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How to Say Sorry in Japanese

Greetings are the first thing you learn when you start to learn a new language. “Hello” and “Thank you” are essential, but “Sorry” becomes even more important when it comes to good communication in a foreign culture which often has different customs and values from your original culture. Thus, “sorry” in studying Japanese is one of the most vital things you’ll learn.

One of the noteworthy features of Japanese apologies is that there are various ways to say sorry. How to say sorry in Japanese has variations, both formal and informal, and in the severity of what you’re apologizing for and who you’re apologizing to. Japanese apologies also have to accompany particular gestures in some situations.

Let’s take a detailed look at how to say sorry in Japanese words! Start with a bonus, and download your FREE cheat sheet - How to Improve Your Japanese Skills! (Logged-In Member Only)

  1. Japanese Apology from the Cultural Perspective
  2. “I’m Sorry” in Japanese — Formal
  3. “I’m Sorry” in Japanese — Informal
  4. Conclusion: How Japanesepod101.com Can Help You Learn More Japanese

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1. Japanese Apology from the Cultural Perspective

Japanese greetings are not only words of greeting, but also reflect the very Japanese culture and values, much more so than in other languages. The same is true of Japanese apologies, which are very important for avoiding conflicts and keeping good harmony with others in the society.

和 (wa) or “Harmony” is one of the most important values in Japan. It’s the concept that people prefer to maintain a peaceful unity and conformity with others, and it often involves priority to keep a harmonious state within a social group over its members’ personal interests.

Some Japanese apology words, such as Sumimasen or Gomen (see below), can be often used as a substitution for “thank you” which also contains a nuance of “gratitude.”

This may be very difficult for foreigners to understand, but in Japan, when other people do a favor for you, you’re thankful for it and also feel sorry for using their time and effort for you. In this case, those Japanese apology words are used to express both “thank you” and “sorry.” This comes from an idea in Japanese culture that an attitude of politeness and caring for others is valued, and troubling others is considered bad.


2. “I’m Sorry” in Japanese — Formal

Japanese Woman Bowing in Apology

1- Possible Situations and to Whom to Apologize

Formal Japanese apology words are typically used in official circumstances, such as at work, restaurants, shops, or other official office. They often involve people whom you’re not so close with and situations where certain kinds of official relationships exist: staff/manager, client/customer service provider, etc.

2- Apology Level: General らく

These are very common words and gestures for saying sorry in Japanese in the formal style. You can use these in most social situations.

1. Gestures

When you apologize, you’re supposed to show how sincerely sorry you are for your mistake to the offended person or people (otherwise, it would make them angrier and make the situation even worse!).

The common gesture is to place both of your arms and hands straight along your body, or place one of your hands in front of your lower belly, covering it with your other hand. With either of these gestures, you make a “sorry” expression with your face and your head, and slightly tilt down like when you bow.

2. Words and Phrases

すみません (Sumimasen) — I’m sorry

This is the most common “sorry” in spoken Japanese. This can be translated as “I’m sorry” or “Excuse me” in Japanese. This word is often used as a light apology and can also be “Thank you” in some situations as mentioned earlier.

You say Sumimasen when you bump into someone on the street, when you thrust your way through a crowd, when you spill a glass of water and a waitress has to clean it up, etc.

Example:

  • すみません、水をこぼしてしまいました。
    • Sumimasen, mizu o koboshite shimaimashita.
    • I’m sorry, I spilled the water.
  • すみません、切符はどこで買えますか。
    • Sumimasen, kippu wa doko de kaemasu?
    • Excuse me, where can I buy a ticket?

(When someone picked up something you dropped)

  • すみません、ポケットから落ちたのに気づきませんでした。
    • Sumimasen, poketto kara ochita no ni kizukimasen deshita.
    • Thank you, I didn’t notice it dropped from a pocket.

すみませんでした (Sumimasen deshita) — I am very sorry

This is the past tense of Sumimasen and is more serious. The past tense often sounds more formal and polite in Japanese when it comes to apologies. Unlike Sumimasen, this word doesn’t have the meaning of “Excuse me” or “Thank you.”

Example:

(When you made some mistakes at work and apologize to your boss)

  • すみませんでした、正しいデータで書類をすぐに修正します。
    • Sumimasen deshita, tadashii dēta de shorui o sugu ni shūsei shimasu.
    • I’m sorry, I will revise the document with correct data immediately.

(When you broke a glass at a restaurant)

  • グラスを壊してしまい、すみませんでした。
    • Gurasu o kowashite shimai, sumimasen deshita.
    • I’m sorry for breaking a glass.

Wine Glass Shattering

失礼しました (Shitsurei shimashita) — I’m sorry (for my mistake).

This is another formal and general way to say sorry in Japanese. Shitsurei literally translates as “impoliteness, rudeness, or bad manners,” and the phrase means “I was rude” or “I had bad manners.”

This word can be used the same way as Sumimasen deshita. If you want to say it more politely, use itashimashita instead of shimashita. Itashimashita is the respectful way to say “I did.”

Example:

(When a waiter brought you the wrong dish)

  • 失礼しました、すぐに味噌ラーメンをお持ちします。
    • Shitsurei shimashita, sugu ni miso rāmen o o-mochi shimasu.
    • I’m sorry, I will bring Miso Ramen as soon as possible.

(To your client)

  • 間違った商品の値段をお伝えしまして、失礼いたしました。
    • Machigatta shōhin no nedan o o-tsutae shimashite, shitsurei itashimashita.
    • I’m sorry that I told you the wrong price of the product.

3- Apology Level: Very Deep Apology

3 Ways to Say Sorry

The very deep apology in the formal style is quite serious and is used when the severity of your offense is considered very high. In order to show your serious and sincere apology, adjective words such as Hijō ni (“greatly”), Taihen (“terribly”), or Makoto ni (“truely”) are often added in front of the following apology words.

1. Gestures

For a deep and sincere apology, place both of your arms and hands straight along your body and bow 60 degrees forward, with your head and face down. If it’s a more serious situation, bow 90 degrees. (The different degrees of a bow show the level of severity.)

In the case of an extremely severe situation, you can express your seriousness with Dogeza style. Dogeza involves both of your knees down, your hands placed on the ground, and prostrating yourself with your forehead touching the floor.

In normal daily life, however, Dogeza is the last gesture to do in apology, unless you run over someone with your car and are going to apologize to the victim’s family!

2. Words and Phrases

申し訳ありませんでした (Mōshiwake arimasen deshita) — I am terribly sorry / I sincerely apologize

This is a polite formal apology and you should use this when you’ve done something very wrong.

The word Mōshi comes from the honorific word Mōsu which means “to say” in the form of Kenjō-go. While saying it, you humble yourself or lower your rank below that of the person you’re speaking to.

Wake means “reason,” Arimasen means “there is no,” and Deshita is the past tense. The phrase can be literally translated as: “There was no reason/excuse to say (for what I have done).”

Example:

(When something you bought is already broken and you take it to the shop, a staff member will say this)

  • 大変申し訳ありませんでした。新しいものに交換します。
    • Taihen mōshiwake arimasen deshita. Atarashii mono ni kōkan shimasu.
    • I am terribly sorry. I will replace it with a new one.

(To your boss)

  • 会議に遅刻してしまい、誠に申し訳ありませんでした。
    • Kaigi ni chikoku shite shimai, makoto ni mōshiwake arimasen deshita.
    • I am truly sorry that I came late for the meeting.

申し訳ございませんでした (Mōshiwake gozaimasen deshita) — I am terribly sorry / I sincerely apologize.

This is similar to Mōshiwake arimasen deshita, but this phrase is even more polite and respectful.
Gozaimasen is a negative of Gozaimasu which means “there is/are” in a very polite and respectful way.

Example:

(The president of a company that has conducted an accounting fraud)

  • 大変申し訳ございませんでした。詳細を調査してしかるべき対応をします。
    • Taihen mōshiwake gozaimasen deshita. Shōsai o chōsa shite shikarubeki taiō o shimasu.
    • We are terribly sorry. We will investigate the details and take the appropriate actions.

(When you bumped your car into someone else’s car)

  • 大変申し訳ございませんでした。損害の賠償をします。
    • Taihen mōshiwake gozaimasen deshita. Songai no baishō o shimasu.
    • I am terribly sorry. I will reimburse for the damage.

お詫び申し上げます (O-wabi mōshiagemasu) — I make a deep apology

This is another very polite way to say sorry in Japanese. This phrase is usually used after you apologize with mōshiwake arimasen deshita or mōshiwake gozaimasen deshita. The word O-wabi means “apology” in a polite way, and the phrase is translated as “I state apology” in a polite and respectful way.

Example:

  • 大変申し訳ございませんでした。お詫び申し上げます。
    • Taihen mōshiwake gozaimasen deshita. O-wabi mōshiagemasu.
    • We are terribly sorry. I make a humble apology.

Man Extending Hand in Apology


3. “I’m Sorry” in Japanese — Informal

1- Possible Situations

Informal apologies are used among very close people, such as family, friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, and people you know very well. Note that informal apologies in Japanese should never be used during official occasions because it sounds very casual and it would make things worse.

Saying Sorry

2- Apology Level: Light

These apology words are used in situations where you did something wrong or unpleasant but not so very bad.

1. Gestures

For light apologies, usually you just say sorry without any gestures. In some cases, casually put your palms together in front of your face.

2. Words and Phrases

ごめん (Gomen) — Sorry

The word Gomen originally meant “forgive” or “pardon” in a polite way in Japanese, and it was used to ask for forgiveness or pardon. Nowadays, it has become shorter so that we just use the word meaning “sorry.” When you want to say it in a cuter way or with affection, you add ne to the end: Gomen ne.

Example:

(After a couple fought over something)

  • A (male):
    • ごめん。俺が悪かった。
    • Gomen. Ore ga warukatta.
    • Sorry. I was bad.
  • B (female):
    • ごめんね。私も。
    • Gomen ne. Watashi mo.
    • Sorry. Me too.

(When you are late to meet your friend)

  • 遅れてごめん。
    • Okurete gomen.
    • Sorry for being late.

失礼 (Shitsurei) — Sorry / Excuse me

Shitsurei is the short and casual version of Shitsurei shimashita. This can also be used as “Excuse me.”

Example:

(After you burp/fart)

  • 失礼!
    • Shitsurei!
    • Sorry / Excuse me!

  
(When you thrust your way through a crowd of friends)
  

  • 失礼、通るよ。
    • Shitsurei, tōru yo.
    • Sorry, let me pass.

悪い (Warui) — My bad

It literally means “bad,” but in this case you can use this phrase as “My bad!” However, it sounds a little rough and this word is used mainly by men. Also note that in the example below, you’ll find a variation of how to say sorry I’m late in Japanese.

Example:

(When a boyfriend is late for dinner at a restaurant)

  • A (male):
    • 悪い、ちょっと遅れる。先に行って何か頼んでて。
    • Warui, chotto okureru. Saki ni itte nani ka tanonde te.
    • Sorry, I’ll be a bit late. You can go (to a restaurant) first and order something.
  • B (female):
    • わかった。飲み物頼んでおくね。
    • Wakatta. Nomimono tanonde oku ne.
    • Alright. I will order drinks.

Man and Woman at Nice Restaurant

3- Apology Level: General

The following phrase is the common, informal way to say sorry in Japanese. It’s casual, but still sounds polite. In some cases, this phrase can be used in semi-formal occasions.

1. Gestures

There is no particular gesture you should do for informal and general apologies. However, it’s a good idea to show your sincere feelings using facial expressions and through the tone of your voice.

2. Words and Phrases

ごめんなさい (Gomennasai) — I am sorry

Gomennasai is a more polite version of Gomen.

Example:

  • ごめんなさい。お母さんのパソコン壊しちゃった。
    • Gomennasai. O-kā-san no pasokon kowashichatta.
    • I’m sorry. I broke mom’s computer.

 (At a restaurant)
   

  • ごめんなさい。やっぱり注文はカルボナーラに変更したいです。
    • Gomennasai. Yappari chūmon wa carubonāra ni henkō shitai desu.
    • I’m sorry. I want to change my order to Carbonara.

4- Apology Level: Deep Apology

When you want to express your deep apology in informal occasions, you can add Hontō ni (“truly”) in front of Gomennasai. It looks more polite and sincere when you hold your hands in front of your lower belly, or put your palms together in front of your face.

Example:

  • 本当にごめんなさい。お父さんの車で事故おこしちゃった。
    • Hontō ni gomennasai. O-tō-san no kuruma de jiko okoshichatta.
    • I’m very sorry. I made a car accident with the father’s car.
  • 本当にごめんなさい。君に借りた本を失くした。
    • Hontō ni gomennasai. Kimi ni karita hon o nakushita.
    • I’m very sorry. I lost your book that I borrowed.


Conclusion: How Japanesepod101.com Can Help You Learn More Japanese

We hope this article on how to say sorry in Japanese is helpful and that you have a better understanding of the Japanese language and Japanese culture. You should now know many Japanese ways to say sorry, as “sorry” in learning Japanese is vital.

If you’d like to learn more about the Japanese language, you’ll find more useful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons for you to improve your Japanese language skills.

We also have a YouTube channel where you can enjoy learning the Japanese language by watching videos and listening to actual Japanese pronunciation. If you’re keen on how to read and write Japanese, which consists of three alphabets (hiragana, katakana, and kanji), you can learn more about Japanese gestures, basic Japanese, daily Japanese conversations, 100 Japanese phrases for beginners, and much more.

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Taiiku No Hi: Health and Sports Day in Japan

From time to time, we all need to reevaluate our health—our dietary habits, our exercise patterns (or lack thereof), and our ability to live each day well. On Health and Sports Day, the people of Japan do just this. This holiday encourages and inspires good health and more exercise at every level of society, but most especially for children and young adults.

In this article, you’ll learn about Health-Sports Day in Japan and how it affects the health and lives of people all over the country.

At JapanesePod101.com, we hope to make every aspect of your language-learning journey both fun and informative!

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1. What is Health and Sports Day in Japan?

Health and Sports Day is a national Japanese holiday dedicated to inspiring a love of sports, exercise, and good health. Further, people are encouraged to think about the role of exercise and health in their daily lives.

Do you know what event inspired the creation of Health-Sports Day?

The correct answer is the Tokyo Olympics. On October 10, 1964, the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games was held in great fanfare.

To commemorate this event, two years later, from 1966, October 10 became a national holiday to mark Sports Day. After this, since 2000, and in line with the Happy Monday System, Sports Day was moved to the second Monday of October. This means that every year, many people get to enjoy the feeling of playing sports under a fine autumn sky.

2. When is Japanese Health Sports Day?

Many Sports Items

Each year, Japan celebrates Health-Sports Day on the second Monday of October. For your convenience, here’s a list of this holiday’s date for the next ten years.

  • 2019: October 14
  • 2020: October 12
  • 2021: October 11
  • 2022: October 10
  • 2023: October 9
  • 2024: October 14
  • 2025: October 13
  • 2026: October 12
  • 2027: October 11
  • 2028: October 9

3. Celebrating Sports Day in Japan

On National Health and Sports Day, Japanese kindergartens, schools, companies, and regional organizations across the country hold events such as track meets. On top of relays and races, other more game-like events such as toss-ball, tug of war, and scavenger hunts, are also held.

There are also events such as sports festivals, physical fitness tests, and marathons, which the entire family can participate in. On Health and Sports Day, Japanese people can enjoy the autumn season, which is known in Japan as the season for sports.

At kindergarten and elementary school sports events, families also run in order to support their running child. A common sight on Health Sports Day in Japan is that of fathers holding video cameras, lined up in the best position for taking a video while cheering loudly through the viewfinder. The sight of children running with all their might is very cute and is sure to make anyone cheer excitedly. At lunchtime, the children eat lunch with their families.

Each municipality also organizes a sports event for Health and Sports Day in Japan. These include events where parents and children can enjoy Frisbee, bowling, and marathons. Some places also offer health assessments for adults to raise awareness of their own lack of exercise.

On Health-Sports Day, Japanese amateur teams in sports such as soccer and baseball form inter-league games and have fun while breaking a sweat.

4. Fine Weather, Indeed

Two People Jogging

Statistically, this day has a high likelihood of having good weather. According to the statistics, in the thirty-four years since Sports Day was first held on October 10, there has been a more than eighty-five percent chance of no rain in Tokyo.

5. Essential Vocabulary for Health-Sports Day in Japan

Taking Care of Health

Here’s some essential vocabulary you should know to talk about Health and Sports Day in Japanese!

  • スポーツ (スポーツ) — sports
  • ジョギング (ジョギング) — jogging
  • 体育の日 (たいいくのひ) — Health-Sports Day
  • 運動 (うんどう) — exercise
  • 健康 (けんこう) — health
  • 運動会 (うんどうかい) — sports festival
  • 体力測定 (たいりょく そくてい) — measurement of physical fitness
  • 運動不足 (うんどうぶそく) — lack of exercise
  • スポーツに親しむ (スポーツにしたしむ) — familiar with sports
  • スポーツの秋 (スポーツのあき) — Autumn is the season for sports.
  • 1964年夏季オリンピック (1964ねん かきオリンピック) — 1964 Summer Olympics

To hear each of these vocabulary words pronounced, alongside relevant images, check out our Japanese Health-Sports Day vocabulary list!

How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

We hope you enjoyed learning about Health-Sports Day in Japan with us, and learned something new.

Are there any holidays or special events in your country to encourage better health? Tell us about it in the comments; we love hearing from you!

To continue learning about Japanese culture and the language, explore JapanesePod101.com. We provide an array of fun and effective learning tools for every learner, at every level:

  • Insightful blog posts on a range of cultural and language-related topics
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Japanese Keiro no hi: Respect for the Aged Day in Japan

Have you ever wondered “How are the elderly treated in Japan?”

Each year, the Japanese population celebrates and honors the elderly people in Japan for their contributions to society. The aged are regarded with much respect, and Respect for the Aged Day is a special occasion on which to really go all out and show this admiration.

In this article, you’ll learn all about the Respect for the Aged Day meaning, and more facts about the elderly people in Japan. Learning about this holiday and what it looks like in Japanese society will go a long way toward helping you understand the culture of Japan.

At JapanesePod101.com, we hope to make every aspect of your learning journey both fun and informative! So let’s get started.

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1. What is Respect for the Aged Day?

Essentially, the Respect for the Aged Day meaning has to do with respecting one’s elders.

Respect for the Aged Day, Tokyo and all over Japan, is when Japanese people convey feelings of gratitude, respect, and good wishes toward the elderly population. Be it grandparents, parents, or elderly neighbors, the Japanese recognize the contributions that the aged have made for society to make it what it is today.

While there are several theories about this holiday’s origins, many people think it began in a rural village in the Hyōgo Prefecture in 1947. However, until 1964, this holiday was known as としよりのひ (toshiyori no hi), or “Old Folks’ Day.”

2. Respect for the Aged Day Date

Third Monday in September

Each year in Japan, Respect for the Aged Day is observed on the third Monday of September. For your convenience, here’s a list of this holiday’s date for the next ten years.

  • 2019: September 16
  • 2020: September 21
  • 2021: September 20
  • 2022: September 19
  • 2023: September 18
  • 2024: September 16
  • 2025: September 15
  • 2026: September 21
  • 2027: September 20
  • 2028: September 18

3. How to Celebrate Respect for the Aged Day

Comparatively speaking, this holiday is a modern one. Therefore, Respect for the Aged Day traditions are few, though there are a few common Respect for the Aged Day activities that we’ll cover here.

The day before, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare finds out how many people are over 100 years of age. Local municipalities often give gifts or souvenirs to elderly people who are celebrating a milestone birthday that year, such as Sanju (which is when they turn 80), or Sotsuju (which is when they turn 90). Those turning 100 years old or older receive a visit from the city or town mayor. They’re then congratulated and presented with a congratulatory gift.

On Respect for the Aged Day, and the days surrounding it, the elderly gather together in public facilities, such as community centers, to watch entertainment—such as choir and dance performances—alongside the participants and local residents. Sometimes the elderly also receive souvenirs such as red rice, Japanese sweets, and magnifying glasses.

Kindergartens and nurseries invite grandparents to see their grandchildren, and elementary school students write letters of thanks to their grandparents. This day is a good opportunity for different generations to strengthen their bonds.

Naturally, households with elderly family members convey their gratitude on Respect for the Aged Day, but families who live apart get involved as well. Often, this involves not only saying thank you, but also giving gifts. Meals, flowers, handmade crafts by the grandchildren, and photos of the grandchildren, are high on the list of popular gifts.

4. A Declining Population

Old Woman with Flowers

Japan currently faces the prospect of a declining population, and this is a potential situation that could result in profound economic and social impacts.

Japan’s population is rapidly aging, which means that the number of people over 65 is rapidly increasing. Some people also call this phenomenon the “graying” of the population.

There are a few major factors behind this trend:

  • An increasing number of retiring baby boomers
  • Gains in longevity
  • Decreasing fertility

To combat this, the Japanese government has implemented a series of plans, beginning in 1995, with the goal of improving conditions for child-rearing.

5. Useful Vocabulary for Respect for the Aged Day

Longevity Rankings

Here’s some vocabulary you need to know for Respect for the Aged Day in Japan!

  • プレゼント (プレゼント) — present
  • 孫 (まご) — grandchild
  • 米寿 (べいじゅ) — 88th birthday
  • 敬老の日 (けいろうのひ) — Respect-for-the-Aged Day
  • 祝う (いわう) — celebrate
  • 高齢者 (こうれいしゃ) — senior citizen
  • 祖父母 (そふぼ) — grandparents
  • 長寿 (ちょうじゅ) — long life
  • お年寄り (おとしより) — elderly person
  • 9月の第3月曜日 (くがつの だいさんげつようび) — the third Monday in September
  • 長寿番付 (ちょうじゅばんづけ) — longevity ranking
  • 白寿 (はくじゅ) — 99th birthday
  • 卒寿 (そつじゅ) — 90th birthday
  • 傘寿 (さんじゅ) — 80th birthday
  • 喜寿 (きじゅ) — 77th birthday

To hear each of these vocabulary words pronounced, check out our Respect for the Aged Day vocabulary list!

How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Understand Japanese Culture

We hope you enjoyed learning about Respect for the Aged Day with us! Does your country have a holiday to celebrate or show respect to the aged and eldelry? Let us know in the comments!

To continue learning about Japanese culture and the language, explore JapanesePod101.com. We provide an array of fun and effective learning tools for every learner, at every level:

  • Insightful blog posts on an array of cultural and language-related topics
  • Free vocabulary lists covering a range of topics and themes
  • Podcasts to improve your listening and pronunciation skills
  • Mobile apps so you can learn Japanese anywhere, on your own time
  • Much, much more!

If you’re interested in trying a one-on-one learning approach, be sure to upgrade to Premium Plus. Doing so will give you access to your own Japanese teacher who will help you create a learning plan based on your needs and goals. Yes, really!

Japanese isn’t an easy language to master, but know that your hard work and determination will pay off. You’ll be speaking, writing, and reading Japanese like a native before you know it, and JapanesePod101 will be here with you on each step of your language-learning journey!

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Japanese Hand Gestures and Body Language

Thumbnail

Every culture has its own unique body gestures when speaking to express certain feelings or situations efficiently. Japanese hand gestures and body language are no exception and there are a variety of body gestures in Japan—many more than you’d expect!

Most Japanese body gestures are particular to the Japanese culture and foreign people may wonder what they stand for, or even get the wrong meaning from them. Learning the body language in Japan will not only help you understand the Japanese culture better, but also make you feel more comfortable communicating with Japanese people.

If you’re a beginner in the Japanese language, you can express and communicate much more with Japanese body gestures without lengthy explanation. If you already know much about spoken Japanese, using Japanese body language and hand gestures while speaking will make you look more natural and fluent than you actually are!

Here’s a list of common Japanese gestures and other Japanese body signs. Start with a bonus, and download your FREE cheat sheet - How to Improve Your Japanese Skills! (Logged-In Member Only)

Table of Contents

  1. Body Gestures
  2. Hand Gestures
  3. Face Gestures and Facial Expressions
  4. Conclusion: How Japanesepod101.com Can Help You Learn More Japanese

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1. Body Gestures

1- Bow

Bowing is one of the most important things in Japanese etiquette for any occasion, in both formal and informal settings. It’s also one of the most common Japanese body language gestures. Bowing can represent a number of things, such as greetings, gratitude, and apologies.

1. Bow with upper body to 15 degrees (会釈 [Eshaku]) : [Informal]

- Meaning: Saluting; light greeting; slight bow

- How to do:
From the beginning posture of standing straight and facing toward the person you wish to bow to, bow and tilt your upper body forward 15 degrees. Your eyes are kept on the person you greet. In informal settings, you don’t need to use your hands; however, it’s more polite if you hold your hands in front of you.

- When/where to use:
This light bow or Eshaku is usually used for an informal and light greeting, gratitude, or apology. This is a casual greeting and not a proper greeting. However, this can be used in business settings in some cases. Japanese people sometimes do this even after finishing a proper greeting as a repetition of a proper greeting.

- Example situation:
When you pass by someone you know on the street, in the office, at school, etc., you bow Eshaku and say “Hi” or “Hello.” However, you don’t always need to include the actual greeting words when you greet with Eshaku.

Eshaku: Smile to someone whom you greet as you bow. Holding hands is polite but not necessary in most cases.

2. Bow with upper body to 30 degrees (敬礼 [Keirei]): [Formal]

- Meaning: Respectful saluting; greeting

- How to do:
From the beginning posture of standing straight in line and facing toward the person you wish to bow to, bow slowly and tilt your upper body forward 30 degrees. Make sure you keep your back straight and don’t just bend your head when you bow. As you bow, you naturally look at the floor. Your arms and hands are placed straight along your body, or in some situations such as in hospitality, hands are placed in front your body, covering one hand with the other. This hand position is suitable for women.

- When/where to use:
You use this gesture in formal settings when you greet, thank, or apologize to someone whom you should communicate with respectfully, such as a client, customer, boss, etc. This is a Japanese gesture of respect.

- Example situation:
This bow or Keirei is used when staffs welcome customers at a luxury hotel or restaurant, and when you apologize to your boss for something at work.

Keirei

Keirei: Make sure your back is not arched when you bow and do not move too quickly.

3. Bow with upper body to 45 degrees (最敬礼 [Saikeirei]): [Formal]

- Meaning: The most respectful saluting; greeting; deep apology

- How to do:
Do basically the same action as Keirei, but in this case you bow and tilt your upper body deeper, to 45 degrees.

- When/where to use:
This gesture is used when you greet or apologize with respect at the highest level of seriousness or severity. This is a very formal style and is used at work and for other official occasions.

- Example situation:
The president of a company which produced defective products apologizes with this bow or Saikeirei at a press conference.

Saikeirei

Saikeirei: Your back is kept straight and you bow deeply and slowly to show respect.

2- Expressing that You’re Embarrassed or Upset

- Meaning: Embarrassed; upset

- How to do: Raise one of your arms and put a hand behind your slightly tilted head.

- When to use:
This is one of the most common Japanese body language and gestures to use when a person is embarrassed about something, or is upset by something that another person said.

- Example situation:
You’re likely to see this gesture when a father finds a huge mess made by his children after he was asked by his wife to take good care of them. He would be thinking, “Oh what should I do with this mess, my wife would get angry if she finds this out…” Or, you do this gesture when your friend asks you if he can use your car. Instead of directly saying “No,” you can use this gesture to show him that you’re upset and you don’t feel like lending it.

Woman scratching her head

Japanese people usually show embarrassed/upset expressions on their faces often with awkward small smiles.

3- The ”No, no” Wave

- Meaning: “No, no”; something is different

- How to do:
Wave your arm and hand in front of your body or face. The position of your elbow is fixed and not moving around.

- When to use:
This Japanese gesture is used when you want to deny something that has just been said. Japanese people often say, chigau, chiagu (“no, no”) while doing this gesture.

- Example:
A: Is he your boyfriend?
B: No, no. *wave*

Wave when you deny something in casual situations. Shaking your head left and right emphasizes more denial.


2. Hand Gestures

Hand Gestures

1- Pointing to Your Nose

- Meaning: “Me?”

- How to do:
Put the tip of your pointing finger on your nose.

- When to use:
Wondering about pointing in Japan? While Western people place an index finger on their chest, Japanese people place it on their nose when they indicate themselves.

- Example:
Teacher (from a distance in a class): You answer this problem.
Student: Me? *points to his nose*

Usually you point to your nose facing straight.

2- Put Hands Together

- Meaning: Asking for forgiveness or favor; thankful for a meal

- How to do:
Put your palms together in front of your body.

- When to use:
Western people may think this is the “praying” posture. However, Japanese people do this gesture when they casually say sorry, ask for a light favor, or before starting to eat a meal.

- Example situation:
Itadakimasu (I thank for a meal)! *Put hands together and start to eat*

Can you fix my computer? Please! *Put hands together*

Putting hands together is a very common gesture in Japan. You also see people do this in front of a shrine for praying.

Woman Putting Hands Togeteher

3- Crossed Index Fingers

- Meaning: “Check/bill please” (at restaurants)

- How to do:
Cross your index fingers in front of your face.

- When to use:
When you ask for a bill at a restaurant, you show your crossed fingers to a waiter/waitress. Please keep in mind that this is a very casual sign and you shouldn’t do this at very nice restaurants!

- Example:
(At a restaurant)
“Can you bring water and the check, please?” *Cross your fingers*

Woman Crossed Fingers

This gesture is often seen in Izakaya, Japanese style restaurants, often by men.

4- The “Come, Come” Hand Wave Toward You:

- Meaning: “Come, come!” or “Come here.”

- How to do:
Raise your hand in front of you and wave it toward you (the palm faces the person you’re calling), and move your fingers quickly up and down.

- When to use:
This hand gesture is used when you call someone over. This gesture is the other way around in other cultures, with the palm facing up and pulling it towards you. So, make sure your palm is facing toward the other person when you wave your hand to call someone over in Japan.

- Example:
1.) “Hey! We are here. Come over here!” *Wave*

2.) “My baby, come here! Come, come.” *Wave*

Please keep in mind that this gesture is used in casual occasions and it would be impolite if you do this to someone you’re supposed to respect or older people.

5- Chopping Hand While Walking:

- Meaning: Let me pass through; I’m cutting through

- How to do:
Hold your one hand up and chop the air in front of you repeatedly. The position of your elbow is fixed.

- When to use:
This is a gesture for when you want to make your way through the crowd, and is often used by older men. Japanese people say Chotto sumimasen (“Excuse me”) while walking through a crowd with this gesture.

- Example:
Chotto sumimasen, tōshite kudasai (“Excuse me, let me pass.”) *Chop chop*

Chotto Sumimasen

Please don’t forget to say Chotto sumimasen (“Excuse me”) when you do this gesture and pass through.


3. Face Gestures and Facial Expressions

1- 目礼 (Mokurei) — Eye Contact

- Meaning: Greet with eyes; nod

- How to do:
Look the person in his/her eyes and nod by slightly pulling your chin.

- When to use:
This is another way to greet people, apart from the three forms of bowing mentioned above. Japanese people use eye-contact greeting in situations that require you not to make noise or when you can’t move. This sign indicates that you notice someone’s presence. Smiling while greeting with Mokurei is a bonus point.

- Example situation:
You make eye contact with someone when you want to greet them but they’re talking to someone else. You can also use it when there’s some distance between you and this person and your voice can’t reach them because of the crowd.

Woman Looking Towards Viewer

Mokurei: Eye contact is important. Japanese people are used to read feelings from facial expressions and implications through eyes.

2- Nodding

- Meaning: Yes; I agree

- How to do:
Pull your chin toward your throat.

- When to use:
As you may notice, Japanese people often nod with this gesture repeatedly and say Un un (“yes, yes”) while they’re listening to someone. This gesture indicates that you understand the person who’s making a speech and that you’re not against him/her. Making the atmosphere of Wa (“harmony”) and avoiding conflict is very important in the Japanese culture.

- Example:
[While listening to someone]
Un Un, naruhodo (“Yes, yes, I see.”) *Nod nod*

Two People Talking

Japanese people often say Un Un (“Yes, yes”) casually, or Hai hai (“Yes, yes”) formally.

3-Tilting Head

- Meaning: I’m not sure; (indirect way to say) no

- How to do:
Tilt your head to either side.

- When to use:
This gesture is used when you’re not sure of something and are wondering what it is. Your eyes are likely looking above toward either side. Japanese people often do this gesture to show “No” without directly saying so. In this case, the eyes are usually looking down towards either side. Harmony-loving Japanese people tend to avoid saying “No” directly because it would hurt the person’s feelings.

- Example:
A: Do you want to go for a drink tonight?
B: Mmm.. (“No, I don’t want to.”) *Tilt head and look aside*

Woman Crossed Arms

People often look away and say “Mmm” when they do this gesture. It’s not necessary to cross your arms.


Conclusion: How Japanesepod101.com Can Help You Learn More Japanese

We hope this article about Japanese gestures and body language is helpful and you have a better understanding of Japanese gestures and culture now. Be sure to continue practicing these Japanese body signs so that you can use them like a native and master Japanese nonverbal communication!

If you’d like to learn more about the Japanese language, you’ll find more useful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons for you to improve your Japanese language skills.

We also have a YouTube channel where you can enjoy learning the Japanese language by watching videos and listening to actual Japanese pronunciation. Of course, you can learn more about Japanese gestures. While you learn basic Japanese, daily Japanese conversations, 100 Japanese phrases for beginners, how to be an effective Japanese speaker, and much more, you can apply the Japanese gestures you’ve learned to them for the best results.

Please visit our YouTube channel for a fun learning experience! Start with a bonus, and download your FREE cheat sheet - How to Improve Your Japanese Skills! (Logged-In Member Only)

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The Complete Guide for Japanese Internet Slang and Text Faces

Do you know the Japanese slang ググる (guguru)? It means “to search on Google” and is one of the most-used Japanese internet slang terms.

If you chat with your Japanese friends online or use social media such as Facebook, you might be struggling to understand Japanese internet slang terms. However, most common Japanese slang words
aren’t exclusive to the internet, as you may have found them in anime and manga as well.

The problem is that your teachers and textbooks won’t teach you those slang terms, because they aren’t official Japanese language. Japanese text slang terms might be very confusing for Japanese learners because they developed very uniquely. Japanese people also use many kinds of 顔文字 (kaomoji) or text face, such as “(*^_^*), (^_^;),(TдT).

We’ll provide you with a complete guide for popular Japanese internet slang terms and emotional text faces. Don’t worry! You don’t need to memorize it all. Even we, Japanese people, don’t know all of them. You can just add this page to your Favorite list and use it as your Japanese slang dictionary so that you can look up new slang words whenever you find them.

  1. About Japanese Internet Slang and Text Faces
  2. Top 11 Internet Slang
  3. Short and Very Short Abbreviations
  4. Text Slang for Social Media
  5. Text Slang Terms Using the Alphabet
  6. More Alphabet Slang Terms
  7. Japanese Internet Slang Using 漢字 (kanji)
  8. Slang Words for Both Conversation and Internet
  9. Emoticons: Japanese Text Faces
  10. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

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1. About Japanese Internet Slang and Text Faces

“Internet slang” is ネットスラング (netto surangu) in Japanese. ネット (netto) is a shortened form of インターネット (intānetto) and it’s the Japanese way of reading the English word “internet.” スラング (surangu) is also the Japanese sound for the English word “slang.”

“Text face” or “text emotions” is 顔文字 (kao moji) in Japanese. 顔 (kao) means “face” and 文字 (moji) means “text” or “character.”

Today, internet and social media are very important tools, especially for young generations. If you have Japanese friends on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media, you might find it difficult to figure out what they’re saying most of the time.

What makes it so difficult? A big reason is that we have three kinds of letters, 平仮名 (hiragana), 片仮名(katakana), and 漢字 (kanji). In addition to that, we use ローマ字 (rōma ji) or the Roman alphabets, for text slang terms. Of course, there are some simple abbreviated slang words, though we have many other kinds as well. In this article, we divided Japanese internet slang terms into six types to make it easier to understand. Before we list those six types, we also listed eleven popular Japanese internet slang words. Take a look!


2. Top 11 Internet Slang

If you’re searching for the most useful Japanese internet slang, here’s a list of the top eleven most popular internet slang terms. Hopefully this list of Japanese slang words helps you find your footing in this often confusing world of foreign internet talk.

1- w (wara)

Meaning: to laugh

“w” or 笑 is the shortened form of 笑う (warau) and it means “to laugh.” It’s usually used at the end of a sentence. 笑 is a more mature way of saying this and “w” is often used by guys.

Since “to laugh” is one of the most useful Japanese text slang terms, there are many similar words. For example, “www” means “lol” in English. Sometimes, people use more w’s as in “wwwww” to express how hard they’re laughing.

Similar words:

  • 笑 (wara)
  • 草 (kusa)
  • 草生える (kusahaeru)
  • 藁 (wara)
  • ワロタ (warota)
  • ワロス (warosu)
  • 爆 (baku)

Some heavy internet users use a 漢字 (kanji) letter—草 (kusa)—to express their laughter. 草 (kusa) means “grasses” and they use this character because “w” looks like grass growing in the ground. The word 爆(baku) or 爆 (baku) is short for 爆笑 (bakushō) meaning “to burst out laughing.”

2- JK (Jēkē)

Meaning: high school girl

JK (Jēkē) is the abbreviated word for 女子高生 (Joshikōsei). 女子 (joshi) means “girl” or “younger woman.” 高生 (kōsei) is a shortened form of 高校生 (kōkōsei) that refers to a high school student. It’s often used as a sexual expression and there’s no word for a high school boy.

Similar slang words:

  • JD (Joshi Chūgakusei) 女子中学生 or junior high school girl
  • JS (Joshi Shōgakusei) 女子小学生 or elementary school girl
  • JD (Jyoshi Daisei) 女子大生 or female college student

There’s another way of using “JK” and that’s the shortened form of 常考 (jōkō) or 常識的に考えて (Jōshiki teki ni kangaete), meaning “that’s common sense.”

3- ググる (guguru)

Meaning: to google

This is a combination of グーグル (gūguru) and する (suru). グーグル (gūguru) means “Google” and する(suru) indicates the verb form. This is a very common Japanese internet slang and you might even hear it in real conversations.

The imperative form of ググる is ググれ (gugure). There’s another popular slang using ググれ and it’s “ggrks” or ググれカス which means “Google it, idiot!” This slang is used when someone asks you a really stupid question, that he/she should not ask others.

4- 乙 (otsu)

Meaning: good job; good work

乙 (otsu) is the shortest text slang for お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu) or “Thank you for your hard work.” This is the Common Japanese slang phrase to use when thanking someone for their hard work or good work. Japanese people use it very often, even as just a way of a greeting, like “Hi!”

There are some other short ways of saying お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu):

  • お疲れ様 (otsukare sama)
  • おつかれ (otsukare)

The shorter word is the more informal way of saying this. The kanji 乙 doesn’t have the meaning of お疲れ様です, but people use it anyway because the pronunciation is おつ (otsu).

5- 888 (pachi-pachi-pachi)

Meaning: clap, clap, clap

The sound of a number of “8”s is はち (hachi) or ぱち (pachi) in Japanese and the sound of clapping hands is パチパチパチ (pachi-pachi-pachi). Therefore, the sound of “8” and the sound of clapping hands are the same. It’s usually used with three characters of 8, like “888.” If you want to denote more clapping, you can write more 8’s like “88888.”

6- orz

Meaning: disappointment

The word “orz” is an ASCII art which represents the shape of a person bowing down, showing a feeling of disappointment. The letter of “o” is a head, “r” is hand and body, and “z” is the bent legs.

Since this is an ASCII art, there’s no fixed way of reading “orz.” Some people read it as オーズ (ōzu) and others as オルツ (orutsu).

Same meaning: crz; OTL; or2; on_

7- DQN (dokyun)

Pronunciations: D=Do; Q=kyu; N=n
Meaning: stupid, idiot

“DQN” is not an abbreviation word. It means stupid or an idiot who acts without any thinking. This word is spread from a popular Japanese textboard “2ch” or “2ちゃんねる (ni channeru).” You need to be careful when you use it because it’s a very offensive swear word.

8- 飯テロ (meshi tero)

Meaning: food terror

飯テロ (meshi tero) is a very popular and well-known Japanese internet slang. 飯 (meshi) means food or meal and テロ (tero) means “terror” or “terrorist.” 飯テロ (meshi tero) expresses the act of uploading pictures of an appetizing meal on social media such as Twitter, especially late at night. It makes people angry because they’ll be hungry and want to eat the meal.

9- リア充 (riajū)

Meaning: fulfilled person in real life

リア充(riajū) is a very popular slang word that spread from the internet. It’s the abbreviated form of リアルが充実している (riaru ga jūjitsu site iru). リアル (riaru) means “real world” and the antonym is “internet world.” 充実している (jūjitsu site iru) means “one’s life is fullfilling.”

リア充 (riajū) people have a girlfriend/boyfriend as well as many friends who hang out at school or a workplace. They also have good hobbies and are very active.

Antonym words: 非リア充 (hiriajū)

10- KY (kēwai)

Meaning: A person who cannot read the mood

KY (kēwai) is a very common Japanese internet and text slang that people also use in real conversations. You might see it on TV shows and in movies and books. It’s an abbreviation of 空気読めない (kūki yomenai). 空気 (kūki) means “air” or “mood” and 読めない (yomenai) is “cannot read.”

11- ディスる (disuru)

Meaning: to insult somebody

ディス is an abbreviation of the English word “disrespect” and する means “to do” in Japanese. The word ディスる (disuru) means “to insult somebody.” This word is also a very popular Japanese slang that’s used often in daily conversations.


3. Short and Very Short Abbreviations

There are some simple Japanese text slang terms such as おめ (ome) and あり (ari), and they are just a very short form of Japanese words. There are no complicated rules.

These words are usually spread by gamers and teenagers, because they want to type as fast or with as few characters as they can when they chat online.

1- おめ (ome)

Abbreviation of おめでとう (omedetō)

Meaning: congratulations

  • Example:
    • 誕生日おめ! (Tanjōbi ome!)
  • Meaning:
    • Happy birthday!

2- あり (ari)

Abbreviation of ありがとう (arigatō)

Meaning: thank you

  • Example:
    • A: 誕生日おめ! (Tanjōbi ome!)
    • B: あり!(Ari!)
  • Meaning:
    • A: Happy birthday!
    • B: Thanks!

3- おこ (oko)

Abbreviation of 怒る (okoru)

Meaning: to get angry

Sometimes it’s written in 片仮名 (katakana) as オコ (oko), but in 平仮名 (hirakgana) おこ (oko) is very popular. When young Japanese people use おこ (oko), it’s usually as a joke.

  • Example:
    • 無視されたよ。おこだわー。(Mushi sareta yo. Oko da wā.)
  • Meaning:
    • She/he ignored me. I’m angry.

Young people also use 激おこ (geki oko) and 激おこぷんぷん丸 (geki oko punpun maru). 激 means “extremely” and therefore, 激おこ means “to get very angry.” 激おこぷんぷん丸 (geki oko punpun maru) is the more extreme version of 激おこ (geki oko).

4- りょ (ryo)

Abbreviation of 了解です (ryōkai desu)

Meaning: OK! or roger

了解です (ryōkai desu) is a business term and it means “I understand.” But the slang word りょ (ryo) is very casual and can be used only with friends.

Some people use a much shorter version and use only a single character り(ri). “りょ (ryo) spread from online game players, but now young people also use it at LINE. There are many LINE stickers using this word.

  • Example:
    • A: コーヒー買ってきて。(Kōhī katte kite.)
    • B: りょ
  • Meaning:
    • A: Can you buy a coffee for me?
    • B: OK.


4. Text Slang for Social Media

When you use social medias like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, you need the knowledge of text slang terms, because it’s everywhere. They’re common especially on Twitter, because there’s a character limit and phrases need to be made shorter. Here, let’s look at Japanese text slang terms which are often used on the internet.

1- △ (sankakkei)

Meaning: Mr. ~ is cool

△ stands for a triangle shape and it’s 三角形 in Japanese. The pronunciation of 三角形 is sankakukei but people often pronounce it sankakkei. The sound of san is the same as さん, which is the most common honorific for other people. For example, Mr. Tanaka is 田中 (Tanaka) san in Japanese.

The sound kakkei is very similar to かっけー(kakkē). かっけー(kakkē) is a slang word of かっこいい(kakkoii) that means “cool” and is often used for males. △ is used with someone’s name, usually a celebrity or popular anime character.

  • Example:
    • 本田△ (Honda-san kakkē)
  • Meaning:
    • Mr. Honda is cool.

2- なう/ナウ (nau)

Meaning: doing it right now; being there right now

This is a very popular Japanese slang, used even by some elderly people. なう or ナウ is almost the same sound as the English word “now.” This word is often used on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. When they post something on those social media sites, it means that they’re doing something at exactly that moment.

  • Example 1:
    • カラオケなう (karaoke nau)
  • Meaning:
    • I’m singing karaoke now.
  • Example 2:
    • 京都なう(Kyōto nau)
  • Meaning:
    • I’m in Kyoto now.

3- ようつべ (youtube)

Meaning: YouTube

If you type ようつべ in the Roman alphabet, you’ll easily know what it means. ようつべ (youtube) is Japanese slang for YouTube. This is very casual slang that only a limited number of people use.

4- オワコン (owakon)

Meaning: out of date; old items

This is an abbreviation for 終わったコンテンツ (Owatta kontentsu). 終わった (owatta) means “out of date” or “too old” and コンテンツ (kontentsu) means contents such as websites, anime, YouTube, TV programs, and movies. It’s originally spread from animation fans. Today, it’s very popular and is even used in real conversations.

5- ツィ (tsui)

Meaning: tweet on Twitter

It’s just an abbreviation of ツイート (tsuīto) which means “tweet” in English. It’s also used as a short form of ツイッター(tsuittā) which means Twitter. This slang is especially used among young people under the age of twenty-five.

6- サムネ (samune)

Meaning: thumbnail image

It’s a shortened form of サムネイル (samuneiru) and means “thumbnail images.” This is a frequently used Japanese slang phrase on video-sharing websites such as YouTube.

7- クラスタ (kurasuta)

Meaning: fun group

クラスタ (kurasta) means a fun group of something, such as animes and idol groups. The word クラスタ is originally from the English word “cluster.” It originally spread from 2ch; however, people don’t use it at 2ch anymore. Now, it’s used more on social media.

8- ずっ友 (zuttomo)

Meaning: friends for life

ずっ友 (zuttomo) is an abbreviation of ずっと友達 (zutto tomodachi). ずっと (zutto) means “forever” and 友達 (tomodachi) means “friends.” It was originally used by teenage girls when they took photos in a プリクラ (purikura) which is similar to a photo booth.

9- 炎上 (enjō)

Meaning: to go up in flames on social media

炎上 (enjō) is “flaming” and when people use this as an internet slang, it means that someone’s flaming on social media, or criticized by many people.

10- バズる (bazuru)

Meaning: to make a buzz on the internet

バズる (bazuru) means to make a buzz on the internet, usually Twitter and YouTube. バズ (buzu) is originally from the English word “buzz” and する (suru) is “to do.” As you can see, the popular Japanese internet slang バズる (bazuru) is a combination of those two words.

11- ラブリツ (raburitsu)

Meaning: Like and retweet on Twitter

ラブリツ (raburitsu) is only used on Twitter and usually by young teenage girls. ラブ (rabu)” is “love” in English, and it means “to press the Like button.”

Why do we use “love” instead of “like”? It’s because the Like button on Twitter is a love heart shape. リツ is a shortened form of リツイート (ritsuīto) and it means “to retweet.” If someone writes ラブリツ on Twitter, it means he/she wants you to press the Like button and retweet the tweet.

12- リプ (ripu)

Meaning: to reply

リプ (ripu) is a simple abbreviation for リプライ (ripurai). It means “to reply” and it’s usually used by teenage girls on social media like Twitter and LINE.

13- 拡散希望 (kakusan kibō)

Meaning: please share or retweet the information

You see 拡散希望 (kakusan kibō) on social media such as Twitter and Facebook. 拡散 means “to spread” and 希望 (kibō) means “hope” or “wish.” When you combine those two words, it means “Please share the message.”


5. Text Slang Terms Using the Alphabet

Texting

On the internet, Japanese people also use alphabet slang words, because many of them use the Roman alphabet for typing. One of the most unique Japanese text slangs using alphabet is to write only the consonant letters, with vowels omitted. This type of Japanese text slang spread from 2ch.

You need to be careful since this alphabet type of text slangs are only used on the internet. Therefore, it’s not as popular as other slang terms we introduced above.

1- wktk (wakuteka)

Meaning: very excited

“wktk” is an acronym of the onomatopoeia words ワクワク (wakuwaku) which means “exciting” and テカテカ (tekateka) which means “shining.” It spread from 2ch and it’s well-known among heavy internet users, such as gamers. However, you need to be careful when using this slang, as it’s not very popular among other people.

2- gkbr (gakuburu)

Meaning: to tremble for fear

“gkbr” is an acronym of the onomatopoeia words ガクガク (gakugaku) and ブルブル (buruburu). Both onomatopoeia words describe trembling for fear, so this Japanese internet slang describes someone’s fear. This word is also spread from 2ch and is used by heavy internet users.

You need to be careful because some people use “gkbr” as an acronym for ごきぶり (gokiburi) meaning “cockroach.” Popular internet slang for cockroach is “G()”, and using “gkbr” is a rare case.

3- ksk (kasoku)

Meaning: Faster!

“ksk” is an acronym for 加速 (kasoku), which means “accelerate.” This frequently used Japanese internet slang word is also spread from 2ch and used at textboards and the video distribution site ニコニコ動画(niconico dōga). It’s usually used when someone wants people to write comments faster.

4- kwsk (kuwashiku)

“kwsk” is an acronym for 詳しく (kuwashiku). The word 詳しく (kuwashiku) means “in detail,” and “kwsk” means “Explain the detail, please.”


6. More Alphabet Slang Terms

We’ve gone through a lot of Japanese slang words already, but our list of Japanese slang words wouldn’t be complete without the following. Hang tight!

1- ktkr (きたこれ) (kita kore)

Meaning: It’s here!; Something exciting happened.

“ktkr” is an abbreviated form of キタコレ (kita kore) which is also an internet slang word. キタ (kita) is 来た in kanji form. It’s the past tense form of 来る (kuru) which means “to come.” The official form of コレ is in 平仮名 (hiragana) form—これ (kore)—and means “this” or “it.” In this popular Japanese slang, これ (kore) means “some event or occurrence you expect” and 来た (kita) means “happened.”

2- mjk (まじか) (majika)

Meaning: Really?

“mjk” is an abbreviated form of マジか (majika). マジ (maji) is a very popular Japanese slang which is especially used among young Japanese people and it means “Really?” or “seriously.” There are several forms of マジ (maji). When you ask a question, you use マジ? or マジで? マジか isn’t usually used as a question, but it’s more likely to be used to express surprise.

3- (ry (略) (ryaku)

Meaning: OK! or roger

“(ry” stands for 略 (ryaku), and 略 is an abbreviation for 省略 (shōryaku). It’s used when you want to shorten a sentence, which others may already know.

4- kaos (カオス) (kaosu)

Meaning: chaos

“kaos” is an abbreviation for カオス (kaosu). The Japanese word カオス (kaosu) is originally from the English word “chaos” and it has the same meaning.

5- おK (オーケー) (ōkē)

Meaning: OK

The alphabet “o” is おー in 平仮名 (hiragana) form. The macron “ー” is omitted.

6- うp (アップ) (appu or upu)

Meaning: to upload

Japanese people often use the English word “up.” “u” is the Roman alphabet form of the 平仮名 (hiragana) letter う, and う is used instead of “u.”


7. Japanese Internet Slang Using 漢字 (kanji)

Some internet text slangs are only used in 漢字 (kanji) or Chinese characters. Some of them are abbreviation forms of words using only kanji. There’s also some kanji slang which uses the same sound of kanji, but with different meanings as a kind of joke. Here, we list popular kanji slang words and their meaning.

1- 誰得 (daretoku)

Meaning: Who benefits from it?

  • Abbreviation of 誰が得するんだよ (dare ga toku suru n da yo)

2- 情弱 (jōjaku)

Meaning: People who are left behind by information on the internet

  • Abbreviation of 情報弱者 (jōhō jakusha)

3- 胸熱 (muneatsu)

Meaning: to become fraught with emotion

  • Abbreviation of 胸が熱くなる (mune ga atsuku naru)

4- 禿同 (hagedō)

Meaning: strong agreement

  • Abbreviation of 激しく同意 (hageshiku dōi)
  • 禿 means “bald” and plays a word game by using the same sound of kanji

5- 今北 (imakita)

Meaning: I’m here, now.

  • 今来た is the correct kanji. 北 (kita) means “north” and shares the same pronunciation as 来た. 今北” looks like someone’s family name.
  • There’s also the slang 今北産業 (imakita sangyō), which sounds like a company’s name. But it means “I’m here, now. So please explain what is happening in three sentences.” 三行 (san-gyō) which means “three sentences” is the same sound as 産業.

6- 鯖 (saba)

Meaning: internet server

  • The kanji of 鯖 means “mackerel.” It’s used because it has a similar sound.


8. Slang Words for Both Conversation and Internet

Person Messaging on Phone

Some common Japanese slang phrases have become very popular so that they’re also used in real-life conversations, especially among young people. The opposite is also true: Sometimes slang terms from real conversations spread to internet text conversations. Here’s a list of some popular Japanese slang terms that are used both on the internet and in real-life conversations.

1- ガチ (gachi)

Meaning: earnestly

  • Abbreviation of ガチンコ (gachinko)

2- クソゲー (kusogē)

Meaning: stupid game

  • ゲー is the abbreviated form of ゲーム

3- メシウマ (meshiuma)

Meaning: to get happy for the misfortune of another

  • メシ is “meal” and ウマ is a shortened form of うまい that means “taste good.”

4- ドヤ顔 (doyagao)

Meaning: smug face

5- 神ってる (kamitteru)

Meaning: heaven-sent; out of this world

6- チキる (chikiru)

Meaning: to chicken out

  • チキ is the abbreviated form of チキン (chikin) or “chicken” in English

7- それな (sorena)

Meaning: express sympathy to others

8- 推しメン (oshimen)

Meaning: favorite member of idol group

  • Abbreviation of イチ推しメンバー (ichioshi menbā)

9- イケメン (ikemen)

Meaning: good-looking; hottie


9. Emoticons: Japanese Text Faces

If you search 顔文字 (kaomoji) or 絵文字 (emoji) on the internet, you’ll find several kinds of them. In Japanese, sometimes expression tends to be unclear, not helped by the fact that there are some words that have the same meanings. Therefore, it’s sometimes difficult to express exact emotion. In those situations, text faces help to express emotions. Text emotions are usually used at the end of a sentence. Many people use them in their emails and when chatting online.

Those text faces are largely used by teenagers, but are also used by a broad age group. However, you can’t use those text faces in business emails.

Here’s a list of Japanese text faces:

  • Smile : (^^), (^_^), (^o^), (^-^),(●^o^●), (*^_^*)
  • V sign: (^_^)V, (^o^)V
  • Crying: (T_T), (;_;),.・゚゚・(/ω\)・゚゚・.
  • Be excited: o(^o^)o
  • Love: (*♡∀♡),╰(*´︶`*)╯♡
  • Bowing or apology: m(_ _)m
  • Goodbye: (^_^)/~~~
  • Embarrassment: (^^;),(^_^;),(*ノωノ)
  • Joy: \( ̄▽ ̄)/, (⌒▽⌒)☆, ヽ(o^ ^o)ノ
  • Troubled: (>__
  • Sleeping: (-_-)zzz
  • Confused: (°_°),
  • Wink: (^_-), (^_-)-☆
  • Deflated: (´・ω・`), (‘A`)
  • Angry: ( ` ω ´ ), (#`Д´)


10. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

In summary, we’ve listed popular Japanese internet slang terms and text faces. We hope you enjoyed it and that it helps you communicate more effectively with your Japanese friends online.

If you liked this article, feel free to get more fun lessons of Japanese expressions and cultures on JapanesePod101. We provide over 2950 audio and video lessons and help you study Japanese with a 360° approach. We make your Japanese learning fun and easy! Study with us!

In the meantime, make good use of your newfound knowledge in common Japanese texting and internet slang. Good luck!

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Japanese Untranslatable Words: Let’s Talk like a Native!

Japanese Untranslatable Words

When learning a new language, people encounter words and expressions which can’t be clearly translated into that language. Japanese is no exception. Japanese has various untranslatable words which need to be explained with concepts, contexts, or situations in order to grasp the true meaning and nuance these original words have. Japanese phrases with no English equivalent are both fun and important to learn during your language studies.

Reasons to Study Japanese

Much like in other languages, Japanese untranslatable words reflect the Japanese culture. By learning untranslatable Japanese words, you’ll also gain insight into unique Japanese views, values, and philosophies. Japanese words that are untranslatable often prove interesting to other cultures, and in fact, there are quite a few beautiful untranslatable Japanese words for you to discover!

Here’s our list of Japanese untranslatable words with no direct English equivalent (though these are just our favorite untranslatable Japanese words).

Table of Contents

  1. いただきます (Itadakimasu)
  2. ごちそうさま (Gochisō-sama)
  3. お疲れ様 (Otsukare-sama)
  4. おじゃまします(Ojama shimasu)
  5. もったいない (Mottainai)
  6. 懐かしい (Natsukashii)
  7. よろしくお願いします (Yoroshiku onegai shimasu)
  8. 侘寂 わびさび (Wabi Sabi)
  9. 高嶺の花 (Takane no Hana)
  10. ありがた迷惑 (Arigata Meiwaku)
  11. Summary of Untranslatable Words in Japanese
  12. Conclusion: How Japanesepod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

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1. いただきます (Itadakimasu)

  • Literal Translation: I eat/receive. (In a humble and respectful way)
  • Meaning: “I’m thankful for food and I start to eat.”
  • Example Situation:
    • Before you start to eat a meal (whether it be breakfast, lunch, or dinner), you say Itadakimasu.
  • Example:
    • 美味しそうなラーメン!いただきます。
      Oishisō na Rāmen! Itadakimasu.
      The Ramen looks yummy! Itadakimasu.
  • Additional Notes:

In formal Japanese, there are three forms of honorific languages with different levels of politeness: Teinei-go (it shows politeness), Sonkei-go (it respects, honors, and increases the status of the person you’re talking to), and Kenjō-go (it lowers your status with humbleness and respect). Itadakimasu is “I eat” in the form of Kenjō-go which express your humbleness to eat.

Itadakimasu is different from “Bon appetit.” Itadakimasu is used by a person who starts to eat with gratitude for the food and for the person who cooked it, while “Bon appetit” is used by a person who serves food and means “enjoy food.”

Japanese Food


2. ごちそうさま (Gochisō-sama)

  • Literal Translation: Delicious food; treat; feast; banquet; etc., in a respectful style.
  • Meaning: “I finished eating and thank you for the food.” (With respect) Sama is the term used to express respect.
  • Example Situation:
    When you finish eating a meal, you say Gochisō-sama.
  • Example:
    ごちそうさま。お母さん、今日の夕食はとても美味しかったよ!
    Gochisō-sama. O-kā-san, kyō no yūshoku wa totemo oishikatta yo!
    Gochisō-sama. Tonight’s dinner was really good, mom!
  • Additional Notes:
    This is one Japanese word with no English translation that people around the world can actually relate to. You can say Gochisō-sama when you’ve finished eating your meal at home, in a restaurant, or really for any occasion. If you want to say it more politely in a more formal situation, you add deshita to the end: Gochisō-sama deshita. It’ a good Japanese table manner to say Itadakimasu and Gochisō-sama during meals.


3. お疲れ様 (Otsukare-sama)

  • Literal Translation: “(You must be) tired.” (With respect)
  • Meaning:
    Otsukare-sama has some different meanings depending on the situation, all of which are handy to use. It can mean: “hello,” “well done,” “you must be tired,” “see you,” “good-bye,”and so on.
  • Example Situation:
    It can be used to say “well done” or “good job” to praise or to be thankful for someone who finished something. You can also use it to say “you must be tired” to show that you care about someone and that you also know how they must feel. Or it can simply be used as a greeting at an office upon arriving or leaving, or when meeting with colleagues.
  • Example:
    1. 会議でのプレゼンお疲れ様。
    Kaigi de no purezen otsukare-sama.
    Well done for the presentation at the meeting.

    2. お疲れ様です。また明日。
    Otsukare-sama desu. Mata ashita.
    See you tomorrow. (At office)

  • Additional Notes:
    It becomes more polite when you put desu at the end of Otsukare-sama. It’s an expression used when Japanese people want to show their appreciation for the other person’s efforts and work with respect. Nowadays, Otsukare-sama desu is a very common greeting in work settings, especially among colleagues.

Living Room


4. おじゃまします(Ojama shimasu

  • Literal Translation: “I disturb.” (In a humble and polite way)
  • Meaning:
    Let me visit /enter a house. (In a humble and polite way)
  • Example Situation:
    This is the greeting phrase to use when you enter someone’s house, especially when you’re invited. It’s to show gratitude for the host for the invitation and makes you seem polite as a guest.
  • Example:
    おじゃまします。すごく広くて素敵なお家ですね。
    Ojama shimasu. Sugoku hirokute suteki na o-uchi desu ne.
    Ojama shimasu. Your house is very spacious and nice.
  • Additional Notes:
    In Japan, we usually say Ojama shimasu whenever visiting someone’s house. It would be rude to enter someone’s house without saying this. When you leave someone’s house, you say Ojama shimashita, which is the past tense of Ojama shimasu.


5. もったいない (Mottainai)

  • Literal Translation: “No dignity/importance.”
  • Meaning: Worthy of a better cause, associated with a feeling of being attached to it and reluctant to throw it away. Mottainai’ can mean: “What a waste,” “How wasteful,” “It is too good for/to ___,” “You don’t know what you’re missing,” etc.
  • Example Situation:
    This phrase may be used when something that’s still useful or worth something is either not being used, or is going to be thrown away. This can be used for people, opportunities, situations, and so on.
  • Example:
    お腹いっぱいだからと言って、食べ物を捨てるのはもったいないよ。
    Onaka ippai da kara to itte, tabemono o suteru no wa mottainai yo.
    It is a waste to throw away food only because you are full.
  • Additional Notes:
    This phrase comes from the Japanese mentality which puts value on treating things well and taking good care of things to use them for a long time. While the English word “waste” has negative nuances such as worthless, useless, and unwanted, whose Japanese translation can be “浪費 (rōhi)”, in Japanese, mottainai contains positive nuances such as worthy and valuable. It also expresses regret that a thing still useful isn’t used to its full potential. This may be one of the most beautiful untranslatable Japanese words.

Nostalgic Woman


6. 懐かしい (Natsukashii)

  • Literal Translation: “Nostalgic.”
  • Meaning: A nostalgic feeling you have when you remember and miss something about the past.
  • Example Situation:
    You feel Natsukashii when you find your toys from childhood that you enjoyed playing with. You remember all the childhood memories of playing with that toy with friends and family, and you have nostalgic feelings about it.
  • Example:
    高校の卒業アルバムを実家で見つけた!懐かしい思い出ばかりだよ。
    Kōkō no sotsugyō arubamu o jikka de mitsuketa! Natsukashii omoide bakari da yo.
    I found the graduation yearbook of highschool at my parents’ house. It’s full of memories of good old days.
  • Additional Notes:
    It can also be used to express: “The good old days,” “Good times,” “I miss ___,” “It reminds me of ___,” “It brings back memories,” “I feel nostalgic,” etc.

Handshake


7. よろしくお願いします (Yoroshiku onegai shimasu)

  • Literal Translation: “Good” / “Right” / “Suitable favor please”
  • Meaning: It has many meanings, depending on what situation it’s used in, and all meanings are quite useful. It can mean: “Nice to meet you,” “Best regards,” “Favorably please,” “Please take care of me,” etc., to show your gratitude and humbleness in hoping to have a good relationship from that point forward.
  • Example Situation:
    Yoroshiku onegai shimasu can be used in a variety of situations, especially when you’re new to something, such as meeting new people at work, when you start a new job or project, when someone’s going to take care of you, etc.
  • Example:
    今日からこのクラスに参加する田中です。よろしくお願いします。
    Kyō kara kono kurasu ni sanka suru Tanaka desu. Yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
    I am Tanaka who starts this class from today. Yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
  • Additional Notes:
    This phrase is very useful. It doesn’t actually have a particular clear meaning and so you can use it for many occasions. It’s also used to finish a conversation or email message.

Japanese Garden


8. 侘寂 わびさび (Wabi Sabi)

  • Literal Translation: “Frugal” / “Simple and quiet” / “Silent”
  • Meaning: This is a concept, or view, of Japanese beauty. It accepts and values things which are natural and transient, as well as imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
  • Example Situation: An asymmetrical wooden table with a natural and original shape, as well as the grain of a tree, is a great example of imperfection as an aesthetic according to Wabi Sabi.
  • Example:
    建仁寺は、ミラノの大聖堂のように豪華ではないが、禅のわびさびの風情がある。
    Kennin-ji wa, Mirano no daiseidō no yō ni gōka de wa nai ga, Zen no Wabi Sabi no fuzei ga aru.
    The Kennin-ji temple isn’t gorgeous like Milano Cathedral, but there is the Zen taste of wabi sabi.
  • Additional Notes:
    Wabi sabi is also used to express the concept of valuing simplicity and humility, rather than luxury and impressiveness.

Lotus


9. 高嶺の花 (Takane no Hana)

  • Literal Translation: “Flower” (Hana) “in high peak” (Takane).
  • Meaning:
    This is one of the most creative untranslatable Japanese words and describes a woman who seems out of reach and who’s not easy to get familiar with. Takane no Hana is a metaphor which comes from the fact that flowers on a high peak on a mountain aren’t easily reachable. It also expresses a feeling of admiration.
  • Example Situation:
    If you see someone with a high profile who’s super beautiful and has a good personality, you tend to think that she’s not easy to become friends with (or even to make her your girlfriend).
  • Example:
    美人なかおりさんは、クラスで一番優秀で大企業の社長令嬢です。学校中で高嶺の花の存在です
     ね。
    Bijin na Kaori-san wa, kurasu de ichi-ban yūshū de daikigyō no shachō reijō desu. Gakkōjū de Takane no. Hana no sonzai desu ne.
    Beautiful Kaori is the smartest girl in the class and she is the daughter of a large company’s CEO. She is Takane no hana in school, isn’t she?
  • Additional Notes:
    It’s also used to express that a woman is too perfect to be attainable.


10. ありがた迷惑 (Arigata Meiwaku)

  • Literal Translation: “Thankful” / “Grateful” (Arigatai) / “Troublesome” / “Annoying” (Meiwaku)
  • Meaning: This phrase is used to describe a situation when someone does something for you that you didn’t necessarily want them to do (but you still think you should be grateful for it).
  • Example Situation:
    When your neighbour always shares their food with you, but you never actually like when they do this, you feel that this neighbor’s favor is Arigata Meiwaku.
  • Example:
    私の祖母は毎年手編みの手袋をくれます。嬉しいけど使わないから、ありがた迷惑です。
    Watashi no sobo wa maitoshi teami no tebukuro o kuremasu. Ureshii kedo tsukawanai kara, Arigata Meiwaku desu.
    My grandmother gives me her handmade knitted gloves every year. It’s Arigata meiwaku because I’m happy for her favor but I never use them.
  • Additional Notes:
    This phrase reflects the Japanese mentality which puts importance on being polite to others and maintaining harmony without causing conflict. Japanese people can’t easily say “No,” especially when it comes to favors and offerings because people think saying no will hurt or offend the other person’s feelings and would cause some sort of conflict (breaking harmony).


11. Summary of Untranslatable Words in Japanese

In this article, we’ve gone over common Japanese untranslatable words for language learning, and have also shown you untranslatable Japanese words to English.

These Japanese untranslatable words are very handy to use for expressing situations or your feelings. There are thousands of more untranslatable words in Japanese, including idioms, proverbs, slangs, and even newly coined words.

You’ll be able to speak Japanese like a native once you master Japanese untranslatable words, as you also comprehend the Japanese philosophy and mentality behind the country’s culture!

We hope we’ve helped to satisfy your curiosity about untranslatable words from Japanese, and that you found our list of untranslatable Japanese words helpful!


12. Conclusion: How Japanesepod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

The Best Ways to Learn Japanese

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language, you’ll find a lot of useful content on JapanesePod101. We provide a variety of free lessons for you to improve your Japanese language skills.

If you’re a beginner learner of Japanese, you’ll find the following useful:

If you’re at the intermediate level, we recommend:

You’ll enjoy learning the Japanese language by watching videos and listening to actual Japanese pronunciation.

Happy Japanese learning with JapanesePod101!

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Tanabata: The Star Festival in Japan - Vega and Altair’s Love Story

Do you know why the Japanese focus on the Altair and Vega stars one night a year? This has to do with the Tanabata story, which tells about the love between a cow-herder and a weaver (we’ll give you the full story later in this article!).

During the Star Festival, Japan sets its eyes to the night sky and the Milky Way, hoping that the two constellations, which represent the cow-herder and weaver, will meet.

The Star Festival Japan celebrates offers a fun and unique glance at Japanese culture and thought. Learning about the Tanabata Festival is a wonderful way to improve your language skills, too, as knowing a country’s culture is key to mastering its language!

At JapanesePod101.com, we want to make this learning journey both fun and informative for you!

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1. What is the Japanese Star Festival?

According to the legend, this is the one day a year that 織姫 (Orihime), meaning “the weaving princess,” and 彦星 (Hikoboshi), meaning “the cow herder,” can spend together. On this night, the Japanese people are more concerned about the weather than on any other night, as the weather dictates whether or not the two can see each other.

2. When is the Tanabata Festival?

July 7 is the Star Festival

The Star Festival, or 七夕 (Tanabata), means “the evening of the seventh,” and is celebrated on July 7th each year. This day has been celebrated in Japan since the Edo Period (1603 - 1867), and because of differences between the Lunar and Gregorian calendars, Tanabata festivals are actually held on both July 7th and August 7th.

3. How is Tanabata Celebrated?

China, Vietnam, and Korea have their own versions of the Star Festival, but in Japan, people write wishes on strips of paper and hang them up on bamboo leaves along with decorations shaped like stars and such. Among the wishes written by the children at preschools and elementary schools, there are sometimes those that say, in shaky, just-learned letters, “I wish that Orihime and Hikoboshi can meet each other.” Isn’t that cute?

The most famous festival is held in Sendai from the fifth to the eight of August. Near Tokyo, in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa, the largest festival in the Kanto area is held for a few days around July 7th.

At these festivals, people gather on the main street where there are decorations, food stalls, and sometimes entertainment, including music and dancing. The common traditional food of Tanabata includes たこ焼き (takoyaki), 焼きそば (yakisoba), and cold beer.

There is also a well-known song that is sung during Tanabata, 笹の葉・ささのは・sasa no ha, which means “bamboo leaves.”

4. The Tanabata Story

Star Festival Event

So, what is the Japanese Star Festival story? Well…

A long time ago, Orihime, the daughter of the King of Heaven, and Hikoboshi, a cattle herd, fell in love. Orihime’s work was to weave at the loom, while Hikoboshi’s job was to take care of the cattle. Both were extremely hard-working, so the King of Heaven gave them permission to be married.

However, both Orihime and Hikoboshi enjoyed married life so much that as soon as they were married, they stopped working. Angered, the King of Heaven put the Milky Way between Orihime and Hikoboshi, separating them. But, feeling some pity for the two, the King of Heaven permitted them to meet just once a year, at the Star Festival.

The Milky Way has no bridge, but when the Star Festival comes around, birds called European magpies suddenly come flying out of nowhere, and build a bridge for the two of them…

And this is the story of the Star Festival.

So why do people care about the weather on the night of the Star Festival, you ask? Because if it rains, the volume of water in the Milky Way rises, so the European magpies can’t build a bridge, meaning that Orihime and Hikoboshi can’t meet each other.

5. Vocab You Need to Know for the Star Festival

Orihime

Here’s some vocabulary you should know for the Japanese Star Festival!

  • アルタイル (アルタイル) — Altair
  • ベガ (ベガ) — Vega
  • 天の川 (あまのがわ) — Milky Way
  • 七夕 (たなばた) — Star Festival
  • 浴衣 (ゆかた) — Yukata
  • 装飾 (そうしょく) — Decoration
  • 織姫 (おりひめ) — Orihime
  • 願い事 (ねがいごと) — Wish
  • 短冊 (たんざく) — Small piece of paper
  • 7月7日 (しちがつ なのか) — July 7th
  • 彦星 (ひこぼし) — Hikoboshi
  • 笹 (ささ) — Bamboo leaf
  • 笹飾り (ささかざり) — Bamboo decoration

To hear each vocabulary word pronounced, check out our Japanese Star Festival vocabulary list!

Conclusion

What do you think about the Japanese Star Festival and its story? Did you learn anything new today? Let us know in the comments; we always love to hear from you!

To continue learning about Japanese culture and the language, visit us at JapanesePod101.com! We provide fun and practical learning tools for every learner, including free Japanese vocabulary lists and more insightful blog posts like this one! You can also take advantage of our online community forums to chat with fellow students or ask for help! By upgrading to a Premium Plus account, you can start relishing in the benefits of our MyTeacher program, which allows you to learn Japanese one-on-one with your own teacher!

Continue studying and practicing, and you’ll be speaking, reading, and writing Japanese like a native before you know it. And JapanesePod101 will be here with you on each step of this journey!

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How to Say “My Name is,” in Japanese and More!

When you’re learning Japanese and starting to make new friends, or visiting Japan for travel, school, or business, there will be many occasions where you need to introduce yourself. Introducing yourself is always important in starting a good relationship with someone: friends, peers, students, co-workers, neighbors, etc.

Hence, it’s important to learn things like how to say “My name is,” in Japanese, as well as other ways of introducing yourself in Japanese phrases.

There are some tips to keep in mind when it comes to introducing yourself in Japan, from a cultural perspective. For example, you should usually use a formal and polite style of Japanese when you introduce yourself, and it’s better not to talk about yourself too much or give too many personal details right away.

Ready to learn how to introduce yourself and learn Japanese with us? Here’s our list of practical phrases and tips for introducing yourself in Japanese words.

P.S., you can find more information on how to introduce yourself in Japanese business on our site!

Table of Contents

  1. Identifying Yourself
  2. Stating Your Name
  3. Stating Your Age
  4. Stating Where You’re From
  5. Placing Yourself in Society
  6. Sharing Personal Details
  7. Conclusion: How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

Log


1. Identifying Yourself

1- Greeting

The first thing you do when meeting someone, before introducing yourself, is offer them a greeting. There’s also a greeting word the Japanese use to close an introduction, which we’ll familiarize you with below. These can also be good ways of how to introduce yourself in Japanese interviews.

1. はじめまして。

Romanization: Hajimemashite.
English Translation: Nice to meet you.

When you first meet someone, Hajimemashite, or “Nice to meet you” in Japanese, is the first word of greeting. Hajimemashite means to start knowing someone new or to start a new relationship with someone. Essentially, it’s a good way to introduce yourself in Japanese.

This term is formal and can be used for any occasion. For a very official occasion, there’s another way to say “Nice to meet you,” more politely and with respect: お会いできて光栄です。(O-ai dekite kōei desu.). Keep in mind that this may be a good phrase for how to introduce yourself in Japanese email.

Example:

  • はじめまして。私はマリコです。
    Hajimemashite. Watashi wa Mariko desu.
    Nice to meet you. I am Mariko.

Note: Watashi wa meaning in Japanese is “(as for) me.”

2. よろしくお願いします。

Romanization: Yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
English Translation: Please treat me well.

This is used at the end of an introduction, after you’ve finished introducing yourself. It actually has many meanings, but in this case, it means “Please treat me well,” or “Please be nice/kind to me.” This may sound awkward in English, but it’s an important greeting phrase in Japan to show your gratitude and humbleness, especially in hoping to have a good relationship with that person. In a casual situation, you can just say Yoroshiku as a shortened version.

Example:

  • 今日からここで働きます鈴木です。よろしくお願いします。
    Kyō kara koko de hatarakimasu Suzuki desu. Yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
    I am Suzuki and I start work here today. Please be good to me.

Greeting

When you greet and introduce yourself for the first time, most of the time you should bow and shake hands.


2. Stating Your Name

Learning how to say your name is an essential aspect of Japanese introductions, especially when it comes to how to introduce yourself in Japanese for interview. Following Hajimemashite, it’s very common to state your name to start your introduction in Japanese. There are a few ways to say your name in Japanese.

1- 私はユミです。

Romanization: Watashi wa Yumi desu.
English Translation: I am Yumi.

This is the most common phrase to tell someone your name.

  • Watashi = I
  • wa = am / is / are
  • desu = This is a Japanese 述語 (Jutsugo) or predicate in a polite style, which is added to the end of a sentence.

2- 私はユミと言いいます。

Romanization: Watashi wa Yumi to iimasu.
English Translation: I am called Yumi.

This is another typical way to say your name in Japanese. It literally means “I am said to be Yumi.”

  • iimasu = This is a conjugated form of 言う (iu ) which means “to say.”
  • To = This is a Japanese postpositional particle which means “as” in this case.

This phrase sounds a bit more formal. In order to say it even more politely for an official occasion, you can say mōshimasu instead of iimasu, which is the respectful form (Keigo 敬語 ) of “say” in Japanese.

3- 私の名前はユミです。

Romanization: Watashi no namae wa Yumi desu.
English Translation: My name is Yumi.

When you’re asked “What is your name?”, you can answer with this phrase.

  • no = of
  • namae = name
  • Watashi no namae = my name

4- ユーミンと呼んでください。

Romanization: Yūmin to yonde kudasai.
English Translation: Please call me Yūmin.

If you have a nickname or あだ名 (adana) which is different from your real name, you can use this phrase after introducing your actual name.

  • yonde = This is a conjugation of 呼ぶ (yobu) which means “to call.”
  • kudasai = This is a Japanese Jutsugo (述語) or predicate in a polite style which means “please (call me)” in this case.


3. Stating Your Age

It’s not very common to state your age to a person you meet for the first time, especially if you’re an adult woman. In some situations, however, you’re expected to introduce your age or when you were born. On such occasions, here are some expressions for how to state your age.

1- 私は16歳です。

Romanization: Watashi wa 16-sai desu.
English Translation: I am 16 years old.

  • sai is “year(s) old.”
  • For Japanese numbers, please visit here for more details.
  • You can use any Japanese number to say “XX years old,” except for twenty.
    • “Twenty” is ni-jū as a Japanese number, but it’s read as はたち (hatachi) only when it’s expressed as an age.

2- 私は今年25歳になります。

Romanization: Watashi wa kotoshi 25-sai ni narimasu.
English Translation: I become 25 years old this year.

  • kotoshi is “this year.”
  • ni is a Japanese particle which is usually used to indicate destination or direction. In this case, it indicates the result of change.
  • narimasu is a conjugated form of なる (naru) which means “to become.”

3- 私は1990年生まれです。

Romanization: Watashi wa 1990-nen umare desu.
English Translation: I was born in 1990.

You can also express your age by stating the year of your birth. This phrase is a common answer when you’re asked when you were born, in situations such as confirming your legal age when you buy cigarettes or alcohol (the legal age for these is twenty in Japan).

  • nen is “year.”
  • umare is “was born” in noun form.
  • In order to express a year, unlike in English, the Japanese say the whole number.
    • For example, “1990″ in Japanese numbers is read “one-thousand nine-hundred ninety” in Japanese, which is sen kyū-hyaku kyū-jū.


4. Stating Where You’re From

When thinking about how to introduce yourself in a Japanese job interview, in particular, you should learn how to talk about where you’re from. Different regions have different features. It’s common to state where you’re from in your introduction in Japan. When you find that someone is from the same city or region of your city, it makes it easier to familiarize yourselves with each other.

1- 私は東京出身です。

Romanization: Watashi wa Tōkyō shusshin desu.
English Translation: I am from Tokyo.

  • shusshin is a noun word which means “come from” or “a place of one’s origin.”
  • If you’re a foreign person in Japan, state your country.

2- 私はカナダ人です。

Romanization: Watashi wa Canada-jin desu.
English Translation: I am Canadian.

  • You can also state your nationality or ethnicity instead of the country you’re from.
  • jin denotes nationality when it’s attached to the name of a country.

3- 私は大阪に住んでいます。

Romanization: Watashi wa Ōsaka ni sunde imasu.
English Translation: I live in Osaka.

  • You can also mention where you reside now.
  • Sunde imasu is a conjugated form of 住む (sumu) which means “(I am) living.”


When you’re from another country, it’s nice to introduce which country/region you’re from.


5. Placing Yourself in Society

1- Stating Your School and Major [for Students]

1. 私は東京大学に通っています。

Romanization: Watashi wa Tōkyō Daigaku ni kayotte imasu.
English Translation: I go to Tokyo University.

  • daigaku is “university.”
  • kayotte imasu is a conjugated form of 通う (kayō) which means “(I am) going” when talking about a place where you constantly and repeatedly go.
  • Vocabulary related to school:
    - 大学 (Daigaku) — University
    - 短期大学 (Tanki daigaku) — Junior college
    - 専門学校 (Senmon gakkō) — Vocational school / Technical school
    - 高校 (Kōkō) — High school
    - 中学校 (Chūgakkō) — Middle high school
    - 小学校 (Shōgakkō) — Elementary school

2. 私は経済学を学んでいます。

Romanization: Watashi wa keizaigaku o manande imasu.
English Translation: I study economics.

  • keizai is “economics” and gaku denotes a subject.
  • Vocabulary related to subjects:
    - 経営 (Keiei) — Business management
    - 法律 (Hōritsu) — Law
    - 生物 (Seibutsu) — Biology
    - 国際関係 (Kokusai kankei) — International relations
    - 情報技術 (Jōhō gijutsu) — Information technology
    - 金融 (Kinyū) — Finance
    - 芸術 (Geijutsu) — Art
    - 心理学 (Shinrigaku) — Psychology

2- Stating Your Profession [for Workers]

1. 私は看護師です。

Romanization: Watashi wa kangoshi desu.
English Translation: I am a nurse.

  • Put the word for your occupation where the underlined word is in the example.
  • Vocabulary related to occupation:
    - 看護師 (Kangoshi) — Nurse
    - コンピュータープログラマー (Konpyūtā puroguramā) — Computer programmer
    - 医者 (Isha) — Doctor
    - 先生 (Sensei) — Teacher
    - 販売員 (Hanbaiin) — Shop staff
    - 会計士 (Kaikeishi) — Accountant
    - スポーツインストラクター (Supōtsu insutorakutā) — Sports instructor
    - 美容師 (Biyōshi) — Hairdresser

2. 私は銀行で働いています。

Romanization: Watashi wa ginkō de hataraite imasu.
English Translation: I work at a bank.

This is another phrase used to mention where you work.

  • de means “at.”
  • hataraite imasu is a conjugated form of 働く (hataraku) which means “(I am) working.”
  • Vocabulary related to where you work:
    - 銀行 (Ginkō) — Bank
    - 会社 (Kaisha) — Company [general term]
    - 貿易会社 (Bōekigaisha) — Trading company
    - 広告会社 (Kōkokugaisha) — Advertising company
    - 建築事務所 (Kenchiku jimusho) — Architectural firm
    - アパレル会社 (Aparerugaisha) — Apparel/clothing company
    - 病院 (Byōin) — Hospital
    - レストラン (Resutoran) — Restaurant
    - デパート (Depāto) — Department store

In Japan, people often introduce themselves by saying which company they work for, but it’s also nice to explain what you do for work as a profession.


6. Sharing Personal Details

1- Information About Your Family and Pets

Here’s some information on how to introduce yourself and your family in Japanese! After all, family is a universal topic and one that’s so important.

1. 私は5人家族です。

Romanization: Watashi wa go-nin kazoku desu.
English Translation: I have a family of five members.

It’s common to say how many members are in your family. Put the number of members in your family in place of the underlined go (”five̶ ;) in the example sentence.

  • nin is a counter word used to count people, which means “person,” and it’s attached after a number.
  • kazoku means “family.”

2. 私は姉と弟がいます。

Romanization: Watashi wa ane to otōto ga imasu.
English Translation: I have a big sister and a younger brother.

You can also introduce how many brothers and sisters you have. For more details about family, please visit Family in Japan.

  • ane means “older sister.”
  • otōto means “younger brother.”
  • imasu is a conjugated form of いる (iru) which means “there is/are” in a polite style.

3. 私は犬を飼っています。

Romanization: Watashi wa inu o katte imasu.
English Translation: I have a dog.

  • inu means “dog.”
  • o indicates an object.
  • katte imasu is a conjugated form of 飼う (kau) which means “(I am) keeping and raising (animals).”
  • Vocabulary related to pets:
    - 犬 (Inu) — Dog
    - ハムスター (Hamusutā) — Hamster
    - 小鳥 (Kotori) — Small bird(s)
    - ヘビ (Hebi) — Snake
    - うさぎ (Usagi) — Rabbit
    - ねこ (Neko) — Cat

Pet
Your pet is a part of your family, so please do mention them!

2- Describing Hobbies

1. 私の趣味は登山です。

Romanization: Watashi no shumi wa tozan desu.
English Translation: My hobby is climbing mountains.

It’s always nice to introduce what you like to do in your free time in order to let people know more about you. It’s common to share information about your hobbies in Japan, unless it’s too personal (such as political or religious activities).

  • Watashi no means “my.”
  • shumi means “hobby.”
  • Vocabulary related to hobbies:
    - 登山 (Tozan) — Climbing mountains
    - 映画鑑賞 (Eiga kanshō) — Watching movies
    - 写真 (Shashin) — Photography
    - 旅行 (Ryokō) — Traveling
    - マンガ (Manga) — Comics
    - スキー (Skī) — Ski
    - サーフィン (Sāfin) — Surfing

2. 私はサッカーが得意です。

Romanization: Watashi wa sakkā ga tokui desu.
English Translation: I am good at soccer.

You can also introduce what is you’re good at. Insert a suitable vocabulary word in the underlined part of the example sentence.

  • tokui is a noun that means “being good at.”
  • Vocabulary related to things you’re good at:
    - スポーツ (Supōtsu) — Sports
    - プログラミング (Puroguramingu) — Programming
    - デザイン (Dezain) — Designing
    - 歌うこと (Utau koto) — Singing
    - 料理 (Ryōri) — Cooking
    - 楽器の演奏 (Gakki no ensō) — Playing instruments
    - ゲーム (Gēmu) — Game

3- Describing Your Favorite Foods

1. 私はラーメンが好きです。

Romanization: Watashi wa rāmen ga suki desu.
English Translation: I like ramen.

Food is always an easy topic to talk about and can expand any conversation. Insert a suitable vocabulary word in the underlined part of the example sentence.
 

  • suki means “like.”
  • ga indicates an object.
  • Vocabulary related to food:
    - 日本食 (Nihonshoku) — Japanese cuisine
    - 中華料理 (Chūka ryōri) — Chinese cuisine
    - 韓国料理 (Kankoku ryōri) — Korean cuisine
    - イタリア料理 (Itaria ryōri) — Italian cuisine
    - フランス料理 (Furansu ryōri) — French cuisine
    - メキシコ料理 (Mekishiko ryōri) — Mexican cuisine
    - 焼肉 (Yakiniku) — Japanese BBQ
    - カツ丼 (Katsudon) — Pork cutlet bowl
    - お好み焼き (Okonomiyaki) — Japanese pancake
    - 果物 (Kudamono) — Fruits
    - 甘いもの (Amai mono) — Sweets


Talking about food can expand conversations, and it’s a good and easy topic to talk about.

4- Describing Your SNS (Social Network Service)

1. 私はインスタグラムを使っています。

Romanization: Watashi wa Insutaguramu o tsukatte imasu.
English Translation: I use Instagram.

When introducing yourself during a casual occasion, such as when you’re trying to make new friends, you can make mention of your SNS to connect with them.

  • o indicates an object.
  • tsukatte imasu is a conjugated form of tsukau (使う) which means “(I am) using.”
  • Insert the name of an SNS, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., in the underlined part of the example sentence.

This is a great way of introducing yourself to a Japanese friend!

2. 私のユーザー名はsakura123です。

Romanization: Watashi no yūzāmei wa sakura123 desu.
English Translation: My username is sakura123.

If you’re introducing yourself to a friend in Japanese and want them to search for your SNS account and add you as a friend, this phrase is useful.

  • yūzā is a Japanese version of how to say “user.”
  • mei is “name.”
  • Insert the name of your account in the underlined part of the example sentence.

3. 私はブログを書いています

Romanization: Watashi wa burogu o kaite imasu.
English Translation: I write a blog.

  • o indicates an object.
  • kaite imasu is a conjugated form of 書く (kaku) which means “(I am) writing.”


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

I hope this article on introducing yourself in Japanese is helpful and that it makes your communication with Japanese people more enjoyable! Hopefully you can now see that knowing how to introduce yourself in Japanese language learning is essential.

Which of these Japanese greetings did you find most useful? Why not practice introducing yourself in Japanese by writing out a self-introductory paragraph in Japanese in the comments? We’d love to hear from you!

If you’d like to learn more Japanese, you’ll find more useful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons for you to improve your Japanese language skills. For example, 10 Lines You Need for Introducing Yourself is useful for practicing your Japanese introduction with audio.

We also have a YouTube channel: JapanesePod101. It’s always fun to learn Japanese language by watching videos and listening to actual Japanese pronunciation. And don’t forget to check out our free vocabulary lists and more blog posts like this one to help you gain insight into Japanese culture and the language!

Know that your determination will pay off, and we’ll be here for each step of your language-learning journey with support and useful tools!

Log

Chichi No Hi: How to Celebrate Fathers Day in Japan

What day is Father’s Day, and what do Japanese traditions look like?

Fathers Day in Japan (known by the Japanese as 父の日 or Chichi No Hi), is similar to Father’s Day in other countries. It’s simply a day to honor one’s father or father-figure, and to show him appreciation and gratitude for all he does.

However, for each aspect of Father’s Day that’s familiar around the world, there’s a distinction that makes it uniquely Japanese. In this article, we’ll be going over common Fathers Day traditions in Japan, from the most popular gifts to its stance next to Mother’s Day.

At JapanesePod101.com, we hope to make this lesson both fun and informative as we examine Japanese culture from the perspective of Chichi No Hi. After all, any successful language-learner can tell you the importance of comprehending a country’s culture in mastering its language.

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1. What is Japanese Father’s Day?

In Japan, Father’s Day is called Chichi No Hi, with chichi meaning one’s own father. The Japanese version of this holiday is similar to versions around the world; Father’s Day is a time to let your father (or father-figure) know how much he means to you.

Just like in many other countries, Father’s Day tends to fall in the shadows of Mother’s Day, however. A Japanese mother is more likely to receive gifts and affection on Mother’s Day than a father is on Father’s Day.

2. When is Father’s Day in Japan?

Father's Day is on a Sunday

So, when is Fathers Day celebrated in Japan?

The date of Father’s Day varies each year, though it always takes place on the third Sunday of June. For your convenience, we’ve prepared a list of this holiday’s date for the next ten years.

  • 2019: June 16
  • 2020: June 21
  • 2021: June 20
  • 2022: June 19
  • 2023: June 18
  • 2024: June 16
  • 2025: June 15
  • 2026: June 21
  • 2027: June 20
  • 2028: June 18

3. How Do the Japanese Celebrate Father’s Day?

A Father with His Daughter and Wife

On Fathers Day, Japan celebrates and shows thankfulness toward fathers, though traditions tend to be profit-oriented. (As seems to be true in the majority of participating countries.)

That said, the most common way that children in Japan show their fathers gratitude is through gift-giving. Gifts tend to be food- or alcohol-related, with Japanese steaks (wagyuu) and traditional alcoholic beverages like sake being the most popular and well-received. A nice family meal is always appreciated, as well.

Other Father’s Day gifts and Father’s Day gift ideas include greeting cards, thank you notes, cash and gift cards, and origami creations. Some children also choose to gift their fathers with flowers at the beginning of the day.

Japanese Father’s Day celebrations don’t typically go beyond gift-giving, which is one way that traditions are unique here. For example, in the United States, spending quality time with one’s father is a popular tradition, and this isn’t the case here.

4. Father’s Day Gifts: The Universal Struggle

We all struggle with Fathers Day ideas. No matter how well we know our dads or how well we get along with them, getting them a gift they’ll actually like is difficult. This struggle exists in Japan, as well.

According to SoraNews24, there’s a huge disconnect in Japan concerning what fathers want on their special day. Children (and entire families) tend to give their fathers more expensive gifts, like the Japanese steaks, when their fathers would actually better appreciate something inexpensive and from the heart—like a thoughtful note of gratitude, or even a little bit of quality time with their children.

5. Useful Vocabulary to Celebrate Father’s Day in Japan

Shochu

Here’s some of the most important vocabulary you should know for Father’s Day in Japan!

  • 日曜日 (にちようび) — Sunday
  • ビール (ビール) — Beer
  • お父さん (おとうさん) — Father
  • 息子 (むすこ) — Son
  • 娘 (むすめ) — Daughter
  • 夕食 (ゆうしょく) — Dinner
  • 愛する (あいする) — Love
  • 焼酎 (しょうちゅう) — Shochu
  • プレゼント (プレゼント) — Present
  • 祝う (いわう) — Celebrate
  • ネクタイ (ネクタイ) — Tie
  • 挨拶状 (あいさつじょう) — Greeting card
  • 六月の第三日曜日 (ろくがつの だいさんにちようび) — third Sunday in June
  • 父の日 (ちちのひ) — Father’s Day

To hear each of these Japanese Father’s Day vocabulary words pronounced, check out our relevant vocabulary list. Here, you’ll find each word accompanied by an audio file of its pronunciation.

Conclusion

Does your country celebrate Father’s Day, or a similar holiday honoring fathers? If so, how do you celebrate it? Let us know in the comments! We look forward to hearing from you.

To learn more about Japanese culture and the language, visit us at JapanesePod101.com! We provide practical learning tools for every learner, including insightful blog posts like this one and free Japanese vocabulary lists to expand your word knowledge. You can also listen to our podcasts, chat with fellow Japanese learners on our forums, or upgrade to Premium Plus to take advantage of our MyTeacher program!

Learning—and mastering—a language is a formidable task. But with your hard work and determination, combined with our lessons and support, you’ll be speaking like a native before you know it!

Best wishes, and Happy Fathers Day!

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Golden Week: Celebrate Japanese Children’s Day!

In Japan, Children’s Day is celebrated each year as a way of wishing good health and success for its youth. When it comes to Children’s Day, Japan’s history (and that of ancient China) plays a huge role. While the Children’s Day Festival in Japan was founded on ancient myths and beliefs, many of its traditions remain in place today.

In learning about Children’s Day Japan activities, you’re opening your eyes to new concepts and cultural aspects of the country of your target language. At JapanesePod101.com, we hope to make learning about Japanese culture both fun and insightful! So let’s get started on our lesson about the Children’s Day Festival Japan holds each year.

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1. What is Children’s Day in Japan?

The Boys’ Festival is an event that began when the Chinese custom of exorcizing evil spirits with herbs made its way to Japan. In Japan, it has been celebrated as a traditional event since ancient times to pray for the healthy growth of boys. These days, not only boys, but also girls participate in the celebration, which is also known as Children’s Day, a national holiday in Japan.

2. When is Children’s Day?

Children's Day is on May 5

Each year during Golden Week, Japan celebrates Children’s Day on May 5.

3. Reading Practice: How is Children’s Day Celebrated?

Koinobori in Air

How do the Japanese celebrate Children’s Day? Read the Japanese text below to find out, and find the English translation directly below it.

5月5日の端午の節句が近づくと、家の外やベランダ、公園などに、「鯉のぼり」が飾られます。鯉のぼりとは魚の形をした吹き流し(ふきながし)のことです。中国に古い話があります。登竜(とうりゅう)という激しい流れの川を鯉が登ったそうです。そして、そのこいは龍(りゅう)になりました。この話から、「こどもがえらくなりますように」とのねがいをこめて、こいのぼりがかざられるようになりました。たいてい、大小さまざまなサイズの鯉が飾られ、一番大きい鯉はお父さん、次に大きいものはお母さん、小さいものは子供と、家族を表していると言われています。

また、家の中では、「よろい」や「かぶと」をかざります。昔、武士は戦いのとき、身を守るためによろいや兜(かぶと)を身につけました。そこで、男の子の体を守るという意味から、よろいやかぶとを飾るようになったのです。また、「五月(ごがつ)人形」と呼ばれる人形も飾ります。一般的なものには、武士の格好をした男の子や、菱形(ひしがた)の前掛け(まえかけ)をした「金太郎(きんたろう)」があります。

そして、端午の節句には柏餅(かしわもち)を食べます。柏餅はあんこを二つ折りにした餅ではさんで、柏の葉でつつんだ和菓子です。「かしわ」という植物は新しい芽がでるまで古い芽が落ちません。そのことから、「家系がずっと続いていく」、つまり「子孫繁栄(しそんはんえい)」を願って食べられています。

地域によっては「ちまき」も食べられています。ちまきとは中国由来(ゆらい)の食べ物で、笹などの葉でもち米を包んで蒸したもののことです。

As Boys’ Festival on May 5th approaches, the outsides of houses, verandas, parks, and so on are decorated with Koi (”Carp̶ ;) Streamers. Koi streamers are streamers made in the shape of a fish. There is an old tale from China that tells of a koi that appeared to have climbed a dangerous river known as Tōryū. This koi then became a dragon. It is from this story that koi streamers came to be decorated alongside wishes for “children to become mighty.” Usually, koi of various sizes are decorated, with the largest koi said to be the father, the next largest the mother, and the smaller koi the children. These koi are said to represent the entire family.

Also, the insides of homes are decorated with armor and helmets. In ancient times, when a samurai would fight, they would wear a helmet and armor to protect themselves. It is from this tradition that helmets and armor became decorations, because they were said to protect the boy’s body. There is also a doll known as a go-gatsu ningyō or “May doll.” Typically, they are boys dressed as samurai, and Kintarō with diamond-shaped aprons.

Kashiwamochi is eaten on Boys’ Festival. Kashiwamochi is a kind of sweet made by stuffing rice cakes with bean paste. The old buds of the kashiwa, or “oak,” do not fall until a new bud appears. They are eaten with the desire that the “family tree will continue forever,” or in other words, for the “prosperity of descendants.”

Some regions also eat chimaki. Chimaki is a food derived from China, which is made by wrapping steamed glutinous rice with leaves, such as bamboo grass.

4. Additional Information: The Iris

There is a special flower for the Boys’ Festival; Japanese use it for celebration just like they do the flower for the Hinamatsuri (”Doll Festival”). Which flower do you think it is?

It’s the iris. The leaves of the iris have a strong fragrance, and people in ancient China believed that this fragrance exorcized evil spirits. The placing of iris into baths for health, and into sake for drinking, formed the beginnings of the Boys’ Festival. These days, there are also families that take baths called shōbuyu meaning “floating iris leaves.”

5. Must-know Vocab

Kabuto

Here’s some vocabulary you should know for Children’s Day in Japan!

  • 菖蒲 (しょうぶ) — iris
  • 端午の節句 (たんごのせっく) — Boys’ Day celebration
  • 子供の日 (こどものひ) — Children’s Day
  • 緋鯉 (ひごい) — red carp
  • 五月五日 (ごがつ いつか) — May 5th
  • 鯉のぼり (こいのぼり) — koinobori
  • 柏餅 (かしわもち) — kashiwamochi
  • かぶと (かぶと) — kabuto
  • 五月人形 (ごがつ にんぎょう) — doll for the Boys’ Festival in May
  • 真鯉 (まごい) — black carp
  • 菖蒲湯 (しょうぶゆ) — bath with iris leaves in it
  • 鎧 (よろい) — armor
  • 吹流し (ふきながし) — streamer
  • ちまき (ちまき) — chimaki

To hear each vocabulary word pronounced, visit our Japanese Children’s Day vocabulary list, where you’ll find each word accompanied by an audio file of its pronunciation.

Conclusion

What do you think of Japan’s Boys’ Festival celebration? Does your country observe a similar holiday? Tell us about it!

To learn more about the culture in Japan and the Japanese language, visit us at JapanesePod101.com. We provide our students with insightful blog posts on various topics, free vocabulary lists, and even on online community to discuss lessons with fellow Japanese students. And if you prefer a one-on-one learning experience, you can learn Japanese with your own personal Japanese teacher through our MyTeacher program!

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