find her videos very useful. Her lessons include very basic content (such as how to write Hiragana and Katakana), as well as more advanced explanations (such as the difference between similar expressions and phrases). She also has interesting videos in which she reads manga comics in Japanese or introduces viewers to Japanese snacks.

Her content features wonderful grammatical explanations and covers a good deal of useful information. However, most of the phrases she deals with are informal and casual, so it’s better to use this channel mainly for learning daily conversations and casual language.

6. Ask Japanese

Category: Culture, Japanese Street Interviews
Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Ask Japanese is hosted by a multilingual German girl who lives in Japan. This is another channel that features interviews with people on the street. She talks with both native Japanese people and foreigners living in Japan. 

These interviews cover many different topics, including subculture and personal matters. For example: 

  • Japan’s strictest school rules
  • Whether Japanese people use dating apps
  • Sweets that Japanese people can’t live without
  • How the Japanese take great photogenic photos

Videos are narrated in Japanese or English, and you can turn on the subtitles. It may be a bit difficult to keep up with the Japanese, as they speak fast at times; in addition, there’s no Japanese script or Rōma-ji to follow along with. That said, this channel can be a good tool for listening practice and for learning natural spoken Japanese.

7. Rachel & Jun

Category: Life, Subculture, Travel, Vlog
Level: All

YouTubers Rachel & Jun, an American and Japanese couple living in Japan, offer interesting videos covering a range of topics.  

The couple creates vlogs to show what it’s like to live in Japan, culture shock, travel and food reports, interviews with traditional Japanese craftsmen, interesting facts about Japan, etc. If you’re interested in Japanese culture and life in Japan, this informative channel will become your new favorite!

Rachel & Jun speak mainly English in their videos, and there are Japanese captions. If you’re more interested in the language aspect, some of their videos focus on the Japanese language. For example, they sometimes talk about Japanese mistakes that Japanese people make, Japanese words that English should have, Japanese slang on the internet, and so on.

8. Paolo from TOKYO

Category: Food, Life, Travel, Vlog
Level: All

Paolo from TOKYO is one of the most popular YouTubers in Japan, creating videos that serve as an exciting guide to the country. Paolo is a fun and friendly American guy who has been living in Tokyo for a long time, and is married to a Japanese woman.

His videos cover topics such as:

  • Good food and tasty restaurants
  • Sightseeing spots and travel information
  • What it’s like to live in Japan
  • Cultural events and traditions

Some of his videos are documentary-style, following individual people. For example, he has videos about a day in the life of a Japanese university student and what life is like for a mother of a young child. Paolo is also a tech fan, and he creates videos about his drone and other cool gadgets he discovers.

Although it may be a bit difficult to choose which video to watch, as most of the titles are written in Japanese, you’ll be able to follow along with any video you choose. He speaks in English and his videos have Japanese subtitles; when other people speak Japanese, there are English captions. 

This channel can be a very useful addition to your main language learning sources. Paolo will stir up your interest in Japan, its life, and its culture. In turn, this will motivate you to keep learning Japanese.

9. Nihongo no mori

Category: Language / Language Exam (Japanese Language Proficiency Test)
Level: Intermediate – Advanced

If you’re a serious Japanese learner aiming to take the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test), this channel is perfect for you. 

Nihongo no mori provides Japanese lesson videos that are made especially for JLPT preparation. There’s a lot of content for N1 and N2 levels, but you can also find some lessons for N3, N4, and N5. In addition to Japanese grammar lessons, you’ll find plenty of vocabulary and practice tests by level.

The presenters teach in Japanese, so this channel is recommended for those who already have some Japanese knowledge. (You can turn on the subtitles for better understanding, but these are also in Japanese.)

10. JapanesePod101

Category: Language
Level: All

Learning Japanese with anime, vlogs, news stories, and street interviews can be interesting and helpful, but when you want to learn a language effectively, you need a solid source of information. The JapanesePod101 YouTube channel serves as this solid source, providing fun and effective lessons for learners at every level. 

The JapanesePod101 YouTube channel has a well-organized structure, and its lesson content includes:

  • Comprehensive grammar lessons
  • Vocabulary lists
  • Writing and reading exercises
  • Phrases for any situation
  • Conversations between native speakers
  • Exam preparation tips
  • Cultural insights
  • Learning tips
  • Much more

You’re sure to enjoy these lessons, delivered by our friendly and humorous hosts!

Whether you’re just starting out or already know some Japanese, you’ll find tons of useful content suitable for your current level. You’ll feel comfortable learning with us, as we provide you with Japanese script, Rōma-ji, and English subtitles.

Not sure where to start? Here are some recommendations:

For Beginners

For Intermediate Learners

For Travelers

11. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

In this article, we introduced the ten best YouTube channels for learning Japanese. When you take your language studies seriously, watching Japanese YouTube channels can really help you brush up on your skills. Continuation and repetition are the keys for effective learning. Find your favorite channels and make the most of your YouTube 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 YouTube channel, we provide a variety of free lessons for you to improve your Japanese language skills. 

Our personal one-on-one 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 improve efficiently.

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

Before you go, let us know in the comments if there are any good Japanese YouTube channels you know about that we didn’t include. Have you watched any of the ones from this article? We look forward to hearing from you!

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How to Say Goodbye in Japanese

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As you know, greeting is the most basic and essential aspect of any conversation. While knowing how to say hello is certainly crucial for getting to know people, learning how to say goodbye is just as important. Giving the proper farewell can improve the quality and longevity of your relationships and make you sound more like a native speaker. 

There are various ways to say goodbye in Japanese, and some phrases are unique and untranslatable ones which reflect the politeness of Japanese culture. As you learn how to say goodbye in Japanese, you’ll also deepen your understanding of Japanese culture and get tips for having smooth conversations with Japanese people.

In this article, we’ll introduce the most common phrases for saying bye in Japanese, from easy casual words to more formal ones. We’ll also show you some expressions that are unique to the Japanese language. After reading this guide from JapanesePod101.com, you’ll be able to leave any conversation with confidence! Start with a bonus, and download the Must-Know Beginner Vocabulary PDF for FREE!(Logged-In Member Only)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. The Most Common Japanese Goodbye Phrases
  2. Various Ways to Say Goodbye in Japanese
  3. Untranslatable Goodbye Phrases in Japanese
  4. Conclusion: How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

1. The Most Common Japanese Goodbye Phrases

Most Common Goodbyes

Let’s start by looking at the most popular ways to say goodbye in the Japanese language. These are phrases you may know already, but keep reading to learn how to use them properly! 

1 – さようなら (Sayōnara)

You’ve probably heard the famous Japanese word さような(Sayōnara) in movies and other media. This word is the direct translation of “goodbye.”

To say it properly, pronounce a bit longer and with no intonation. (English-speakers saying “sayoNAra” in Hollywood movies is a big Japanese pronunciation mistake! Don’t shorten the long vowel and stress the wrong syllable of a word!)

Despite its overall popularity, however, Sayōnara is not commonly used by Japanese people from day to day, especially between close friends or family. 

Sayōnara is actually a formal word, having the connotation of “farewell,” “goodbye for a long time,” or even “goodbye forever.” This word is most often used when someone isn’t sure when they’ll be seeing another person again (or if they’ll meet again at all). Therefore, don’t scare your loved one by telling them Sayōnara, as they may get confused and think that you’re going far away or that you don’t want to see them again!

Example

A:
ごめんなさい、他に好きな人がいるの。さようなら。
Gomen nasai, hoka ni suki na hito ga iru no. Sayōnara.
“I’m sorry, I have feelings for someone else. Goodbye.”

B:
待って、行かないで!別れたくない!
Matte, ikanaide! Wakaretaku nai!
“Wait, don’t go! I don’t want to break up!”

2 – ばいばい (Baibai)

This simple and easy phrase, borrowed from the English phrase “bye-bye,” is very common among close friends and family, though women and younger generations tend to use it more.

Baibai is used very casually. For example, someone may say this to their close friend after chatting with them for a while.

Example

A:
今日は楽しかったね、また遊ぼう。ばいばい!
Kyō wa tanoshikatta ne, mata asobō. Baibai!
“Today was fun, let’s hang out again. Bye-bye!”

B:
うん、またね! ばいばい!
Un, mata ne! Baibai!
“Yeah, see you! Bye-bye!”

A Woman Looking Out at a Body of Water

天国でも元気でね。さようなら。
Tengoku demo genki de ne. Sayōnara.
“Be well also in heaven. Goodbye.”

3 – Japanese Goodbye Gestures

Bowing is the most basic and essential gesture when it comes to Japanese greetings, especially in formal situations. Whether you’re greeting your boss or a client, you should bow when you say goodbye in Japanese to be polite. The form and length of your bow will depend on the level of respect you have for the other person and/or how official the situation is. To learn all about how to bow properly, please check out our Japanese Body Language article.

On the other hand, Japanese people don’t bow when they say goodbye to friends or family. The most common gesture in casual situations is to wave one’s hand. Simply wave your palm left and right in front of your chest. 

Unlike in Western culture, Japanese culture does not have greeting customs that involve hugging or kissing. So, even if it’s a casual occasion, do not astonish Japanese people with hugs or kisses when greeting them. They’ll be very bashful and not know how to react to it!

Two Japanese Businessmen Bowing To Each Other in a Hallway

In formal situations, Japanese people bow when saying goodbye.

2. Various Ways to Say Goodbye in Japanese

Now that the basics are covered, we’ll show you how to say goodbye in Japanese in a variety of situations! 

1 -じゃあね (Jā ne)

This is a very casual word used among close friends and family, and it means “See you” or “Bye, then.” 

じゃあ () means something like “well then,” and ね (ne) is a Japanese particle that’s put at the end of a sentence to make it sound softer. This particle also has a nuance of seeking the listener’s agreement and confirming a fact.

This is such a natural phrase that using it with your friends will make you sound like a native speaker! 

Example

  • あ、もう5時だ。行かなくちゃ! じゃあね!
    A, mō go-ji da. Ikanakucha! Jā ne!
    “Ah, it’s already five o’clock. I gotta go! See you!”

2 – またね (Mata ne)

またね (mata ne) is another very casual phrase you can use with your close friends and family. This one means “See you later.”

また (mata) is a colloquial way of saying “again,” and ね (ne) is the sentence ending particle. The masculine version, またな (mata na), is also commonly used among males.

This is a very natural and common expression that you’ll hear often in Japan.

Example

クラスが始まるからもう行くよ。ばいばい、またね!
Kurasu ga hajimaru kara mō iku yo. Baibai, mata ne!
“I’m going now because the class is starting. Bye, see you later!”

Two Children Waving Bye to Friends After School

ばいばい、またね!
Bai bai, mata ne!
“Bye, see you later!”

3 – また___ (Mata ___)

This is a useful expression that you can use both casually and in slightly more formal circumstances. 

また (mata) means “again,” and you can put any word in the blank that expresses time. Common examples include “later,” “tomorrow,” and “next week.” 

Adding では (dewa), which means “then,” in front of the phrase makes it sound a bit more formal, and thus more appropriate for use with colleagues in the workplace.  

Vocabulary for Time Words You Can Use

EnglishKanji HiraganaReading
“later”後であとでato de
“tomorrow”明日あしたashita
“next week”来週らいしゅうraishū
“next month”来月らいげつraigetsu
“next year”来年らいねんrainen

Example

A:
明日はプロジェクトの大事な日なので、今日はもう帰りましょう。
Ashita wa purojekuto no daiji na hi nanode, kyō wa mō kaerimashō.
“Let’s go home now because tomorrow is an important day for the project.”

B:
はい、ではまた明日。
Hai, dewa mata ashita.
“Yes, see you tomorrow then.”

4 – 元気でね (Genki de ne)

元気でね (genki de ne) can be translated as “Take care of yourself,” “Stay well,” or “All the best.”

This casual phrase is used when someone is going on a long trip or moving to another place.

You can also say お元気で (o-genki de) to make it sound more polite for use in formal situations. The お (o) here is the Japanese honorific prefix that adds a feeling of politeness or respect to a word. For example: 

  • すし (sushi) >> おすし (o-sushi)
  • 水 (mizu) – “water” >> お水 (o-mizu)
  • 皿 (sara) – “plate” >> お皿 (o-sara)

Example

新しい町でも友達たくさんできるよ。元気でね!
Atarashii machi de mo tomodachi takusan dekiru yo. Genki de ne!
“You will make a lot of friends in the new town, too. All the best!”

5 – 気をつけてね (Ki o tsukete ne) 

This casual phrase means “Take care.”

Similar to the phrase above, 気をつけてね (ki o tsukete ne) is used when someone is going on a trip. However, it can also be used when a family member is leaving home.

To make it more polite, you can say: お気をつけて (o-ki o tsukete).

Example

A:
明日富士山に登りに行くよ。
Ashita Fujisan ni nobori ni iku yo.
“I’m going to climb Mt. Fuji tomorrow.”

B:
気をつけてね。
Ki o tsukete ne.
“Take care.”

Mt. Fuji

山登り気をつけてね。
Yamanobori ki o tsukete ne.
“Take care when climbing the mountains.”

6 – 行ってきます(Ittekimasu) / 行ってらっしゃい (Itterasshai)

行ってきます (ittekimasu) means “I’m leaving (the house),” and it’s a common way to say goodbye to family members when you’re opening the front door to leave.

This phrase is also used between colleagues when a staff member is leaving the office to meet clients outside (if he’s coming back to the office later).

The paired response to 行ってきます (ittekimasu) is 行ってらっしゃい (itterasshai), which literally means “Go and come back.” Those who are staying behind say this phrase to those who are leaving.

Example

A (Kid):
遅刻するー!行ってきます!
Chikoku surū! Ittekimasu!
“I’m getting late! I’m leaving now!”

B (Mom):
行ってらっしゃい。気をつけてね。
Itterasshai. Ki o tsukete ne.
“Bye. Take care.”

A Mother Saying Bye to Her Husband and Children

-行ってきます! (Ittekimasu!) – “I’m leaving now!”
-行ってらっしゃい。(Itterasshai.) – “Bye, take care.”

7 – 良い1日を (Ii ichi-nichi o)

良い1日を (ii ichi-nichi o) means “(Have) a good day.”

This is the short version of the polite phrase: 良い1日をお過ごしください (Ii ichi-nichi o o-sugoshi kudasai) or “Please have a good day.”

Keep in mind that while the equivalent phrase in English is used often in English-speaking countries, this is not the case for this phrase in Japan. It might be used in a situation where the speaker is a host and the listener is a guest (such as at a hotel). 

Example

[From a hotel staff member to hotel guests who are leaving and will come back later]

  • お客様、いってらっしゃいませ。良い1日をお過ごしください。
    O-kyaku-sama, itterasshai-mase. Ii ichi-nichi o o-sugoshi kudasai.
    “Dear guests, please go safely and have a good day.”

8 – 楽しんでね (Tanoshinde ne)

The casual Japanese goodbye phrases 楽しんでね (tanoshinde ne) and 楽しんできてね (tanoshinde kite ne), which mean “have fun” and “have a good time,” are more commonly used than 良い1日を (ii ichi-nichi o).

To make it more polite, you can also say 楽しんでください (tanoshinde kudasai) or 楽しんできてください (tanoshinde kite kudasai).

Example

A:
今から友達と映画にいくの。またね。
Ima kara tomodachi to eiga ni iku no. Mata ne.
“I’m going to watch a movie with my friend. See you.”

B:
いいね。楽しんできてね。
Ii ne. Tanoshinde kite ne.
“That’s nice. Have fun.”

9 – お大事に (Odaiji ni)

お大事に (odaiji ni) means “get well soon,” and it’s frequently used when you’re leaving a person who is sick or injured. 

You can use this phrase when you leave your friend’s or family member’s room at a hospital, or when a colleague is leaving work early because they don’t feel well. In addition, doctors often say this to their patients after a consultation.

Example

A:
気分が悪いので早退して病院にいきます。
Kibun ga warui node sōtai shite byōin ni ikimasu.
“I’m leaving the office early and going to see the doctor because I feel sick.”

B:
お大事に。ゆっくり休んでください
Odaiji ni. Yukkuri yasunde kudasai.
“Get well soon. Please rest well.”

A Sick Woman

-風邪を引いています。Kaze o hiite imasu. – “I have a cold.”
-お大事にどうぞ。Odaiji ni dōzo.- “Please get well soon.”

3. Untranslatable Goodbye Phrases in Japanese

There are numerous untranslatable Japanese phrases which do not have a direct translation in English. Such untranslatable phrases are unique to the Japanese language as they reflect the Japanese culture, which places importance on politeness and respect for social harmony.

Here’s a list of untranslatable goodbye phrases in Japanese:

1 – お疲れ様 (Otsukare-sama)

お疲れ様 (otsukare-sama) is literally translated as “(You must be) tired,” in a respectful manner. 

This phrase is often used between colleagues as a greeting, sort of like “see you” or “see you tomorrow.” It can also be used in sport-related situations such as at a gym or sports club. 

Japanese people use this phrase to express a feeling of gratitude for hard work, as well as sympathy concerning the tiredness one might feel after working. 

Example

A:
今日のトレーニングはキツかったですね。
Kyō no torēningu wa kitsukatta desu ne.
“Today’s training was really tough, wasn’t it?”

B:
お疲れ様でした。また来週。
Otsukare-sama deshita. Mata raishū.
“(We trained so hard and tired.) See you next week.”

2 – お先に失礼します (Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu)

お先に失礼します (osaki ni shitsurei shimasu) is literally translated as “I do impoliteness before you,” meaning “Excuse me for leaving before you.”

This phrase is commonly used as a departure greeting, especially between colleagues.

In the traditional working culture of Japan, people are considered more hardworking when they work long hours. Additionally, due to the seniority tradition, less-experienced employees have invisible yet strong pressure to leave the office later than their bosses or more-experienced colleagues. Therefore, people feel guilty leaving the office earlier than other colleagues. The formal phrase “I do impoliteness before you” is used to excuse the action of leaving early.

There’s also a shorter version of this phrase: お先に (osaki ni), meaning “Before you.” This is used casually among close colleagues or to subordinates. 

Example

  • 今日は子供の誕生日なので、お先に失礼します。
    Kyō wa kodomo no tanjōbi na node, osaki ni shitsurei shimasu.
    “Excuse me for leaving before you, (I’m leaving the office now because) today is my kid’s birthday.”

*Japanese people tend to subconsciously feel that they need a good reason for leaving the office earlier. 

3 – お世話になりました (O-sewa ni narimashita)

This beautiful untranslatable Japanese phrase is literally translated as “I was taken care of by you,” which means “Thank you for taking care of me/supporting me” in a humble way. 

This phrase is often used when you resign from your job and greet colleagues on your last day in the office, or when you finish a course or training that helped grow your career. It shows gratitude toward the people and environment that supported you. 

Variations of this phrase are: 

  • お世話になります (o-sewa ni narimasu) – present tense
  • いつもお世話になっております (itsumo o-sewa ni natte orimasu)

These mean “Thank you for your support” and “Thank you for your continued support,” respectively. They’re commonly used in business settings when talking to clients when they visit or send emails.

Example

10年間お世話になりました。素晴らしい同僚と一緒に働けて幸せでした。
Jū-nenkan o-sewa ni narimashita. Subarashii dōryō to issho ni hatarakete shiawase deshita.
“Thank you for taking care of and supporting me for ten years. I was happy to work with such wonderful colleagues.”

A Group of Colleagues in the Office Smiling for a Group Photo

お世話になりました (o-sewa ni narimashita) is a typical goodbye phrase on one’s last day of work to say “Thank you for supporting me.”

4 – お邪魔しました (Ojama shimashita)

お邪魔しました (ojama shimashita) is literally translated as “I disturbed/bothered you,” in a humble and polite way. It means “Excuse me for intruding” or “Thank you for having me over.”

In Japan, it’s polite to say this phrase together with “thank you” when you’re invited to someone’s home, and when you’re leaving there. Similarly, when you enter someone’s home, you should say: お邪魔します (ojama shimasu) in the present tense.

You can use this phrase casually or formally whenever you enter someone’s house or property.

Example

ご招待ありがとうございました。お邪魔しました。
Go-shōtai arigatō gozaimashita. Ojama shimashita.
“Thank you for inviting me and having me over.”

For more great information, check out our vocabulary list on the Most Common Ways to Say Goodbye (with audio)!

4. Conclusion: How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

In this article, we introduced how to say goodbye in Japanese in any situation, and also showed you a few untranslatable goodbye phrases in Japanese. I hope you enjoyed today’s topic, and that you were able to take away some valuable information on how Japanese culture relates to its many goodbye phrases. 

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language, you’ll find much more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons to help you improve your Japanese language skills. To get you started, here’s some information about the basics of Japanese to enrich your knowledge: 

Please don’t forget to check out the audio and listen to the pronunciation carefully!

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

Before you go, let us know in the comments if you have any questions about today’s article. We’d be glad to help you out!

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