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The Top 10 Japanese Filler Words

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When learning a foreign language, one studies the phrases and grammar rules laid out in their textbook or taught in the classroom. But once a language student begins to practice what they’ve learned in the real world, it’s not long until they encounter a number of unfamiliar expressions in the spoken language.

Filler words are a great example of this. 

Japanese filler words are small words or sounds often used to fill pauses in conversation, emphasize a point, soften a statement, and so on. 

Once you master Japanese filler words and start using them in conversations, you’ll begin to sound more and more like a native speaker. But while filler words can help your speech sound more natural, overusing them can be annoying or leave an undesirable impression of you on others. The key is to use them naturally and effectively. 

In this article, we’ll introduce the top 10 Japanese filler words, explain the characteristics and functions of each, and discuss the pros and cons of using them.


A Woman in a Yellow Sweater Standing with Folded Arms and Thinking

ええと・・・ (eeto…) – “umm…” You can use this Japanese filler when you’re thinking.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. What are filler words?
  2. Top 10 Japanese Filler Words
  3. Pros and Cons of Filler Words
  4. Conclusion

1. What are filler words? 

Filler words are short words or sounds used to fill pauses in conversations, usually to let the other party know you’re not done speaking yet. In English, commonly used filler words and sounds include: 

  • “Uh…”
  • “Um…” 
  • “Er…”
  • “Well…”
  • “So…”
  • “You know…”
  • “I mean…”
  • “Like…” 

Although filler words and sounds add no particular meaning to the speaker’s statement, they do have a function in speech. As mentioned, filler words are most often used to let the other party know that you’re thinking about what to say next and that you’re not finished speaking. This signals to the other party that they should keep listening rather than take their turn to speak. 

Fillers can also be used for a variety of other purposes, depending on the context. For example, they can be used to… 

  • …speak more indirectly in order to be polite.
  • …approach a delicate topic gently.
  • …emphasize an idea.
  • …provide clues about the speaker’s emotions or behaviors.
  • …communicate uncertainty.

A Young Asian Woman in Deep Thought

Filler words are used to fill the little pauses in conversations.

How are they used in Japanese?

Filler words in Japanese are used in almost the same way as those in English.

Most Japanese filler words are casual. That said, some of them—such as あの (ano) and その (sono)—can also be used in formal/official situations. Others are only used by young people or thoughtless adults and are referred to as 若者言葉 (wakamono kotoba) or “young people’s words.” Fillers that fall into this category include てゆーか (te yū ka) and てかさー (teka sā).

In the following section, we’ll go into more detail about the usage of each commonly used Japanese filler word.

A Man Standing in Front of a Blackboard That Has a Thought Bubble Drawn on It

The most frequently used Japanese filler words are あのー (anō), meaning “um…” / “er…,” and ええと (eeto…), meaning “well…”

2. Top 10 Japanese Filler Words

#1 ええと (eeto) / えっと (etto) / えー (ē) 

English Equivalents: “er” / “err” / “uh” / “um”

This is one of the most common Japanese filler words. You can use it to indicate that you’re pausing to think or to precede something that you’re hesitant to say. 

While ええと (eeto) and えー (ē) can be used both casually and in formal situations—such as in an official speech or a business presentation—えっと (etto) should only be used casually. These filler words may be used multiple times in one sentence.

Examples

  • ええと、何を言おうとしていたんだっけ・・
    Eeto, nani o iō to shite ita n dakke…
    “Err, what I was trying to say…”
  • えっと、今から授業が始まるから、後でね。
    Etto, ima kara jugyō ga hajimaru kara, ato de ne.
    “Um, maybe later because the class is starting now.”
  • えー、先ほども述べた通り、えー、今期の営業利益はマイナスです。
    Ē, sakihodo mo nobeta tōri, ē, konki no eigyō rieki wa mainasu desu.
    “Uh, as I mentioned before, um, the operating profit of this period is negative.”

#2 あの (ano) / あのー (anō)

English Equivalents: “well” / “uh” / “um”

This is another frequently used Japanese filler word that can be used in both casual and formal situations. It’s very similar to ええと(eeto) and えー (ē), but this one can also be used to get the listener’s attention.

Examples

  • あの、ちょっといいですか、あの、言いたいことがあります。
    Ano, chotto ii desu ka, ano, iitai koto ga arimasu.
    “Err, can I have a minute, um, I have something to say.”
  • ええと、ここに問題があります。あのー、ようするに流通の問題です。
    Eeto, koko ni mondai ga arimasu. Anō, yōsuruni, ryūtsū no mondai desu.
    “Um, the problem lies here. Well, in a word, the distribution problem.”

Two Asian Coworkers Chatting Together After Work

田中さん、あの、ランチ一緒に行きませんか。
Tanaka-san, ano, ranchi issho ni ikimasen ka.
“Ms. Tanaka, um, would you like to have lunch together?”

#3 その (sono) / そのー (sonō)

English Equivalents: “well” / “uh” / “um” 

These are similar to あの (ano) and あのー (anō). They’re used to pause a little so you can think of what to say next, or before talking about a delicate subject.

Examples

  • 私は、その、これが良い案とは思いません。
    Watashi wa, sono, kore ga ii an to wa omoimasen.
    “I, uh, I don’t think this is a good idea.”
  • そのー、いわゆる、それはザイアンス効果によるものです。
    Sonō, iwayuru, sore wa Zaiansu kōka ni yoru mono desu.
    “Well, so to speak, it is due to the mere-exposure effect.”

#4 うーん (ūn) / うーんと (ūnto

English Equivalent: “umm”

This is the Japanese version of “umm.” It’s an example of 擬態語 (Gitaigo), or “onomatopoeia,” used to describe a state of “thinking.” You can use this filler to let the other person know you’re gathering your thoughts, or to precede something that you’re hesitant to say. 

Examples

  • うーん、どっちにしようかな。 うーん、この二つから決めるのは難しい。
    Ūn, dotchi ni shiyō ka na. Ūn, kono futatsu kara kimeru no wa muzukashii.
    “Umm, which one should I choose? Ummm, it’s hard to decide between these two.”
  • うーんと、今週の土曜日なら大丈夫です。
    Ūnto, konshū no do-yōbi nara daijōbu desu.
    “Umm, it’s okay on this Saturday.”

A Japanese Businessman Expressing Distaste for Something He’s Reading in a Folder

うーん、それはちょっと難しいです。
Ūn, sore wa chotto muzukashii desu.
“Umm, that’s a bit difficult.”

#5 なんか (nanka)

English Equivalents: “like” / “you know”

As a casual filler word, なんか (nanka) is similar to the English word “like,” but it has a nuance that’s more like saying “hey” or “wait” after noticing or discovering something that you want to share with another party. 

Examples

  • なんか、私にとってはどっちでもいいって感じ。
    Nanka, watashi ni totte wa dotchi demo ii tte kanji.
    “Like, I don’t care whichever.”
  • なんか、今日はいつもより道が混んでるよ。
    Nanka, kyō wa itsumo yori michi ga konde ru yo.
    “Hey, it seems there is more traffic today than usual.”

#6 ていうか (te iu ka

English Equivalents: “I mean” / “you know”

This Japanese filler word is very casual and it’s often used to express disagreement with something in a softer way.

There are a few variations of this filler, including:

  • なんていうか (nante iu ka) – “what do I say…” / “let me see..” 
    • This variation can also be used in formal situations.
  • てゆーか (te yū ka) – “I mean” / “you know” 
    • This one is very casual, and used primarily among young people.
  • てかさ (teka sa) – “I mean” / “you know”  
    • This one is very casual, and used primarily among young people. 

Examples

  • ていうか、むしろ彼に感謝したほうがいいよ。
    Te iu ka, mushiro, kare ni kansha shita hō ga ii yo.
    “I mean, you should rather thank him.”
  • ええと、なんていうか、この計画は見直しが必要だと思います。
    Eeto, nante iu ka, kono keikaku wa minaoshi ga hitsuyō da to omoimasu.
    “Er, I mean, I think this plan needs to be reviewed.”
  • てかさ、前にも言ったけど、勝手に私の部屋に入らないで。
    Teka sa, mae ni mo itta kedo, katte ni watashi no heya ni hairanaide.
    “You know, as I said before, don’t enter my room without asking me.”

#7 まぁ・・()

English Equivalent: “well”

This filler word is used to express hesitance or to mildly approach a delicate topic.

For reference, the sound ま (ma) has different nuances depending on how it’s said. For example:

  • まぁ!(mā!) – “Wow!” / “Oh!”
    • In this variation, there is an accent over the a in ma. It’s often expressed with a small Hiragana “あ.”
  • まぁ まぁ (mā mā) – “so-so” 
    • When the long mā is repeated, it means “so-so.”

Examples

  • まぁ、別に私はいいけど、他の人にも意見を聞いた方がいいと思う。
    Mā, betsu ni watashi wa ii kedo, hoka no hito ni mo iken o kiita hō ga ii to omou.

“Well, I don’t mind, but I think it’s better to ask other people their opinions.”

  • まぁ、仕方ないです。誰も天気をコントロールできないですから。

Mā, shikatanai desu. Dare mo tenki o contorōru dekinai desu kara.

“Well, it can’t be helped, because nobody can control the weather.”

#8 それで (sorede

English Equivalents: “so” / “and then”

This Japanese filler is typically used at the beginning of a sentence to start a new topic in the conversation or to ask for additional information. It can also be used to explain something involving a series of events. 

The short version of それで  (sorede) is just で (de), which is used very casually.

Examples

  • それで、週末に釣りに行く計画はどうなったんですか。

Sorede, shūmatsu ni tsuri ni iku keikaku wa dō natta n desu ka.

“So, what happened to the plan to go fishing on the weekend?”

  • で、何が言いたいの?

De, nani ga iitai no?

“So, what do you want to say?”

A Group of Four Japanese Students Chatting After School

それで、第2話はどんな展開になったの?

Sorede, dai-ni-wa wa donna tenkai ni natta no?

“So, what happened in the second episode?”

#9 そうか (sōka

English Equivalents: “is that so” / “I see” / “oh”

You could use this filler word to indicate that you’ve finally realized or understood something. 

.

There are two other variations you could use: 

1. そっか (sokka) – the very casual version 

2. そうですか (sō desu ka) – the most polite version using 敬語 (Keigo), or honorifics 

Examples

  • そうか、その形には重要な意味があったのか。

Sōka, sono katachi ni wa jūyō na imi ga atta no ka.

“I see, there is an important meaning for that shape.”

  • そっか、わかった!やっと謎が解けたよ。

Sokka, wakatta! Yatto nazo ga toketa yo.

“Oh, I understand it. Finally the mystery is solved.”

#10 そうそう (sō sō)

English Equivalent: “yes, yes” / “that’s right”

This filler word is used to affirm something or agree with someone.

Examples

  • そうそう! まさにこれが欲しかったんです!ありがとう。

Sō sō! Masani kore ga hoshikatta n desu! Arigatō.

“Yes, yes! This is exactly what I wanted! Thank you.”

  • そうそう、そういうこと!

Sō sō, sō iu koto!

“Yes, yes, that’s what I’m talking about!”

3. Pros and Cons of Filler Words

Japanese people use a variety of filler words in their daily conversations. As these words are short and often found at the beginning of a sentence, you may easily pick them up while watching Japanese anime or TV shows, for example. 

But even though they’re simple to pick up, there are some tips to keep in mind regarding how to use Japanese filler words effectively and wisely!

1 – Pro: Using filler words makes you sound like a local.

Every language learner would appreciate the obvious benefit of using filler words: it instantly makes you sound more natural and “like-native” in everyday conversations. 

For beginners and intermediate learners, filler words can serve two key functions: 

1) Helping you avoid the awkward sentence examples sometimes found in textbooks

2) Giving you a simple way to gain time in a conversation to conjure up vocab words and construct sentences

If you have an advanced level of fluency, learning the differences in nuance and usage of similar Japanese conversation fillers can help you sound like a native speaker. Using them in the right contexts will impress locals and give the impression that you’re truly fluent.

A Group of Four Girls Sitting on Steps Outside and Talking

Using filler words in conversations makes it sound natural.

2 – Con: Overusing them can leave a bad impression.

Here’s the tricky part of using filler words. 

Overuse can create the impression that you’re indecisive and lack confidence. In addition, there are variations of Japanese filler words for different levels of formality; if you use overly casual ones all the time, people might think you’re childish or even stupid.

Especially in formal settings—such as when you’re giving a public speech, a business presentation, or an interview—it’s wise to avoid using filler words. This is because they will distract your listener(s) from the point you’re trying to make. It’s often pointed out that poor speakers frequently use えー (ē), あのー (anō), and そのー (sonō) in their speech.

In order to avoid overusing filler words in your important speech, and to give the impression that you’re a confident and smart professional, please consider the following tips. 

(1) Use short sentences.

You probably use filler words unconsciously, especially when saying a long sentence or when you have a lot to say. To avoid this, make the important points clear and state them in short sentences. This will keep you from needing to pause often or connect your ideas with filler words. Stating things clearly also makes a confident and crisp impression.

(2) Don’t be afraid to pause. 

Some people hate awkward silences in conversations. However, when giving a public speech or business presentation, you are the sole speaker. As such, you shouldn’t be afraid of long pauses or moments of silence. 

While many people feel that they must continue speaking and rush to find their next words, a short pause is actually an effective way to draw the audience’s attention. In addition, it gives the listeners more time to follow along with and understand the content of the speech. 

For these reasons, it’s better to pause every once in a while rather than filling that pause with unnecessary words.

A Man Scratching His Head

The repetition of filler words like あのー (anō…) and ええと (eeto…) in a presentation does not give a good impression.

4. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced the top 10 Japanese filler words. We also outlined the pros and cons of using them in your speech and gave you tips on how to limit their use. How many of these Japanese filler words did you already know, and did you find any new useful ones?   

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language and other useful Japanese phrases, you’ll find lots of helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons designed to help you improve your Japanese language skills. 

To learn more everyday Japanese, make sure to see our article The 10 Most Useful Japanese Questions and Answers. Or, if you’re curious how to pick up the language even faster, you’ll enjoy reading The Top 10 Japanese YouTube Channels to Improve Your Japanese.

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

Before you go, let us know in the comments if there are any not-in-the-textbooks spoken Japanese phrases you still want to know! We’d be glad to help, and we look forward to hearing from you!

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Japanese Negation: How to Make Negative Japanese Sentences

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When learning a language, negation is an essential part of grammar that should be mastered as early on as possible. This skill allows us to answer “no” to questions and form negative sentences, which in turn improves our communication with others. 

Japanese negation is not very complicated, but there are some points to note. 

As is often said, a language reflects the culture surrounding it. In Japanese culture, where people are expected to be polite and respect others, saying “no” directly is often considered to be rough and rude as it may offend others’ feelings. In order to avoid conflict and maintain 和 (wa), or “harmony,” Japanese people have particular ways of saying “no.”

In this article, we’ll introduce the Japanese negative forms and show you how to answer “no.” You’ll learn frequently used phrases that make polite impressions, in addition to other Japanese negating words and double negative expressions.

Ready to master Japanese negation with JapanesePod101.com?

A Hand Checking a No Box with a Marker Pen

Negation is an essential topic to master when learning a new language.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Negate a Statement
  2. Giving a Negative Response to a Question
  3. Other Japanese Negating Words and Phrases
  4. Double Negatives
  5. Conclusion

1. Negate a Statement

In order to make a sentence or phrase negative, you must negate the verb. There are two types of expressions used for Japanese verb negation: Informal (Plain / Casual) and Formal (Polite). In the following sections, we’ll show you how to conjugate verbs to the negative form for both informal and formal expressions, as well as in both present tense and past tense.

Before learning verb conjugations in the negative form, however, you first need to know the classification of Japanese verbs. All Japanese verbs are categorized into three classes: 

  • Ru-verbs
  • U-verbs
  • Irregular verbs 

Note that there are only two irregular verbs in the positive form (する [suru] – “do” // くる [kuru] – “come”) and three for the negative form (the previous two, with the addition of ある [aru] – “be” for the existence of non-living things). 

While Ru-verbs end in る (ru), U-verbs can end in various Hiragana with u-vowel sounds. These include る (ru), う (u), く (ku), す (su), つ (tsu), む (mu), る (ru), (bu), etc. 

Please check the Japanese Alphabet page on our website as well as our Japanese Verb Conjugation article for more details.

1. Informal Negative Form (Present Tense)

For the informal/plain negative form in the present tense, verbs in different classes conjugate in the following ways. 

  • Ru-verbs

Add ない (nai) instead of る (ru) after the verb stem. Let’s look at the Japanese verb for “to eat” as an example:

食べ (taberu) → 食べない  (tabenai)

Here, 食べ/ たべ (tabe) is the verb stem. 

EnglishVerb(Informal/Plain)HiraganaReadingNegative Form(Informal/Plain)Reading
see / look / watch見る みるmiru見ないmi-nai
eat    食べる たべるtaberu食べないtabe-nai
sleep寝る ねるneru寝ないne-nai
change変えるかえるkaeru変えないkae-nai
think考える かんがえるkangaeru考えないkangae-nai

Examples:

私は朝ごはんを食べない。
Watashi wa asagohan o tabenai.
“I don’t eat breakfast.”

かな子は夜テレビを見ない。
Kanako wa yoru terebi o minai.
“Kanako does not watch TV at night.”

彼はよく考えない。
Kare wa yoku kangaenai.
“He does not think well.”

  • U-verbs

To conjugate U-verbs in the informal negative form, conjugate the Hiragana after the verb stem into あ段 (a-dan), which is the line in the Hiragana chart with vowel sound “a,” and add ない (nai).

Let’s look at an example using the Japanese verb for “talk” or “speak.”

(hanasu) → 話さない (hanasa nai)

As you can see, はな (hana) is the verb stem, and we changed the す(su) into さ (sa). 

EnglishVerb(Informal/Plain)HiraganaReadingNegative Form(Informal/Plain)Reading
talk / speak話すはなすhanasu話さないhana-sanai
go行くいくiku行かないi-kanai
wait待つまつmatsu待たないma-tanai
buykauないka-wanai
listen / hear聞くきくkiku聞かないki-kanai

*For U-verbs that end in う (u), replace う (u) with わ (wa).

Examples:

夏休みの間、子供たちは学校へ行かない。
Natsuyasumi no aida, kodomo-tachi wa gakkō e ikanai.
“Children don’t go to school during the summer vacation.”

彼は親の言うことを聞かない。
Kare wa oya no iu koto o kikanai.
“He does not listen to what his parents say.”

彼女は安い服を買わない。
Kanojo wa yasui fuku o kawanai.
“She does not buy cheap clothes.”

  • Irregular Verbs

There are only three exceptions to the conjugation rules above, as shown in this table: 

EnglishVerb(Informal/Plain)HiraganaReadingNegative Form(Informal/Plain)Reading
doするするsuruしないshi-nai
come来るくるkuru来ないko-nai
be(existence of non-living thing)あるあるaruないnai

Examples:

私は休日に何もしない。
Watashi wa kyūjitsu ni nani mo shinai.
“I don’t do anything on a day off.”

バスが時間通りに来ない。
Basu ga jikandōri ni konai.
“The bus does not come on time.”

銀行口座にお金がない。
Ginkō kōza ni o-kane ga nai.
“There is no money in the bank account.”

2. Formal Negative Form (Present Tense)

  • Ru-verbs

For Ru-verbs, change ない (nai) to ません (masen).

So, for the verb “to eat,” this would look like:

食べない (tabe-nai)  → 食べません (tabe-masen)

Negative Form    (Formal / Polite)Reading
見ませんmi-masen
食べませんtabe-masen
寝ませんne-masen
変えませんkae-masen
考えませんkangae-masen 

Examples:

私は朝ごはんを食べません。
Watashi wa asagohan o tabemasen.
“I don’t eat breakfast.”

かな子は夜テレビを見ません。
Kanako wa yoru terebi o mimasen.
“Kanako does not watch TV at night.”

彼はよく考えません。
Kare wa yoku kangaemasen.
“He does not think well.”

  • U-verbs

Conjugate the Hiragana after the verb stem into い段 (i-dan), which is the line in the Hiragana chart with vowel sound “i,” and add ません (masen):

話さない (hanasa nai) →  話しません (hana shi masen)

As you can see, we changed さ (sa) into し (shi). 

  Negative Form    (Formal / Polite)Reading
話しませんhana-shimasen
行きませんi-kimasen
待ちませんma-chimasen
買いませんka-imasen
聞きませんki-kimasen

Examples:

夏休みの間、子供たちは学校へ行きません。
Natsuyasumi no aida, kodomo-tachi wa gakkō e ikimasen.
“Children don’t go to school during the summer vacation.”

彼は親の言うことを聞きません。
Kare wa oya no iu koto o kikimasen.
“He does not listen to what his parents say.”

彼女は安い服を買いません。
Kanojo wa yasui fuku o kaimasen.
“She does not buy cheap clothes.”

  • Irregular Verbs

In the formal negative form, irregular verbs change as follows:

Negative Form    (Formal / Polite)Reading
しませんshi-masen
来ませんki-masen
ありませんari-masen

Examples:

私は休日に何もしません。
Watashi wa kyūjitsu ni nani mo shimasen.
“I don’t do anything on a day off.”

バスが時間通りに来ません。
Basu ga jikandōri ni kimasen.
“The bus does not come on time.”

銀行口座にお金がありません。
Ginkō kōza ni o-kane ga arimasen.
“There is no money in the bank account.”

3. Informal Negative Form (Past Tense)

In the past tense of the informal/plain negative form, change the ない (nai) of the present tense informal/plain form to なかった (nakatta). This is done for all Ru-verbs, U-verbs, and irregular verbs.

  • Ru-Verbs
Negative Form    (Informal / Past)Reading
見なかったmi-nakatta
食べなかったtabe-nakatta
寝なかったne-nakatta
変えなかったkae-nakatta
考えなかったkangae-nakatta 

Examples:

私は朝ごはんを食べなかった。
Watashi wa asagohan o tabenakatta.
“I didn’t eat breakfast.”

かな子は夜テレビを見なかった。
Kanako wa yoru terebi o minakatta.
“Kanako did not watch TV at night.”

彼はよく考えなかった。
Kare wa yoku kangaenakatta.
“He did not think well.”

  • U-Verbs
Negative Form              (Informal / Past)Reading
話さなかったhana-sa-nakatta
行かなかったi-ka-nakatta
待たなかったma-ta-nakatta
買わなかったka-wa-nakatta
聞かなかったki-ka-nakatta 

Examples:

夏休みの間、子供たちは学校へ行かなかった。
Natsuyasumi no aida, kodomo-tachi wa gakkō e ikanakatta.
“Children didn’t go to school during the summer vacation.”

彼は親の言うことを聞かなかった。
Kare wa oya no iu koto o kikanakatta.
“He did not listen to what his parents said.”

彼女は安い服を買わなかった。
Kanojo wa yasui fuku o kawanakatta.
“She did not buy cheap clothes.”

  • Irregular Verbs
  Negative Form    (Informal / Past)Reading
しなかったshi-nakatta
来なかったko-nakatta
なかったnakatta 

Examples:

私は休日に何もしなかった。
Watashi wa kyūjitsu ni nani mo shinakatta.
“I didn’t do anything on a day off.”

バスが時間通りに来なかった。
Basu ga jikandōri ni konakatta.
“The bus did not come on time.”

銀行口座にお金がなかった。
Ginkō kōza ni o-kane ga nakatta.
“There was no money in the bank account.”

4. Formal Negative Form (Past Tense)

In the past tense of the formal/polite negative form, add the expression でした (deshita) after the present tense formal/polite form for all Ru-verbs, U-verbs, and irregular verbs.

  • Ru-Verbs
Negative Form    (Formal / Past)Reading
見ませんでしたmi-masen deshita
食べませんでしたtabe-masen deshita
寝ませんでしたne-masen deshita
変えませんでしたkae-masen deshita
考えませんでしたkangae-masen deshita

Examples:

私は朝ごはんを食べませんでした
Watashi wa asagohan o tabemasen deshita.
“I didn’t eat breakfast.”

かな子は夜テレビを見ませんでした
Kanako wa yoru terebi o mimasen deshita.
“Kanako did not watch TV at night.”

彼はよく考えませんでした
Kare wa yoku kangaemasen deshita.
“He did not think well.”

  • U-Verbs
  Negative Form    (Formal / Past)Reading
話しませんでしたhana-shi-masen deshita
行きませんでしたi-ki-masen deshita
待ちませんでしたma-chi-masen deshita
買いませんでしたka-i-masen deshita
聞きませんでしたki-ki-masen deshita

Examples:

夏休みの間、子供たちは学校へ行きませんでした
Natsuyasumi no aida, kodomo-tachi wa gakkō e ikimasen deshita.
“Children didn’t go to school during the summer vacation.”

彼は親の言うことを聞きませんでした
Kare wa oya no iu koto o kikimasen deshita.
“He did not listen to what his parents said.”

彼女は安い服を買いませんでした
Kanojo wa yasui fuku o kaimasen deshita.
“She did not buy cheap clothes.”

  • Irregular Verbs
Negative Form    (Formal / Past)Reading
しませんでしたshi-masen deshita
来ませんでしたki-masen deshita
ありませんでしたari-masen deshita

Examples:

私は休日に何もしませんでした
Watashi wa kyūjitsu ni nani mo shimasen deshita.
“I didn’t do anything on a day off.”

バスが時間通りに来ませんでした
Basu ga jikandōri ni kimasen deshita.
“The bus did not come on time.”

銀行口座にお金がありませんでした
Ginkō kōza ni o-kane ga arimasen deshita.
“There was no money in the bank account.”

A Man Wearing a Tie Eating a Salmon Filet with Vegetables

彼は肉を食べません。でも、魚は食べます。
Kare wa niku o tabemasen. Demo, sakana wa tabemasu.
“He does not eat meat. However, he eats fish.”

2. Giving a Negative Response to a Question

There are a few different Japanese negative forms and set phrases used to answer questions in the negative. Remember that saying “no” directly is often considered impolite, so this is reflected in how Japanese speakers give negative responses as well.

1. How to Say “No” to a Question

When you’re asked a yes-or-no question and want to reply “no,” typical answers are as follows:

With verb:

    いいえ (iie) – “no” 、+  — Negative Form 

Without verb:

    いいえ (iie) – “no”、 +  —では ない              — de wa nai  [Informal]

    いいえ (iie) – “no”、 +  —では ありません   —de wa arimasen  [Formal]

では (de wa) can be substituted with じゃ (ja), which is typically used in spoken conversations.

Examples:

[With verb]

Q: お肉を食べますか。(O-niku o tabemasu ka.) – “Do you eat meat?”
A: いいえ食べません。(Iie, tabemasen.) – “No, I don’t eat it.”

Q: 普段運動をしますか。(Fudan undō o shimasu ka.) “Do you usually do exercise?”
A: いいえ、日常的な運動はしません。(Iie, nichijōteki na undō wa Iie.) – “No, I don’t do daily exercise.”

[Without verb]

Q: この本はあなたのですか。(Kono hon wa anata no desu ka.) – “Is this book yours?”
A: いいえ、それは私の本ではありせん。(Iie, sore wa watashi no hon de wa arimasen.) – “No, it’s not my book.”

Q: 映画館の入り口はここですか。(Eigakan no iriguchi wa koko desu ka.) – “Is the entrance to the cinema here?”
A: いいえ、入り口はここではありません。(Iie, iriguchi wa koko de wa arimasen.) – “No, the entrance is not here.”


A Woman Holding a Plate and Refusing a Sausage

いいえ、お肉は食べません。
Iie, o-niku wa tabemasen.
“No, I don’t eat meat.”

2. Polite Expressions for Saying No in Japanese

Japanese people are expected to be polite and respectful to others, and they tend to avoid saying “no” directly because it sounds rough and rude. In order to say “no” without sounding rude, we often use クッション言葉 (kusshon kotoba), literally “cushion words,” or words to soften awkward topics, when rejecting an unwanted offer or invitation.

Following is a list of frequently used kusshon kotoba for saying “no” politely.

3. 残念ですが ___。(Zannen desu ga ___.)  – “I’m afraid but ___.”

Example:

A:
ビールをどうぞ。
Bīru o dōzo.
“Please have a beer.”

B:
残念ですが、私はお酒を飲めません。
Zannen desu ga, watashi wa o-sake o nomemasen.
“I’m afraid but I cannot drink alcohol.”

4. せっかくですが ___。 (Sekkaku desu ga ___.) – “Unfortunately ___.”

Example:

A:
無料券があるので、明日一緒に映画を見に行きませんか。
Muryōken ga aru node, ashita issho ni eiga o mi ni ikimasen ka.
“I have a free ticket, would you like to go see a movie together tomorrow?”

B:
せっかくですが、明日は予定があるのでご一緒できません。
Sekkaku desu ga, ashita wa yotei ga aru node go-issho dekimasen.
“Unfortunately I have a plan tomorrow and we can’t go together.”

5. 申し訳ないのですが ___。(Mōshiwake nai no desu ga ___.) – “I’m so sorry but ___.”

Example:

A:
来週末にホームパーティをやるので来ませんか。
Raishūmatsu ni hōmu pātī o yaru node kimasen ka.
“I will have a home party next weekend and would you like to come?”

B:
申し訳ないのですが、来週末は兄の結婚式があるので行けません。
Mōshiwake nai no desu ga, raishūmatsu wa ani no kekkonshiki ga aru node ikemasen.
“I’m so sorry, but I can’t go because there’s my brother’s wedding on that weekend.”

6. お気持ちは嬉しいのですが ___。(O-kimochi wa ureshii no desu ga ___.) – “I’m glad for your thoughtfulness but ___.”

Example:

A:
クッキーをたくさん焼いたので食べませんか。
Kukkī o takusan yaita node tabemasen ka.
“I baked a lot of cookies, would you like to have some?”

B:
お気持ちは嬉しいのですが、小麦アレルギーなので食べられません。
O-kimochi wa ureshii no desu ga, komugi arerugī na node taberaremasen.
“I’m glad for your kindness, but I’m allergic to wheat and I can’t eat them.”

A Japanese Man with an Uncertain Look on His Face while Reading Something in a Yellow Folder

Saying “no” directly sounds a bit too strong, or even rude, in Japanese.

3. Other Japanese Negating Words and Phrases

The basic Japanese negation forms are ない (nai) [Informal / Plain] and ません (masen) [Formal / Polite]. However, there are other negation expressions, such as those for partial negation, emphatic negation, and the imperative form.

Negation in Japanese can take the following forms:

 Partial Negation
  決して (kesshite)  
ほとんど (hotondo)  
これ以上 (kore ijō)
[Verb] (ない [nai] / ません [masen])
[Noun] + ではない (de wa nai)
[な na-adjective] + ではない (de wa nai)
[い i-adjective] + くない (kunai)

1. 決して ___ない (kesshite ___nai) – “never ___”

Examples:

同じ日は決して来ない。 
Onaji hi wa kesshite konai.
“The same day will never come.”

彼は決して嘘をつきません。 
Kare wa kesshite uso o tsukimasen.
“He never lies.”

その部屋へ防護服なしに決して入ってはいけません。
Sono heya e bōgofuku nashi ni kesshite haitte wa ikemasen.
“Never enter that room without protective suits.”

2. ほとんど ___ない (hotondo ___nai) – “barely/hardly ___”

Examples:

この公園にはほとんど人がいない。 
Kono kōen ni wa hotondo hito ga inai
“There are barely even a few people in this park.”

Mサイズはほとんど残っていません。 
Emu saizu wa hotondo nokotte imasen.
“There is hardly/almost no M size left.”

商店街のお店はほとんど開いていません。
Shōtengai no o-mise wa hotondo hiraite imasen.
“Most of the shops in the shopping district are not open.”

3. これ以上 ___ない (kore ijō ___nai) “no more/no longer/anymore ___”

Examples:

その子は怖くて、これ以上目を開けていられない。
Sono ko wa kowakute, kore ijō me o akete irarenai.
“The kid is scared and can’t open his eyes anymore.”

これ以上の幸せはありません。 
Kore ijō no shiawase wa arimasen.
“There is no more happiness than this.”

今日はこれ以上勉強したくない。
Kyō wa kore ijō benkyō shitakunai.
“I don’t want to study anymore today.”

4. 誰もいない (dare mo inai) – “nobody”

Examples:

ここには誰もいない。 
Koko ni wa dare mo inai.
“There is nobody here.”

この映画を見たい人は誰もいません。 
Kono eiga o mitai hito wa dare mo imasen.
“There is no one who wants to watch this movie.”

その試験に合格した人は誰もいませんでした。
Sono shiken ni gōkaku shita hito wa dare mo imasen deshita.
“There is no one who passed the exam.”

5. どこにもない (doko ni mo nai) – “nowhere”

Examples:

完全に自由になれる場所はどこにもない。 
Kanzen ni jiyū ni nareru basho wa doko ni mo nai.
“There is nowhere you can be completely free.”

靴下の片方がどこにも見つからない。 
Kutsushita no katahō ga doko ni mo mitsukaranai.
“I can’t find one of my socks anywhere.”

金のなる木はどこにもありません。
Kane no naru ki wa doko ni mo arimasen.
“There is no tree that money grows on anywhere.”

6. どちらも ___ない (dochira mo ___nai) – “neither ___ nor ___”

Examples:

りんごもみかんも、どちらも食べたくない。 
Ringo mo mikan mo, dochira mo tabetakunai.
“I don’t want to eat either apples or oranges.”

桜もひまわりも、どちらも咲いていません。 
Sakura mo himawari mo, dochira mo saite imasen.
“Neither cherry blossoms nor sunflowers are in bloom.”

どちらも大したことはありません。
Dochira mo taishita koto wa arimasen.
“Neither of them is a big deal.”

7. [Imperative Form] (“Do not ___.”)

 [casual/strong] ___(する)な              ___(suru) na 
 [polite/mild]   ___ないでください   ___naide kudasai 

Examples:

壁に落書きするな。 
Kabe ni rakugaki suru na.
“Don’t scribble / do graffiti on the wall.”

ここで子供を遊ばせないでください。 
Koko de kodomo o asobasenaide kudasai.
“Please don’t let children play here.”

この危険区域に立ち入らないでください。
Kono kiken kuiki ni tachiiranaide kudasai.
“Please do not enter this dangerous area.”

A Woman Holding Both Palms Out in Front of Her to Say No or Stop

私は決してお酒を飲みません。
Watashi wa kesshite o-sake o nomimasen.
“I never drink Sake/alcohol.”

4. Double Negatives

When negative forms are used twice in the same sentence, it’s called a double negative. While some double negative expressions intensify the negation, most double negatives cancel each other out and produce a positive. 

Keep in mind that when a double negative constructs a positive meaning, the nuance is not the same as that of a normal positive sentence. Rather, its meaning is closer to that of a negative sentence. Such expressions often lose their nuance when translated into English.

There are various double negative expressions in Japanese, but it’s recommended not to use them often (especially in business contexts), because using double negatives is not straight to the point and is a bit difficult to understand.

1. ___ないはずがない (___nai hazu ga nai) – “can’t be ___”

Examples:

彼がお酒を飲まないはずがない。 
Kare ga o-sake o nomanai hazu ga nai.
“It can’t be true that he doesn’t drink.”
[He definitely drinks.]

ここに置いた財布がないはずがない。 
Koko ni oita saifu ga nai hazu ga nai.
“The wallet I put here can’t be gone.”
[The wallet I put here should be here.]

天気予報によると、明日は晴れないはずがない。 
Tenki yohō ni yoru to, ashita wa harenai hazu ga nai.
“According to the weather, it can’t be not sunny tomorrow.”
[It must be sunny tomorrow.]

2. ___ないとも限らない (___nai to mo kagiranai) – “may possibly ___” / “perhaps it might be ___”

Examples:

いつも上手くいくからといって、次は失敗しないとも限らない。 
Itsumo umaku iku kara to itte, tsugi wa shippai shinai to mo kagiranai.
“Just because it always works well doesn’t mean it won’t fail next time.”
[It may possibly fail.]

その件について親が反対しないとも限らない。 
Sono ken ni tsuite oya ga hantai shinai to mo kagiranai.
“It is not always the case that parents do not object to the matter.”
[Parents may possibly object.]

努力すれば必ず夢が叶うわけではないが、叶わないとも限らない。 
Doryoku sureba kanarazu yume ga kanau wake de wa nai ga, kanawanai to mo kagiranai.
“Although making efforts does not mean a dream will definitely come true, it may not be the case that the dream won’t come true.”
[The dream may possibly come true.]

3. ___ ないことはない (___ nai koto wa nai) – “There is nothing ___ not do.”

Examples:

期限内に完了できないことはない。 
Kigennai ni kanryō dekinai koto wa nai.
“There is nothing I cannot complete within the deadline.”
[I am probably able to complete everything within the deadline.”

彼が知らないことは何もない。 
Kare ga shiranai koto wa nani mo nai.
“There is nothing at all that he doesn’t know.”
[He knows everything.]

強い意志と努力があれば、あなたは難関試験に合格できないことはない。
Tsuyoi ishi to doryoku ga areba, anata wa nankan shiken ni gōkaku dekinai koto wa nai.
“With a strong will and effort, there is no way you cannot pass the difficult exam.”
[You may be able to pass the difficult exam.]

4 ___なしには ___ない (___nashi ni wa ___nai) – “There is no / can’t ___ without ___.”

Examples:

この話は、涙なしには語れない。 
Kono hanashi wa namida nashi ni wa katarenai.
“(I) can’t tell this story without tears.”

ここは許可なしには通れません。 
Koko wa kyoka nashi ni wa tōremasen.
“You cannot pass here without permission.”

バナナケーキはバターなしには美味しく作れません。 
Banana kēki wa batā nashi ni wa oishiku tsukuremasen.
“Banana cakes cannot be made delicious without butter.”

Storm Clouds Forming

今日は雨が降らないとも限らない。
Kyō wa ame ga furanai to mo kagiranai.
(“It might rain today.” / “It wouldn’t be that it won’t rain today.”)

5. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced Japanese negation and discussed a number of relevant topics: 

  • negative expressions for answering “no” to questions 
  • being polite when rejecting an invitation
  • using partial negation
  • double negatives

Although Japanese has informal and formal forms to remember, Japanese negation is easy to handle once you learn the patterns! 

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language and other useful Japanese phrases for any situation, you’ll find more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons to help you improve your Japanese language skills. 

To learn more about Japanese grammar and syntax, check out the following blog posts: 

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

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

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Japanese Tenses: Simple Yet Unique

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Did you know that the Japanese language does not have a future tense nor any perfect tenses like English does? Japanese tenses are much simpler to handle, as there are only two: the present tense and the past tense. However, there are some unique rules concerning tenses in Japanese that are quite different from what English speakers are used to.

Auxiliary verbs and post positional particles play important roles in the Japanese language, especially in verb conjugations. This is because Japanese tenses are expressed via auxiliary verbs that connect to verbs. So forget about how you form tenses in English (I do, I will do, I did, I have done, I had done, etc.), and learn Japanese tenses with new rules!

In this article, we’ll explain Japanese tenses and cover the following points: 

  • How Japanese verb conjugations work 
  • The role of auxiliary verbs
  • The present and past tenses
  • How to express things about the future in Japanese

By the end of this article from JapanesePod101.com, you’ll be able to grasp the whole picture of Japanese verbs and tenses—in fact, you’ll better understand Japanese grammar in general!

Three Signs with the Words Now, Tomorrow, and Yesterday on Them

In Japanese, there’s no particular future tense form like the word “will” in English.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Japanese Tenses Overview
  2. Present Tense
  3. Past Tense
  4. How to Express the Future in Japanese
  5. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

1. Japanese Tenses Overview

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s go over some basic information regarding Japanese verb tenses and forms. 

How Many Tenses are There in Japanese?

Japanese has only two verb tenses, which are the present tense and the past tense. The present tense is also used to express things about the future in Japanese, so there’s no clear distinction between the present tense and the future tense.

Having said that, Japanese grammar technically does not treat verbs for tense. Rather, Japanese verbs take one of five basic conjugation forms and are followed by 助動詞 (jodōshi), or auxiliary verbs/post positional particles, in order to express and determine their tense. 

Verb Conjugations and Auxiliary Verbs

As mentioned, there are five basic Japanese verb conjugation forms. When verbs conjugate, the verb base (or “stem”) does not change; the stem rather takes on a different suffix or auxiliary verb to convey the proper meaning. 

The correct form is determined by elements such as voice, mood, tense, and politeness level. 

  • Voice

    There are two types of grammatical voice:

    能動態 (nōdōtai) – “active voice”
    受動態 (judōtai) – “passive voice”
  • Mood
    Mood is the attitude of the speaker toward the action of the verb. Was the speaker giving an order? Making an assumption? Offering a suggestion?
  • Tense
    Tense refers to the time of the verb’s action: past, present, or future.
  • Politeness Level
    The Japanese language has honorific speech called 敬語 (keigo). There are three types of honorific language depending on the level of respect intended:

    丁寧語 (teinei-go) – “polite language”
    尊敬語 (sonkei-go) – “respectful language”
    謙譲語 (kenjō-go) – “humble / modest language”

Example: Tense as an Influential Factor 

  • 食べる (tabe-ru) – “eat” [present and plain/informal form]
    食べ (tabe-) is the verb stem and る (ru) is the suffix.
  • 食べた (tabe-ta) – “ate” [past and informal form]
    食べ (tabe-) is the verb stem and た (-ta) is an auxiliary verb that expresses the past form.

To learn more details about Japanese verbs and verb conjugations, please see our articles 100+ Most Common Japanese Verbs and Ultimate Japanese Verb Conjugation Guide.

A Dish of Sushi with Chopsticks and Soy Sauce on the Side

Tenses are expressed by the post positional particles or auxiliary verbs that connect to the verbs:
寿司を食べ /食べ
Sushi o tabe-ru / tabe-ta.
([I] eat / ate Sushi.)

Formal and Informal Forms

As mentioned in the previous section, there are three Japanese honorific speech levels. Native Japanese people, especially in official settings, are expected to have total command over the three different levels so they can use them according to the situation and to whom they’re talking. However, you won’t experience any problems as a foreigner, as long as you can use polite language in daily conversations.

The polite language usually ends with です(-desu) or ます (-masu) in the present/future tense, and でした (-deshita) or ました (-mashita) in the past tense.

The polite language is generally used as a formal form, and casual/plain language is used as an informal form. While the latter is used for talking with family and friends, most people use the former when talking to strangers or staff members at a store or restaurant. 

Example:

歩く(あるく) (aru-ku) – “to walk” 

  • ある (aru-) = verb stem
  • 歩く (あるく) (aru-ku) = informal/plain form
  • 歩きます (あるきます) (aru-kimasu) = formal/polite form

A Worker at a Train Station in Japan

Each Japanese tense has a formal form (honorific) and an informal form:
列車が到着します、ご注意ください。
Ressha ga tōchaku shimasu, go-chūi kudasai.
(The train is coming, please be careful.) [formal and polite form]

2. Present Tense

The Japanese present tense is used to talk about things that are happening now, recurring actions, and events set to happen in the future. 

Present Tense 

Japanese verbs in their informal form always end in -u or -ru. These suffixes correspond to the syllables found in the う段 (u-dan) or “U row” of the Hiragana table. 

Japanese verbs in their formal or polite form end with an い段 (i-dan) or え段 (e-dan) syllable followed by ます (-masu): -imasu or -emasu

Examples [Informal / Formal]

飲む・のむ (no-mu) – “drink”
[ の (no-) is the verb stem ]

    ➢ 私は水を飲む / 飲みます
        Watashi wa mizu o nomu / nomimasu.
        I drink water.

付ける・つける (hira-ku) – “turn on”
[ つけ (tsuke-) is the verb stem ]

    ➢ 寒いので暖房をつける / つけます
        Samui node danbō o tsukeru / tsukemasu.
        I turn on a heater because it’s cold.

開く・ひらく (hira-ku) – “open”
[ ひら (hira-) is the verb stem ]

    ➢ お店は午前9時に開く / 開きます
        O-mise wa gozen ku-ji ni hiraku / hirakimasu.
        The store opens at 9:00 a.m.

Present Progressive Tense

The present progressive tense is used when expressing a continuous action or things that are happening now. 

This tense is formed by adding -て いる (-te iru) for informal verbs or -て います (-te imasu) for formal verbs that conjugate in the te-form. Below is a quick description of how to conjugate in the te-form for different verb types. 

For u-verbs (Class 1 Verbs):

Add either して (-shite), いて (-ite), って (-tte), or  んで (-nde) after the verb stem.

  • 話す (hanasu), “talk” → 話して (hanashite)
  • 書く (kaku), “write” → 書いて (kaite)
  • 買う (kau), “buy” → 買って (katte)
  • 読む (yomu), “read” → 読んで (yonde)

For ru-verbs(Class 2 Verbs):

Drop the る (-ru) part of the verb and add て (-te). 

  • 食べ (taberu), “eat” → 食べ (tabete)
  • 調べ (shiraberu), “investigate” → 調べ (shirabete)

As an exception to this pattern, some verbs change form slightly accompanying the sokuon (促音) “っ” before て (-te) for easier pronunciation (in the alphabet, it’s expressed with a double “t”). 

  •  座 (suwaru), “sit” → 座って (suwatte)
  • 当た (ataru), “hit on,” “bump into” → 当って (atatte)
  • (furu), “fall (such as rain, snow, etc.)” → 降って (futte)

Unlike that in English, the Japanese progressive tense cannot indicate an action that is going to happen in the near future. (E.g. In English, it’s okay to say: She is moving to the USA this coming summer.) The Japanese present progressive tense only indicates actions that are ongoing.

Examples [Informal / Formal]

    ➢ 私はいすに座っている / 座っています。
        Watashi wa isu ni suwatte iru / suwatte imasu.
        I’m sitting on a chair.

        [座る・すわる (suwa-ru) or “sit”]:  すわ (suwa-) is the verb stem.

    ➢ 彼はテレビを見ながら食べている / 食べています
        Kare wa terebi o minagara tabete iru / tabete imasu.
        He is eating while watching TV.

        [食べる・たべる (tabe-ru) or “eat”]:  たべ (tabe-) is the verb stem.

    ➢ 猫と犬が庭で遊んでいる / 遊んでいます。
        Neko to inu ga asonde iru / asonde imasu.
        A cat and a dog are playing in the garden.

        [遊ぶ・あそぶ (aso-bu) or “play”]:  あそ (aso-) is the verb stem.

Someone Pointing to Their Wristwatch

今行きます。(Ima ikimasu.) – “I go now.” [ in a polite/formal form ]

3. Past Tense

Forming the Japanese past tense is very simple! Whether an action took place just a few minutes ago, happened many centuries ago, or was being talked about by someone in the past who was talking about an even older past, the Japanese past tense has just one form. There are no such variations as “did,” “have done,” “had done,” etc.

Past Tense 

Japanese verbs in the past tense normally end with た (-ta) in the informal form, though sometimes (-ta) changes to った (-tta) or (-da) depending on the verb. In the formal form, verbs conjugating into い段 (i-dan) or え段 (e-dan) end with ました (-mashita). I-dan and e-dan refer to the rows of syllables on the Hiragana table that end with the vowel sound “i” or “e” respectively.

Examples [Informal / Formal]

    ➢ 彼は映画を見た / 見ました。
        Kare wa eiga o mita / mimashita.
        He watched a movie.

        [見る・みる (mi-ru) or “watch”/”see”/”look”]:  み (mi-) is the verb stem.

    ➢ 昨日友達と泳いだ / 泳ぎました
        Kinō tomodachi to oyoida / oyogimashita.
        I swam with my friend yesterday.

        [泳ぐ・およぐ (oyo-gu) or “swim”]:  およ (oyo-) is the verb stem.

    ➢ 父親が昔宝くじに当たったことを話した / 話しました。
        Chichioya ga mukashi takarakuji ni atatta koto o hanashita / hanashimashita.
        My father told a story about winning a lottery in the past.

        [当たる・あたる (ata-ru) or “win prize/lottery”]:  あた (ata-) is the verb stem.
        [話す・はなす (hana-su) or “talk”/”tell”]:  はな (hana-) is the verb stem.

Past Progressive Form

The past progressive tense is used when expressing continuing actions in the past. In order to form the Japanese past progressive tense, add -て いた (-te ita) [informal] / -て いました (-te imashita) [formal] after a verb that conjugates in the te-form as explained in the Present Progressive Tense section.

Examples [Informal / Formal]

    ➢ 彼女が来た時、彼は寝ていた / 寝ていました。
        Kanojo ga kita toki, kare wa nete ita / nete imashita.
        When she came, he was sleeping.

        [寝る・ねる (ne-ru) or “sleep”]:  ね (ne-) is the verb stem.

    ➢ 買い物をしていた時、外は雨が降っていた / 降っていました
        Kaimono o shite ita toki, soto wa ame ga futte ita / futte imashita.
        When I was shopping, it was raining outside.

        [する (su-ru) or “do”] Irregular Verb: Please see the detailed explanation of irregular verbs in our conjugation article.
        [降る・ふる (fu-ru) or “fall (rain/snow/etc.)”]:  ふ (fu-) is the verb stem.

    ➢ そのとき、あなたは何をしていた / していましたか。
        Sono toki, anata wa nani o shite ita / shite imashita ka.
        What were you doing then?

        [する (su-ru) or “do”]: Irregular Verb

Several Family Photographs

先月家族と旅行に行った。(Sengetsu kazoku to ryokō ni itta.)
“(I) took a trip with (my) family last month.” [informal/casual]

4. How to Express the Future in Japanese

As mentioned, the Japanese present tense is also used to talk about actions in the future. Speakers can express the future using the present tense in the following ways.  

Context

With context and extra information, listeners can understand that an action is set in the future.

Examples:

    試験が終わったら、友達と何か美味しいものを食べに行きます。
        Shiken ga owattara, tomodachi to nani ka oishii mono o tabe ni ikimasu.
        When the exams are over, I will go to eat something delicious with my friends.

    彼は毎日ピアノを練習しています。彼は絶対、プロのピアニストになります。
        Kare wa mainichi piano o renshū shite imasu. Kare wa zettai, puro no pianisuto ni narimasu.
        He practices piano everyday. He will definitely become a professional pianist.

    全員の準備ができ次第、出発します。
        Zen’in no junbi ga deki shidai, shuppatsu shimasu.
        As soon as everyone is ready, we will depart.

Time Words

Using time words (such as specific dates or terms like “later” and “tomorrow”) is the easiest way to indicate that an action is set in the future.

Examples:

    明日の午後、小包が届きます。
        Ashita no gogo, kozutsumi ga todokimasu.
        The parcel will arrive in the afternoon tomorrow.

    ➢ 私は3月に大学を卒業します。
        Watashi wa san-gatsu ni daigaku o sotsugyō shimasu.
        I will graduate from university in March.

    ➢ 私の両親は来月沖縄へ旅行に行きます。
        Watashi no ryōshin wa raigetsu Okinawa e ryokō ni ikimasu.
        My parents will take a trip to Okinawa next month.

Words That Indicate an Intention or Plan

Another way to express things about the future is to use words that indicate an intention or plan. 

There are two words often used for this purpose: 

  • つもり(tsumori) – “intend to” or “plan to” 
  • 予定 (yotei) – “plan to” 

Examples:

    ➢ 私はこの仕事を辞めるつもりです。
        Watashi wa kono shigoto o yameru tsumori desu.
        I intend to quit this job.

    ➢ 卒業パーティーには参加しない予定です。
        Sotsugyō pātī ni wa sanka shinai yotei desu.
        I plan not to participate in the graduation party.

    ➢ 彼女は看護師になる予定です。
        Kanojo wa kangoshi ni naru yotei desu.
        She plans to become a nurse.

The Particle に (ni)

A future intention is also expressed by placing the particle に (ni) between two verbs, with the latter verb often being: 

  • 行く (iku) – “go” 

or 

  • 来る (kuru) – “come”

Examples:

    ➢ 彼氏が私に会いに来ます
        Kareshi ga watashi ni ai ni kimasu.
        My boyfriend will come to see me.

    ➢ 美術館の特別展を見に行きます
        Bijutsukan no tokubetsuten o mi ni ikimasu.
        I will go to see the special exhibition at the museum.

    ➢ 兄の引越しを手伝いに行きます
        Ani no hikkoshi o tetsudai ni ikimasu.
        I will go and help (my) brother’s moving.

A Man Running Late to Work

明日の朝9時までに書類を提出しに行きます
Ashita no asa ku-ji made ni shorui o teishutsu shi ni ikimasu.
“I will go to submit the document by 9:00 in the morning tomorrow.”

How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

In this article, we introduced you to Japanese tenses and how they work. We also touched on verb conjugation and the role auxiliary verbs play in the process. Japanese tenses are quite simple, yet there are unique rules that learners of the language should study early on. Once you get used to it, you’ll find that Japanese tenses are very easy! 

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language and pick up some useful Japanese phrases for any situation, you’ll find tons of helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons to help you improve your Japanese language skills and become familiar with the culture. To get you started, here’s some more information regarding the basics of Japanese: 

To learn more about Japanese verbs and other grammar-related topics, check out Basic Kanji for Verbs and The 50 Most Common Japanese Verbs You’ll Find in Textbooks. Useful pages for improving your conversation skills in Japanese include How to Improve Your Speaking Skills and Must-Know Adverbs and Phrases for Connecting Thoughts.

And there’s so much more! Learn Japanese faster and enjoy every minute of your studies at JapanesePod101.com!

Before you go, let us know in the comments if you still have any questions about Japanese tenses. We’d be glad to help, and look forward to hearing from you!

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How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese?

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If you’re like most aspiring learners, you may be wondering: How long does it take to learn Japanese? Some people think that learning Japanese is too hard, that it takes forever and requires tremendous painstaking effort. But is that really true?

The answer to this question varies depending on multiple factors, such as your…

  • …mother tongue.
  • …educational background.
  • …previous language learning experience.
  • …level of interest and enthusiasm.
  • …learning goals.
  • …study methods.

In this article, we’ll give you some insight on how long it takes to learn Japanese for the different proficiency levels, keeping these influencing factors in mind. We’ll also provide tips to help you make the most of your study time. 

Are you ready? Set your goals and join JapanesePod101.com on the first step of your language learning journey!

A Woman Holding a Map While Traveling

How long does it take to learn Japanese and how can you reach your goals faster?

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Japanese Learning Overview
  2. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Beginner Level?
  3. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Intermediate Level?
  4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Advanced Level?
  5. Conclusion

1. Japanese Learning Overview 

Before we get into the details, let’s go over how the proficiency levels are defined. This will give you a good idea of what to expect at each stage of your learning journey and give you the knowledge you need to prepare accordingly. 

Language Difficulty Rankings

The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) projects how difficult it will be and how long it will take for an English speaker to achieve a “Professional Working Proficiency” level in a given language. The difficulty levels are grouped into five categories, from the easiest languages (Category I) to the most difficult (Category IV). Category I languages are the most similar to English, and Category IV languages are the least similar.

Although the length of time needed to achieve proficiency can vary depending on many factors, FSI estimates the average approximate time for Category I languages to be 24-30 weeks (600-750 class hours). On the other hand, Category IV languages like Japanese take about 88 weeks (2200 class hours) to learn. Japanese is considered an “exceptionally difficult” language for native English speakers to master.

This assessment includes proficiency in reading, one of the most difficult parts of le/arning Japanese. The Japanese writing system is very different from the English alphabet, so many English speakers struggle to adapt. 

That said, you can expect the learning process to be less difficult if your goal has more to do with speaking and listening (such as being able to make conversation and watch Japanese movies without subtitles). There are also some areas where Japanese is simpler than English, which can make learning the language a bit easier. For example, Japanese has fewer vowel and consonant sounds, simple rules for using tense, no plural form or articles, and no verb conjugations according to person.

    → Please see our article Is Japanese Hard to Learn? in order to discover the easiest and most difficult aspects of the language.

JLPT: Japanese-Language Proficiency Test

The JLPT (Japanese-Language Proficiency Test) is an official standardized criterion-referenced test that evaluates and certifies the Japanese-language proficiency of non-native Japanese speakers. It assesses language knowledge (grammar and vocabulary), reading ability, and listening ability.

The JLPT has five levels: N1 (the most difficult), N2, N3, N4, and N5 (the easiest).

N1AdvancedThe ability to understand all of the Japanese used in different everyday contexts. 
N2Pre-AdvancedThe ability to understand the majority of Japanese phrases used in different everyday contexts. 
N3Intermediate The ability to understand some of the Japanese phrases used in everyday situations.
N4ElementaryThe ability to understand basic Japanese.
N5BeginnerThe ability to understand some basic Japanese.

The Japanese Language Education Center shows the study-hour data for JLPT by level, as well as the comparison between students with and without prior Kanji knowledge. The information indicates that students without prior Kanji knowledge will need more study time to reach each level.

[JLPT Study-Hour Comparison Data 2010-2015]

 Students with Kanji Knowledge (e.g. speakers of Chinese or Korean)Students without Kanji Knowledge
N11700~2600 hours3000~4800 hours
N21150~1800 hours1600~2800 hours
N3700~1100 hours950~1700 hours
N4400~700 hours575~1000 hours
N5250~450 hours325~600 hours
Businessman Climbing Ladders and Charting Their Success

Make progress step by step to increase your language proficiency level.

Influencing Factors

That being said, there are numerous factors that influence how long it takes to learn Japanese.

Your Mother Tongue / Language Learning Experience

If your native language is similar to your target language, the learning process will be much faster and easier than if you tried learning a very different language. Likewise, if you have some language learning experience and are somewhat familiar with your target language already, this will definitely help you learn faster and more effectively.  

In this regard, English speakers and learners unfortunately have little privilege when it comes to learning Japanese. 

The classification of the Japonic languages (Japanese and its dialects) is still unclear, but many linguists see the Japonic languages as an independent family. Thus, Japanese doesn’t really have a family of close and similar languages, such as the Romance languages (Spanish, Italian, and French). 

However, Japanese Kanji characters were originally brought from Ancient China and incorporated into Japanese. Although Chinese people cannot read or pronounce Japanese Kanji, they can often guess their meanings. While Chinese grammar and phonetics are very different from those of Japanese, the Korean language has some grammatical and phonetic similarities. Therefore, Chinese and Korean speakers (as well as learners of these languages) have a slight advantage when it comes to learning Japanese.

    → For more about the Japanese language, please see Japanese Language Overview: All the Facts You Need to Know.

Your Learning Goal / Motivation 

What is your definition of ‘learning Japanese’ and what is your learning goal? 

If your goal is to learn basic survival Japanese for traveling, then it won’t take very long to achieve. You would only have to learn some essential greetings and other useful phrases. 

However, it would take a lot of time and effort to reach a level where you could watch Japanese movies and anime without subtitles, or speak fluently with Japanese natives. This requires good speaking and listening skills.

Learning to read and write high-level Kanji would also require a lot of time and effort. You would need to attain solid grammatical knowledge and gain a good command of Kanji. This would allow you to read Japanese newspapers and write official documents. 

Whatever your learning goal may be, your motivation and enthusiasm play an important role as well. Whether you’re a big fan of Japanese culture and anime or you wish to live and work in Japan, your motivation impacts your level of commitment and your attitude toward learning Japanese. Your level of motivation determines how much time and effort you’re willing to dedicate to learning.

Study Method / Time You Dedicate to Learning 

As the proverb says, “There is no royal road to learning.” The more time you spend, the more knowledge you get. The accumulation of small but continuous effort is important.

Even for the same hour spent on language learning, the results you’d get will differ depending on how you’re learning and how that time was used. For example, were you watching Japanese anime, reading a textbook, or talking with a Japanese teacher in class?

If you want to focus on daily conversations, then reading a textbook about grammar may not be the best learning method. You would probably fare better talking with a Japanese tutor online and watching Japanese movies with subtitles, as this would improve your speaking and listening skills faster.

Once you set your goal, try to find the best learning methods for your purposes. There are multiple options you can work on from your home, even if you’re outside of Japan. These include online lessons and online tutoring for more effective learning, and using YouTube and Netflix for a more laid-back and fun approach to studying.

A Laptop, Phone, and Tablets

Thanks to the internet, there are numerous ways we can learn from anywhere.

2. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Beginner Level?

Those who are thinking of starting to learn Japanese often wonder where to start, what to aim for as a beginner, and how long it will take to reach the beginner level. In this section, we’ll answer these questions and provide you with tips for how to learn Japanese effectively at this stage. 

JLPT: N5 & N4 Levels

Even if you don’t take an actual exam, JLPT can be a good guideline to help you know what needs to be done to achieve a certain level. If you want to reach the N5 & N4 levels, you’ll need to build a foundation by learning the basic Japanese grammar and vocabulary.

N5 Level: Beginner

Reading

You should be able to… 

  • …understand typical daily expressions and sentences written in Hiragana, Katakana, and very basic Kanji. 

[Example Exercise]

A: 
あの 人 は だれ です か。
Ano hito wa dare desu ka.
Who is that person?

B: 
かれ は 田中さん です。
Kare wa Tanaka-san desu.
He is Mr. Tanaka.

Listening

You should be able to…

  • …listen to and comprehend conversations about topics regularly encountered in daily life and classroom situations. 
  • …pick up necessary information from short conversations spoken slowly. 

[Example Exercise] 

Listen to a question and a conversation and choose the best answer.



男の人と女の人が話しています。男の人は何時に寝ましたか。
Otoko no hito to onna no hito ga hanashite imasu. Otoko no hito wa nan-ji ni nemashita ka.
The man and the woman are talking. What time did the man go to bed?



(女/woman) 
眠そうな顔してるね。 
Nemusō na kao shiteru ne. 
You look sleepy.

(男/man)      
昨夜は遅くまで勉強していて。
Sakuya wa osoku made benkyō shite ite. 
I was studying until late last night.

(女/woman) 
何時ごろ寝たの? 
Nan-ji goro neta no?
Around what time did you go to bed?

(男/man)      
3時半ごろ。
San-ji han goro.
Around three thirty.

N4 Level: Elementary

Reading

You should be able to…

  • …read and understand passages on familiar everyday topics written in basic vocabulary and Kanji. 

[Example Exercise]

パスポート ばんごう を おしえて ください。 
Pasupōto bangō o oshiete kudasai. 
Please tell me the passport number.

ここ に あなた の うちの じゅうしょ を かいて ください。
Koko ni anata no uchi no jūsho o kaite kudasai
Please write your home address here.

Listening

You should be able to…

  • …listen to and comprehend conversations encountered in daily life and generally follow their contents (provided that they’re spoken slowly).

[Example Exercise] 

Listen to the question and answer options, and choose the best answer.



仕事が終わって帰ります。何と言いますか。
Shigoto ga owatte kaerimasu. Nan to iimasu ka.
(You) finished work and are going home. What do you say?

おじゃまします。(Ojama shimasu.)
お大事に。(Odaiji ni.)
お先に失礼します。(Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu.)

Native English speakers, or those who do not have previous Kanji knowledge, need approximately 325-600 hours of studying for N5 and 575-1000 hours for N4 level.

JLPT assesses mainly reading and listening skills, so you may need to put in some extra effort to write and speak at such levels. 

How to Get to Elementary Level Faster

The most important thing for beginners to do is familiarize themselves with the Japanese language. You can get used to Japanese sentence structure, pronunciation, and basic vocabulary by doing simple exercises and repeating them until you feel comfortable with the content or concepts. With apps and online lessons, you can study anytime and anywhere.

Apps: 

Imiwa? and Japanese by Renzo Inc. are dictionary apps that allow you to look up any Japanese word you want to know. You can also use them to check the reading of Kanji, learn how to write Kanji, and see some usage examples.

The NHK Easy Japanese News app is a news app provided by Japan’s national broadcaster. It provides news articles written in simple sentences with 振り仮名 (furigana), or reading aid, for Kanji. 

Online Lessons: 

JapanesePod101.com offers informative yet fun audio and video lessons for absolute beginners. Together with grammar essentials, you’ll learn real and practical spoken Japanese. Our short and easy-to-understand lessons will keep you hooked from Level 1.

A Woman Reading a Book on a Bus

To learn a language, the output of knowledge is just as important as the input.

3. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Intermediate Level?

Depending on your goals, the next logical step is probably to learn even more and reach an intermediate level of fluency. So how long will it take you to learn Japanese to such an extent, and how can you get there? 

JLPT: N3 Level

Reading

You should be able to…

  • …read and understand written materials with specific contents concerning everyday topics.
  • …grasp summarized information such as newspaper headlines. 
  • …read the kind of writing encountered in everyday situations that may be a bit more difficult, understanding the main points (as long as alternative phrases are available to you if needed). 

[Example] 

山本さんはクラスの代表に選ばれた。 
Yamamoto-san wa kurasu no daihyō ni erabareta.
Mr./Ms. Yamamoto was selected as a representative of the class.

その会社は海外から輸入したバッグを日本で売っている。
Sono kaisha wa kaigai kara yunyū shita baggu o Nihon de utte iru
The company sells bags in Japan which they imported from abroad.

Listening

You should be able to…

  • …listen to and comprehend coherent everyday conversations spoken at near-natural speed, while following most of the spoken content and determining the relationships of the people speaking. 

[Example Exercise] 

Listen to the question and answer options, and choose the best answer.



試験に合格したので先生に伝えたいです。何と言いますか。
Shiken ni gōkaku shita node sensei ni tsutaetai desu. Nan to iimasu ka.
(You) passed the exam and you want to tell this to the teacher. What do you say?

1 – 今回はおめでとうございます。(Konkai wa omedetō gozaimasu.) – Congratulations this time.
2 – 今度、合格なさいました。(Kondo, gōkaku nasaimashita.) – This time (he) passed. [in respectful form for others]
3 – おかげさまで、試験に受かりました。(Okage-sama de, shiken ni ukarimashita.) – Thanks to you, I passed the exam.

For native English speakers, it’s estimated that around 950-1700 hours of studying is needed to achieve the N3 level. 

How to Get to Intermediate Level Faster

To reach the intermediate level, you need to increase your knowledge of more complex grammar concepts and memorize a variety of everyday vocabulary words and phrases. In addition, it’s time to get used to the natural and native speaking speed. In order to achieve that, the amount of output is just as important as the amount of input—in other words, you need to practice active listening as well as speaking. Textbooks and lessons can only teach you so much! 

Paper Materials: 

Master intermediate-level grammar from your textbooks, and consider reading light novels and magazines to increase your daily input of Japanese.

Apps: 

Wondering how to learn more Japanese vocabulary? Anki is an intelligent flashcard app that helps you memorize words more easily and increase your vocabulary. 

Once you know the basics of how to compose Japanese sentences and have a solid vocabulary base, it’s time to start practicing. Hello Talk is a language exchange app that you can download on iOS or Android devices. With this app, you can find Japanese online friends to talk to.

Audio/Video Materials: 

There’s a variety of audio/video sources for learning Japanese out there. YouTube and Netflix are easy options. Immerse yourself in Japanese-speaking environments every day—right from the comfort of your couch! 

Need some recommendations? Then check out the following blog posts on JapanesePod101.com: 

Online Lessons and Online Tutoring:  
In addition to online lessons, useful vocab lists, and insightful articles on various topics, JapanesePod101.com provides a one-on-one tutoring service called MyTeacher. This service allows you to interact with your own personal teacher, who can help you personalize your learning program based on your progress and provide you with valuable feedback.

Four Girls Sitting on the Stairs and Talking

4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Advanced Level?

Are you looking to become completely fluent in Japanese? Then be prepared to dedicate a lot of your time and effort to the task. This is a long journey, and you might begin to feel like you’re not progressing anymore no matter how much time you spend studying. Your progress may be slower than it was reaching the previous two levels, but every small effort counts. You’ll surely advance if you keep at it and don’t give up! 

1. JLPT: N2 & N1 Level 

N2 Level: Pre-Advanced

Reading

You should be able to…

  • …read and comprehend clearly written content on various topics, including articles and commentaries in newspapers and magazines, as well as simple critiques. 
  • …read written materials on various topics, follow their narratives, and understand the writers’ intent. 

[Example Exercise]

(1) 

_____の言葉を漢字で書くとき、最もよいものを一つ選びなさい。 
_____ no kotoba o kanji de kaku toki, mottomo yoi mono o hitotsu erabinasai.
Choose the most appropriate one when the word _____ is written in Kanji.



今日は、ゴミのしゅうしゅう日ですか。 
Kyō wa, gomi no shūshūbi desu ka.
Is it garbage collection today?

1. 拾集、2. 収拾、3. 修集、4. 取集

(2) 

(  )に入るのに、最もよいものを一つ選びなさい。
(  ) ni hairu no ni, mottomo yoi mono o hitotsu erabinasai.
Choose the most appropriate one for (    ).



日本人の平均(  )は、男性が79歳、女性が86歳である。
Nihon-jin no heikin(  ) wa, dansei ga 79-sai, josei ga 86-sai de aru
The Japanese average(  )is male 79 years old and female 86 years old.

1. 生命、2. 寿命、3. 人生、4. 一生
seimei        jumyō   jinsei       isshō

Listening

You should be able to…

  • …understand orally presented materials (coherent conversations, news reports, etc.) on a variety of topics and in different settings, spoken at nearly natural speed. 
  • …follow the main ideas and content of such materials. 
  • …understand the relationships of the people involved. 

[Example Exercise] 

Listen to the sentence and choose the best reply.



あの、今、お時間よろしいでしょうか。
Ano, ima, o-jikan yoroshii deshō ka.
Excuse me, do you have time now? [Can I talk to you?]

1 – えっと、4時5分ですよ。(Etto, yo-ji go-fun desu yo.) – Well, it’s 4:05.
2 – あいにく私も時計がなくて。(Ainiku watashi mo tokei ga nakute.) – Unfortunately, I don’t have a watch either.
3 – 10分くらいなら。(Juppun kurai nara.) – [Yes, I have] about ten minutes.

N1 Level: Advanced

Reading 

You should be able to…

  • …read texts featuring complex logic or abstract ideas on a variety of topics (newspaper editorials, critiques, etc.) and comprehend their structure and content. 
  • …read texts featuring profound content on various topics, follow their narratives, and understand the writers’ intent. 

[Example Exercise] 

(1) 

_____の言葉の読み方として、最もよいものを一つ選びなさい。 
_____ no kotoba o yomikata to shite, mottomo yoi mono o hitotsu erabinasai.
Choose the most appropriate reading for the word_____.



彼は今、新薬の研究開発に挑んでいる。 
Kare wa ima, shin’yaku no kenkyū kaihatsu ni _____iru.
He is now challenging the research and development of new drugs.

1. はげんで、2. のぞんで、3. からんで、4. いどんで

(2) 

(  )に入るのに、最もよいものを一つ選びなさい。
(  ) ni hairu no ni, mottomo yoi mono o hitotsu erabinasai.
Choose the most appropriate one for (    ).



私の主張は単なる(  )ではなく、確たる証拠に基づいている。
Watashi no shuchō wa tan naru(  )de wa naku, kakutaru shōko ni motozuite iru. 
My claim is based on solid evidence, not just (       ).

1. 模索、2. 思索、3. 推測、4. 推移
mosaku     shisaku     suisoku     suii 

Listening

You should be able to…

  • …comprehend spoken content in the form of conversations, news reports, and lectures in various contexts, when spoken at natural speed.
  • …follow the ideas and understand the implicit meaning of such spoken content. 
  • …understand important details of such spoken content, including the relationships of those involved, logical structures, and essential points. 

[Example Exercise]

Listen to the sentence and choose the best reply.



今日は、お客さんからの苦情が多くて仕事にならなかったよ。
Kyō wa, o-kyaku-san kara no kujō ga ōkute shigoto ni naranakatta yo.
I couldn’t work much today because there were many complaints from customers.

1 – いい仕事、できて良かったね。(Ii shigoto, dekite yokatta ne.) – That’s good you have done a great job.
2 – 仕事、なくて大変だったね。(Shigoto, nakute taihen datta ne.) – It must have been tough without work.
3 – お疲れ様、ゆっくり休んで。(Otsukare-sama, yukkuri yasunde.) – You must be tired (well done), rest well.

It’s estimated that it takes about 1600-2800 hours to achieve N2 and 3000-4800 hours to achieve N1. However, if you also want to master the Japanese Kanji of these levels, you’ll probably need to put in even more hours. 

How to Get to Advanced Level Faster

At this point, you probably don’t have any issues with daily Japanese conversations. You just need to focus on expanding your high-level vocabulary, getting a good working knowledge of official and formal language (including different honorifics), and picking up some spoken colloquial language that’s not often found in ordinary textbooks or written documents. Below are a few ways you can speed up your learning process.

Paper Materials: 

You can gain exposure to a wider range of vocabulary (including official words and technical terms) by reading more advanced paper materials. These include Japanese newspapers, magazines, and books on topics that interest you (business, biographies, IT, health, etc.). 

Apps: 

If you can, utilize all of the dictionary apps we mentioned earlier; this will surely take you to the next level. Kanji Senpai is another useful app that you can use to brush up on your Kanji skills by practicing and writing characters. Using news apps for daily reading is another effective way to learn official language. 

Audio/Video Materials: 

When using audio/video materials, try to focus on quality. Watching Japanese anime is fun and interesting, but it won’t take you to an advanced level. If you get bored of watching serious news channels and want something fun, you can choose to watch Japanese movies/TV shows in more complex genres (mystery, science fiction, crime thriller, techno thriller, etc.).

Online Lessons / Online Tutoring:

JapanesePod101.com offers plenty of more advanced online lessons in the form of written, audio, and video content. Our materials are designed to help you learn practical and natural Japanese in a fun and effective way. As an intermediate or advanced learner, you’ll greatly benefit from our one-on-one tutoring service MyTeacher; you’ll need the guidance and corrections of a native speaker in order to advance more quickly.

A Japanese Man Reading a Newspaper by a Large Window

Reading newspapers will help you expand your vocabulary and reach an advanced level of Japanese.

Conclusion

In this article, we talked about how long it takes to learn Japanese by level and discussed a number of influencing factors. As you can see, the amount of time it takes you to learn the language has a lot to do with what your goals are: becoming a fluent speaker and listener will be much easier than mastering the Japanese reading and writing system. 

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

Don’t forget that you’re not alone. When you use our MyTeacher service, your own teacher can always help you practice through personalized activities and assignments. You can also reach out to native speakers and your fellow Japanese learners through the JapanesePod101 forum

Before you go, let us know in the comments if you feel ready to start learning Japanese. If not, we’d love to hear your questions or concerns, and we’ll be glad to help any way we can. 
Now, it’s time to get started with JapanesePod101.com!

Three Japanese Coworkers Talking

Being able to use appropriate business-level Japanese proves that you’ve achieved the advanced level.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese

Japanese Proverbs – Gain Japanese Wisdom and Insight

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Based on experience and timeless common sense, proverbs tell a perceived truth, often metaphorically, in a short sentence. Proverbs offer us wisdom and advice, and they’re extremely popular. You can find them quoted in articles, used in daily conversations, and even showcased on people’s wall decor. 

Proverbs often reflect the cultures from which they originate, and Japanese proverbs—called 諺 / ことわざ (Kotowaza)—are no exception. Some Japanese proverbs are very unique and funny, and there are some that are only valued and understood in Japan due to the ideas and values they reference. By learning Japanese proverbs, you’ll not only strengthen your language learning muscles, but also deepen your understanding of Japanese culture and values.

In this article, we’ll introduce thirty popular Japanese proverbs that you’ll be glad to know. Learn Japanese and get inspired here at JapanesePod101.com!

    → By the way, you may also be interested in learning about the Essential Idioms That Will Make You Sound Like a Native Speaker and Japanese Slang Nouns for Conversation.

      The Jizō Statues in Japan

      Japanese proverbs are unique expressions that give timeless wisdom and insight.

      Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
      1. Life and Society
      2. Relationships
      3. Studying / Learning / Gaining Wisdom
      4. Behaviors / Feelings
      5. A Few More Proverbs For You…
      6. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

      1. Life and Society

      These Japanese proverbs about life teach us lessons and truths to keep in mind as we go about our daily lives. 

      Note: You may notice that animals often appear in Japanese proverbs.

      1. 猿も木から落ちる (Saru mo ki kara ochiru)

      • Literal Translation: Even monkeys fall from trees.

      • Meaning: Nobody is perfect and anyone can make a mistake, even in what they’re good at.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Even Homer sometimes nods.

      • Example: 

        [when someone made a mistake]

        「猿も木から落ちる」と言うし、気にすることないよ!
        “Saru mo ki kara ochiru” to iu shi, ki ni suru koto nai yo!
        The proverb says “Even monkeys fall from trees,” so don’t worry about it!

      2. 二兎を追う者は一兎をも得ず (Ni-to o ō mono wa itto o mo ezu)

      • Literal Translation: Those who chase after two rabbits will not even catch one.

      • Meaning: If you’re greedy and try to get/do two things at once, you will fail at both.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: If you run after two hares, you will catch neither.

      • Example: 

        「二兎を追う者は一兎をも得ず」だよ。一つずつ着実にやり遂げよう!
        “Ni-to o ō mono wa itto o mo ezu” da yo. Hitotsu zutsu chakujitsu ni yaritogeyō!
        It says, “Those who chase after two rabbits will not even catch one.” Let’s steadily accomplish one thing at a time!

      3. 人のふり見てわがふり直せ (Hito no furi mite waga furi naose)

      • Literal Translation: Watch others’ behavior and correct your own behavior. 

      • Meaning: If you see good or bad behavior in others, you can improve your own behavior based on what you observe. 

      • Equivalent English Proverb: One man’s fault is another’s lesson.

      • Example: 

        友達の言動を批判する暇があったら、「人のふり見てわがふり直せ」だよ。
        Tomodachi no gendō o hihan suru hima ga attara, “hito no furi mite waga furi naose” da yo.
        If you have time to criticize the behavior of your friend, watch his behavior and correct your own behavior.

      4. 悪銭身につかず (Akusen mi ni tsukazu)

      • Literal Translation: Dirty money doesn’t stay with a person for long.

      • Meaning: Money gained through wrongful means such as stealing or gambling will be wasted and quickly disappear.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Easy come, easy go.

      • Example: 

        「悪銭身につかず」というように、賭け事で大金を当ててもお金持ちにはなれないよ。
        “Akusen mi ni tsukazu” to iu yō ni, kakegoto de taikin o atete mo o-kanemochi ni wa narenai yo.
        As it says, “Dirty money doesn’t stay with a person for long.” You won’t become rich even if you win a jackpot in gambling.

      5. 出る杭は打たれる (Deru kui wa utareru)

      • Literal Translation: The stake that sticks out gets hammered down.

      • Meaning: Being different or exceptional will subject you to criticism; the outstanding get ousted.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Envy is the companion of honor.

      • Example: 

        「出る杭は打たれる」と言うけど、出過ぎた杭は打たれない。批判を気にしないでね!
        “Deru kui wa utareru” to iu kedo, desugita kui wa utarenai. Hihan o ki ni shinaide ne!
        It says, “The stake that sticks out gets hammered down,” but the one sticking too far out doesn’t. Never mind criticisms!

      Someone Hammering a Nail into Wood

      出る杭は打たれる (Deru kui wa utareru) – “The stake that sticks out gets hammered down.”


      6. 苦あれば楽あり (Ku areba raku ari)

      • Literal Translation: There are hardships and also there are pleasures.

      • Meaning: After the hard times in life, we can look forward to the fun things. Also, hard work is always rewarded and you’ll feel at ease afterward.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: No pain, no gain. / No cross, no crown. / No rain, no rainbow.

      • Example: 

        人生、「苦あれば楽あり」! 若いうちは苦労をたくさんした方がいい。
        Jinsei, “ku areba raku ari”! Wakai uchi wa kurō o takusan shita hō ga ii.
        Life is “no pain, no gain”! You should work hard a lot when you are young.

      7. 口は災いの元 (Kuchi wa wazawai no moto)

      • Literal Translation: Mouth is a source of disaster.

      • Meaning: Your careless remarks will invite troubles for yourself, so watch your mouth.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Out of the mouth comes evil. / The tongue is the root of calamities.

      • Example:

        人の悪口を言うと良いことないよ。「口は災いの元」だよ!
        Hito no waruguchi o iu to ii koto nai yo. “Kuchi wa wazawai no moto” da yo.
        There’s nothing good about talking ill of someone. It says, “Out of the mouth comes evil!”

      A Man Whispering a Rumor to a Woman

      口は災いの元 (Kuchi wa wazawai no moto) – “Out of the mouth comes evil.”

      2. Relationships

      Wherever you are in the world, relationships are an essential aspect of everyday life. The following Japanese proverbs about relationships lend us some practical wisdom on the topic! 

      8. 一期一会 (Ichigo ichie)

      • Literal Translation: One lifetime, one meeting.

      • Meaning: This proverb refers to a once-in-a-lifetime meeting/opportunity. You should cherish each moment and do your best, as though it were the only chance you would have to do so in your lifetime. This word originates from the traditional Japanese tea ceremony called 茶道 (Sadō), or “the Way of Tea.” It expresses the spirit of Sadō, according to which all participants should be sincere and do their best, as though each tea ceremony were a once-in-a-lifetime event. 

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Live every day as though it were your last.

      • Example: 

        旅先での素敵な出会いは、まさに「一期一会」だ。
        Tabisaki de no suteki na deai wa, masa ni “ichigo ichie” da.
        A wonderful encounter on a trip is truly a “once-in-a-lifetime meeting.”

      9. 犬猿の仲 (Ken’en no naka)

      • Literal Translation: A relationship of dogs and monkeys.

      • Meaning: This phrase refers to a relationship of mutual hatred, or two people who absolutely despise and hate each other.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Fight like cats and dogs.

      • Example: 

        ミカとさゆりは「犬猿の仲」です。
        Mika to Sayuri wa “ken’en no naka” desu.
        Mika and Sayuri have a relationship of mutual hatred.

      10. 蛙の子は蛙 (Kaeru no ko wa kaeru)

      • Literal Translation: The child of a frog is a frog.

      • Meaning: The nature and ability of a child resembles that of his or her parents. The child of an ordinary person is nothing but an ordinary person. A frog is a tadpole when it’s a child, and thus doesn’t look like its parents, but it becomes a frog like its parents in the end.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Like father, like son. / Nits will be lice.

      • Example: 

        「蛙の子は蛙」と言うように、私の息子も数学が苦手です。
        “Kaeru no ko wa kaeru” to iu yō ni, watashi no musuko mo sūgaku ga nigate desu.
        “Kaeru no ko wa kaeru” to iu yō ni, watashi no musuko mo sūgaku ga nigate desu.

      11. 同じ釜の飯を食う(Onaji kama no meshi o kū)

      • Literal Translation: Eat rice/food out of the same pot.

      • Meaning: This saying refers to a very close friendship/relationship, especially those who spend a lot of time together each day.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Two peas in a pod.

      • Example: 

        たかしとケンタは「同じ釜の飯を食った」仲だ。
        Takashi to Kenta wa “onaji kama no meshi o kutta” naka da.
        Takashi and Kenta have a very close friendship.

      12. 金の切れ目が縁の切れ目 (Kane no kireme ga en no kireme)

      • Literal Translation: The end of money is the end of relationship.

      • Meaning: When the money runs out, the relationship also ends. In other words, relationships dependent upon wealth will end when the money does.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: The end of money is the end of love. / When poverty comes in at the door, love flies out the window.

      • Example: 

        「金の切れ目が縁の切れ目」と言うし、友達にお金を貸さない方がいいですよ。
        “Kane no kireme ga en no kireme” to iu shi, tomodachi ni o-kane o kasanai hō ga ii desu yo.
        It says, “the end of money is the end of relationship,” so you shouldn’t lend money to your friends.

      Someone Serving Up Rice with a Wooden Spoon

      同じ釜の飯を食う (Onaji kama no meshi o kū) – “to eat out of the same pot”

      3. Studying / Learning / Gaining Wisdom

      Continuing to accumulate wisdom is key to long-term success and happiness. Here are a few Japanese proverbs on success and the necessity of learning. 

      13. 初心忘るべからず (Shoshin wasuru bekarazu)

      • Literal Translation: Should not forget our original intention.

      • Meaning: We should never forget the beginner’s spirit of when we first started learning or doing something. Don’t be arrogant or underestimate things, even if you’ve mastered it. 

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Don’t forget where you came from. / Don’t let success get to your head. 

      • Example: 

        一度成功しても、「初心忘るべからず」で、気を抜かないように。
        Ichi-do seikō shite mo, “shoshin wasuru bekarazu” de, ki o nukanai yō ni.
        As it says “don’t forget beginner’s spirit,” don’t lose focus even if you once succeeded.

      14. 千里の道も一歩から (Sen-ri no michi mo ippo kara)

      • Literal Translation: A thousand Ri begins with a single step on the road.

      • Meaning: You achieve big things by taking them one step at a time, slow and steady. 千里 (sen-ri) literally means “thousand 里 (Ri),” which is the old Japanese measurement unit for distance (1 Ri is about 4 km). It’s also used to indicate a far distance. 

      • Equivalent English Proverb: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

      • Example: 

        語学の習得は簡単ではないけれど、「千里の道も一歩から」。小さな積み重ねが大切です。
        Gogaku no shūtoku wa kantan de wa nai keredo, “sen-ri no michi mo ippo kara”. Chiisana tsumikasane ga taisetsu desu.
        Mastering a language is not easy, but a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The accumulation of small steps is important.

      15. 雨降って地固まる (Ame futte ji katamaru)

      • Literal Translation: After the rain, the earth hardens.

      • Meaning: Just as ground that gets rained on hardens later, so will our troubles result in good situations over time. 

      • Equivalent English Proverb: After a storm comes the calm. / Good comes out of evil. / Adversity strengthens the foundations.

      • Example: 

        「雨降って地固まる」と言うように、二人は大喧嘩をした後、かえって仲良しになった。
        “Ame futte ji katamaru” to iu yō ni, futari wa ōgenka o shita ato, kaette nakayoshi ni natta.
        As it says “after the rain, the earth hardens,” after they had a big argument, they became closer friends than before.

      16. チリも積もれば山となる (Chiri mo tsumoreba yama to naru)

      • Literal Translation: When dust accumulates, it becomes a mountain.

      • Meaning: Even something as small as dust particles can grow to be as large as a mountain when piled up. This proverb means that we shouldn’t neglect the little things, as they will make a big difference later.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Many a little makes a mickle. / A penny saved is a penny earned. / Little strokes fell great oaks. 

      • Example: 

        地道な基礎練習が大切です。「チリも積もれば山となる」ですよ。
        Jimichi na kiso renshū ga taisetsu desu. “Chiri mo tsumoreba yama to naru” desu yo.
        Steady and basic practice is important. It says, “Many a little makes a mickle.”

      17. 三人寄れば文殊の知恵 (San-nin yoreba monju no chie)

      • Literal Translation: When three people gather, get the wisdom of Manjushri.

      • Meaning: Even ordinary people can come up with good ideas when brainstorming with others. It’s better to have multiple brains working on something than only one. Manjushri, or 文殊 もんじゅ (monju), is one of the Bodhisattva that’s on the path toward Buddhahood.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Two heads are better than one.

      • Example: 

        「三人寄れば文殊の知恵」!一人で悩むより周りの人に相談したほうがいいよ。
        Sannin yoreba monju no chie! Hitori de nayamu yori mawari no hito ni soudan shita hōga iiyo.
        Two heads are better than one! Rather than worrying alone, you should talk to people around you and ask for advice.

      18. 長所は短所 (Chōsho wa tansho)

      • Literal Translation: Strength is weakness.

      • Meaning: One’s strength can also be his own weakness, depending on the context and on one’s point of view. If you rely too much on your strength, it may become a cause of failure, so be careful.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: One’s strength is his weakness. / Every medal has two sides.

      • Example: 

        自信があるのは良いことですが、人の意見を聞くことも大事ですよ。「長所は短所」です。
        Jishin ga aru no wa yoi koto desu ga, hito no iken o kiku koto mo daiji desu yo. “Chōsho wa tansho” desu.
        It’s good to have confidence in yourself, but listening to others is also important. It says, “One’s strength is his weakness.”

      A Road with Arrows Pointing Forward

      千里の道も一歩から (Sen-ri no michi mo ippo kara) – “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

      4. Behaviors / Feelings

      It should come as no surprise that there are plenty of Japanese sayings on behaviors and feelings, since they play a large role in a person’s identity—and in how we view them. Here are some of the most common ones. 

      19. 耳にたこができる (Mimi ni tako ga dekiru)

      • Literal Translation: Grow calluses on ear.

      • Meaning: This saying refers to someone who’s fed up with hearing the same thing over and over again. They’re so annoyed that they form “calluses” on their ears to stop hearing—just like how calluses grow as a response to repeated friction and pressure. 

      • Additional Note: たこ (Tako) is pronounced the same way as 蛸 (Tako), meaning “octopus” in Japanese, but it is a homonym in this case. To avoid confusion, one can use the Kanji characters 胼胝 (Tako), meaning “callus,” but the Kanji version is difficult and not commonly used. Instead, the word is usually written in either Hiragana or Katakana.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Talk one’s ear off.

      • Example: 

        その話もう100回は聞いたよ。「耳にたこができる」!
        Sono hanashi mō hyakkai wa kiita yo. “Mimi ni tako ga dekiru”!
        I’ve heard that story 100 times already. Calluses are growing in my ear!

      20. 馬の耳に念仏 (Uma no mimi ni nenbutsu)

      • Literal Translation: Buddhist invocation into horse’s ears.

      • Meaning: If you were to tell a horse a Buddhist invocation, it would not understand or appreciate it. Likewise, you could give someone the best advice or opinion about something, but it’s in vain if the other person doesn’t want to hear it. 

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Preaching to the deaf.

      • Example: 

        いくらあなたが親身になって助言しても、彼には「馬の耳に念仏」だよ!
        Ikura anata ga shinmi ni natte jogen shite mo, kare ni wa “uma no mimi ni nenbutsu” da yo!
        No matter how much thoughtful advice you give, it’s like preaching to the deaf!

      21. 灯台下暗し (Tōdai moto kurashi)

      • Literal Translation: It is dark under the candle stand.

      • Meaning: We tend not to notice things that are familiar to us, and we often overlook things that lie near at hand.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: It is darkest under the lamp post. / It’s hard to see what is under your nose.

      • Example: 

        ペンを探していたけど、胸のポケットに入っていた!「灯台下暗し」だね。
        Pen o sagashite ita kedo, mune no poketto ni haitte ita! “Tōdai moto kurashi” da ne.
        I was looking for a pen, but it was in my chest pocket! It’s hard to see what is under your nose.

      22. 豚に真珠 (Buta ni shinju)

      • Literal Translation: Pearls to pigs.

      • Meaning: It’s meaningless and useless to give something worthwhile to someone who doesn’t know its value.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Cast pearls before swine.

      • Example: 

        赤ちゃんに$500のブランドの洋服を着せるのは、私は「豚に真珠」だと思う。
        Akachan ni $500 no burando no yōfuku o kiseru no wa, watashi wa “buta ni shinju” da to omō.
        I think it’s like casting pearls before swine to dress a baby in $500 luxury brand clothes.

      23. 因果応報 (Inga ōhō)

      • Literal Translation: Cause brings result.

      • Meaning: Bad actions bring bad results (and vice-versa). This proverb originally comes from the Buddhist concept that those who do good deeds receive good rewards in return, and those who do bad deeds will have retributive justice.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: What goes around comes around.

      • Example: 

        彼は昔ひどいイジメっ子だったので、今は困った時に助けてくれる本当の友達がいない。「因果応報」だね。
        Kare wa mukashi hidoi ijimekko datta node, ima wa komatta toki ni tasukete kureru hontō no tomodachi ga inai. “Inga ōhō” da ne.
        He does not have real friends now to help when he’s in trouble, because he was a terrible bully in the past. It is “what goes around comes around.”

      24. 開いた口が塞がらない (Aita kuchi ga fusagaranai)

      • Literal Translation: Open mouth does not close.

      • Meaning: You might use this phrase when someone’s words or behavior are appalling and beyond understanding, and you’re lost for words. 

      • Equivalent English Saying: To be at a loss for words

      • Example: 

        またギャンブルのためにお金借りたいの?「開いた口が塞がらない」よ!
        Mata gyanburu no tame ni o-kane karitai no? “Aita kuchi ga fusagaranai” yo!
        You want to borrow money for gambling again? I’m appalled and lost for words!

      A Candle Glowing in the Darkness

      灯台下暗し (Tōdai moto kurashi) – “It is dark under the lamp post.” / “It’s hard to see what is under your nose.”

      5. A Few More Proverbs For You…

      To conclude our Japanese proverbs list, here are just a few more proverbs you may enjoy. 

      25. どんぐりの背比べ (Donguri no sei kurabe)

      • Literal Translation: Height comparison among acorns.

      • Meaning: This phrase is used in situations where everything or everyone seems about the same, and there’s no one who has outstanding strength, ability, or skill.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Neither barrel the better herring. / Much of a muchness.

      • Example: 

        今回の美人コンテストの応募者は全員普通で、勝者を選べません。「どんぐりの背比べ」です。
        Konkai no bijin kontesuto no ōbosha wa zen’in futsū de, shōsha o erabemasen. “Donguri no sei kurabe” desu.
        All the applicants for this beauty contest are ordinary and we cannot choose the winner. They are all much of a muchness.

      26. 蛇足 (Dasoku)

      • Literal Translation: Legs of a snake.

      • Meaning: Something that is unnecessary, redundant, and superfluous.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Put a fifth wheel to the coach/Gilding the lily.
      • Example: 

        お祝いの席であんなコメントは「蛇足」でした。
        O-iwai no seki de anna komento wa “dasoku” deshita.
        Such a comment was unnecessary on the occasion of celebration.

      27. 雲泥の差 (Undei no sa)

      • Literal Translation: Difference between clouds and mud.

      • Meaning: This refers to a wide difference. Because clouds represent heaven and mud is the ground, this phrase alludes to a big gap like that between heaven and earth.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: As different as night and day. 

      • Example: 

        都市部と田舎では生活費に「雲泥の差」があります。
        Toshibu to inaka de wa seikatsuhi ni “undei no sa” ga arimasu.
        There is a huge difference in living costs between urban and rural areas.

      28. 青天の霹靂 (Seiten no hekireki)

      • Literal Translation: Sudden thunder in the blue sky.

      • Meaning: The sudden occurrence of unexpected events or changes.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: A bolt out of the blue.

      • Example: 

        あの有名俳優が突然逮捕されたのは、青天の霹靂だ。
        Ano yūmei haiyū ga totsuzen taiho sareta no wa, “seiten no hekireki” da.
        It’s a bolt out of the blue that that famous actor got suddenly arrested.

      A Thunderstorm Appearing Over a Green Field

      青天の霹靂 (Seiten no hekireki) “a bolt out of the blue”

      29. 後の祭り (Ato no matsuri)

      • Literal Translation: After the festival.

      • Meaning: This phrase means that someone has missed their chance or an event has occurred too late. After the festival is over, it’s meaningless to go to see the festival. 

      • Additional Note: A traditional Japanese 祭り (matsuri), or “festival,” usually has main events such as 神輿担ぎ (Mikoshi katsugi), which is “carrying a portable Shinto shrine,” 山車 (dashi), or “floats” parade, and group dances. There’s also a variety of food stalls and entertainment booths around the area.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: A day after the fair. / After death, the doctor.

      • Example: 

        テストが終わった後に勉強を始めても、「後の祭り」です。
        Tesuto ga owatta ato ni benkyō o hajimete mo, “ato no matsuri” desu.
        It’s too late to start studying after the test is over.

      30. 縁の下の力持ち (En no shita no chikaramochi)

      • Literal Translation: Powerful man under the edge.

      • Meaning: A person who does a thankless task and makes an effort to support others in ways that are not visible to others.

      • Additional Notes: The 縁 えん (en) is the long wooden porch in traditional Japanese-style houses. Though unseen, there are many foundation pillars under the en that hold up the porch.

      • Equivalent English Proverb: Unsung hero.

      • Example: 

        この社会はたくさんの縁の下の力持ちがいるおかげで成り立っています。
        Kono shakai wa takusan no en no shita no chikaramochi ga iru okagede naritatte imasu.
        This society is made possible by the existence of many unsung heroes.

      A Woman Is Standing on the 縁 (en) or 縁側 (engawa), Meaning

      To learn more about Japanese proverbs and quotes, please also check out our article Japanese Quotes That Enrich Your Life.

      6. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

      In this article, we introduced thirty popular Japanese proverbs and idioms in various categories. I hope you enjoyed today’s topic, gained some useful insight from these Japanese words of wisdom, and deepened your understanding of Japanese culture! 

      Which of these Japanese proverbs is your favorite, and why? And what are some common proverbs in your language? We look forward to hearing from you! 

      If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language, you’ll find even more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons to help you improve your Japanese language skills. To start, why not study these inspiring Japanese quotes and motivational phrases for language learning?

      And there’s so much more! 

      By subscribing for a Premium PLUS membership, you’ll also gain access to MyTeacher. This service gives you a private teacher who will help you practice pronunciation and give you personalized feedback and advice.

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

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

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

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

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

Central Tokyo Has a Range of Skyscraper Buildings.

Central Tokyo has a range of skyscraper buildings.


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

1. Basic Information for Traveling

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

City of Tokyo

Facts

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

History

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

People and Language

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

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

Food and Accomodation

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

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

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

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

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

The Best Time to Visit Tokyo

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

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

  • Spring (March, April, May)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Get Around

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

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

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

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

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

Other Travel Tips

  • What to Bring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

新宿 (Shinjuku)

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

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

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

  • West (West Exit) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

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

渋谷 (Shibuya)

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

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

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

A Huge Crowd of People Crossing at Shibuya Crossing

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

原宿 (Harajuku)

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Meiji Jingu Shrine

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

皇居 (Imperial Palace and Imperial Garden)

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

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

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

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

The Japanese Imperial Palace in Tokyo

The Japanese Imperial Palace is located close to Tokyo Station.

浅草 (Asakusa)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many People Visiting the Kaminarimon Gate of Sensō-ji

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

上野 (Ueno)

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

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

Up-close Shot of Cherry Blossoms Blooming at Ueno Park

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

秋葉原 (Akihabara)

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

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

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

The Street of Akihabara in Tokyo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odaiba and the Replica of the Statue of Liberty

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

六本木 (Roppongi)

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

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

The Tokyo Midtown Building in Roppongi

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

銀座 & 築地 (Ginza & Tsukiji)

If you love sophisticated shopping, go to Ginza. 

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

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

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

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

People Walking Around Ginza

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

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

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

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

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

The Skytree Tower in Tokyo, Japan

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

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

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

DisneySea in Tokyo, Japan

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

Outside of Central Tokyo

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

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

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

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

4. Nature and Outdoor Activities in Tokyo

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

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

高尾山 (Mt. Takao)

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

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

奥多摩 (Okutama)

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

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

秋川 (Akigawa)

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

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

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

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

5. Japanese Survival Phrases for Travelers

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

Hello. 

Japanese: こんにちは (Kon’nichiwa)

Example

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

Thank you.

Japanese: ありがとう (Arigatō)

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

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

Example

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

Goodbye.

Japanese: さようなら (Sayōnara)

Example

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

I’m sorry.

Japanese: すみません (Sumimasen)

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

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

Example

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

すみません! 
Sumimasen!
“I’m sorry!”

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

I don’t understand. / I don’t know.

Japanese: わかりません (Wakarimasen)

Example

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

Is there anyone who speaks English?    

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

Example

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

Where is the restroom?

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

Example

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

How much is it?

Japanese: いくらですか (Ikura desu ka.)

Example

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

I want/take this.

Japanese: これをください (Kore o kudasai)

Example

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

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

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

Help!

Japanese: たすけて! (Tasukete!)

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

Example

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

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

A Couple Ordering Something from a Waitress

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

How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

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

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

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

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

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese

English Words in Japanese: Do You Know Japanglish?

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

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

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

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

A Map of Japan

There is a lot of Japanglish vocabulary used in Japan.

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

1. Introduction to Japanglish

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

Loanwords Used in Japanese

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Katakana chart

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

Japanglish Wasei-Eigo: English Made in Japan 

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

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

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

A Japanese Businessman Getting Ready to Leave for Work

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

2. Typical English Loanwords in Japanese

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

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

A Table Set with Wine Glasses, Silverware, and Plates

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

3. Japanglish Wasei Eigo

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

English Words Used With Different Meanings

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

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

Examples

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

Two Pancakes on a Griddle

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

Abbreviated Word Combinations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Examples

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

Someone about to Change the Channel with a Remote Controller

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

Words That Combine English and Japanese

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

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

Examples

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

Loanwords Turned Into Japanese Verbs

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

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

Examples

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

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

A Party

パーティーをする (pātī o suru) – “to party”

4. How to Say These Names in Japanese

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

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

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

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

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

A McDonald’s Cheeseburger and French Fries

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

5. English Words Borrowed From Japanese

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

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

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

折り(ori) – “fold” 



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

絵 (e) – “picture”



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

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

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

A Tsunami Washing Over Buildings

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

How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

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

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

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

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

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

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Japanese Quotes That Will Enrich Your Life

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

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

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

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

1. Quotes About Success

A Beautiful Sea

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

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

1 – 継続は力なり 

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Keizoku wa chikara nari

Literally: “Continuance is power.”

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

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

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

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

2 – 七転び八起き 

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Nanakorobi yaoki

Literally: “Stumbling seven times but standing up eight”

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

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

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

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

3 – 振り向くな、振り向くな、後ろには夢がない 

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

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

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

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

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

4 – 人を信じよ、しかし、その百倍も自らを信じよ 

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

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

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

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

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


Center of A Street

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

2. Quotes About Life

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

5 – 残り物には福がある 

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Nokorimono ni wa fuku ga aru

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

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

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

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

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

6 – 井の中の蛙大海を知らず 

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: I no naka no kawazu taikai o shirazu

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

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

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

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

7 – 人生に失敗がないと、人生を失敗する 

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 – 人生には、テキストもノートも助っ人も、何でも持ち込めます  

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Sign of Victory

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

3. Quotes About Time

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

9 – 急がば回れ  

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Isogaba maware

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

Meaning: Haste makes waste.

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

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

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

10 – 歳月人を待たず  

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Saigetsu hito o matazu

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

Meaning: Time flows without regard for humans’ convenience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 – 人生において 最も大切な時 それはいつでも いまです 

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

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

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

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

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

A Compass

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

4. Quotes About Love

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

13 – 思えば思わるる  

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Omoeba omowaruru

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

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

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

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

14 – かわいい子には旅をさせよ  

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Kawaii ko ni wa tabi o saseyo

Literally: “Make a beloved child travel.”

Meaning: Spare the rod and spoil the child.

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

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

15 – 恋とは自分本位なもの、愛とは相手本位なもの

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

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

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

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

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

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

16 – 愛の前で自分の損得を考えること自体ナンセンスだ  

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

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

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

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

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


Men and Women Forming Heart with Their Hands

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

5. Quotes About Family & Friends

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

17 – 親しき仲にも礼儀あり  

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Shitashiki naka ni mo reigi ari

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

Meaning: A hedge between keeps friendships.

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

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

18 – 類は友を呼ぶ  

[Japanese proverb]

Romanization: Rui wa tomo o yobu

Literally: “Same kind calls friends.”

Meaning: Birds of a feather flock together.

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

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

19 – 家族とは、「ある」ものではなく、手をかけて「育む」ものです

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

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

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

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

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

20 – 人生最大の幸福は一家の和楽である  

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

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

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

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


Three Men Looking at the Sunset

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

6. Quotes About Language Learning

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

21 – 為せば成る 為さねば成らぬ何事も 成らぬは人の為さぬなりけり

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His quote is very inspiring, especially for language learners!


A Woman Reading Book while Standing in a Train

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

7. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

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

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

And we have so much more to offer you!

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

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

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

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Essential Business Japanese: Learn the Most Useful Phrases

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

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

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

Bring yourself up a level here at JapanesePod101.com!

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

1. Japanese Business Culture

Jobs

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

1 – Japanese Business Etiquette

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

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

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

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

Here are some tips on Japanese business card usage:

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

A Man and Woman Exchanging Business Cards

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

2 – Keigo (Honorific Language) is a Must

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 – Finding a Job in Japan

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

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

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

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

4 – Business Japanese Vocabulary

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

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

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

2. Nail Your Job Interview

Job Interview

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

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

1 – ___と申します。(___ to mōshimasu.)

Translation: “My name is ___.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translation: “My strength / weakness is ___.”

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

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

Example:

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

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

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

Translation: “I have experience as ___.”

経験 (keiken) is “experience.”

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

Example:

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

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

Translation: “Could you please say it again?”

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

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

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

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

Translation: “Can I ask you some questions?”

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

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

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

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

A Businessman and Businesswoman Performing an Interview

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

3. Interact with Coworkers

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

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

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

1- おはようございます (Ohayō gozaimasu.)

Translation: “Good morning.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Examples:

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

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

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

Translation: “Please excuse me leaving before you.”

The literal translation, broken down, is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example:

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

いってらっしゃい
Itterasshai.
“Take care.”

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

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

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

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

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

Example:

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

おかえりなさい
Okaerinasai.
“Welcome back.”

Business Phrases

4. Sound Smart in a Meeting

In most workplaces, meetings are inevitable. 

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

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

Translation: “Shall we start the meeting?”

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

Translation: “Today’s agenda is ___.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Group of Businessman Having a Meeting

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

5. Handle Business Phone Calls

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

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

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

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

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

Translation: “Hello, this is ___.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translation: “Is Mr./Ms. ___ there?”

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

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

Translation: “Please wait for a moment.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translation: “Thank you very much for calling.”

Man Using the Telephone

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

6. Handle Business Emails

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

Following are the basics of writing professional emails:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translation: “I’m writing regarding ___.”

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

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

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

Translation: “Please check the document attached.”

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

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

7. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

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

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

And there’s so much more! 

For example, when you subscribe to our Premium PLUS plan, you’ll get a personal one-on-one coaching service called MyTeacher. Your private teacher will help you practice your pronunciation and give you personalized feedback and advice to help you improve efficiently. 

Learn Japanese in the fastest and most fun way with JapanesePod101.com!

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

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How to Say Goodbye in Japanese

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As you know, greeting is the most basic and essential aspect of any conversation. While knowing how to say hello is certainly crucial for getting to know people, learning how to say goodbye is just as important. Giving the proper farewell can improve the quality and longevity of your relationships and make you sound more like a native speaker. 

There are various ways to say goodbye in Japanese, and some phrases are unique and untranslatable ones which reflect the politeness of Japanese culture. As you learn how to say goodbye in Japanese, you’ll also deepen your understanding of Japanese culture and get tips for having smooth conversations with Japanese people.

In this article, we’ll introduce the most common phrases for saying bye in Japanese, from easy casual words to more formal ones. We’ll also show you some expressions that are unique to the Japanese language. After reading this guide from JapanesePod101.com, you’ll be able to leave any conversation with confidence! Start with a bonus, and download the Must-Know Beginner Vocabulary PDF for FREE!(Logged-In Member Only)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. The Most Common Japanese Goodbye Phrases
  2. Various Ways to Say Goodbye in Japanese
  3. Untranslatable Goodbye Phrases in Japanese
  4. Conclusion: How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

1. The Most Common Japanese Goodbye Phrases

Most Common Goodbyes

Let’s start by looking at the most popular ways to say goodbye in the Japanese language. These are phrases you may know already, but keep reading to learn how to use them properly! 

1 – さようなら (Sayōnara)

You’ve probably heard the famous Japanese word さような(Sayōnara) in movies and other media. This word is the direct translation of “goodbye.”

To say it properly, pronounce a bit longer and with no intonation. (English-speakers saying “sayoNAra” in Hollywood movies is a big Japanese pronunciation mistake! Don’t shorten the long vowel and stress the wrong syllable of a word!)

Despite its overall popularity, however, Sayōnara is not commonly used by Japanese people from day to day, especially between close friends or family. 

Sayōnara is actually a formal word, having the connotation of “farewell,” “goodbye for a long time,” or even “goodbye forever.” This word is most often used when someone isn’t sure when they’ll be seeing another person again (or if they’ll meet again at all). Therefore, don’t scare your loved one by telling them Sayōnara, as they may get confused and think that you’re going far away or that you don’t want to see them again!

Example

A:
ごめんなさい、他に好きな人がいるの。さようなら。
Gomen nasai, hoka ni suki na hito ga iru no. Sayōnara.
“I’m sorry, I have feelings for someone else. Goodbye.”

B:
待って、行かないで!別れたくない!
Matte, ikanaide! Wakaretaku nai!
“Wait, don’t go! I don’t want to break up!”

2 – ばいばい (Baibai)

This simple and easy phrase, borrowed from the English phrase “bye-bye,” is very common among close friends and family, though women and younger generations tend to use it more.

Baibai is used very casually. For example, someone may say this to their close friend after chatting with them for a while.

Example

A:
今日は楽しかったね、また遊ぼう。ばいばい!
Kyō wa tanoshikatta ne, mata asobō. Baibai!
“Today was fun, let’s hang out again. Bye-bye!”

B:
うん、またね! ばいばい!
Un, mata ne! Baibai!
“Yeah, see you! Bye-bye!”

A Woman Looking Out at a Body of Water

天国でも元気でね。さようなら。
Tengoku demo genki de ne. Sayōnara.
“Be well also in heaven. Goodbye.”

3 – Japanese Goodbye Gestures

Bowing is the most basic and essential gesture when it comes to Japanese greetings, especially in formal situations. Whether you’re greeting your boss or a client, you should bow when you say goodbye in Japanese to be polite. The form and length of your bow will depend on the level of respect you have for the other person and/or how official the situation is. To learn all about how to bow properly, please check out our Japanese Body Language article.

On the other hand, Japanese people don’t bow when they say goodbye to friends or family. The most common gesture in casual situations is to wave one’s hand. Simply wave your palm left and right in front of your chest. 

Unlike in Western culture, Japanese culture does not have greeting customs that involve hugging or kissing. So, even if it’s a casual occasion, do not astonish Japanese people with hugs or kisses when greeting them. They’ll be very bashful and not know how to react to it!

Two Japanese Businessmen Bowing To Each Other in a Hallway

In formal situations, Japanese people bow when saying goodbye.

2. Various Ways to Say Goodbye in Japanese

Now that the basics are covered, we’ll show you how to say goodbye in Japanese in a variety of situations! 

1 -じゃあね (Jā ne)

This is a very casual word used among close friends and family, and it means “See you” or “Bye, then.” 

じゃあ () means something like “well then,” and ね (ne) is a Japanese particle that’s put at the end of a sentence to make it sound softer. This particle also has a nuance of seeking the listener’s agreement and confirming a fact.

This is such a natural phrase that using it with your friends will make you sound like a native speaker! 

Example

  • あ、もう5時だ。行かなくちゃ! じゃあね!
    A, mō go-ji da. Ikanakucha! Jā ne!
    “Ah, it’s already five o’clock. I gotta go! See you!”

2 – またね (Mata ne)

またね (mata ne) is another very casual phrase you can use with your close friends and family. This one means “See you later.”

また (mata) is a colloquial way of saying “again,” and ね (ne) is the sentence ending particle. The masculine version, またな (mata na), is also commonly used among males.

This is a very natural and common expression that you’ll hear often in Japan.

Example

クラスが始まるからもう行くよ。ばいばい、またね!
Kurasu ga hajimaru kara mō iku yo. Baibai, mata ne!
“I’m going now because the class is starting. Bye, see you later!”

Two Children Waving Bye to Friends After School

ばいばい、またね!
Bai bai, mata ne!
“Bye, see you later!”

3 – また___ (Mata ___)

This is a useful expression that you can use both casually and in slightly more formal circumstances. 

また (mata) means “again,” and you can put any word in the blank that expresses time. Common examples include “later,” “tomorrow,” and “next week.” 

Adding では (dewa), which means “then,” in front of the phrase makes it sound a bit more formal, and thus more appropriate for use with colleagues in the workplace.  

Vocabulary for Time Words You Can Use

EnglishKanji HiraganaReading
“later”後であとでato de
“tomorrow”明日あしたashita
“next week”来週らいしゅうraishū
“next month”来月らいげつraigetsu
“next year”来年らいねんrainen

Example

A:
明日はプロジェクトの大事な日なので、今日はもう帰りましょう。
Ashita wa purojekuto no daiji na hi nanode, kyō wa mō kaerimashō.
“Let’s go home now because tomorrow is an important day for the project.”

B:
はい、ではまた明日。
Hai, dewa mata ashita.
“Yes, see you tomorrow then.”

4 – 元気でね (Genki de ne)

元気でね (genki de ne) can be translated as “Take care of yourself,” “Stay well,” or “All the best.”

This casual phrase is used when someone is going on a long trip or moving to another place.

You can also say お元気で (o-genki de) to make it sound more polite for use in formal situations. The お (o) here is the Japanese honorific prefix that adds a feeling of politeness or respect to a word. For example: 

  • すし (sushi) >> おすし (o-sushi)
  • 水 (mizu) – “water” >> お水 (o-mizu)
  • 皿 (sara) – “plate” >> お皿 (o-sara)

Example

新しい町でも友達たくさんできるよ。元気でね!
Atarashii machi de mo tomodachi takusan dekiru yo. Genki de ne!
“You will make a lot of friends in the new town, too. All the best!”

5 – 気をつけてね (Ki o tsukete ne) 

This casual phrase means “Take care.”

Similar to the phrase above, 気をつけてね (ki o tsukete ne) is used when someone is going on a trip. However, it can also be used when a family member is leaving home.

To make it more polite, you can say: お気をつけて (o-ki o tsukete).

Example

A:
明日富士山に登りに行くよ。
Ashita Fujisan ni nobori ni iku yo.
“I’m going to climb Mt. Fuji tomorrow.”

B:
気をつけてね。
Ki o tsukete ne.
“Take care.”

Mt. Fuji

山登り気をつけてね。
Yamanobori ki o tsukete ne.
“Take care when climbing the mountains.”

6 – 行ってきます(Ittekimasu) / 行ってらっしゃい (Itterasshai)

行ってきます (ittekimasu) means “I’m leaving (the house),” and it’s a common way to say goodbye to family members when you’re opening the front door to leave.

This phrase is also used between colleagues when a staff member is leaving the office to meet clients outside (if he’s coming back to the office later).

The paired response to 行ってきます (ittekimasu) is 行ってらっしゃい (itterasshai), which literally means “Go and come back.” Those who are staying behind say this phrase to those who are leaving.

Example

A (Kid):
遅刻するー!行ってきます!
Chikoku surū! Ittekimasu!
“I’m getting late! I’m leaving now!”

B (Mom):
行ってらっしゃい。気をつけてね。
Itterasshai. Ki o tsukete ne.
“Bye. Take care.”

A Mother Saying Bye to Her Husband and Children

-行ってきます! (Ittekimasu!) – “I’m leaving now!”
-行ってらっしゃい。(Itterasshai.) – “Bye, take care.”

7 – 良い1日を (Ii ichi-nichi o)

良い1日を (ii ichi-nichi o) means “(Have) a good day.”

This is the short version of the polite phrase: 良い1日をお過ごしください (Ii ichi-nichi o o-sugoshi kudasai) or “Please have a good day.”

Keep in mind that while the equivalent phrase in English is used often in English-speaking countries, this is not the case for this phrase in Japan. It might be used in a situation where the speaker is a host and the listener is a guest (such as at a hotel). 

Example

[From a hotel staff member to hotel guests who are leaving and will come back later]

  • お客様、いってらっしゃいませ。良い1日をお過ごしください。
    O-kyaku-sama, itterasshai-mase. Ii ichi-nichi o o-sugoshi kudasai.
    “Dear guests, please go safely and have a good day.”

8 – 楽しんでね (Tanoshinde ne)

The casual Japanese goodbye phrases 楽しんでね (tanoshinde ne) and 楽しんできてね (tanoshinde kite ne), which mean “have fun” and “have a good time,” are more commonly used than 良い1日を (ii ichi-nichi o).

To make it more polite, you can also say 楽しんでください (tanoshinde kudasai) or 楽しんできてください (tanoshinde kite kudasai).

Example

A:
今から友達と映画にいくの。またね。
Ima kara tomodachi to eiga ni iku no. Mata ne.
“I’m going to watch a movie with my friend. See you.”

B:
いいね。楽しんできてね。
Ii ne. Tanoshinde kite ne.
“That’s nice. Have fun.”

9 – お大事に (Odaiji ni)

お大事に (odaiji ni) means “get well soon,” and it’s frequently used when you’re leaving a person who is sick or injured. 

You can use this phrase when you leave your friend’s or family member’s room at a hospital, or when a colleague is leaving work early because they don’t feel well. In addition, doctors often say this to their patients after a consultation.

Example

A:
気分が悪いので早退して病院にいきます。
Kibun ga warui node sōtai shite byōin ni ikimasu.
“I’m leaving the office early and going to see the doctor because I feel sick.”

B:
お大事に。ゆっくり休んでください
Odaiji ni. Yukkuri yasunde kudasai.
“Get well soon. Please rest well.”

A Sick Woman

-風邪を引いています。Kaze o hiite imasu. – “I have a cold.”
-お大事にどうぞ。Odaiji ni dōzo.- “Please get well soon.”

3. Untranslatable Goodbye Phrases in Japanese

There are numerous untranslatable Japanese phrases which do not have a direct translation in English. Such untranslatable phrases are unique to the Japanese language as they reflect the Japanese culture, which places importance on politeness and respect for social harmony.

Here’s a list of untranslatable goodbye phrases in Japanese:

1 – お疲れ様 (Otsukare-sama)

お疲れ様 (otsukare-sama) is literally translated as “(You must be) tired,” in a respectful manner. 

This phrase is often used between colleagues as a greeting, sort of like “see you” or “see you tomorrow.” It can also be used in sport-related situations such as at a gym or sports club. 

Japanese people use this phrase to express a feeling of gratitude for hard work, as well as sympathy concerning the tiredness one might feel after working. 

Example

A:
今日のトレーニングはキツかったですね。
Kyō no torēningu wa kitsukatta desu ne.
“Today’s training was really tough, wasn’t it?”

B:
お疲れ様でした。また来週。
Otsukare-sama deshita. Mata raishū.
“(We trained so hard and tired.) See you next week.”

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

お先に失礼します (osaki ni shitsurei shimasu) is literally translated as “I do impoliteness before you,” meaning “Excuse me for leaving before you.”

This phrase is commonly used as a departure greeting, especially between colleagues.

In the traditional working culture of Japan, people are considered more hardworking when they work long hours. Additionally, due to the seniority tradition, less-experienced employees have invisible yet strong pressure to leave the office later than their bosses or more-experienced colleagues. Therefore, people feel guilty leaving the office earlier than other colleagues. The formal phrase “I do impoliteness before you” is used to excuse the action of leaving early.

There’s also a shorter version of this phrase: お先に (osaki ni), meaning “Before you.” This is used casually among close colleagues or to subordinates. 

Example

  • 今日は子供の誕生日なので、お先に失礼します。
    Kyō wa kodomo no tanjōbi na node, osaki ni shitsurei shimasu.
    “Excuse me for leaving before you, (I’m leaving the office now because) today is my kid’s birthday.”

*Japanese people tend to subconsciously feel that they need a good reason for leaving the office earlier. 

3 – お世話になりました (O-sewa ni narimashita)

This beautiful untranslatable Japanese phrase is literally translated as “I was taken care of by you,” which means “Thank you for taking care of me/supporting me” in a humble way. 

This phrase is often used when you resign from your job and greet colleagues on your last day in the office, or when you finish a course or training that helped grow your career. It shows gratitude toward the people and environment that supported you. 

Variations of this phrase are: 

  • お世話になります (o-sewa ni narimasu) – present tense
  • いつもお世話になっております (itsumo o-sewa ni natte orimasu)

These mean “Thank you for your support” and “Thank you for your continued support,” respectively. They’re commonly used in business settings when talking to clients when they visit or send emails.

Example

10年間お世話になりました。素晴らしい同僚と一緒に働けて幸せでした。
Jū-nenkan o-sewa ni narimashita. Subarashii dōryō to issho ni hatarakete shiawase deshita.
“Thank you for taking care of and supporting me for ten years. I was happy to work with such wonderful colleagues.”

A Group of Colleagues in the Office Smiling for a Group Photo

お世話になりました (o-sewa ni narimashita) is a typical goodbye phrase on one’s last day of work to say “Thank you for supporting me.”

4 – お邪魔しました (Ojama shimashita)

お邪魔しました (ojama shimashita) is literally translated as “I disturbed/bothered you,” in a humble and polite way. It means “Excuse me for intruding” or “Thank you for having me over.”

In Japan, it’s polite to say this phrase together with “thank you” when you’re invited to someone’s home, and when you’re leaving there. Similarly, when you enter someone’s home, you should say: お邪魔します (ojama shimasu) in the present tense.

You can use this phrase casually or formally whenever you enter someone’s house or property.

Example

ご招待ありがとうございました。お邪魔しました。
Go-shōtai arigatō gozaimashita. Ojama shimashita.
“Thank you for inviting me and having me over.”

For more great information, check out our vocabulary list on the Most Common Ways to Say Goodbye (with audio)!

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

In this article, we introduced how to say goodbye in Japanese in any situation, and also showed you a few untranslatable goodbye phrases in Japanese. I hope you enjoyed today’s topic, and that you were able to take away some valuable information on how Japanese culture relates to its many goodbye phrases. 

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language, you’ll find much more helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons to help you improve your Japanese language skills. To get you started, here’s some information about the basics of Japanese to enrich your knowledge: 

Please don’t forget to check out the audio and listen to the pronunciation carefully!

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

Before you go, let us know in the comments if you have any questions about today’s article. We’d be glad to help you out!

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