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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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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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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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Is Japanese Hard to Learn?

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If you’re interested in learning the Japanese language but haven’t started yet, you may still be wondering: “Is Japanese hard to learn?” or “What are the hardest and easiest parts of learning Japanese?” No worries! We’ll explain everything you need to know about learning Japanese right here in this article.

Japanese is a unique and fascinating language. Although it’s spoken primarily in Japan, knowing the language is useful not only for fans of Japanese anime and manga, but also for those traveling in Japan. Even a basic understanding of Japanese will allow travelers to enjoy Japan’s wonderful culture to the fullest extent possible, and it’s essential for business if you’re interested in the Asian market.

Considering that Japanese is a major language with 128 million speakers, you can find plenty of language-learning resources. These can range from ordinary textbooks to subcultural “live” materials, such as content on YouTube and Netflix—not to mention the most useful online Japanese-learning platform, JapanesePod101.com!

In this article, we’ll introduce what it’s like to learn Japanese, including what makes Japanese difficult for some learners (and things that learners find pretty easy). We’ll also give you some tips on how to start learning Japanese in the fastest, easiest way possible. 

Let’s get started!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Is it Hard to Learn Japanese?
  2. The Easiest and Hardest Parts of Learning Japanese
  3. Want to Learn Japanese? Here’s Where You Should Start!
  4. Why is JapanesePod101 Great for Learning Japanese?
  5. Conclusion

A Woman Smiling and Holding a Map in Her Hands

Fast, easy learning at JapanesePod101.com!

1. Is it Hard to Learn Japanese?

Or rather, is it hard for English-speakers to learn Japanese?

According to the language difficulty rankings by FSI (Foreign Service Institute), Japanese is a Category 5 language. This is the most difficult category, based on a scale of 1 to 5, and the ranking indicates how many hours of learning a native English-speaker would need to reach General Professional Proficiency in both Reading and Speaking.

However, the difficulty of Japanese for you depends on a number of factors, such as: 

  • Your learning goals
  • Your mother tongue
  • How interested you are in the Japanese language and culture

For example, if your learning goal is to be able to have daily conversations (speaking and listening), then learning Japanese may not be as difficult as you think. But if your goal is to be able to read Japanese newspapers and write business documents in Japanese, then keep in mind that this is an extremely difficult task for those who speak English or a Romance language (but fairly easy for Chinese- and Korean-speakers).

In addition, contrary to popular belief, spoken Japanese is said to be relatively easy to master when compared with other languages. Japanese has only five vowel sounds and thirteen consonant sounds, while English has twenty vowel sounds and twenty-four consonant sounds. Moreover, Japanese is a flat-sounding language which doesn’t use many tones or pitches. Thus, English-speakers and speakers of other non-tonal languages can easily learn how to speak and listen to Japanese!

2. The Easiest and Hardest Parts of Learning Japanese

In the following sections, we’ll go over the basics of what makes Japanese hard to learn (and how to overcome those issues). But first, let’s look at the easier aspects of Japanese! 

A- What Makes Japanese Easy?

1 – Listening & Speaking

For most people, the goal of learning a new language is to be able to have conversations in that language. Conversation, as one of the most essential parts of communication, requires listening and speaking skills. In this regard, Japanese is actually an easy language to learn!

As mentioned in the previous section, Japanese is a flat-toned language with only five vowels and thirteen consonants. Compared to other languages that have more complex and difficult-to-pronounce sounds, as well as distinct tones and pitches, Japanese is rather simple. 

English-speakers, who have already mastered twenty vowel sounds and twenty-four consonant sounds, will have little difficulty listening to and pronouncing Japanese words. (On the other hand, Japanese people always struggle to understand spoken English and pronounce English correctly. It’s difficult for Japanese people to tell the difference between word pairs like club and crab, bun and van, bowling and boring, etc.)

Even if you’re a beginner, you’ll be able to easily recognize and imitate Japanese sounds. There’s no need to be afraid of making mistakes here. Practice speaking as soon as you feel ready!    

A Group of Women Chatting Over Tea and Pastries

Speaking and listening are essential skills for conversation!

2 – Simple Grammatical Rules

No Article Needed

In Japanese, you don’t need to put an article in front of nouns. There’s no “a friend” or “the friend,” it’s just “friend,” or 友達 ともだち (tomodachi). How simple is that! 

In English, you need to think about whether you should put “a” or “the” in front of a certain noun. Some Romance languages have even more complicated article variations, such as the Italian “un, una, la, le, il, lo, l’, gli, i.”

In Japanese, you only need to say the noun! 

Words Don’t Change

In addition, Japanese words (nouns, adjectives, and verbs) do not change based on number, gender, or person. Japanese words are neutral, and there’s no feminine/masculine distinction that affects grammatical forms. 

In English, “s” is usually added to a noun to make it plural (such as “friends“). And in Italian, nouns, articles, and adjectives change their forms according to the number (singular/plural) and the gender: mia amica é simpatica (“my friend is nice” – one female) / mio amico é simpatico (“my friend is nice” – one male) / miei amici sono simpatici (“my friends are nice” – plural).

These complicated rules don’t exist in Japanese! This also applies to Japanese verbs: there’s no variation of “is/are” or “do/does” in Japanese. 

  • 私の友達は親切です。
    Watashi no tomodachi wa shinsetsu desu.
    “My friend(s) is(are) kind.”

No matter how many people there are, and whether the person is female or male, words don’t change form in Japanese. Super-simple, right?

If you want to specify whether something is singular or plural, you only need to add a number or a word that expresses amount, such as “a few,” “many,” “hundreds of,” etc.

  • 私は車を1台持っています。
    Watashi wa kuruma o ichi-dai motte imasu.
    “I have a car (one car).”
  • 彼は1日にたくさんの本を読みます。 
    Kare wa ichi-nichi ni takusan no hon o yomimasu.
    “He reads many books a day (in one day).”
Apples

Whether it’s one or three, “apple” is りんご (ringo) in Japanese, with no article.

Only Two Conjugation Exceptions

There are only two verbs that have irregular Japanese conjugation: する (suru), meaning “do,” and 来る (kuru), meaning “come.” Only two irregular verbs! Anyone can easily memorize them. 

When you think about irregular verbs in English, the list is tremendously long: “be, go, come, eat, get, say, buy, run, know, take, put, read, send, meet, leave, pay, lay, think, teach, sing, ring, write, begin, drink, fly, draw, bring, feel, fall, have, hear, make, see, sit, shine, mean, stand, sleep….” and a lot more! 

This is not the case in Japanese, so go ahead and let out a deep sigh of relief.

3 – Easy Tenses

There are only two tenses in Japanese: present and past. In order to mention something about the future in Japanese, use the present tense and add a word that indicates the future, such as “later,” “tomorrow,” “next month,” etc. In addition, Japanese does not have the perfect tense.

  • 私は図書館へ行きます。 
    Watashi wa toshokan e ikimasu.  [Present Tense]
    “I go to the library.”
  • 私は明日図書館へ行きます。 
    Watashi wa ashita toshokan e ikimasu.  [Present + ashita (“tomorrow”)]
    “I will go to the library tomorrow.”
  • 私は図書館へ行きました。 
    Watashi wa toshokan e ikimashita. [Past Tense]
    “I went to the library.”

When learning verb tenses, many people find that Japanese is much easier and simpler than English, which has multiple variations: “I go to / I’m going to / I will go to / I went to / I have been to / I have gone to / I had gone to …”

B- Why Japanese is Hard to Learn

1 – The Japanese Writing System

The Japanese language uses three different scripts: Hiragana (ひらがな), Katakana (カタカナ), and Kanji (漢字). This can be a bit confusing for beginners.

Hiragana is a phonetic system with forty-six characters which represent all of the sounds in spoken Japanese. It also includes a few variations which are closely related to specific characters and their sounds. For example, だ (da) is a variation of た (ta). 

Katakana also has forty-six characters, which represent the same sounds as Hiragana. It is used mainly for writing words called 外来語 (Gairaigo), which are “imported” from foreign languages such as English. For example, アイスクリーム (aisu kurīmu) means “ice cream.”

Kanji originated from China and has been adopted by the Japanese language. Some Kanji characters are written using the same characters as in Traditional Chinese, but the way in which they’re used and read are unique to Japanese. For example, 新聞 means “newspapers” and it reads as しんぶん (shinbun) in Japanese. But these same characters mean “news” in Chinese, and are pronounced as xīnwén. It’s said that there are 3000-4000 Kanji characters, but there are only 2000 commonly used 常用漢字 (jōyō kanji) characters that are taught to children in schools.

If you’ve gotten the impression that the Japanese writing system is “a bit too complicated,” don’t worry too much! 

The good news is that the Latin Alphabet is also used in Japan. Japanese people refer to it as ローマ字 (Rōma-ji), or “Roman letter,” and these letters are used to write a phonetic translation of Japanese words. People who have just started learning Japanese learn Hiragana and Katakana together with Rōma-ji. 

In addition, all Japanese sounds end in a vowel (the only exception is ん [n]), and all of the Japanese syllables are very simple sounds. Every sound is written in Hiragana and Katakana. (There is no variation in the pronunciation of a given Japanese letter, such as “A” in the English words “family,” “agent,” and “away.”)

This will make Japanese pronunciation super-easy to learn! You just need to get used to Hiragana and Katakana and how their sounds are pronounced. 

2 – Japanese is an SOV Language 

A lot of English-speakers get confused with the Japanese word order.

The Japanese sentence structure is SOV, which means that the basic word order in a sentence is S (Subject)O (Object)V (Verb). English, on the other hand, is an SVO language: S (Subject)V (Verb)O (Object).

       (S)           (O)            (V)

Japanese: Watashi wa toshokan e ikimasu.  私は図書館へ行きます

                     (      I    /  the library to /  go.    )

               (S)       (V)       (O)

English:   I    go to  the library.

The fact that Japanese verbs are always placed at the end of a sentence can be very confusing at first for  SVO language-speakers.

You don’t know if it’s an affirmative sentence or a negative one until you hear the very end of that sentence, especially if a sentence is very long.

  • 私は昨日友達と話した後に図書館へ行きませんでした。
    Watashi wa kinō tomodachi to hanashita ato ni toshokan e ikimasen deshita.
    ( I / yesterday / friend / with / talked / after / the library / to / go / not / did )
    = I did not go to the library after I talked to my friend yesterday.

You may find this aspect of Japanese easier if you remember that the verb (and its negator, if there is one) will always be at the end of the sentence. 

However, asking questions in Japanese is consistent and very simple! 

There’s no need to change the word order or add a new verb like in English: “She went to the library.” vs. “Did she go to the library?”

All you need to do is add か (ka) to the end of a sentence and say it with a rising tone.

    ➢ 彼女は図書館へ行きます。
    Kanojo wa toshokan e ikimasu.
    “She goes to the library.”
    ➢ 彼女は図書館へ行きますか。
    Kanojo wa toshokan e ikimasu ka.
    “Does she go to the library?”

See how easy that is?

A Little Girl Picking Out a Book at the Library

Japanese is an SOV language: 彼女は図書館へ行きます (Kanojo wa toshokan e ikimasu.) – She (S) / the library (O) / to / go (V).

3 – Honorific Language

Japanese culture is famous for its politeness and respect, and this cultural aspect is reflected in the language: 敬語 (Keigo), or “honorific language.” 

Apart from the casual language, Japanese has the three forms of Keigo, which are: 

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

You don’t need to be able to use all of these respectful forms perfectly for daily conversations as long as you can use the basic polite form. However, you’ll often hear Keigo in Japan as a customer or during official/business occasions. 

The difficult thing about learning Keigo is that there are different expressions for verbs, and you need to use the appropriate words according to the level of politeness and the person whom you’re referring to. 

You can use Teineigo (polite language) to express things politely for more general situations. However, you can neither use Sonkeigo (respectful language) for your own actions nor use Kenjōgo (humble language) for someone respectful (elders, boss, clients, honored person, etc.).

For example, there are three different expressions for “come”:

[ to come : 来る (kuru)

  • Teineigo (general politeness):  来ます (kimasu)   

    彼は毎日ジムに来ます
    Kare wa mainichi gimu ni kimasu.
    “He comes to the gym every day.”
  • Sonkeigo (respectful expression for others): いらっしゃいます  (irasshaimasu)

    田中様は一時にいらっしゃいます
    Tanaka-sama wa ichi-ji ni irasshaimasu.
    “Mr./Ms.Tanaka comes at one o’clock.”
  • Kenjōgo (humble expression for yourself): 参ります/ 伺います (mairimasu / ukagaimasu

    私が書類を持って参ります
    Watashi ga shorui o motte mairimasu.
    “I will come with the documents.”

If you would like to know more about Keigo and common honorific mistakes, please see our article about Common Japanese Mistakes.

Two Japanese Businessmen Bowing to One Another

Honorific language is one of the hardest parts of learning Japanese.

3. Want to Learn Japanese? Here’s Where You Should Start!

Now that you know what makes the Japanese language hard to learn (and which parts are easy), have you decided you want to learn it after all? Great! Here are some tips from JapanesePod101.com: 

1. Get Motivated

The very first thing you should do is get motivated!

What do you want to do after you learn Japanese? Learn more about Japanese culture? Travel to Japan for work, study, or holiday? Watch Japanese anime and read manga in the original language? Make new Japanese friends? 

With your interests and purpose in mind, set a learning goal to keep you motivated. It doesn’t need to be a big goal at first, like passing the advanced level exam, but a small goal you’ll be able to reach quickly. 

A small learning goal is something you can work on without too much effort. Examples might include making new Japanese friends online, learning ten new words everyday, watching Japanese TV series everyday, traveling to Japan, or speaking to Japanese people when shopping.

The important thing is to stay motivated and accumulate your achievements in small chunks. 

The more motivated you are, the faster you will learn!

2. Learn the Basics

When learning a new language, it’s essential to understand how it works first. 

Once you learn the ground rules, such as the sentence structure and pronouns, then focus on learning useful sentence patterns that you can use in a variety of situations. With the most useful and common sentence patterns and phrases, you can adjust and adapt them for new situations as you build your vocabulary. 

For beginners, our Top 100 articles are very helpful for building up your vocabulary with useful nouns, verbs, and adjectives. You can also use Flashcards to check and review everything you’re learning.

3. Input, Output, and Repeat

No one can do well at something they’ve never tried before! If you want to be able to speak, then listen, speak, and repeat as many times as possible. Learning by doing is the golden rule for mastering a language.

Japanese, as mentioned above, is easy to learn when it comes to listening and speaking, so you can start practicing at home from Day 1. Check the pronunciation of new words with audio using our Vocabulary Lists, and then repeat the word after the audio recording. After repeating a word or phrase several times, you’ll get used to the sounds and how to pronounce them. 

If you’re living or traveling in Japan, you’re privileged with plenty of opportunities to practice in real life. Don’t be afraid, and make the most of your opportunities.

Even if you live outside of Japan, you can take advantage of the Internet age to access numerous learning materials, including JapanesePod101.com and our YouTube channel! You can even interact and practice with your own personal teacher using our MyTeacher program.

4. Have Fun!

To learn and improve your Japanese skills, it’s crucial that you study and practice hard. But don’t let yourself get too bored with traditional learning! Learning is more than studying at a desk with textbooks.

Entertain yourself while learning by watching Japanese movies and series, listening to music, reading comics and novels, etc. 

Speaking, listening, reading, and writing are very separate skills, and you need to work on honing each one, depending on your goals. If your learning goal is, for example, focused on practical daily conversations, then such entertainment sources are very helpful. With video, audio, and subtitles, you’ll be able to learn a lot of practical vocabulary and phrases.

Also, check out our articles on how to learn Japanese with netflix and Anime! There are plenty of entertainment sources for learning Japanese.

Someone Watching a Video on Their Tablet

Learn Japanese with entertainment!

4. Why is JapanesePod101 Great for Learning Japanese?

Many people think that Japanese is a difficult language, but this is only partly true. In reality, Japanese is a unique and interesting language which is actually easier to learn than you think. It’s just different from English, and learners require some strategic planning to learn it effectively.

JapanesePod101 offers a variety of effective and fun learning content for beginners and advanced learners. 

1. Comprehensive and Practical Approach

JapanesePod101 offers a comprehensive and balanced approach to help you improve your listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills, step-by-step. We also offer focused lessons that look at a particular aspect of the language or culture. Each lesson has easy-to-understand information to keep you hooked.

Depending on your level, you’ll go through effective study materials with audio to improve your listening skills, practice pronouncing new vocabulary, and do writing exercises. Tests and quizzes will also help you check your knowledge.

After each lesson, you’re ready to move forward. Every lesson covers a practical topic or theme that you would encounter in everyday life in Japan.

2. Incredible Free Content

JapanesePod101.com is free but surprisingly affluent with information! We offer a wide range of rich content for learners at every level. 

Before beginning your lessons, you may want to take a placement test that will give you a better idea of where to start. Every level has multiple lessons that follow a storyline designed to keep you engaged and learn natural Japanese.  

Our free content includes themed vocabulary lists, customizable flashcards to practice your vocabulary, and a dictionary tool where you can search for a word by Latin Alphabet (Rōma-ji) or Japanese. Some of these features can be downloaded onto your computer so you can use them offline!

3. Your Own Teacher

Along with the lessons, our Premium MyTeacher service can accelerate your learning. Yes, you can have your own Japanese teacher by upgrading your account!

With MyTeacher, you can practice your speaking, reading, and writing through interaction with your private teacher. You’ll get personal feedback and tips on how to improve your pronunciation and writing skills. This personalized program and weekly assignments will keep you going, and you’ll also have full access to our self-study learning system.

5. Conclusion

In this article, you’ve learned the answer to “Is Japanese hard to learn?” Learning Japanese is not as difficult as you may think, especially if your goals are focused on verbal communication. 

If you would like to explore the Japanese language further, stay with JapanesePod101.com for the fastest and easiest way to fluency. With a variety of rich, free lessons and tools, your Japanese language skills will improve immensely. 

Don’t forget that you’re not alone. When you use our MyTeacher service, your own teacher can always help you practice through personalized programs and assignments.

Before you go, let us know in the comments if you feel ready to start learning Japanese. If not, we’d love to hear your questions or concerns, and we’ll be glad to help any way we can. 

Now, it’s time to get started at JapanesePod101.com!

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Learn About the Common Japanese Mistakes Students Make

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Making mistakes is a matter of course when learning a new language. It’s actually good to make a lot of mistakes, because as you learn from correcting them, you’ll deepen your understanding of the language.

There are many common mistakes in Japanese that are easy for new learners to make. This is due to Japanese honorifics (which are unfamiliar to many learners), the various forms of postpositional particles, different grammar structures than in English, and so on. Although it seems complicated at first, once you get used to the patterns, you’ll surely improve your skills and know how to correct yourself when you make a mistake in Japanese.

In this article, we’ll introduce the most common mistakes people make when learning Japanese. Being able to spot these mistakes in Japanese is a sure sign of improvement! Let’s get started here at JapanesePod101.com!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Common Japanese Pronunciation Mistakes
  2. Vocabulary Word Mistakes
  3. Word Order Mistakes in Japanese
  4. Japanese Grammar Mistakes
  5. Honorific Mistakes
  6. The Biggest Mistake
  7. Conclusion: How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

2+2=5 Written on a Blackboard

Mistakes help you learn.

1. Common Japanese Pronunciation Mistakes

Japanese pronunciation mistakes often trip up new learners, so we’ll be covering these first! 

1 – Shortening Long Vowels

Shortening long vowels is one of the most common mistakes that Japanese learners make.

All of the Japanese sounds, called ひらがな (Hiragana), always end with a vowel, except for ん (n):

  • あ(a)
  • (i)
  • う(u)
  • え(e)
  • お(o

When the same vowel sounds are next to each other, you pronounce it long. 

Examples

  • Mother: お母さん / おかあさん – okaa・san   = “o-kā-san”   [pronounce “a” longer]
  • Far:       遠い / とおい                – too・i          = “tōi”    [pronounce “o” longer]

Please pay attention when you’re pronouncing a word, because shortening the vowel can change the word’s meaning. For example:

  • おばあさん – obaa・san = “o-bā-san [pronounce “a” long, it means “grandmother” / “old woman”]
  • おばさん    – oba・san       = “oba-san  [pronounce “a” short, it means “aunt” / “middle-aged woman”]

2 – Pronouncing Imported Words with an English Accent

カタカナ (Katakana) is one of the Japanese writing systems. It’s used for Japanese words not covered by 漢字 (Kanji), especially for foreign language words—外来語 (Gairaigo), or loan words—transcribed into Japanese.

Most Japanese learners may think Katakana is very simple and easier to use than Kanji or even Hiragana. However, you need to be careful when it comes to pronunciation.

Although most of the foreign words can be written in Katakana, make sure you pronounce them the Japanese way!

Examples

  • Hamburger: ハンバーガー (hanbāgā) = pronounce it as “ha・n・baa・gaa”
  • Christmas: クリスマス (kurisumasu) = pronounce it without intonation
  • Orange: オレンジ (orenji) = pronounce each Katakana, as in “o・re・n・ji”
  • Ticket: チケット (chiketto) = pronounce consonants and following vowels

Please note that the following word pairs are written in the same Katakana, and are pronounced the same way.

  • bath / bus: バス (basu) = pronounce each Katakana, as in “ba・su”
  • track / truck:トラック (torakku)
  • coat / court: コート (kōto) = pronounce “ko” longer.

A Hamburger with Cheese, Lettuce, and Tomato

 ハンバーガー (hanbāgā), or “hamburger” = pronounce it as “ha・n・baa・gaa”

3 – Stressing the Wrong Syllables

More common Japanese language mistakes occur when a new learner stresses the wrong syllables of a word. 

Examples

  • waTAshi  わたし
  • KOnNIchiwa こんにちは
  • iTAshi MAshite どういたしまして
  • SUshi   すし
  • tenPUra  てんぷら

Listen carefully to how native speakers pronounce Japanese words. You’ll notice that most Japanese words lack strong intonation, and are rather flat.

To check the pronunciation of Japanese words, listen to the audio for the 50 Most Common Nouns and Top 10 Hardest Words to Pronounce.

4 – Pronouncing the “R” Sound in Japanese Incorrectly 

The Japanese syllabaries Hiragana and Katakana represent syllables and sounds that are totally different from the alphabet and its sounds. Some alphabet sounds can’t be precisely expressed in the Japanese syllabary.

Some of the most confusing sounds may be: ら・り・る・れ・ろ. These are written as “ra, ri, ru, re, ro” in alphabet letters. Keep in mind that you should not roll your tongue when pronouncing the Japanese “r.” It actually sounds closer to the “L” sound.

Examples

  • glass: グラス  (gurasu) = Even though the original word is “gLass,” it is “guRasu” in Japanese.
  • apple: りんご (ringo) = It’s pronounced more like “li.”
  • travel: 旅行/りょこう  (ryokō) = You don’t roll your tongue to say “ryo.”
  • rule:  ルール  (rūru) = It’s pronounced more like “lu・u・lu,” with the “u” in the middle pronounced longer.

Someone Picking Up a Red Apple

Pay attention when you pronounce “ら (ra) り (ri) る (ru) れ (re) ろ (ro)”, such as in りんご (ringo), meaning “apple.”

2. Vocabulary Word Mistakes

Now we’ll go over a few common Japanese mistakes that learners make concerning vocabulary. Pay close attention! 

1 – Saying “You” in Japanese

“You” in Japanese is あなた (anata). Unlike English, Japanese doesn’t usually use this pronoun during conversations. The subject or object in a sentence can usually be omitted, especially in casual situations.

Examples

  • 窓を開けてくれますか。 
    Mado o akete kuremasu ka.
    “Can (you) open the window?”
  • これあげます。
    Kore agemasu.
    “(I) give (you) this.”
  • マリの今日の服かわいいね。
    Mari no kyō no fuku kawaii ne.
    “Mari’s outfit today is pretty.” (instead of “Your outfit today is pretty.”)

Japanese people use the name of the person they’re speaking to instead of using “you.”

2 – Using the Wrong “I”

Personal pronouns in Japanese are rich in expression, especially the first- and second-person pronouns. There are dozens of expressions for “I,” depending on the gender, politeness, formality, and how you want to express yourself.

Using the wrong word for “I” in a given situation is one of the most common mistakes that Japanese learners make.

Examples

  • “I am Kaori Tanaka.” [In a formal occasion when the subject is female]
    Wrong: は田中かおりです。(Ore wa Tanaka Kaori desu.)
    Correct: は田中かおりです。(Watashi (or Watakushi) wa Tanaka Kaori desu.)
  • “I am a student.” [In a casual occasion when the subject is male]
    Wrong: あたしは学生です。(Atashi wa gakusei desu.)
    Correct: 僕 / 俺は学生です。(Boku / ore wa gakusei desu.)

Following are the most frequently used first person pronouns.

Reading KanjiHiraganaLevel of FormalityGenderCharacteristics
watakushiわたくしvery formalbothThis is a very formal and polite personal pronoun that’s often used in official occasions.
watashiわたしformal / informal bothThis one is used by both genders in formal occasions, such as in the workplace. This is the most commonly used word for “I,” but it’s often omitted in sentences. In informal situations, this is typically used by women. 
atashiあたしinformalfemaleThis is the casual version of watashi, and it’s used by younger females in conversations. However, it can sound a bit childish and unsophisticated.
bokuぼくinformalmale This pronoun is used by males of all ages, but very often by kids and younger men. It gives an impression of humbleness. This can also be used as a second-person pronoun toward little boys (English equivalent: “kid”).
oreおれvery informalmale This is frequently used by men in informal settings, such as among family and friends. It sounds very masculine. This can be rude when it’s used in formal occasions or in front of respectable/senior people.

3 – Using the Wrong Casual Language 

There are some sentence-ending particles in Japanese which are colloquial expressions and used only in casual situations. 

Some are feminine and used by females, such as:

  • -よ (-yo)
  • -わ (-wa)
  • -わよ (-wa yo)

And some are masculine, such as:

  • -ぜ (-ze)
  • -だぜ (-da ze)

Such sentence-ending particles don’t have a particular meaning; they just add emphasis or a sense of femininity or masculinity.  

Make sure you use the correct suffix, otherwise you’d sound very strange!

Examples

  • “I cleaned it.” [When the subject is a man]
    Wrong: 私が掃除したわよ。(Watashi ga sōji shita wa yo.)
    Correct: 俺が掃除した。(Ore ga sōji shita ze.)  [it sounds a bit rough]
  • “It’s okay!” [When the subject is a woman]
    Wrong: いい!(Ii ze!)
    Correct
    : いいわよ!・いいわ! (Ii wa yo! / Ii wa!)

Someone Vacuuming the Floor

俺が掃除した。(Ore ga sōji shita ze.) = “I cleaned it.” – in a masculine and slightly rough manner

3. Word Order Mistakes in Japanese

You probably know already that Japanese uses a different sentence structure and word order than English. Many Japanese language mistakes by English-speakers have to do with word order confusion. 

1 – Japanese is SOV

The word order of Japanese sentences may be confusing for learners whose native language is an SVO type, because the Japanese sentence structure is SOV: S (subject)O (object)V (verb)

       (S)          (O)        (V)

Japanese: Watashi wa ringo o tabemasu.   私はりんごを食べます

               (S)       (V)       (O)

English:   eat an apple.

When it comes to making a negative sentence, the word indicating negativity comes at the end of the sentence.

Japanese:            Kyō  watashi wa ringo o hitotsu mo  tabemasen.  今日私はりんごを一つも食べません

[Literal meaning]  today /     I    /     apple /  any (even one) /  eat /  not

English:                I did not eat any  apples today.

Make sure you don’t get confused and try to say: Watashi wa tabemasen hitostumo ringo o kyō.

2 – Adjective + Noun

Another word order mistake is to place the adjective and noun incorrectly in a sentence. 

Remember that adjectives always come in front of nouns in Japanese

Make sure you don’t put adjectives after nouns like you would in other languages such as Italian (mela verde = “apple green”) or French (pomme verte = “apple green”).

Correct:  赤いりんご  (akai ringo)     = “red apple”

Wrong:   りんご赤い  (ringo akai)     = “apple red”

Examples

  • 安い靴    (yasui kutsu)        = “cheap shoes”
  • 寒い日       (samui hi)             = “cold day”
  • 丸い形       (marui katachi)     = “round shape”
  • 親切な人   (shinsetsu na hito) = “kind person”
  • 静かな部屋  (shizuka na heya)  = “quiet room”

4. Japanese Grammar Mistakes

Many new learners struggle with certain concepts of Japanese grammar, so pay close attention to avoid these mistakes yourself. 

1 – Usage of Postpositional Particles

There are multiple positional particles in Japanese, and learning how to use them correctly can be a challenge.

Some particles are used for similar purposes, but it’s still important to know the distinction between them.

  • は (-wa) and が (-ga)

    は (-wa) is the topic marker particle. It’s placed after the word to be marked as the topic of a sentence, defining that word as a subject or an object.

      ➢ 彼は医者です。(Kare wa isha desu.)  = “He is a doctor.”

      ➢ たかしは駅に行きます。(Takashi wa eki ni ikimasu.) = “Takashi goes to the station.”

    On the other hand, the particle が (-ga) is the subject marker, which emphasizes the subject.

      ➢ 彼が医者です。(Kare ga isha desu.)
      This is also translated as “He is a doctor,” but it has a nuance of “He is the one who is a doctor.”

      ➢ たかしが駅に行きます。(Takashi ga eki ni ikimasu.)
      This is also translated as “Takashi goes to the station,” but it has a nuance of “It is Takashi who goes to the station.”
  • で (-de) and に (-ni)

    Both で (-de) and に (-ni) are used as locatives. However, there are many differences between them.

     で (-de) is used as a locative particle, as well as an instrumental particle. When it’s used as a locative particle, it defines where an action or occurrence took place, especially those linked with active cases.

      ➢ 私は家勉強します。
      Watashi wa ie de benkyō shimasu.
      “I study at home.”

      ➢ 彼は池溺れた。
      Kare wa ike de oboreta.
      “He drowned in a pond.”

     で (-de) is also used as an instrumental particle which can be translated as “using,” “by,” or “with.”

      ➢ まりこは箸パスタを食べます。
      Mariko wa hashi de pasuta o tabemasu.
      “Mariko eats pasta with chopsticks.”

      ➢ その生徒はバス大学へ行きます。
      Sono seito wa basu de daigaku e ikimasu.
      “The student goes to university by bus.”

    On the other hand, the locative particle に (-ni) indicates a place or time, and it can be translated as “to,” “on,” “at,” or “in.” When used as a locative particle, it’s differentiated from で (-de) according to existence and passive cases. It’s also used when the result of an action or occurrence is being realized in that place.

      ➢ 彼は椅子座った。
      Kare wa isu ni suwatta.
      “He sat on the chair.”

      ➢ 私は浅草住んでいます。
      Watashi wa Asakusa ni sunde imasu.
      “I live in Asakusa.”

      ➢ 本は図書館あります。
      Hon wa toshokan ni arimasu.
      “The books are in the library.”

      ➢ お昼おにぎりを食べました。
      O-hiru ni onigiri o tabemashita.
      “(I) ate Onigiri at lunch.”

2 – Differentiating Between いる (iru) and ある (aru)

Many foreign learners struggle to differentiate between いる (iru) and ある (aru), as both are translated as “there is (are)” in English.

The easiest way to differentiate them is to remember that いる (iru) is used for living things and ある (aru) is used for objects and living things which are already deceased. 

The polite form of いる (iru) is います (imasu), and the polite form of  ある (aru)  is あります (arimasu).

  • いる (iru)

    ➢ 台所に誰かがいる。
    Daidokoro ni dareka ga iru.
    “There is someone in the kitchen.”

    ➢ 豚が一匹庭にいる。
    Buta ga ippiki niwa ni iru.
    “There is a pig in the garden.”

    ➢ 彼らは今渋谷にいます。
    Kare-ra wa ima Shibuya ni imasu.
    “They are in Shibuya now.”
  • ある (aru)

    ➢ 台所にテレビがある。
    Daidokoro ni terebi ga aru.
    “There is a TV in the kitchen.”

    ➢ 豚肉ステーキが冷蔵庫にある。
    Butaniku sutēki ga reizōko ni aru.
    “There is a pork steak in the fridge.”

    ➢ 渋谷にハチ公像があります。
    Shibuya ni Hachikōzō ga arimasu.
    “There is a statue of Hachikō in Shibuya.”

Japanese woman drinking tea at kitchen table

O 台所に誰かがいる。(Daidokoro ni dareka ga iru.) – “There is someone in the kitchen.
“X 台所に誰かがある。(Daidokoro ni dareka ga aru.)

3 – Past Tense of い (i)-Adjectives

There are two types of adjectives in Japanese: い (i)-adjectives and な (na)-adjectives.

い (i)-adjectives always end with the Hiragana character い (i). Examples include:

  • 丸い (marui) – “round”
  • 暑い (atsui) – “hot”
  • 楽しい (tanoshii) – “fun”

 な (na)-adjectives consist of adjectival nouns and a form of the copula な (na). Examples include:

  • 親切な (shinsetsu na) – “kind”
  • 穏やかな (odayaka na) – “mild” / “calm”
  • 曖昧な (aimai na) – “vague” / “ambiguous”

Adding でした (deshita), which is the past tense of です (desu), makes an adjective polite. 

Another common mistake in Japanese is often seen in the past tense of the copula (“be” / “is”). After い (i)-adjectives, this is a mistake; however, it’s okay to do so in the case of な (na)-adjectives.

Instead, conjugate い (i)-adjectives to the “adjective stem + かった (-katta)” form for the past tense.

Examples

  • “It was difficult.”  [present tense of “difficult” : 難しい (muzukashii)]
    Wrong: 難しいでした。(Muzukashii deshita.)
    Correct: 難しかった。(Muzukashikatta.)
  • “She was beautiful.”  [present tense of “beautiful” : 美しい (utsukushii)]
    Wrong: 彼女は美しいでした。(Kanojo wa utsukushii deshita.)
    Correct:  彼女は美しかった。(Kanojo wa utsukushikatta.)

5. Honorific Mistakes

The honorific language is another source of confusion and Japanese mistakes for learners.

While it’s generally adequate to be able to use the basic polite form for daily life, it’s good to learn 敬語 (Keigo) to deepen your understanding of the Japanese language. Even if you don’t use them, you’ll hear a lot of honorifics as a customer in Japanese stores and restaurants.

Japanese Keigo has three forms of respectful speech, which are: 

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

Being able to use the appropriate honorifics is considered good manners for adults in Japan, especially at work and in many social situations. 

  • 丁寧語 (Teineigo) – polite language
    This is used to express things politely. It’s used for any person and in any situation.
  • 尊敬語 (Sonkeigo) – respectful language
    This is used to show respect by expressing things that heighten action, status, or things of other people. It’s used when talking about someone superior to you, clients, and customers. Do not use this to talk about yourself.
  • 謙譲語 (Kenjōgo) – humble language
    This is used to show respect by expressing things that lower/humble yourself in comparison to the other person. It’s used to tell someone about your action or status. Do not use this to talk about another person.

The following is a list of frequently used verbs of honorifics in the present tense.

EnglishBasic Verb丁寧語
Teineigo  
(polite language) 
尊敬語
Sonkeigo
 (respectful language) 
謙譲語
Kenjōgo
 (humble language) 
doする
suru
します
shimasu
なさいます
nasaimasu
いたします
itashimasu
say言う
iu
言います
iimasu
おっしゃいます
osshaimasu
申します/ 申し上げます
mōshimasu
/ mōshiagemasu
go行くiku行きます
ikimasu
いらっしゃいます
irasshaimasu
参ります / 伺います
mairimasu
/ ukagaimasu 
come来る
kuru
来ます
kimasu
いらっしゃいます / おいでになります
irasshaimasu
/ oide ni narimasu
参ります
mairimasu
know知る
shiru
知ります
shirimasu
お知りになります / ご存じです
o-shiri ni narimasu
/ gozonji desu
存じます
zonjimasu
eat食べる
taberu
食べます
tabemasu
召し上がります
meshiagarimasu
いただきます
itadakimasu 
beいる
iru
います
imasu
いらっしゃいます
irasshaimasu
おります
orimasu
see / look見る
miru
見ます
mimasu
ご覧になります
goran ni narimasu
拝見します
haiken shimsu
giveあげる
ageru
あげます
agemasu
おあげになります
o-age ni narimasu
差し上げます
sashiagemasu

Japanese Woman Bowing Respectfully

To customers/clients : 感謝申し上げます。(Kansha mōshiagemasu.) – “I tell you thank you.” [in a respectful way]

6. The Biggest Mistake

What is the biggest mistake when learning Japanese?

Yes, the biggest mistake is to be afraid of making mistakes! 

Speak and practice proactively over the course of your studies. When you make mistakes, you’ll improve your Japanese skills by correcting those mistakes.

When you don’t know something and wonder what it is and how it works, don’t hesitate to ask!

    聞くは一時の恥聞かぬは一生の恥
    Kiku wa ittoki no haji, kikanu wa isshō no haji

This is the famous Japanese proverb for learners. It means: “The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute; the man who does not ask is a fool for life.” 

The direct translation is: “Asking is shameful temporarily; not asking is shameful for life.” 

As the Japanese culture is one of shame, honor, and collective harmony, the proverb uses the word 恥 (haji), meaning “shame” for a life lesson. It’s more shameful to not ask and be ignorant for the rest of your life than it is to ask and learn.

7. Conclusion: How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

In this article, we introduced the ten most common mistakes students make when learning Japanese. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced learner, this information will surely deepen your understanding and help you improve your Japanese skills! 

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language, 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’s some more 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 waiting for you! Learn faster and enjoy studying Japanese at JapanesePod101.com!

Before you go, let us know in the comments how many of these mistakes you’ve made before, and how you overcame them. We look forward to hearing from you!

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The 10 Most Useful Japanese Questions and Answers

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Have you ever tried to use a newly learned Japanese phrase, only to panic when you couldn’t understand your interlocutor’s reply? 

Whether you’re making new Japanese friends or traveling in Japan, knowing how to give questions and answers in Japanese will allow for smoother communication. Learning how to ask Japanese questions will also help you better understand Japanese, and improve your speaking and listening skills. The keys to mastering these skills early on are to speak a lot and practice!  

In this article, we’ll introduce the ten most useful Japanese question & answer patterns. Even if you’re just getting started, you can start having basic conversations with these phrases! Learn how to speak Japanese here at JapanesePod101.com!

First things first, though: How do you form questions in Japanese?

Japanese questions are easy to recognize because the question particle か (ka) always appears at the end (formal / polite form), and questions are asked with a rising tone.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. What’s your name?
  2. Where are you from?
  3. Do you speak Japanese?
  4. How long have you been studying Japanese?
  5. Have you been to [location]?
  6. How is ___?
  7. Do you like [country’s] food?
  8. What are you doing?
  9. What’s wrong?
  10. How much is this?
  11. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

1. What’s your name?

Introducing Yourself

Question:

  • Japanese: (あなたの)名前は何ですか。
  • Reading: (Anata no) namae wa nan desu ka.  
  • English: “What is (your) name?”

This is one of the most common phrases that’s used when meeting someone new. The Japanese possessive case あなたの (anata no), meaning “your,” can be omitted when the context makes it clear whose name you’re talking about. Especially in casual conversations, the subject and possessive case (noun + possessive particle の) are often omitted; this sounds more natural.

Answer:

(1) Polite

  • Japanese: 私の名前は___です。
  • Reading: Watashi no namae wa ___ desu. 
  • English: “My name is ___.”

This is the most common way to give someone your name. 

(2) Casually Polite

  • Japanese: (私は)___です。
  • Reading: (Watashi wa) ___ desu. 
  • English: “(I) am ___.”

This is another common phrase for giving someone your name. In a casual conversation, you can omit the subject 私は (Watashi wa), meaning “I.”

(3) Very Polite

  • Japanese: ___と申します。
  • Reading: ___ to mōshimasu. 
  • English: “I am ___.” (honorific language – humble expression) 

Japanese uses honorific language, called 敬語 (Keigo), which has various expressions that connote different levels of politeness and respect. 

This phrase is a humble expression that’s used in official occasions where you should speak very politely, or when you’re talking to someone who is very honorable.

Example:

Q: 名前は何ですか。  
Namae wa nan desu ka.
“What is your name?”

A: 私の名前はかおりです。
Watashi no namae wa Kaori desu.
“My name is Kaori.”

Japanese Colleagues Shaking Hands

Q: あなたの名前は何ですか。(What is your name?) 

A: はじめまして、私はゆりです。(Nice to meet you. I’m Yuri.)

2. Where are you from?

Question:

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

This is one of the most popular Japanese questions that foreigners may be asked. あなたの出身はどこですか。literally translates as “Where is your hometown?”

The possessive case あなたの (anata no), meaning “your,” can be omitted in casual situations. In order to ask more politely, use the word どちら (dochira) instead of どこ (doko).

Answer:

(1)

  • Japanese: (私は)___出身です。 
  • Reading: (Watashi wa) ___ shusshin desu. 
  • English: “(I) am from (my origin is) ___.”

This is a typical way to answer the question.

The word 出身 (shusshin) refers to a person’s origin, such as his or her hometown, city, or country. If you’re a foreigner in Japan, you can put your country name in the blank.

The subject 私は (Watashi wa), or “I,” can be omitted in casual situations.

(2)

  • Japanese: (私は)___から来ました。 
  • Reading: (Watashi wa) ___ kara kimashita. 
  • English: “(I) come from ___.”

This is another common way to answer, and once again, the subject can be omitted in casual situations.

Example:

Q: あなたの出身はどこですか。 
Anata no shusshin wa doko desu ka.
“Where are you from?”

A: 私は東京出身です。
Watashi wa Tōkyō shusshin desu.
“I’m from Tokyo.”

First Encounter

3. Do you speak Japanese?

These basic questions and answers in Japanese will be extremely helpful for you while in Japan. 

Question:

(1)

  • Japanese: (あなたは) ___を話しますか。
  • Reading: (Anata wa) ___ o hanashimasu ka.
  • English: “Do you speak ___?”

The subject あなたは (Anata wa), meaning “you,” can be omitted in casual situations.

(2)

  • Japanese: (あなたは) ___を話せますか。
  • Reading: (Anata wa) o hanasemasu ka.
  • English: “Can you speak ___?”

This question sounds similar to the one above, but it indicates “speaking ability” by changing 話ます (hanashimasu) into 話ます (hanasemasu).

The subject can be omitted in casual situations.

Language Vocabulary

In Japanese, the name of a language is expressed with the word 語 (-go), meaning “language,” attached after the name of a language or country.

English JapaneseReading
English 英語Eigo
Japanese日本語Nihon-go
Frenchフランス語Furansu-go
Italianイタリア語Itaria-go
Germanドイツ語Doitsu-go
Spanishスペイン語Supein-go
Russianロシア語Roshia-go
Chinese中国語Chūgoku-go
Korean韓国語Kankoku-go
Thaiタイ語Tai-go
Vietnameseベトナム語Betonamu-go

Answer:

(1)

  • Japanese: 私は___を話します。
  • Reading: Watashi wa ___ o hanashimasu.
  • English: “I speak ___.”

(2)

  • Japanese: 私は___を話せます。 
  • Reading: Watashi wa ___ o hanasemasu. 
  • English: “I can speak ___.”

(3)

  • Japanese: 私は___を話せません。 
  • Reading: Watashi wa ___ o hanasemasen. 
  • English: “I can’t speak ___.”

This is a negative form you can use to say that you can’t speak the language.

Example:

Q: あなたは日本語を話しますか。  
Anata wa Nihon-go o hanashimasu ka.
“Do you speak Japanese?”

A: はい、私は少し日本語を話します。
Hai, watashi wa sukoshi Nihon-go o hanashimasu.
“Yes, I speak Japanese a little.”

Different Language-learning Books

Q: 日本語を話せますか。(Can you speak Japanese?)

A: 私は日本語を話せます。(I can speak Japanese.)

4. How long have you been studying Japanese?

Question:

  • Japanese: どのくらい___を勉強していますか。
  • Reading: Dono kurai ___ o benkyō shite imasu ka.
  • English: “How long have you been studying ___?”

どのくらい (Dono kurai) literally translates as “to what extent,” but in this case, it refers to “how long.”

If you come from abroad and speak a bit of Japanese while in Japan, Japanese people will be very curious and ask you this question.

Answer:

(1)

  • Japanese: ___か月です。 
  • Reading: ___-kagetsu desu. 
  • English: “For ___ month(s).”

If you’ve been learning Japanese for a few months, you can use this phrase to answer. Put the number of months in the blank.

___-kagetsu desu literally means “It’s ___ month(s).”

There’s no difference in expression for singular and plural in Japanese. So whether you’ve been learning for one month or several, the phrase remains the same.

(2)

  • Japanese: ___年です。 
  • Reading: ___-nen desu. 
  • English: “For ___ year(s).”

Use this phrase if you’ve been studying for one or more years.

___-nen desu literally means “It’s ___ year(s).”

Example:

Q: どのくらい日本語を勉強していますか。   
Dono kurai Nihon-go o benkyō shite imasu ka.
“How long have you been studying Japanese?”

A: 1年5か月です。
Ichi-nen go-kagetsu desu.
“For a year and five months.”

5. Have you been to [location]?

Question:

  • Japanese: ___に行ったことがありますか。
  • Reading: ___ ni itta koto ga arimasu ka.
  • English: “Have you been to ___?”

-ことがあります (-koto ga arimasu) is an expression meaning “to have done (something),” and it’s used after the past tense form of a verb. In this case, that would be 行った (itta), meaning “went.” It’s translated as “Have you been to ___?”

You can put the name of any place in the blank.

Answer:

(1)

  • Japanese: はい、行ったことがあります。
  • Reading: Hai, itta koto ga arimasu.
  • English: “Yes, I have been.”

(2)

  • Japanese: いいえ、行ったことがありません。 
  • Reading: Iie, itta koto ga arimasen.
  • English: “No, I have never been.”

This is a negative sentence for answering “no.”

Example:

Q: 皇居に行ったことがありますか。   
Kōkyo ni itta koto ga arimasu ka.
“Have you been to the Imperial Palace?”

A: いいえ、行ったことがありません。
Iie, itta koto ga arimasen.
“No, I have never been.”

Tokyo Imperial Palace

Q: 皇居に行ったことがありますか。  (Have you been to the Imperial Palace?)

A: はい、行ったことがあります。  (Yes, I have been.)

6. How is ___?

Question:

  • Japanese: ___ はどうですか。 
  • Reading: ___ wa dō desu ka.
  • English: “How is ___?”

This is a common phrase to ask about the condition, situation, or status of something.

What Can You Ask About?

    ➢ 調子はどうですか。 (Chōshi wa dō desu ka.) – “How is the condition?”
    調子 means “condition,” and in this case, it means “How are you doing?” or “How is it going?”
    ➢ 勉強はどうですか。 (Benkyō wa dō desu ka.) – “How is studying?”
    ➢ 仕事の進み具合はどうですか。(Shigoto no susumiguai wa dō desu ka.) – “How is the progress of work?”

Answer:

(1)

  • Japanese: 良いです。
  • Reading: Ii desu. 
  • English: “It’s good.”

うまく行っています (umaku itte imasu), meaning “It’s going good,” is another common expression you can use to say that something’s going well.

(2)

  • Japanese: まあまあです。 
  • Reading: Mā-mā desu
  • English: “So-so.”

This phrase is very common, and it’s used to say that something is relatively good.

(3)

  • Japanese: あまり良くないです。 
  • Reading: Amari yokunai desu.
  • English: “It’s not so good.”

You can use this phrase when things aren’t going very well. Japanese people tend to avoid straightforward words like “bad,” even if something is bad; they prefer to use euphemistic expressions.

Example:

Q: 体調はどうですか。 
Taichō wa dō desu ka.
“How is your body condition?” / “How are you feeling?”

A: まあまあです。 
Mā-mā desu.
“So-so.”

A Woman Taking a Test

Q: 勉強はどうですか。 (How is studying?)

A: うまく行っています。(It’s going good.)

7. Do you like [country’s] food?

Question:

  • Japanese: ___ 料理は好きですか。
  • Reading: ___ ryōri wa suki desu ka.
  • English: “Do you like ___ food?”

To express a country’s food, put the name of the country in the blank and add 料理 (ryōri) after it. 料理 (ryōri) means “cuisine” or “cooking.”

Cuisine Vocabulary:

English Japanese Reading
Japanese food日本料理Nihon ryōri
Chinese food中華料理Chūka ryōri
Korean food韓国料理Kankoku ryōri
French foodフランス料理Furansu ryōri
Italian foodイタリア料理Itaria ryōri
Spanish foodスペイン料理Supein ryōri
Indian foodインド料理Indo ryōri
Thai foodタイ料理Tai ryōri

Answer:

(1)

  • Japanese: はい、好きです。
  • Reading: Hai, suki desu. 
  • English: “Yes, I like it.”

(2)

  • Japanese: まあまあ好きです。 
  • Reading: Mā-mā suki desu
  • English: “I somewhat like it.”

This phrase is a very common way to say that you relatively like something. 

(3)

  • Japanese: いいえ、好きではありません。 
  • Reading: Iie, suki de wa arimasen.
  • English: “No, I don’t like it.”

This is a simple phrase to answer that you don’t like something. However, some Japanese people tend to use more euphemistic expressions to avoid saying “no.”

In such cases, you can also say ___料理は苦手です (___ ryōri wa nigate desu), which means “I’m not good with ___.”

Example:

Q: フランス料理は好きですか。 
Furansu ryōri wa suki desu ka.
“Do you like French food?”

A: はい、好きです。 
Hai, suki desu.
“Yes, I like it.”

8. What are you doing?

Question:

  • Japanese: 何をしていますか。
  • Reading: Nani o shite imasu ka.
  • English: “What (are you) doing?”

There’s also a shorter version you can say: 何してますか。(Nani shite masu ka.) It’s still polite, but it sounds more casual.

This Japanese expression doesn’t have a particular subject. Therefore, if you add a subject, such as 彼女は (kanojo wa) meaning “she” or 彼は (kare wa) meaning “he,” to the beginning of the sentence, it becomes “What is she / he doing?”

Answer:

Answers can vary, but here are some general answers to the question.

(1)

  • Japanese: ___ をしています。
  • Reading: ___ o shite imasu. 
  • English: “(I’m) doing ___.”

To answer the question, put a suitable noun in the blank. Some Japanese nouns belong to a group that allows the noun to turn into a verb when attached with the verb する (suru), meaning do. For example:

演技する (engi suru) = 演技 (engi), meaning “acting” + する (suru), meaning “do” —–> “to act”

This phrase works well with this kind of noun.

This Japanese expression doesn’t have a particular subject, so if you add a subject, such as 彼女は (kanojo wa) meaning “she” or 彼は (kare wa) meaning “he,” to the beginning of the sentence, it becomes: “She / he is doing ___.”

How to Use:

    ➢ 仕事をしています。(Shigoto o shite imasu.) – “I’m doing work.” = “I’m working.”
    ➢ 勉強をしています。(Benkyō o shite imasu.) – “I’m doing study.” = “I’m studying.”
    ➢ 食事をしています。(Shokuji o shite imasu.) – “I’m doing meal.” = “I’m having a meal.”

(2)

  • Japanese: ___ています。 
  • Reading: ___-te imasu.  
  • English: “(I’m) ___ing.”

This is another common phrase for telling someone what you’re doing. You can put any Japanese verb in the blank. The verb must be conjugated in a form that -ている(-te iru) can follow.

How to Use:

    ➢ 見ています。(Mite imasu.) – “I’m watching/looking.”
    ➢ 歩いています。(Aruite imasu.) – “I’m walking.”
    ➢ 食べています。(Tabete imasu.) – “I’m eating.”

Example:

Q: 何をしていますか。  
Nani o shite imasu ka.
“What are you doing?”

A: 映画を見ています。 
Eiga o mite imasu.
“I’m watching a movie.”

Children Enjoying Good Books

Q:何をしていますか。 (What are you doing?)

A: 本を読んでいます。 (I’m reading a book.)

9. What’s wrong?

Question:

  • Japanese: どうしましたか。 
  • Reading: Dō shimashita ka.
  • English: “What’s wrong?” / “What’s the matter?”

A similar phrase is どうかしましたか。(Dō ka shimashita ka.) which means the same thing.

Answer:

Answers can vary, but here are some examples.

(1)

  • Japanese: 何でもないです。
  • Reading: Nan demo nai desu.
  • English: “It’s nothing.” / “There’s nothing wrong.”

何でもない (Nan demo nai) means “nothing.”

(2)

  • Japanese: 疲れています。 
  • Reading: Tsukarete imasu
  • English: “I’m tired.”

(3)

  • Japanese: 気分が悪いです。 
  • Reading: Kibun ga warui desu.
  • English: “I don’t feel good.”

This literally translates as “feeling is bad,” but in this case, it means “I don’t feel good/well.”

Example:

Q: どうしましたか。 顔色が悪いですよ。 
Dō shimashita ka. Kaoiro ga warui desu yo.
“What’s wrong? You look pale.”

A: 少し疲れています。 
Sukoshi tsukarete imasu.
“I’m a bit tired.”

10. How much is this?

Question:

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

This is a must-know phrase if you plan on shopping during your trip to Japan.

Answer:

  • Japanese: これは___円です。
  • Reading: Kore wa ___-en desu. 
  • English: “It’s ¥___.”

The Japanese currency is 円, which is actually pronounced as えん (en). The currency symbol is ¥.

Example:

Q: この本はいくらですか。  
Kono hon wa ikura desu ka.
Kono hon wa ikura desu ka.

A: この本は1000円です。 
Kono hon wa sen-en desu.
“This book is ¥1000.”

For more useful shopping phrases with audio, please check out this lesson on 15 Shopping Phrases: Exchanges, Refunds, and Complaints!

11. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

In this article, we introduced the ten most useful Japanese question & answer patterns. After learning these, you’ll have strong survival Japanese communication skills! 

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

Here are some more lessons with audio about the basics of Japanese:

For beginners, our lesson on the Top 25 Must-Know Phrases is a must-read! 

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 there are any Japanese questions and answers you still want to know! We’d be glad to help, and look forward to hearing from you!

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The 10 Most Useful Japanese Sentence Patterns

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Learning a new language is fun, but it requires a lot of effort—studying the complicated grammar rules and memorizing thousands of words. But we have a tip for you! The fastest and easiest way to learn Japanese is to just focus on the most useful and common Japanese sentence patterns and start speaking them!

The most frequently used Japanese sentence patterns are useful for survival communication and day-to-day interactions. When you know the essential sentence patterns in Japanese, you can arrange and create more sentences to express yourself and have conversations. 

In this article, we’ll introduce the ten most useful Japanese sentence patterns, which cover the most basic statements and questions. Boost your Japanese conversation skills here at JapanesePod101.com!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. A is B – AはBです
  2. Asking Simple Questions: Is A B? AはBですか。
  3. I Want (to)…  …が欲しいです/…たいです 
  4. I Need (to)…  …が必要です/…(する)必要があります 
  5. I like …  …が好きです
  6. Please (do) … ….(して)ください
  7. May I / Can I (Do) …? ….(しても)いいですか。/a>
  8. What is …? ….は何ですか? 
  9. When is …? ….はいつですか? 
  10. Where is …? ….はどこですか? 
  11. Conclusion: How JapanesePod101.com Can Help You Learn More Japanese
A Woman Deep in Thought in Front of a Blackboard

With the top 10 Japanese sentence patterns, you can easily have simple conversations!

1. A is B – AはBです

A is B = A (wa) B (desu) or  A は B です

This is the simplest Japanese sentence construction for describing something. A is usually a noun and B can be a noun or an adjective.

です (desu) is the basic predicate that represents politeness; it’s placed at the end of a Japanese sentence. 

The Japanese sentence structure is SOV (Subject + Object + Verb), while English has an SVO structure (Subject + Verb + Object).

Examples:

  • 私は学生です。(Watashi wa gakusei desu.) — “I am a student.”
  • 彼は私の友達です。(Kare wa watashi no tomodachi desu.) — “He is my friend.”
  • このご飯は美味しいです。(Kono gohan wa oishii desu.) — “This meal is delicious.”
  • あのレストランは海鮮料理で有名です。(Ano resutoran wa kaisen ryōri de yūmei desu.) — “That restaurant is famous for seafood.”
  • 今年の夏は去年より暑いです。 (Kotoshi no natsu wa kyonen yori atsui desu.) — “This summer is hotter than the one last year.”

For more about Japanese nouns and adjectives, please check out our pages on the 50 Most Common Nouns and 50 Most Common Adjectives.

Sentence Patterns

2. Asking Simple Questions:  Is A B? AはBですか。

Is A B ? = A (wa) B (desu ka) or  A は B ですか。

Here’s the most common question sentence pattern in Japanese. 

To make a Japanese interrogative sentence, simply add the question marker か (ka) to the end of an affirmative sentence and pronounce it with a rising intonation. 

Examples:

  • あなたは学生ですか。(Anata wa gakusei desu ka.) — “Are you a student?”
  • 彼らはあなたの友達ですか。(Kare-ra wa anata no tomodachi desu ka.) — “Are they your friends?”
  • その本は難しいですか。(Sono hon wa muzukashii desu ka.) — “Is that book difficult?”
  • 今日の天気は雨のち曇りですか。(Kyō no tenki wa ame nochi kumori desu ka.) — “Is the weather today cloudy after rain?”
  • 駅の隣のビルは銀行ですか。(Eki no tonari no biru wa ginkō desu ka.) — “Is the building next to the station a bank?”
Mt. Fuji in Japan

Ashita wa hare desu ka. = “Is tomorrow sunny?”

3. I Want (to)…  …が欲しいです/…たいです 

I want  … = [noun] …が欲しい です  (ga hoshii desu)

I want to … =  [verb] …たい です  (-tai desu)

These are the simplest Japanese sentence patterns for expressing “want.”

These Japanese phrases differ depending on whether you want something [noun] or want to do something [verb], as indicated above.

Keep in mind that the subject can be omitted from a Japanese sentence when it’s clear from the context who the subject is.

Japanese verb conjugation is NOT affected by the person (I, you, he, she, we, they), number (singular/plural), or gender (female/male) of the subject.

Examples using a noun:

  • (私は)水が欲しいです。([Watashi wa] mizu ga hoshii desu.) — “I want water.”
  • (私は)新しい車が欲しいです。([Watashi wa] atarashii kuruma ga hoshii desu.)  “I want a new car.”
  • 誕生日にダイヤの指輪が欲しいです。(Tanjōbi ni daiya no yubiwa ga hoshii desu.) — “I want a diamond ring for (my) birthday.”

Examples using a verb:

  • (私は)今日は和食が食べたいです。([Watashi wa] kyō wa washoku ga tabetai desu.) — “I want to eat Japanese food today.”
  • 来年は沖縄に行きたいです。(Rainen wa Okinawa ni ikitai desu.) — “I want to go to Okinawa next year.”
  • 太ったので運動をしたいです。(Futotta node undō o shitai desu.) — “I want to do exercises because I got fat.”

For more information about Japanese verbs, please check out our Japanese Verbs and 50 Most Common Verbs pages.

4. I Need (to)…  …が必要です/…(する)必要があります 

I need … = [noun] …が必要です (ga hitsuyō desu)

I need to … = [verb] …(する)必要があります (hitsuyō ga arimasu)

These are the simplest Japanese sentence patterns for expressing “need.”

As you can see above, the Japanese sentence structure changes depending on whether you need something [noun] or need to do something [verb].

Examples using a noun:

  • (私は)あなたが必要です。([Watashi wa] anata ga hitsuyō desu.) — “I need you.”
  • その車は電気の充電が必要です。(Sono kuruma wa denki no jūden ga hitsuyō desu.) — “That car needs to charge with electricity.”
  • この店での支払いはクレジットカードが必要です。(Kono mise de no shiharai wa kurejitto kādo ga hitsuyō desu.) — “You need a credit card to pay at this store.”

Examples using a verb:

  •  週末に働く必要があります。(Shūmatsu ni hataraku hitsuyō ga arimasu.) — “I need to work on the weekend.”
  • あなたは病院に行く必要があります。(Anata wa byōin ni iku hitsuyō ga arimasu.) — “You need to go to a hospital.”
  • 学生は卒業試験に合格する必要があります。(Gakusei wa sotsugyō shiken ni gōkaku suru hitsuyō ga arimasu.) — “The students need to pass the graduation exam.”
Students Taking a Test in a Classroom

Watashi wa shiken ni gōkaku suru hitsuyō ga arimasu. = “I need to pass the exam.”

5. I like …  …が好きです 

I like … = [noun] …が好きです (ga suki desu)

This is one of the easiest and most useful sentences in Japanese. You can use it the same way you would in English when you’re fond of something or someone.

Examples:

  • 私は動物が好きです。(Watashi wa dōbutsu ga suki desu.) — “I like animals.”
  • 彼は食べることが好きです。(Kare wa taberu koto ga suki desu.) — “He likes eating.”
  • 私の猫は昼寝が好きです。(Watashi no neko wa hirune ga suki desu.) — “My cat likes taking a nap.”
  • かおりは背が高い男性が好きです。(Kaori wa se ga takai dansei ga suki desu.) — “Kaori likes tall guys.”
  • 私は山より海が好きです。(Watashi wa yama yori umi ga suki desu.) — “I like the sea more than the mountains.”
Sentence Components

6. Please (do) …   ….(して)ください 

“Please (do) …” = … [verb]  …ください (kudasai)

This is a simple sentence pattern in Japanese for asking someone to do something; here, the word ください(Kusadai) is used with a verb. 

Also note that when a noun and the postpositional particle を (o) come before kudasai, it becomes a polite way of saying “Please give (me) [noun].”  For example: りんごを一つください (ringo o hitotsu kudasai), meaning “Please give me one apple.”

Examples:

  •  静かにしてください。(Shizuka ni shite kudasai.) — “Please be quiet.”
  • お座りください。(O-suwari kudasai.) — “Please be seated/sit down.”
  • そのペンを取ってください。(Sono pen o totte kudasai.) — “Please take the pen.”
  • 食事の前に手を洗ってください。(Shokuji no mae ni te o aratte kudasai.) — “Please wash your hands before the meal.”
  • 次の電車が来るまでしばらくお待ちください。(Tsugi no densha ga kuru made shibaraku o-machi kudasai.) — “Please wait some time until the next train comes.”

7. May I / Can I (Do) …?   ….(しても)いいですか。

“May I / Can I (do) …?”  = … [verb] …(しても)いいですか。(mo ii desu ka.)  

This is a very common Japanese language sentence structure to ask for permission in a polite way. It literally means: “(Is it/Am I) good to (do)…?”

Examples:

  • 今から行ってもいいですか。(Ima kara itte mo ii desu ka.) — “Can I go now?”
  • 水を飲んでもいいですか。(Mizu o nonde mo ii desu ka.) — “Can I drink water?”
  • 明日提出してもいいですか。(Ashita teishutsu shite mo ii desu ka.) — “May I submit it tomorrow?”
  • ここで楽器を演奏してもいいですか。(Koko de gakki o ensō shite mo ii desu ka.) — “Can I play instruments here?”
  • この切符でこの電車に乗ってもいいですか。(Kono kippu de kono densha ni notte mo ii desu ka.) — “Can I take this train with this ticket?”
The

Kono kippu de kono densha ni notte mo ii desu ka. = “Can I take this train with this ticket?”

8. What is …?   ….は何ですか? 

“What is …?” = … [noun] ….は何ですか?(wa nan desu ka?) 

This is a very simple phrase to ask for information in a polite way.  

Examples:

  • これは何ですか。(Kore wa nan desu ka.) — “What is this?”
  • あなたの名前は何ですか。(Anata no namae wa nan desu ka.) — “What is your name?”
  • 今年の和暦は何ですか。(Kotoshi no wareki wa nan desu ka.) — “What is the year of the Japanese era this year?”
  • この下着の素材は何ですか。(Kono shitagi no sozai wa nan desu ka.) — “What is the material of this underwear?”
  • あなたの一番好きな映画は何ですか。(Anata no ichi-ban suki na eiga wa nan desu ka.) — “What is your favorite movie?”
A Man Watching Soccer on TV

Anata no ichi-ban suki na eiga wa nan desu ka. = “What is your favorite movie?”

9. When is …?   ….はいつですか? 

“When is …?” = … [noun] ….はいつですか。(wa itsu desu ka.)

This is a common Japanese sentence pattern to ask about time in a polite way.  

Examples:

  • 次の会議はいつですか。(Tsugi no kaigi wa itsu desu ka.) — “When is the next meeting?”
  • あなたの誕生日はいつですか。(Anata no tanjōbi wa itsu desu ka.) — “When is your birthday?”
  • 桜の満開時期はいつですか。(Sakura no mankai jiki wa itsu desu ka.) — “When is the best season of full-bloom cherry blossoms?”
  • 初めて海外旅行したのはいつですか。(Hajimete kaigai ryokō shita no wa itsu desu ka.) — “When was the first time you traveled overseas?”
  • 大学の卒業式はいつですか。(Daigaku no sotsugyōshiki wa itsu desu ka.) — “When is the graduation ceremony of the university?”
A Diploma, Graduation Cap, and Stack of Books

Sotsugyōshiki wa itsu desu ka. = “When is the graduation ceremony?”

10. Where is …?   ….はどこですか? 

“Where is …?” = … [noun] ….はどこですか。(wa doko desu ka.)

This is a common Japanese sentence pattern for asking about location in a polite way.  

Examples:

  • 明日の会議はどこですか。(Ashita no kaigi wa doko desu ka.) — “Where is the meeting tomorrow?”
  •  あなたの地元はどこですか。(Anata no jimoto wa doko desu ka.) — “Where is your hometown?”
  • 渋谷駅はどこですか。(Shibuya Eki wa doko desu ka.) — “Where is Shibuya Station?”
  • 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 toilet from here?”
  • 東海道新幹線の乗り場はどこですか。(Tōkaidō Shinkansen no noriba wa doko desu ka.) — “Where is the platform of Tōkaidō Shinkansen?”

For more information (with audio) about the most useful Japanese sentence patterns, please check out the Top 10 Sentence Patterns for Beginners lesson on our website.

11. Conclusion: How JapanesePod101.com Can Help You Learn More Japanese

In this article, we introduced the ten most useful sentence patterns in Japanese. Once you learn these Japanese sentence patterns, you can create many more variations for better communication! The good thing about Japanese is that verbs don’t conjugate in terms of the number (singular/plural), person (I, you, he, she, we, they, it), or gender of the subject/object! So don’t hesitate to practice speaking today!

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’s some more information about Japanese basics, with audio to enrich your conversations:

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 there are any Japanese sentence patterns you still want to know! We’d be glad to help, and look forward to hearing from you!

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Ultimate Japanese Verb Conjugation Guide

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How many verbs do you think you use everyday? Verbs are the second-most frequently used part of speech in Japanese (after nouns), making it crucial to know and understand Japanese verb conjugation.

Compared to English, Japanese verb conjugation has distinct rules which might be difficult to understand at first. However, the good news is that Japanese verbs do not conjugate according to the speaker. Instead, the Japanese verb conjugation rules are the same for every grammatical person, or 人称 (ninshō), and any number of subjects (singular or plural). Therefore, you won’t be easily confused on how to conjugate Japanese verbs in this respect. In addition, there are very few irregular verb conjugations!

In this article, we’ll introduce the basics of Japanese verbs and Japanese verb conjugation, including verb groups and conjugation patterns. We’ll also provide examples for you.
Once you learn the conjugation patterns, you only have to apply the rules to any new verbs you learn! Let’s get started here at JapanesePod101.com!

Table of Contents
  1. What is Conjugation?
  2. Japanese Verb Conjugation Groups
  3. Conjugation Patterns
  4. Conjugation Patterns for Irregular Verbs
  5. Let’s Practice!
  6. Conclusion: How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese
Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in Japanese

1. What is Conjugation?

Top Verbs

1 – What Does Conjugation Mean?

Conjugation in Japanese is described as the variation of the form of a certain part of speech—such as verbs—which is influenced by certain elements. These include: voice, mood, tense, and politeness level.

In Japanese, there are four parts of speech which have conjugation: 

In this article, we’ll just be focusing on Japanese verb conjugations so we can explain in better detail. 

2 – What Affects Conjugation? 

As we mentioned above, the voice, mood, tense, and politeness level are identified by the form of Japanese verb conjugation used.

  • Voice

There are two types of voice: 能動態 (nōdōtai), or “active voice,” and 受動態 (judōtai), or “passive voice.”

  • The basic form of a verb is usually the active voice, where the subject performs the action.

    私は日記を書く
    Watashi wa nikki o kaku.
    “I write a journal.”
  • In Japanese, the passive voice is mainly used when the action is performed on the subject, or 受け身 (ukemi). However, it’s also used for other cases, such as:

    可能 (kanō) — to denote ability
    自発 (jihatsu) — spontaneous
    使役 (shieki) — causative
    尊敬 (sonkei) — respectful language

The Japanese passive voice is expressed in either れる (reru) or られる (rareru), which are auxiliary verbs used together with other verbs.

-Passive action: 
先生によく叱-られる
Sensei ni yoku shika-rareru.
“I’m often scolded by the teacher.”

-Ability:              
たくさん食べ-られる
Takusan tabe-rareru.
“I can eat a lot.”

-Spontaneous:  
毎年あの災害が思い出さ-れる
Maitoshi ano saigai ga omoidasa-reru.
“That disaster is remembered every year.”

-Respectful:      
講師が話さ-れる
Kōshi ga hanasa-reru.
“A lecturer is talking.” [In a respectful manner]

Someone Writing in a Journal

Active: Watashi wa nikki o kaku. (“I write a journal.”)

Passive: Nikki wa watashi ni yori kakareru. (“The journal is written by me.”)

  • Mood 

There are different types of moods that are identified in the conjugation forms. Grammatical mood  refers to the attitude of the speaker toward the action of the verb. For example, it indicates whether  that person is giving an order, making an assumption, giving a suggestion, etc.

Example:

Dictionary form : 食べる (taberu) “to eat”

Verb stem: 食べ- (tabe-)  

Mood / UsageConjugationKanji
Negative Formtabenai食べない
Attributive Form taberu(toki)食べ(とき)
Conditional Formtabereba食べれば
Imperative Formtabero食べ
Volitional Form ( “Let’s-“)tabe食べよう
  • Tense  

Japanese verb conjugation by tense is actually very simple when compared to English and romance languages such as French, Spanish, and Italian.

There are just two main tenses for the Japanese verb forms: present and past tense. The form of the present tense is used for future and habitual action, and therefore there is no particular future tense. 

The past tense always ends with た。 (ta).  

  • Japanese verb conjugation (Present Tense):

    私は今出かける
    Watashi wa ima dekakeru.
    “I go out now.”

    私は来週出かける
    Watashi wa raishū dekakeru.
    Literal translation: “I go out next week,” or “I will go out next week.”
  • Japanese verb conjugation (Past Tense):

    私は出かけた
    Watashi wa dekaketa.
    “I went out.”
  • Level of Politeness   

In Japanese conjugation, politeness level is another factor to consider. Verbs in the dictionary form are casual and informal, while verbs in the formal form end with ます (-masu), as do verbs in the ordinary polite form 丁寧語 (Teineigo).

In addition to verb conjugation, the Japanese language (especially verbs) has three types of 敬語 (keigo), or “honorific language,” which affect the Japanese conjugation forms. They also show different levels of respect: 

丁寧語 (teineigo) — polite

尊敬語 (sonkeigo) — respectful

謙譲語 (kenjōgo) — humble / modest

They’re used to express social distance and intimacy, as well as disparity or similarity in rank. For more details on Japanese 敬語 (keigo), please visit Japanese Honorifics.

It’s necessary for adults to be able to use 敬語 (keigo) properly in formal situations in Japan. However, you can use at least the formal/polite form without being rude.

Here’s a Japanese conjugation table for 言う (iu), or “to say,” by politeness level.

FormReadingKanji
Dictionary / Informali-u言-う
Formal / Teineigo / Politeii-masu言い-ます
Sonkeigo / Respectfulossharuおっしゃる
Kenjōgo / Humblemōsu申す
Two Japanese Businessmen Bowing to each Other

Appropriate use of 敬語 (keigo) is a must in the Japanese business world.

2. Japanese Verb Conjugation Groups

Japanese verbs always end with u or ru, and verbs are categorized into three groups: 

Class 1: U-verb

Class 2 : Ru-verb

Class 3: Irregular verb

Japanese verbs consist of two parts: a verb base (“stem”) and a suffix.  

A stem doesn’t change and a suffix conjugates according to the voice, mood, tense, and forms (casual vs. polite, and plain vs. negative).

1 – Class 1: U-verbs

More Essential Verbs

U-verbs always end with –u. However, please note that this refers to the last vowel being u when it’s written in reading form. Therefore, U-verbs can end with Hiragana う(u), く (ku), す(su), つ(tsu), ぬ (nu), む (mu), and sometimes る (ru). 

Examples of U-verbs

EnglishReadingKanjiHiragana
“listen” / “hear”kiku聞くきく
“wait”matsu待つまつ
“write”kaku書くかく
“go”iku行くいく

2 – Class 2: Ru-Verbs

Ru-verbs always end with –ru which is Hiragana る. Some verbs that end with る (ru) are categorized as U-verbs, such as 取る (toru), meaning “take,” but they’re just a few exceptions that you’ll easily start to recognize.

Examples of Ru-verbs

EnglishReadingKanjiHiragana
“eat”taberu食べる食べる
“wake up” /
“get up”
okiru起きるおきる
“sleep”neru寝るねる
“teach”oshieru教えるおしえる

3 – Class 3: Irregular Verbs

Surprise! There are only two irregular Japanese verbs, which are 来る (kuru), meaning “come,” and する (suru), meaning “do.”

Unlike U-verbs and Ru-verbs, the stem of the irregular verbs change according to the conjugation forms. 

The Japanese verb する (suru), meaning “do,” is one of the most frequently used verbs. It’s also very handy because it can often turn a noun into a verb when it’s added after a noun. Here’s how Japanese irregular verb conjugation works for this word:

  • 回転 (kaiten)  + する (suru)  = “to rotate” / “to spin around”
    [“rotation” / “spin”]             [“do”]  
  • 出席 (shusseki)  + する (suru)  = “to attend”
    [“attendance”]                    [“do”]
  •  謝罪 (shazai) +  する (suru)  = “to apologize”
                [“apology”]                         [“do”]

For more Japanese verb vocabulary, please visit our article on The 100+ Most Common Japanese Verbs.

Two People jogging on the Road Together

運動 (undō) “exercise” +  する (suru) “to do” = Undō-suru (“to exercise”)

3. Conjugation Patterns

In the Japanese verb conjugation system, a suffix (which is often an auxiliary verb) plays an important role in conjugation, together with the main verb.

1 – Class 1: U-verb Conjugation

U-verbs conjugate as in this example:

  • Dictionary form: はなす・話す (hanasu) “to talk” / “to speak”
  • Verb stem: はな- (hana-)  

The verb 話す (hanasu), which means “to talk” or “to speak,” has the stem はな (hana) and the suffix す (su). 

In Japanese conjugation, suffixes conjugate and change like in the example below, according to the forms.

FormInformalFormal
Presentはな-す 
hana-su 
はな-します
hana-shimasu
Negative-presentはな-さない
hana-sanai
はな-しません
hana-shimasen
Pastはな-した
hana-shita
はな-しました
hana-shimashita
Negative-pastはな-さなかった
hana-sanakatta
はな-しませんでした
hana-shimasen deshita
Volitionalはな-そう
hana-sō
はな-しましょう
hana-shimashō
Passiveはな-される
hana-sareru
はな-されます
hana-saremasu
Causativeはな-させる
haha-saseru
はな-させます
haha-sasemasu
Conditionalはな-せば
hana-seba
Imperativeはな-せ
hana-se
はな-しなさい
haha-shinasai

Example Sentences

  • 私は彼と話しませんでした。
    Watashi wa kare to hana-shimasen deshita
    “I didn’t talk with him.” [past / formal / polite]
  • 彼らと一緒に話そう。
    Kare-ra to issho ni hana-sō.   
    “Let’s talk with them.” [volitional / informal]
  • 本当のことを話せ!
    Hontō no koto o hana-se!  
    “Tell the truth!” [imperative / informal]
Negative verbs

2 – Class 2: Ru-verb Conjugation

Ru-verb conjugation is similar to U-verb conjugation, but slightly different. Please pay attention to the suffix after the stem. 

  • Dictionary form:  たべる・食べる (taberu) “to eat”
  • Verb stem: たべ- (tabe-)  

The verb 食べる (taberu), meaning “to eat,” has the stem たべ (tabe) and the suffix る (ru). 

The suffix conjugates and changes as follows:

FormInformalFormal
Presentたべ-る
tabe-ru
たべ-ます
tabe-masu
Negative-presentたべ-ない
tabe-nai
たべ-ません
tabe-masen
Pastたべ-た
tabe-ta
たべ-ました
tabe-mashita
Negative-pastたべ-なかった
tabe-nakatta
たべ-ませんでした
tabe-masen deshita
Volitionalたべ-よう
tabe-yō
たべ-ましょう
tabe-mashō
Passiveたべ-られる
tabe-rareru
たべ-られます
tabe-raremasu
Causativeたべ-させる
tabe-saseru
たべ-させます
tabe-sasemasu
Conditionalたべ-れば
tabe-reba
Imperativeたべ-ろ
tabe-ro
たべ-なさい
tabe-nasai

Example Sentences

  • 彼女は肉を食べません。
    Kanojo wa niku o tabe-masen.  
    “She does not eat meat.” [present / formal / polite]
  • 私は子供達に野菜を食べさせます。
    Watashi wa kodomo-tachi ni yasai o tabe-sasemasu.   
    “I make my children eat vegetables.” [causative / formal]
  • これを食べれば良くなるよ!
    Kore o tabe-reba yoku naru yo!  
    “If you eat this, you’ll get better!” [conditional]
Woman signaling that She doesn’t want Meat on Her Plate

Watashi wa niku o tabe-masen. = “I don’t eat meat.”

4. Conjugation Patterns for Irregular Verbs 

Contrary to U-verbs and Ru-verbs, the two irregular verbs 来る (kuru), meaning “come,” and する (suru), meaning “do,” conjugate even the stems. These two irregular verbs are frequently used, so let’s simply memorize them!

1. 来る

  • Dictionary form: くる・来る (kuru) “to come”
  • Verb stem: く (ku-) /  こ (ko-) / き (ki-
FormInformalFormal
Presentく-る
ku-ru
き-ます
ki-masu
Negative-presentこ-ない
ko-nai
き-ません
ki-masen
Pastき-た
ki-ta
き-ました
ki-mashita
Negative-pastこ-なかった
ko-nakatta
き-ませんでした
ki-masen deshita
Volitionalこ-よう
ko-yō
き-ましょう
ki-mashō
Passiveこ-られる
ko-rareru
こ-られます
ko-raremasu
Causativeこ-させる
ko-saseru
こ-させます
ko-sasemasu
Conditionalく-れば
ku-reba
Imperativeこ-い
ko-i
き-なさい
ki-nasai

Example Sentences

  • 彼女は昨日学校に来なかった。
    Kanojo wa kinō gakkō ni ko-nakatta.
    “She did not come to school yesterday.” [past / informal]
  • こちらへ来れば安全です。
    Kochira e ku-reba anzen desu. 
    “You will be safe if you come here.” [conditional]
  • 今すぐここへ来なさい!
    Ima sugu koko e ki-nasai!  
    “Come here right now!” [imperative / formal / polite]

2. する

  • Dictionary form: する (suru) “to do”
  • Verb stem: す (su-)  / し (shi-) / さ (sa-)
FormInformalFormal
Presentす-る
su-ru
し-ます
shi-masu
Negative-presentし-ない
shi-nai
し-ません
shi-masen
Pastし-た
shi-ta
し-ました
shi-mashita
Negative-pastし-なかった
shi-nakatta
し-ませんでした
shi-masen deshita
Volitionalし-よう
shi-yō
し-ましょう
shi-mashō
Passiveさ-れる
sa-reru
さ-れます
sa-remasu
Causativeさ-せる
sa-seru
さ-せます
sa-semasu
Conditionalす-れば
su-reba
Imperativeし-ろ
shi-ro
し-なさい
shi-nasai

Example Sentences

  • 彼はそんなことしません。
    Kare wa sonna koto shi-masen.
    “He does not do such things.” [present / formal / polite]
  • 一緒に勉強しよう。
    Issho ni benkyō shi-yō.    
    “Let’s study together.” [volitional / informal]
      * benkyō + suru (studying + do = to study)
  • 早くしなさい!
    Hayaku shi-nasai!  
    “Do it quickly!” [imperative / formal / polite]

5. Let’s Practice! 

Now it’s time for a Japanese conjugation quiz to practice! 

Try to conjugate each verb in the ( ), following the instructions, and write your answer in the blank. Even if you don’t know, try to guess and check the answers below!

  1. Write the verb in the past tense and informal form:

    Watashi wa kinō ringo o (taberu) ______ .
    (“I ate an apple yesterday.”)

  1. Write the verb in the volitional and formal form:

    Watashi-tachi to issho ni  (hanasu) ______ .
    (“Let’s talk with us.”)

  1. Write the verb in the negative-present and formal form:

    Kyō wa shiken no hi desu ga, dare mo (kuru) ______ .
    (“Although today is the exam day, nobody comes.”)

  1. Write the verb in the imperative and formal form:

    Kanojo ni (shazai suru) ______!
    (“Apologize to her!”)

  1. Write the verb in the volitional and formal/polite form: 

    Issho ni (iku) ______.
    (“Let’s go together.”)
Large Serving Tray of Sushi

Sushi o tabeyō! = “Let’s eat Sushi!”

Let’s check the answers!

  1. The past tense and informal form of taberu is tabemashita.
    It’s the conjugation pattern of Class 2: Ru-verbs.

    Watashi wa kinō ringo o tabemashita.
    (“I ate an apple yesterday.”)

  1. The volitional and formal form of hanasu is hanashimashō.
    It’s the conjugation pattern of Class 1: U-verbs.

    Watashi-tachi to issho ni hanashimashō.
    (“Let’s talk with us.”)

  1. The negative-present and formal form of kuru is kimasen.
    It’s the conjugation pattern of the Class 3 irregular verb 来る (kuru), meaning “to come.”

    Kyō wa shiken no hi desu ga, dare mo kimasen.
    (“Although today is the exam day, nobody comes.”)

  1. The imperative and formal form of shazai suru is shazai shinasai.
    It’s the conjugation pattern of the Class 3 irregular verb する (suru), meaning “to do.”
    * shazai (“apology”) + suru (“to do”) = “to apologize”

    Kanojo ni shazai shinasai!
    (“Apologize to her!”)

  1. The volitional and formal/polite form of iku is ikimashō.
    It’s the conjugation pattern of Class 1: U-verbs.

    Issho ni ikimashō.
    (“Let’s go together.”)

6. Conclusion: How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

In this article, we introduced you to Japanese verbs conjugation. Japanese verb conjugation has unique rules, but it’s simpler than you think. For example, you don’t have to worry about conjugating for person or number.

Once you master the conjugation patterns, you’ll be able to increase your verb vocabulary much easier!

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language and other useful Japanese phrases by situation, you’ll find a lot more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons for you to help improve your Japanese language skills. To start, here’s some more information about the basics of Japanese with audio: 

To learn more about Japanese verbs and other grammar-related topics, check out Basic Kanji for Verbs and The 50 Most Common Japanese Verbs You’ll Find in Textbooks. How to Improve Your Speaking Skills and Must-Know Adverbs and Phrases for Connecting Thoughts are also useful if you want to brush up on your Japanese conversation skills.

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

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

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