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Level Up with These Advanced Japanese Words

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If you’re looking at this page, it means that you’ve achieved the intermediate level and are interested in moving ahead to advanced-level Japanese. That’s great—you’re in the right place!

Levels N1 and N2 of the JLPT (Japanese-Language Proficiency Test) are equivalent to the advanced level, and aiming to pass these levels would be a good source of motivation at this point in your studies. It surely takes tremendous effort and dedication to reach this stage, especially when it comes to learning the more difficult Kanji that are mostly used for special occasions or in official settings. 

Apart from conventional studying, however, there are more enjoyable ways to learn advanced Japanese words. For example, you could start reading books in Japanese and watching Japanese movies or TV shows in more serious genres; history shows, biographies, thrillers, and action films are great examples. Once you learn enough advanced Japanese words, you can utilize such tools to reinforce your knowledge and memory.

In this article, we will introduce a list of frequently used advanced Japanese words, including nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, as well as other sophisticated words you can use to substitute basic everyday words. Let’s start climbing to the summit here at JapanesePod101.com!

The News Displayed on a Tablet, a Cell Phone, and Newspapers

You will be able to more easily read Japanese newspapers with advanced Japanese words.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Nouns – 名詞 (Meishi)
  2. Verbs – 動詞 (Dōshi)
  3. Adjectives – 形容詞 (Keiyōshi)
  4. Adverbs – 副詞 (Fukushi)
  5. Alternative Words for Greater Sophistication
  6. Conclusion

1. Nouns – 名詞 (Meishi)

The Kanji for advanced Japanese nouns is often complicated and difficult. However, the good news is that you’ll never have to worry about which article to use or how to change a word from singular to plural. 

Advanced Japanese nouns are usually just as simple as beginner nouns in terms of reading and pronunciation, but learning the high-level Kanji will take a lot of time and effort. 

1 – Advanced Academic Words 

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading
concept概念 がいねんgainen
precision精密 せいみつseimitsu
expansion / extension拡張 かくちょうkakuchō
pressure圧力 あつりょくatsuryoku
efficiency効率 こうりつkōritsu
specimen / sample標本ひょうほんhyōhon
evidence証拠 しょうこshōko
verification / inspection検証けんしょうkenshō
atom原子 げんしgenshi
molecule分子 ぶんしbunshi
radioactivity放射能  ほうしゃのうhōshanō
concentration / density​濃度 のうどnōdo
coagulation / solidification​凝固  ぎょうこgyōko
fusion / melting / liquefaction融解 ゆうかいyūkai 

Examples:

  • この実験は新しい説の分析と検証です。
    Kono jikken wa atarashii setsu no bunseki to kenshō desu.
    “This experiment is an analysis and verification of a new theory.”
  • この地域は放射能の濃度が高く危険です。
    Kono chiiki wa hōshanō no nōdo ga takaku kiken desu.
    “This area is dangerous because of its high concentration of radioactivity.”
  • その物質は温度の変化により凝固と融解を繰り返した。
    Sono busshitsu wa ondo no henka ni yori gyōko to yūkai o kurikaeshita.
    “The substance repeatedly solidified and melted by changes in temperature.”

Two Researchers Experimenting with Liquids in a Laboratory

物質の濃度を測る (busshitsu no nōdo o hakaru)
“measure the concentration of the substance”

2 – Advanced Business Words

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading
negotiation交渉 こうしょうkōshō
strategy 戦略 せんりゃくsenryaku
capital / fund資本 しほんshihon
stockholder /  shareholder株主 かぶぬしkabunushi
revenue歳入 さいにゅうsainyū
investment投資 とうしtōshi
securities  / stock証券 しょうけんshōken
loan / financing融資 ゆうしyūshi
repayment /  payment / settlement返済へんさいhensai
debt債務 さいむsaimu
mortgage /  guarantee担保 たんぽtanpo
credit債権 さいけんsaiken
assets資産 しさんshisan 
bankruptcy倒産 とうさんtōsan 
trademark商標 しょうひょうshōhyō
patent特許 とっきょtokkyo  
employment雇用  こようkoyō
dismissal /  termination of employment​解雇  かいこkaiko
company director  / board member取締役 とりしまりやくtorishimariyaku
board of  directors理事会りじかいrijikai 
permanent  employee正社員  せいしゃいんseishain
contract-based  employee契約社員 けいやくしゃいんkeiyaku shain 
outsourced  temporary employee派遣社員  はけんしゃいんhaken shain 

Examples:

  • その証券会社は巨額の債務を抱え倒産しました。
    Sono shōkengaisha wa kyogaku no saimu o kakae tōsan shimashita.
    “The securities company went bankrupt with huge debt.”
  • 新しい事業のため銀行から融資を受けたいです。
    Atarashii jigyō no tame ginkō kara yūshi o uketai desu.
    “I’d like to get a loan from a bank for a new business.”
  • 革新的な技術の特許を取得した後、その企業の株価が上がりました。
    Kakushinteki na gijutsu no tokkyo o shutoku shita ato, sono kigyō no kabuka ga agarimashita.
    “After acquiring the patent of an innovative technology, the company’s stock price went up.”

Several Colleagues Sitting Around a Table and Discussing Ideas

交渉を有利に行う戦略 (kōshō o yūri ni okonau senryaku)
“a strategy to negotiate favorably”

3 – Advanced Medical Words 

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading
medical care医療 いりょうiryō
  gene遺伝子いでんしidenshi
immunity免疫 めんえきmen’eki
artery動脈 どうみゃくdōmyaku 
vein静脈じょうみゃくjōmyaku 
blood  transfusion輸血 ゆけつyuketsu
spinal cord脊髄せきずいsekizui 
radioactive ray放射線 ほうしゃせんhōshasen
medical treatment / therapy治療 ちりょうchiryō
department of surgery外科 げかgeka 
  internal medicine内科ないかnaika
symptom症状 しょうじょうshōjō
infection感染かんせんkansen
inflammation炎症 えんしょうenshō
fit / spasm / seizure発作 ほっさhossa
paralysis / palsy麻痺まひmahi 
coma昏睡 こんすいkonsui 
tumor腫瘍しゅようshuyō
bruiseあざaza 
vomiting嘔吐おうとōto
diarrhea下痢 げりgeri
pneumonia肺炎はいえんhaien
cancerがんgan

Examples:

  • 日本の医療システムは国民健康保険で成り立っています。
    Nihon no iryō shisutemu wa kokumin kenkō hoken de naritatte imasu.
    “The Japanese medical system works with National Health Insurance.”
  • 昨日から嘔吐と下痢の症状があります。
    Kinō kara ōto to geri no shōjō ga arimasu.
    “I have had the symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea since yesterday.”
  • その男性は発作を起こして昏睡状態になりました。
    Sono dansei wa hossa o okoshite konsui jōtai ni narimashita.
    “The man had a seizure and went into a coma.”

A Doctor Looking at an Image of a Human Body on a Screen

放射線治療で癌を治す (hōshasen chiryō de gan o naosu)
“cure cancer with radiation therapy”

4 – Advanced Legal Words 

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading 
arrest逮捕たいほtaiho
detention / custody拘留こうりゅうkōryū
prosecution / indictment起訴きそkiso
probation / suspension of sentence執行猶予しっこうゆうよshikkō yūyo
arbitration / mediation調停 ちょうていchōtei
trial裁判 さいばんsaiban
court裁判所さいばんしょsaibansho
judge裁判官 さいばんかんsaibankan
plaintiff / accuser原告げんこくgenkoku 
defendant / accused被告 ひこくhikoku
public prosecutor検察官けんさつかんkensatsukan
imprisonment / penal servitude懲役ちょうえきchōeki
appeal控訴こうそkōso 
detention center / jail拘置所 こうちしょkōchisho
prison刑務所 けいむしょkeimusho
death penalty / capital punishment死刑 しけいshikei 
fraud詐欺さぎsagi
bribery賄賂 わいろwairo
tax evasion脱税 だつぜいdatsuzei
forgery / falsification / counterfeiting偽造 ぎぞうgizō
threatening / intimidation脅迫 きょうはくkyōhaku
theft / stealing窃盗 せっとうsettō
assault / act of violence暴行 ぼうこうbōkō
murder / homicide殺人 さつじんsatsujin 

Examples:

  • 彼は懲役5年執行猶予3年の判決を受けました。
    Kare wa chōeki go-nen shikkō yūyo san-nen no hanketsu o ukemashita.
    “He was sentenced to five years in prison suspended for three years.”
  • あの会社の元社長は脱税罪で刑務所にいます。
    Ano kaisha no moto shachō wa datsuzeizai de keimusho ni imasu.
    “The former president of that company is in prison for tax evasion.”
  •  日本には死刑制度があります。
    Nihon ni wa shikei seido ga arimasu.
    “Japan has the death penalty system.”

A Gavel on Top of a Book

裁判官の判決 (saibankan no hanketsu)
“judgment by a judge”

To review the basic Japanese nouns, please check out our blog post titled Guide to the Top 100+ Japanese Nouns.

2. Verbs – 動詞 (Dōshi)

Below, we have divided the most important advanced Japanese verbs into two groups: general verbs and those that are formed using the word する(suru) – “do.”

1 – General Verbs

EnglishKanjiHiragana  Reading
force / compel強いる しいるshiiru
range / lie in a line / stretch out 連なるつらなるtsuranaru 
go through / pierce貫く つらぬくtsuranuku 
rub / chafe擦れるすれるsureru 
judge裁く さばくsabaku 
dedicate / commit / give捧げる ささげるsasageru 
prosper栄える さかえるsakaeru
prohibit / ban禁じるきんじるkinjiru
endure / bear / tolerate / withstand耐えるたえるtaeru 
deal / treat / handle取り扱うとりあつかうtoriatsukau
accompany / entail伴うともなうtomonau 
nod頷く うなずくunazuku
influence / affect / exert / cause及ぼす およぼすoyobosu 
become weak / become old衰える おとろえるotoroeru
control / regulate /  manage 取り締まるとりしまるtorishimaru
investigate / examine取り調べる   とりしらべるtorishiraberu 
remove取り除くとりのぞくtorinozoku
be made up of / consist of / be composed of成り立つなりたつnaritatsu
install / attach備え付ける そなえつけるsonaetsukeru 

Examples:

  • その地位は重大な責任を伴う。
    Sono chii wa jūdai na sekinin o tomonau.
    “The position entails grave responsibility.”
  • この古い建物は大きな地震に耐えてきた。
    Kono furui tatemono wa ōkina jishin ni taete kita.
    “This old building has withstood big earthquakes.”
  • 警察は彼を賄賂の疑いで取り調べた。
    Keisatsu wa kare o wairo no utagai de torishirabeta.
    “Police investigated him on suspicion of bribery.”

A Man Installing a Satellite Antenna for a Home

アンテナを備え付ける (antena o sonaetsukeru)
“install an antenna”

2 – Verbs Formed Using [ Noun + する (suru) ] 

This type of Japanese verb is formed with the following pattern: 

  • [ Noun ] + [ する (suru) – “do” ]

For example:

  •  運動する(undō suru) – “to exercise” 
    • 運動 (undō) – “exercise” + する (suru) “do”

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading 
fermentate発酵する はっこうするhakkō suru
make use of / have a command駆使するくしするkushi suru
vibrate振動する しんどうするshindō suru 
bear (a cost, a responsibility, etc.)負担するふたんするfutan suru 
deploy / lay out  配置する はいちするhaichi suru 
shut down / lock out閉鎖するへいさするheisa suru 
evacuate避難するひなんするhinan suru
criticize / blame / condemn非難するひなんするhinan suru 
intervene / interfere干渉する かんしょうするkanshō suru
collapse / break down崩壊するほうかいするhōkai suru

Examples:

  • ブドウを発酵させてワインを作ります。
    Budō o hakkō sasete wain o tsukurimasu.
    “Ferment the grapes to make wine.”
  • その建物は人々が避難した後に崩壊した。
    Sono tatemono wa hitobito ga hinan shita ato ni hōkai shita.
    “The building collapsed after people evacuated.”
  • 私が車の修理費を負担します。
    Watashi ga kuruma no shūrihi o futan shimasu.
    “I will bear the car repair cost.”

To review the basics regarding Japanese verbs, please check out our articles The 100+ Most Common Japanese Verbs and Japanese Verb Conjugations.

A Car Engine

エンジンが振動する (enjin ga shindō suru)
“engine vibrates”

3. Adjectives – 形容詞 (Keiyōshi)

As you approach an advanced level in Japanese, you should start strengthening your vocabulary with more nuanced descriptive words. Below is a list of Japanese adjectives to get you started. 

1 – I Adjectives

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading 
suitable / appropriate / compatible相応しい ふさわしいfusawashii
delusive / misleading / confusing紛らわしい まぎらわしいmagirawashii
grateful有難い ありがたいarigatai 
brave/ courageous勇ましい いさましいisamashii
shameful / pitiful情けない なさけないnasakenai
equal等しい ひとしいhitoshii
regrettable惜しい おしいoshii
great偉い えらいerai 
dangerous / critical危うい あやういayaui
hurried / busy / frantic慌しい あわただしいawatadashii
impudent / shameless図々しいずうずうしいzūzūshii
quick素早いすばやいsubayai
incredible / enormous / dreadful物凄い ものすごいmonosugoi 
odious / hateful憎らしい にくらしいnikurashii
chilly肌寒いはだざむいhadazamui
careful / cautious / vigilant用心深い ようじんぶかいyōjinbukai 
extreme / terrible甚だしい はなはだしいhanahadashii

Examples:

  • これはあなたに相応しい車です。
    Kore wa anata ni fusawashii kuruma desu.
    “This is a suitable car for you.”
  • 今日は慌ただしい一日でした。
    Kyō wa awatadashii ichinichi deshita.
    “Today was a very frantic day.”
  • 彼はとても用心深い男で、人を簡単に信用しない。
    Kare wa totemo yōjinbukai otoko de, hito o kantan ni shin’yō shinai.
    “He is a very cautious man, and he does not trust people easily.”

2 – NA Adjectives

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading 
immature未熟みじゅくmijuku
thoughtless / careless軽率けいそつkeisotsu 
generous寛容かんようkan’yō 
essential / main point肝心 かんじんkanjin 
depressed / melancholic / gloomy憂鬱ゆううつyūtsu 
sensitive敏感 びんかんbinkan 
quick / rapid / prompt迅速 じんそくjinsoku 
loyal忠実ちゅうじつchūjitsu
cruel残酷ざんこくzankoku
detailed詳細しょうさいshōsai

Examples:

  • 私はいつも肝心なところで失敗する。
    Watashi wa itsumo kanjin na tokoro de shippai suru.
    “I always fail where it matters.”
  • この化粧品は敏感な肌に適しています。
    Kono keshōhin wa binkan na hada ni tekishite imasu.
    “This cosmetic is suitable for sensitive skin.”
  • 自然破壊が進む残酷な現実に目を向けなければならない。
    Shizen hakai ga susumu zankoku na genjitsu ni me o mukenakereba naranai.
    “We must face the cruel reality of the destruction of nature.”

A Businessman Feeling Gloomy and Depressed After a Bad Day at Work

仕事で失敗した憂鬱な日 (shigoto de shippai shita yūtsu na hi)
“a gloomy day that failed at work”

To review the basics of Japanese adjectives, please check out Learn the Top 100 Essential Japanese Adjectives and -I vs. -NA Adjectives in Japanese on our blog.

4. Adverbs – 副詞 (Fukushi)

Another set of words you’ll need to add to your advanced Japanese vocabulary is adverbs. You likely know a few of these already, but below is a list of more refined adverbs you can start practicing right away. 

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading 
at once / right away / promptly / suddenly咄嗟にとっさにtossa ni 
just as one thought / as usual 案の定 あんのじょうannojō
by far / far off 遥かにはるかにharuka ni 
indeed / truly / certainly如何にもいかにも ikanimo 
taking the trouble to do / intentionallyわざわざ wazawaza 
dare to do / not necessarily to do 敢えて あえてaete
above all何よりなによりnaniyori
quite / reasonably / fairly結構けっこうkekkō
once / before / never beforeかつて katsute 
in spite of / regardless of​かかわらず kakawarazu 
as it is / as you areありのままarinomama  
naturally当たり前に あたりまえにatarimae ni
vaguely / ambiguouslyあやふやに ayafuya ni 
easily / lightlyあっさり assari 
properly / neatlyきちんと kichinto 
thoughtlessly / recklesslyむやみに muyami ni 
quite / very (emphasizing a size, frequency, etc.)ごくgoku

Examples:

  • 問い詰められて私は咄嗟に嘘をついた。
    Toitsumerarete watashi wa tossa ni uso o tsuita.
    “Being pressed for an answer, I lied promptly.”
  • 敢えてそうする訳を教えてください。
    Aete sō suru wake o oshiete kudasai.
    “Please tell me why you dare to do so.”
  • ごくわずかな違いで結果が大きく変わります。
    Goku wazuka na chigai de kekka ga ōkiku kawarimasu.
    “A very subtle difference greatly changes the result.”

Two People Bowing

きちんとお辞儀する (kichinto ojigi suru)
“bow properly”

5. Alternative Words for Greater Sophistication

Whether you aim to get higher scores on writing exams or you want to write proper sentences for official documents, using high-level vocabulary and the appropriate expressions will refine your writing. 

In Japanese, many basic words have more nuanced or formal synonyms. A great example of these advanced counterparts are 熟語 Jukugo (Kanji compounds), which are combinations of different Kanji that create words at different levels of difficulty and specify a meaning.

In addition, having a good command of 敬語 Keigo (“honorific language”) in Japanese is a sign of being at an advanced level, which is essential for official occasions and business settings.  

In this section, you’ll learn the more sophisticated counterparts of simple Japanese words, including frequently used Keigo.  

1 – Alternative Verbs

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading 
生むうむ (umu)to give birth / to generate / to produceto be born出生するしゅっしょうするshusshō suru
to be born誕生するたんじょうするtanjō suru 
to derive / to generate from something派生するはせいするhasei suru
to produce / to yield産出するさんしゅつするsanshutsu suru 
to generate生成するせいせいするseisei suru

始めるはじめる (hajimeru)to start / to beginto begin / to commence開始するかいしするkaishi suru
to start / to initiate始動するしどうするshidō suru
to start / to undertake着手するちゃくしゅするchakushu suru
to start / to get down to / to set about  取りかかるとりかかるtorikakaru
to start / to set up / to be established発足するほっそくするhossoku suru

言ういう (iu)to sayto say / to state述べるのべるnoberu
to speak発言するはつげんするhatsugen suru
to mention / to refer to言及するげんきゅうするgenkyū suru

見るみる (miru)to see / to look / to watchto view / to browse 閲覧するえつらんするetsuran suru
to stare / to gaze凝視するぎょうしするgyōshi suru
to watch / to look carefully注視するちゅうしするchūshi suru
to see / to visit (a temple, a shrine, etc.)拝観するはいかんするhaikan suru

食べるたべる (taberu)to eatto eat食すしょくすshokusu
to eat / to take in 摂取するせっしゅするsesshu suru

書くかく (kaku)to writeto write (a thesis, a book, etc.)執筆するしっぴつするshippitsu suru
to write / to transcribe / to take notes筆記するひっきするhikki suru

読むよむ (yomu)to readto read (books)読書するどくしょするdokusho suru
to read well or thoroughly 熟読するじゅくどくするjukudoku suru
to read carefully精読するせいどくするseidoku suru

描くえがく (egaku)to draw / to paint / to depictto depict / to portray描写するびょうしゃするbyōsha suru
to imitate and draw模写するもしゃするmosha suru

比べるくらべる (kuraberu)to compareto compare比較するひかくするhikaku suru
to compare and check each other照らし合わせるてらしあわせるterashiawaseru

調べるしらべる (shiraberu)to search / to look up / to examineto examine / to investigate調査するちょうさするchōsa suru
to examine / to inspect検査するけんさするkensa suru
to check / to inspect点検するてんけんするtenken suru

Examples:

  • 彼は新しい本を書き始めた。          →   彼は新しい本の執筆に着手した
    Kare wa atarashii hon o kakihajimeta.    Kare wa atarashii hon no shippitsu ni chakushu shita.
    “He started writing a new book.”
  • 実験結果の違いを比べます。     →      実験結果の違いを比較します
    Jikken kekka no chigai o kurabemasu.      Jikken kekka no chigai o hikaku shimasu.
    “Compare the differences in the experimental results.”
  • 車の調子が悪いので、エンジンを調べてください。        →  車の調子が悪いので、エンジンを点検してください。
    Kuruma no chōshi ga warui node, enjin o shirabete kudasai.     Kuruma no chōshi ga warui node, enjin o tenken shite kudasai.
    “The car has a problem, so please check the engine.”

2 – Alternative Adjectives & Adverbs

EnglishKanjiHiraganaReading  
今いま (ima)nownow / present現在げんざいgenzai
今日きょう (kyō)todaytoday本日ほんじつhonjitsu
前にまえに (mae ni)beforebefore / earlier / back in the past以前いぜんizen
後であとで (ato de)laterlater on /  afterwards後ほどのちほどnochihodo
この先このさき (kono saki)from this time onfrom now on / in the future / hereafter今後こんごkongo
簡単にかんたんに (kantan ni)easilyeasily容易によういにyōi ni
もっと(motto)morewhat is more / furthermore / moreover更にさらにsara ni
even more / all the moreより一層よりいっそうyori issō
本当にほんとうに (hontō ni)reallyreally / truly正にまさにmasani
それぞれ(sorezore)eacheach各々おのおのono’ono
まだ(mada)yet / stillas yet / still依然としていぜんとしてizen toshite
少しすこし (sukoshi)a little / a fewa little / a small quantity少々しょうしょうshōshō

Examples:

  • 後で資料を送ります。            →   後ほど資料を送信します。
    Ato de shiryō o okurimasu.                Nochihodo shiryō o sōshin shimasu.
    “I will send the document later.”
  • 原因はまだはっきりしない。    →      原因は依然としてはっきりしない。
    Gen’in wa mada hakkiri shinai.                 Gen’in wa izen toshite hakkiri shinai.   
    “The cause is still unclear.”
  • 少し待ってください。          →   少々お待ちください。
    Sukoshi matte kudasai.        Shōshō o-machi kudasai.
    “Please wait for a moment.”

3 – 敬語 (Keigo) [Japanese Honorific Language]

Meaning KeigoKanjiHiraganaReading  
見るみる (miru)look / watch / seeRespectfulご覧になるごらんになるgoran ni naru
Humble拝見するはいけんするhaiken suru
食べるたべる (taberu)eatRespectful召し上がるめしあがるmeshiagaru
Humble頂くいただくitadaku
言ういう (iu)sayRespectfulおっしゃるossharu
Humble申す申し上げるもうすもうしあげるmōsumōshiageru
いる(iru)be there / exist Respectfulいらっしゃるirassharu
Humbleおるoru
する(suru)doRespectfulなさるnasaru
Humbleいたすitasu
行くいく (iku)goRespectfulいらっしゃるirassharu
Humble参るまいるmairu
くれる (kureru)give me/usRespectfulくださるkudasaru
Humble
あげる (ageru)give someone somethingRespectful
Humble差し上げるさしあげるsashiageru
知るしる (shiru)know Respectfulご存じごぞんじgozonji
Humble存じ上げるぞんじあげるzonjiageru
聞くきく (kiku)ask / listenRespectfulお聞きになるおききになるo-kiki ni naru
Humble伺ううかがうukagau

Examples:

  • [Normal Polite] 彼は流れ星を見ました。  Kare wa nagareboshi o mimashita.    
           (“He saw a shooting star.”)

    [Respectful]  こちらのデータをご覧ください。Kochira no dēta o goran kudasai.
           (“Please look at this data.”)

    [Humble]  求人広告を拝見し、応募いたしました。Kyūjin kōkoku o haiken shi, ōbo itashimashita.
         (“I saw the job advertisement and applied.”)

  • [Normal Polite] 彼女は会議で意見を言いました。  Kanojo wa kaigi de iken o iimashita.    
           (“She gave her opinion in the meeting.”)

    [Respectful]  社長は会議でご意見をおっしゃいましたShachō wa kaigi de go-iken o osshaimashita.
           (“The president gave her/his opinion in the meeting.”)

    [Humble]  私は会議で意見を申し上げました。   Watashi wa kaigi de iken o mōshiagemashita.
         (“I gave my opinion in the meeting.”)

  • [Normal Polite]  この新しい技術を知っていますか。  Kono atarashii gijutsu o shitte imasu ka.
            (“Do you know this new technology?”)

    [Respectful]  この新しい技術をご存じですか。  Kono atarashii gijutsu o gozonji desu ka.
           (“Do you know this new technology?”)

    [Humble]  この新しい技術を存じ上げております。  Kono atarashii gijutsu o zonjiagete orimasu.
         (“I know this new technology.”)

6. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced the most frequently used advanced Japanese words, including nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and sophisticated alternative words. Although the Kanji is difficult at this level, once you conquer it, you’ll be able to successfully work in Japan and watch any Japanese movie without stress!

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

If you want to review and check your knowledge of the intermediate level, the following articles will be very useful: Intermediate Japanese Words, Essential Business Japanese, and Japanese Phone Phrases. On the other hand, if you’re ready to press onward, then we recommend visiting our advanced Japanese course

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

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

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Japanese Animal Names

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Like many other countries, Japan is blessed with beautiful nature and all kinds of animals. 

When you start learning the Japanese language, picking up the most common Japanese animal names will be an inevitable part of the process! Animals play a central role in our lives, so learning what to call them is important. Doing so will not only allow you to talk about your pets or favorite animals with native speakers, but also help you understand Japanese idioms and stories related to them. 

The good news is that learning Japanese animal names is actually very easy! Do you know why? It’s because animal names in Japanese are often short and simple, and we also use plenty of loanwords from other languages (usually English) to label foreign animals.

While the Kanji for many Japanese animal names is difficult, don’t let this worry you. Even ordinary Japanese people don’t know how to write or read them, so the much simpler Hiragana and Katakana are more commonly used. 

In this article from JapanesePod101.com, you’ll learn popular animal names in Japanese, from pets and farm animals to sea animals and insects. We’ll also introduce animal sounds in Japanese and animal-related Japanese proverbs.

Ready to boost your vocabulary and cultural knowledge? Let’s go!

Several Common Housepets
Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Pets
  2. Farm Animals
  3. Wild Animals
  4. Sea Animals
  5. Bugs and Insects
  6. Birds
  7. Reptiles
  8. Animal Body Parts
  9. Animal Sounds
  10. Animal-Related Proverbs
  11. Conclusion

1. Pets

The Japanese word for “animal” is 動物 (dōbutsu). Literally, this breaks down to 動 (“moving”) + 物 (“thing”). 

Japanese does not distinguish between singular and plural nouns, so the word 動物 (dōbutsu) and all of the animals listed in this article can refer to one animal or many.

To talk about baby animals in Japanese, we add the word for “child” to the beginning of the animal name in question: 子 こ (ko).

  • うさぎ (usagi) – “rabbit” → うさぎ (kousagi) – “baby bunny”

The most common Japanese counter word for animals is 匹 ひき (hiki), which we place after the number. Or, if we’re counting larger animals, we can use the word 頭 とう (), meaning “head.” 

For example:

  • 私は犬を2飼っています。
    Watashi wa inu o ni-hiki katte imasu.
    “I have two dogs.”

To learn more about numbers in Japanese, please check out our article Japanese Numbers: Let’s Master the Basic Japanese Numbers!

Following is a list of popular pet animals in Japan.

EnglishKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
“dog”いぬinu
“puppy”子犬こいぬkoinu
“cat”ねこneko
“kitten”子猫こねこkoneko
“rabbit”うさぎusagi
“hamster”ハムスターhamusutā
“mouse” / “rat”ねずみnezumi
“budgerigar”インコinko
“parrot”オウムōmu
“goldfish”金魚きんぎょkingyo
“hedgehog”ハリネズミharinezumi * literally “needle mouse” in Japanese.

* The Kanji for “rabbit” (兎) and “mouse” (鼠) are difficult and uncommon. We normally use Hiragana or Katakana for these words.

Several Dogs and Cats, as Well as a Bunny, Bird, and Mouse

Like many other countries, dogs and cats are popular pets in Japan.

2. Farm Animals

Popular farm animals in Japan include cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, and horses. Ducks and swans are commonly seen in the countryside. 

In addition to the counter words 匹 ひき (hiki) and 頭 とう(), meaning “head,” there’s also a counter used for birds: 羽 わ (wa), meaning “feather.”

For example:

  • この農場には馬が4います。
    Kono nōjō ni wa uma ga yon- imasu.
    “There are four horses on this farm.”
  • この湖には白鳥が10います。
    Kono mizūmi ni wa hakuchō ga jū-wa imasu.
    “There are ten swans in this lake.”

Here’s a list of animals in Japanese you’re likely to find on a farm or in the countryside: 

EnglishKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
“cow”牛  うしushi
“calf”子牛こうしkoushi
“pig”ぶたbuta
“piglet”子豚こぶたkobuta
“horse”うまuma
“foal”子馬こうまkouma

“sheep”
ひつじhitsuji
“baby sheep”子羊こひつじkohitsuji
“goat”山羊やぎyagi
“donkey”ロバroba
“chicken”にわとりniwatori*literally “garden bird” in Japanese.
“chick”ひよこhiyoko
“duck”かもkamo

“goose”
ガチョウgachō
“swan”白鳥はくちょうhakuchō* literally: “white bird” in Japanese

You can also hear the pronunciation of these words on our Animal Names vocabulary list.

Two Sheep Standing in a Field

Sheep farms are famous in Hokkaido.

3. Wild Animals

Now that we’ve looked at a few domesticated creatures, it’s time to learn the names of different wild animals in Japanese. Below, you’ll also find some interesting facts about indigenous animals in Japan and how mythology influenced our naming of the giraffe! 

A- In the Forest

Did you know that Japan is actually a country of forests, despite the image foreigners often have of a sushi-eating island country surrounded by the sea? Around 73% of the land in Japan is mountainous, 66% of which is forested.

This means there are a lot of forest animals! Some of you might have seen pictures of Japanese monkeys enjoying natural hot springs (温泉 Onsen) in the snowy weather, for example. 

Forest animals often appear in Japanese folktales, idioms, and proverbs. Monkeys are considered clever and are thought to be the closest animal to humans. Raccoon dogs and foxes are often seen as animals that have mysterious powers and the ability to play tricks on humans.

Since many of the following forest animals are indigenous to Japan, they have original names in Japanese (including their own Kanji). 

EnglishKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
“deer”鹿しかshika
“bear”くまkuma
“monkey”さるsaru
“wild boar”いのししinoshishi
“raccoon dog”たぬきtanuki
“fox”きつねkitsune
“squirrel”栗鼠 *りすrisu
“wolf”おおかみōkami

* The Kanji for “squirrel” (栗鼠) is difficult and uncommon. We normally use Hiragana or Katakana instead.

Japanese Monkeys in Onsen Hot Springs

Japanese monkeys love Onsen hot springs.

B- Safari Animals (and Others)

There is no Kanji for animals that originate from places that are very far away from Japan, such as safari animals or those from Oceania. They’re typically expressed in Katakana as loanwords or named in Japanese after their characteristics.

Some animals—such as elephants, tigers, and leopards—have Kanji because they’re indigenous to Asian countries (China, India, etc.), and they became known to Japan through trading. Such Kanji were directly imported from the Chinese language, but the names (phonetic readings) are original to Japanese.

EnglishKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
“elephant”ゾウ
“giraffe”キリンkirin
“lion”ライオンraion
“tiger”トラtora
“panda bear”パンダpanda
“zebra”シマウマshimauma*literally “striped horse” in Japanese.
“hippopotamus”カバkaba
“rhinoceros”サイsai
“ostrich”ダチョウdachō*It means “camel bird” in Japanese.
“baboon”ヒヒhihi
“hyena”ハイエナhaiena
“cheetah”チーターchītā
“leopard”ヒョウhyō
“koala bear”コアラkoara
“kangaroo”カンガルーkangarū
“camel”ラクダrakuda

A Giraffe and Its Baby

The キリン (kirin), or “giraffe,” was named after the Chinese dragon-like mythical animal called 麒麟 (qílín). 

4. Sea Animals

A recent study revealed that there are about 34,000 species of sea animals living in the oceans near Japan, including everything from plankton to mammals. This means that about 13.5% of all confirmed marine life abound in less than 1% of the world’s ocean. 

As a country blessed with lots of ocean, Japan has an abundance of words related to fish, called 魚 さかな (sakan), and sea animals. However, most of their Kanji are difficult, so Hiragana and Katakana are more commonly used to express their names.

Again, loanwords are used for sea animals that are not indigenous to Japan, such as ペンギン (pengin), or “penguin.”

EnglishKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
“whale”くじらkujira
“dolphin”海豚イルカiruka
“shark”サメsame
“seal”海豹アザラシazarashi
“sealion”海馬トドtodo
“penguin”ペンギンpengin
“sea turtle”海亀うみがめumigame
*literally “sea turtle” in Japanese
“jellyfish”海月くらげkurage
“pufferfish”河豚ふぐfugu
“octopus”たこtako
“squid”烏賊いかika
“crab”かにkani
“shrimp” / “prawn”海老えびebi
“shell”かいkai
“starfish”人手ヒトデhitode
* literally “human hand” in Japanese

You can also hear the pronunciation of these words (and more) in our vocabulary list Marine Animals & Fish.

All Kinds of Aquatic Life in the Ocean

鮫 サメ (same) – “shark”

5. Bugs and Insects

As with sea animals, there is a lot of vocabulary related to bugs and insects in Japan. Most of their Kanji are very difficult, so Hiragana and Katakana are more commonly used to express their names. 

Considering the abundance of mountains and forests in Japan, it’s said that there could be as many as 100,000 insect species in the country. It’s possible that only about 10,000 of these species have been published in books.

Below are the names of some well-known bugs and insects that are commonly seen in Japan.

EnglishKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
“bugs” / “insects”むしmushi
“bee”ハチhachi
“fly”ハエhae
“mosquito”ka
“butterfly”チョウchō
“moth”ga
“cicada”セミsemi
“dragonfly”蜻蛉トンボtonbo
“ant”アリari
“spider”蜘蛛クモkumo
“ladybug”天道虫てんとうむしtentōmushi
“beetle”甲虫かぶとむしkabutomushi
“grasshopper”飛蝗バッタbatta
“mantis”蟷螂カマキリ kamakiri

ladybugs

てんとう虫 (tentōmushi) – “ladybug”

6. Birds 

Thanks to the wealth of nature in Japan, the country is home to a diverse range of birds. There are 658 species of birds here, 22 of which are foreign.

Despite the rich variety of birds in Japan, the ones we see most often are pigeons, crows, sparrows, and swallows. In Japan, swallows are said to be “summer birds.” This is because seeing them is a sign that summer is coming, as swallows spend winter in the warmer southern areas (such as Taiwan, the Philippines, and Malaysia) before flying back to Japan in spring to raise their chicks.

There are also Japanese superstitions related to birds. For example, it’s believed that sparrows bring good luck and that crows bring bad luck. 

EnglishKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
“bird”とりtori

“small (baby) bird”
小鳥ことりkotori
“pigeon”はとhato
“crow”からすkarasu
“sparrow”すずめsuzume
“swallow”つばめtsubame
“seagull”かもめkamome
“eagle”わしwashi
“crane”つるtsuru
“owl”ふくろうfukurō

Owl

The フクロウ (fukurō), or “owl,” is considered an animal of good omen.

7. Reptiles

In Japanese, reptiles are called 爬虫類 はちゅうるい (hachūrui). 

There are 142 reptile species in Japan (19 species of newt, 39 species of frog, 10 species of turtle, 32 species of lizard, and 42 species of snake). Some reptiles, such as turtles and snakes, are popular as pets in Japan. 

Reptiles are normally expressed in Katakana, even though most of them have Kanji. 

EnglishKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
“turtle”カメkame
“crocodile” / “alligator”ワニwani
“snake”ヘビhebi
“frog”カエルkaeru
“lizard”蜥蜴トカゲtokage
“chameleon”カメレオンkamereon

A Crocodile

ワニ (wani) – “crocodile” / “alligator”

8. Animal Body Parts  

Now that you’ve learned the names of several different animals in Japanese, you should take some time to study the words for animal body parts. Keep in mind that many of the basic body parts listed below are the same for humans and animals. You can learn even more useful words, along with their pronunciation, on our vocabulary list Body Parts in Japanese

EnglishKanjiHiragana / KatakanaReading
“horn”つのtsuno
“beak”口ばしくちばしkuchibashi
“wing” (birds)つばさtsubasa
“wing” (insects) / “feather”はねhane
“tusk”きばkiba
“mane”立て髪たてがみtategami
“fur”毛皮けがわkegawa
“claw”鉤爪かぎつめkagitsume
“tail”尾 / 尻尾お / しっぽo / shippo
“hoof”ひづめhizume
“fin”ひれhire
“gill”えらera
“scale”うろこuroko

A Ram

角 つの (tsuno) – “horn”

9. Animal Sounds

The Japanese language has a wide range of onomatopoeia, and animal sounds are one of the most common 擬声語 (gisei-go), or “animate phonomimes” we use. 

Here are the sounds animals make in Japanese:

AnimalKatakanaReading
dogワンワンwanwan
catニャーニャーnyānyā
mouseチューチューchūchū
pigブーブーbūbū
sheepメーメーmēmē
cowモーモーmōmō
horseヒヒーンhihīn
small birdチュンチュンchunchun
crowカーカーkākā
chickenコケコッコーkokekokkō
pigeonポッポーpoppō
owlホーホーhōhō
lionガオーgaō
elephantパオーンpaōn
cicadaミーンミーンmīnmīn

A Growling Lion

Lions say ガオー (Gaō) in Japanese.

10. Animal-Related Proverbs

There are many Japanese proverbs and sayings that mention animals. Here are some of the most common ones: 

  •  猿も木から落ちる  
    Saru mo ki kara ochiru.
    “Even monkeys fall off trees.”

    Meaning: Even Homer sometimes nods. / Even someone who is the best at what they do can make mistakes.

    Example:

    気にすることないよ。猿も木から落ちると言うし、誰でも失敗することがあるよ。
    Ki ni suru koto nai yo. Saru mo ki kara ochiru to iu shi, dare de mo shippai suru koto ga aru yo.
    “Don’t worry. It says ‘Even monkeys fall off trees,’ and anyone can make mistakes.”

  • 飼い犬に手を噛まれる
    Kaiinu ni te o kamareru
    “To have one’s hand bitten by one’s own dog”

    Meaning: To be betrayed by one’s trusted follower

    Example: 

    ずっと面倒をみていた部下に裏切られて、飼い犬に手を噛まれた気分だ!
    Zutto mendō o mite ita buka ni uragirarete, kaiinu ni te o kamareta kibun da!
    “I feel like I got my hand bitten by my dog, as my subordinate, whom I have been taking care of, betrayed me!”

  • 猫の手も借りたい  
    Neko no te mo karitai
    “Wanting even the help of a cat”

    Meaning: Being extremely busy, so that you need every little bit of help you can get

    Example:

    昨日は猫の手も借りたいほど、とても忙しかったです。
    Kinō wa neko no te mo karitai hodo, totemo isogashikatta desu.
    “Yesterday was so busy that I even wanted to get help from a cat.”

  • 捕らぬ狸の皮算用  
    Toranu tanuki no kawazanyō
    “Counting fur of raccoon dogs which you haven’t caught yet”

    Meaning: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. / Do not count on something that has not yet happened. / Do not expect all your hopes to come true.

    Example:

    昇給とボーナスを期待して家を買うのは、捕らぬ狸の皮算用だよ。
    Shōkyū to bōnasu o kitai shite ie o kau no wa, toranu tanuki no kawazanyō da yo.
    “Buying a house because you expect a pay-raise and a bonus is like counting the fur of raccoon dogs which you haven’t caught yet.”

To learn more Japanese proverbs, please visit our blog post Japanese Proverbs – Gain Japanese Wisdom and Insight.

A Cute Raccoon

捕らぬ狸の皮算用
Toranu tanuki no kawazanyō 
“counting fur of raccoon dogs which you haven’t caught yet” = “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”

11. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced Japanese animal words for a number of categories: 

  • Pets
  • Farm animals
  • Wild animals
  • Sea animals
  • Birds
  • Insects
  • Reptiles

In addition, we covered the most important animal body parts, Japanese animal sounds, and proverbs related to animals. If you happen to know of any other animal words, sounds, or idioms we didn’t include, please share them in the comments! 

Do you want to continue learning about the Japanese language and culture? Then create your free lifetime account on JapanesePod101.com today! We provide a variety of free lessons designed to help improve your Japanese language skills. Also, with our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, you’ll have personal 1-on-1 coaching with your own private teacher.

If you want to increase your Japanese vocabulary even further, you’ll find the following articles quite useful:  

And there’s so much more! Learn Japanese faster (and enjoy every second of it) at JapanesePod101.com!

Before you go, let us know in the comments if there are any topics or situations you’d like to learn Japanese words for! We’d be glad to help, and we look forward to hearing from you.

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The Most Useful Japanese Phone Phrases

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Speaking on the phone can be stressful enough in your own language, let alone in a foreign language! 

Even after you’re able to have face-to-face conversations with native speakers, you’ll find that communicating over the phone is rather difficult. Phone calls are different from in-person conversations in that you can’t rely on body gestures or facial expressions to help get your point across or to understand what the other person is trying to say. 

Talking on the phone in Japanese may be especially difficult. You’ll need to memorize a specific set of Japanese phone phrases, as we use Honorific language, or 敬語 (Keigo), for most of our phone conversations. The exception is when we’re just having a casual chat with friends or family.

But don’t worry! There are only a few patterns to learn and you’ll see them all in this article from JapanesePod101.com.

Someone Dialing a Phone Number from Their Office

Let’s learn some useful Japanese phone call phrases!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Picking up the Phone
  2. Introducing Yourself
  3. Stating the Reason for Your Call
  4. Asking to Speak to Someone
  5. Responding to the Caller / Asking Someone to Wait
  6. Leaving a Message
  7. Asking for Clarification
  8. Ending the Phone Call
  9. Sample Phone Conversations
  10. Conclusion

1. Picking up the Phone

First impressions are critical! Let’s start by looking at some Japanese phone call phrases you could use to answer the phone. 

1. もしもし。 

Romanization: Moshimoshi.
English: “Hello.”

This is the most common way to answer a phone call in Japanese.

もし もし (moshimoshi) comes from the word 申す もうす (mōsu), which is “to say” in a humble manner. You can also add the word はい (hai), meaning “yes,” in front:

  • はい、もしもし。 (Hai, moshimoshi.) – “Yes, hello.”

Moshimoshi is typically used by the receiver to answer the phone, but the caller may also say moshimoshi before continuing in order to make sure the other person can hear.

2. はい、___です。 

Romanization: Hai, ___ desu.
English: “Yes, this is ___.” [Polite]

When you pick up the phone, you say はい (hai), meaning “yes,” and then state who is speaking. 

To give your name, make sure to place the general and polite predicate -です (-desu) at the end. Keep in mind that you should normally give your family name (as opposed to only your first name) when answering the phone in Japanese. 

3. はい、___でございます。

Romanization: Hai, ___ de gozaimasu.
English: “Yes, this is ___.” [Very polite]

This phrase is very polite and often used in business contexts, such as when answering a company phone. 

4. どちら様でしょうか。 

Romanization: Dochira-sama deshō ka.
English: “Who is this?” [Very polite]

This phrase can be used later on when you want to know who’s calling, but some people ask this when they first receive a call. You can make the phrase even more polite by placing this in front:

  • 失礼ですが… (Shitsurei desu ga…) – “Excuse me, but…” 

Examples

  • はい、もしもし、田中です。 
    Hai, moshimoshi, Tanaka desu.
    “Yes, hello, Tanaka is speaking.”
  • はい、ABC株式会社でございます。
    Hai, ABC kabushikigaisha de gozaimasu.
    “Yes, this is ABC company.”
  • もしもし、鈴木です。どちら様でしょうか。
    Moshimoshi, Suzuki desu. Dochira-sama deshō ka.
    “Hello, this is Suzuki. Who’s calling?”

A Businesswoman Dialing a Phone Number

もしもし (moshimoshi) – “hello” on the phone

2. Introducing Yourself

When you make a phone call in Japanese, it’s expected that you introduce yourself by stating your name and/or the company you’re representing. 

1. いつもお世話になっております。 

Romanization: Itsumo o-sewa ni natte orimasu.
English: “Thank you for always being favorable.” / “It has always been a pleasure to work with you.”
Literally: “You always take care of me.”

This is a common Japanese phrase that does not translate well into other languages. It’s most often used in business communications, and it can be said by either the caller or the receiver. 


2. 私は___です。

Romanization: Watashi wa ___ desu. 
English: “This is ___.” [Polite]

This phrase literally means, “I am ___.” It’s a general and polite way to introduce yourself over the phone. 

If you’re calling a close friend or family member, you can say:

  •  ___ だよ。 (___ da yo.) – “It’s ___.”

In this case, you can omit the subject (私 watashi).

3. 私は___と申します。

Romanization: Watashi wa ___ to mōshimasu.
English: “This is ___.” [Very polite]

This is a formal expression that denotes humbleness and respect. It’s often used in business situations and other official contexts. 

4. 私は___の___です/と申します。

Romanization: Watashi wa ___ no ___ desu / to mōshimasu.
English: “I am ___ from ___.”

This is the phrase you would use if you were calling as a business person or staff member of a company/organization. In Japanese culture, the group is often considered more important than the individual (collectivism) and a business person or staff member is seen as a representative of their company. Thus, telling where you belong is important.

Examples

  • いつもお世話になっております。本田です。 
    Itsumo o-sewa ni natte orimasu. Honda desu.
    “Thank you for your continued support. This is Honda.”
  • もしもし、私だよ。
    Moshimoshi, watashi da yo.
    “Hello, it’s me.” [Very casual]
  • 私はXYZ株式会社の山本と申します。
    Watashi wa XYZ kabushikigaisha no Yamamoto to mōshimasu.
    “This is Yamamoto from XYZ company.”

3. Stating the Reason for Your Call

Once the greetings and introductions are over, it’s time to let the other person know why you’re calling. Below are some phone phrases in Japanese for making reservations, asking for information, and more! 

1. ___ の予約をしたくて電話しました。

Romanization: ___ no yoyaku o shitakute denwa shimashita. 
English: “I’m calling because I’d like to make a reservation for ___.”

This Japanese phone call phrase is useful for booking a table at a restaurant, hair salon, etc. 

Vocabulary:

  • 予約をする (yoyaku o suru) – “to book” / “to make a reservation”
  • 電話する (denwa suru) – “to call”

2. ___について確認したくて電話しました。

Romanization: ___ni tsuite kakunin shitakute denwa shimashita.
English: “I’m calling because I’d like to confirm about ___.”

You can use this phrase when you want to check something. For example, you might say this while calling customer service to see if you can return an item or while calling a restaurant to see if you can change your reservation. 

Vocabulary

  • 確認する (kakunin suru) – “to check” / “to confirm”

3. ___のサポートが必要なので電話しました。

Romanization: ___ no sapōto ga hitsuyō na node denwa shimashita.
English: “I’m calling because I need support for ___.”

This phrase is useful for situations where you need some support. You might say this when calling a help center for software services or talking with a customer service representative for info on setting up a gadget.

4. 着信があったので折り返し電話しました。

Romanization: Chakushin ga atta node orikaeshi denwa shimashita. 
English: “I received an incoming call, so I called back.”

When you call someone back, just give your name and use this phrase.

Vocabulary

  • 着信 (chakushin) – “incoming call”
  • 折り返し電話する (orikaeshi denwa suru) – “call back”

Examples

  • もしもし、マッサージの予約をしたくて電話しました。
    Moshimoshi, massāji no yoyaku o shitakute denwa shimashita.
    “Hello, I’m calling because I’d like to make a booking for a massage.”
  • 自然災害によるキャンセル料について確認したくて電話しました。
    Shizen saigai ni yoru kyanseruryō ni tsuite kakunin shitakute denwa shimashita.
    “I’m calling because I’d like to check about a cancelation fee due to a natural disaster.”
  • 着信があったので折り返し電話したよ。何だった?
    Chakushin ga atta node orikaeshi denwa shita yo. Nan datta?
    “I received an incoming call and I’m calling you back. What was it?” [Very casual]

A Man in an Office Taking Notes while Talking on the Phone

着信があったので折り返し電話しました。(Chakushin ga atta node orikaeshi denwa shimashita.)
“I received an incoming call, so I called back.”

4. Asking to Speak to Someone

What if the person who answers the phone is not who you intended to call? You can use the following phrases to ask if you can be transferred to the right person. 

1. ___ さんをお願いします。 

Romanization: ___-san o onegai shimasu. 
English: “Mr./Ms. ___, please.”

This is a useful phrase that’s simple yet still polite. By stating the name of the person you want to speak to, it implies to the receiver that you’d like to be connected to him/her. 

さん (san) is a general and polite Japanese honorific (敬称 keishō) that is placed after one’s name. It’s normally used after a family name (苗字 myōji / sei) in formal settings, but it can also be used after a given name (名 mei). 

If we’re calling someone of a higher rank than us or just want to show more respect, we use 様 (sama). For example, we might use this when calling customers, clients, or guests. 

2. ___ さんはいますか。 

Romanization: ___-san wa imasu ka.
English: “Is Mr./Ms. ___ there?” [Polite]

This is a very simple and casually polite phrase.  

3. ___ さんはいらっしゃいますか。

Romanization: ___-san wa irasshaimasu ka.
English: “Is Mr./Ms. ___ there?” [Very polite]

This phrase is even more polite and respectful, which makes it ideal for use in formal situations. Use this phrase if you’re calling someone who is superior to you or deserving of great respect.

4. ___ さんにつないでいただけますか。 

Romanization: ___-san ni tsunaide itadakemasu ka.
English: “Could you connect with Mr./Ms. ___?”

This is another polite way you can ask to speak to someone.

Examples

  • 吉田と申します。原田様はいらっしゃいますか。
    Yoshida to mōshimasu. Harada-sama wa irasshaimasu ka.
    “I am Yoshida. Is Mr. Harada there?” [Very polite and respectful]
  • もしもし、お父さん?お母さんいる?
    Moshimoshi, o-tō-san? O-kā-san iru?
    “Hello, Dad? Is Mom there?” [Very casual]
  •  人事部の中田さんにつないでいただけますか。
    Jinjibu no Nakata-san ni tsunaide itadakemasu ka.
    “Could you please connect me with Mr. Nakata of the Human Resources Department?”

5. Responding to the Caller / Asking Someone to Wait 

If you’re the receiver and have been asked to connect someone, you may need to put the caller on hold for a moment and inform them if the person they’re inquiring after is not available. Here are some phrases you can use to do so politely: 

1. 申し訳ございません、___はただ今外出中です。

Romanization: Mōshiwake gozaimasen, ___ wa tadaima gaishutsuchū desu.
English: “I’m sorry, ___ is out of office now.”

This phrase is often used in business situations. It is proper Japanese phone call etiquette to apologize to the caller when the person they’re asking for is not in office.

In Japanese business settings, you don’t use honorifics (such as さん san) when saying a colleague’s name.

2. ___は本日お休みをいただいております。

Romanization: ___ wa honjitsu o-yasumi o itadaite orimasu. 
English: “___ is off today.” [Very polite]

This is a humbly respectful and very polite expression to use when the person they want is absent.

3. 確認いたします、少々お待ちください。

Romanization: Kakunin itashimasu, shōshō o-machi kudasai.
English: “I will check, please hold for a moment.”

When you need to check something and want the caller to wait for a moment, you can use this polite phrase. 

4. ___へおつなぎいたしますので、少々お待ちくださいませ。

Romanization: ___ e o-tsunagi itashimasu node,  shōshō o-machi kudasai mase.
English: “I will put you through to ___, please hold for a moment.”

You would use this phrase before transferring the caller to someone. 

Examples

  • 申し訳ございません、山田は本日お休みをいただいております。
    Mōshiwake gozaimasen, Yamada wa honjitsu o-yasumi o itadaite orimasu.
    “I’m sorry, Yamada is off today.”
  • 確認するね、ちょっと待って。
    Kakunin suru ne, chotto matte.
    “I’ll check, one moment.” [Very casual]
  • 上田へおつなぎいたしますので、少々お待ちくださいませ。
    Ueda e o-tsunagi itashimasu node, shōshō o-machi kudasai mase.
    “I will transfer you to Ueda, please hold for a moment.”

People in a Call Center

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

6. Leaving a Message

Especially during a business phone call, you might need to leave a message if the person you’re trying to reach is unavailable. Below are a few different ways you could do this. 

1. 伝言をお願いできますか。

Romanization: Dengon o onegai dekimasu ka.
English: “Can I leave a message?”

Use this simple phrase when you want to leave a message.

Vocabulary

  • 伝言 (dengon) – “a message”

2. ___さんに、私から電話があったと伝えていただけますか。

Romanization: ___-san ni, watashi kara denwa ga atta to tsutaete itadakemasu ka.
English: “Could you please tell Mr./Ms. ___ that I called?”

When you just want to let the person know that you have called, this phrase is useful and polite.

3. ___さんに、私へ折り返し電話するようお伝えいただけますか。

Romanization: ___-san ni, watashi e orikaeshi denwa suru yō o-tsutae itadakemasu ka.
English: “Could you please tell Mr./Ms. ___ to call me back?”

This is a polite way to ask for a call back.

Examples

  • 山口さんへ伝言をお願いできますか。
    Yamaguchi-san e dengon o onegai dekimasu ka.
    “Could you give a message to Mr. Yamaguchi?”
  • まゆみに、私から電話があったと伝えておいてね。
    Mayumi ni, watashi kara denwa ga atta to tsutaete oite ne.
    “Can you tell Mayumi that I called?” [Very casual]
  • 中村さんに、明日私へ折り返し電話するようお伝えいただけますか。
    Nakamura-san ni, ashita watashi e orikaeshi denwa suru yō o-tsutae itadakemasu ka.
    “Could you please tell Mr. Nakamura to call me back tomorrow?”

7. Asking for Clarification

As a non-native speaker, you might need to ask for clarification at some point during your Japanese phone call conversation. There are a few polite phrases you can use. 

1. すみません、もう一度言ってください。

Romanization: Sumimasen, mō ichi-do itte kudasai.
English: “I’m sorry, could you repeat again?”

If you can’t hear what the other person is saying, you can use this phrase to ask them to repeat.

Vocabulary

  • すみません (sumimasen) – “sorry” / “excuse me”
  • もう一度 (mō ichi-do) – “once again”

2. すみません、聞こえにくいです。

Romanization: Sumimasen, kikoenikui desu.
English: “I’m sorry, but it’s hard to hear you.”

You can use this phrase to tell the other person that you’re not hearing them well.

3. 電波が悪いようです。

Romanization: Denpa ga warui yō desu.
English: “It seems there is a bad signal.”

If you’re experiencing a bad connection, you can use this phrase to inform the other person. 

Vocabulary

  • 電波 (denpa) – “electric wave,” but it usually refers to a cell phone signal

4. もう一度ゆっくりおっしゃってくださいますか。 

Romanization: Mō ichi-do yukkuri osshatte kudasaimasu ka.
English: “Could you please say it again slowly?”

This is a very polite phrase you can use if you need them to repeat what they said more slowly. 

Vocabulary

  • おっしゃる (ossharu) – the respectful version of 言う (iu), meaning “say”

5. 確認のため繰り返しますと、… 

Romanization: Kakunin no tame kurikaeshimasu to, …
English: “Let me repeat it to double check…”

Use this phrase when you want to double check something, or to make sure you or the receiver understand things correctly.

Vocabulary

  • 確認 (kakunin) – “check” / “conform”
  • 繰り返す (kurikaesu) – “repeat”

Examples

  • すみません、聞こえにくいです。もう一度言ってください。
    Sumimasen, kikoenikui desu. Mō ichi-do itte kudasai.
    “I’m sorry, but it’s hard to hear you. Could you say that again?”
  • ごめん、聞こえなかった。もう一度ゆっくり言ってくれる?
    Gomen, kikoenakatta. Mō ichi-do yukkuri itte kureru?
    “Sorry, I couldn’t hear you. Can you say that again slowly?” [Very casual]
  • 確認のため繰り返しますと、私の電話番号は012334567です。
    Kakunin no tame kurikaeshimasu to, watashi no denwa bangō wa 012334567 desu.
    “Let me repeat it to double check…my phone number is 012334567.”

A Woman Inputting Her Credit Card Number into a Cell Phone

もう一度言ってください。  (Mō ichi-do itte kudasai.) – “Please repeat again.”

8. Ending the Phone Call

Finally, let’s go over a few different ways of ending a phone call in Japanese. 

1. はい、わかりました。 

Romanization: Hai, wakarimashita. 
English: “Yes, I understood.”

This phrase can be used during the conversation, but saying it at the end shows that you understood the conversation as a whole. In casual conversations, you can replace はい (hai) with: 

  • うん (un) – “yeah”

2. かしこまりました。

Romanization: Kashikomarimashita.
English: “Understood.” / “Certainly.”

This phrase is a humble and very polite version of わかりました (wakarimashita). It’s often used in business situations as well as in communications toward customers and guests.

3. よろしくお願いいたします。 

Romanization: Yoroshiku onegai itashimasu.

This is one of the most frequently used untranslatable Japanese phrases. We often use it in business settings, especially when closing a conversation or ending an email. 

It literally translates as “Suitable favor please,” but it can have various meanings depending on the situation. For example: 

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

In phone conversations, it’s used as a final greeting.

4. 失礼します。

Romanization: Shitsurei shimasu. 

This is another common untranslatable Japanese phrase used in formal situations. 

The literal translation is: “I do rude/impolite.” But when ending a phone call or leaving an office/meeting room, it means: “May I be excused.”

失礼いたします(shitsurei itashimasu) is even more polite.

Examples

  • かしこまりました。では、失礼いたします。
    Kashikomarimashita. Dewa, shitsurei itashimasu.
    “Certainly. Please excuse me now.”
  • うん、わかったよ。じゃあね。
    Un, wakatta yo. Jā ne.
    “Yeah, understood. Bye then.” [Very casual]
  • 明日の会議の件かしこまりました。よろしくお願いいたします。
    Ashita no kaigi no ken kashikomarimashita. Yoroshiku onegai itashimasu.
    “I understood about the meeting tomorrow. Favorably please.”

9. Sample Phone Conversations

Now that we’ve introduced you to several useful phone call phrases, it’s time to see them in action. Below, you’ll find two sample phone conversations: one casual and one formal. 

1 – Casual Conversation (Two Friends)

A: 
もしもし、まりこ?
Moshimoshi, Mariko?
“Hello, Mariko?”

B:
もしもし、かなちゃん! どうしたの?
Moshimoshi, Kana-chan! Dō shita no?
“Hello, Kana! What’s up?”

A: 
今週の土曜日空いてる?
Konshū no do-yōbi aite ru?
“Are you free on Saturday this weekend?”

B: 
うん、午後からなら暇だよ。
Un, gogo kara nara hima da yo.
“Yeah, I’m free from the afternoon.”

A: 
___の映画の無料券もらったから、一緒に行きたいと思って。どうかな?
___ no eiga no muryōken moratta kara, issho ni ikitai to omotte. Dō ka na?
“I got the free movie tickets for ___ and I’d like to go with you. What do you think?”

B: 
ありがとう。いいね、見に行こう!
Arigatō. Ii ne, mi ni ikō!
“Thank you. That’s nice, let’s go watch!”

A: 
じゃあ、2時に新宿駅東口で待ち合わせしよう。
Jā, ni-ji ni Shinjuku Eki higashiguchi de machiawase shiyō.
“Well, then let’s meet at the east exit of Shinjuku Station at two o’clock.”

B: 
うん、わかった。土曜日の2時に新宿駅ね。
Un, wakatta. Do-yōbi no ni-ji ni Shinjuku Eki ne.
“Okay, noted. At Shinjuku Station at two o’clock on Saturday.”

A: 
じゃあ土曜日にね。バイバイ。
Jā do-yōbi ni ne. Baibai.
“See you on Saturday, then. Bye.”

B: 
うん、よろしくね。バイバイ。
Un, yoroshiku ne. Baibai.
“Yeah, thank you. Bye.”

2 – Formal Conversation (Calling a Client’s Office)

A:
はい、XYZ株式会社でございます。
Hai, XYZ kabushikigaisha de gozaimasu.
“Hello, this is XYZ company.”

B: 
もしもし、いつもお世話になっております。私はABC株式会社の田中と申します。
Moshimoshi, itsumo o-sewa ni natte orimasu. Watashi wa ABC kabushikigaisha no Tanaka to mōshimasu.
“Hello, it’s always a pleasure to work with you. I am Tanaka from ABC company.”

A: 
いつもお世話になっております。ご用件は何でしょうか。
Itsumo o-sewa ni natte orimasu. Go-yōken wa nan deshō ka.
“Thank you for your continued support, too. How can I help you?”

B: 
国際部の上野さんにつないでいただけますか。
Kokusaibu no Ueno-san ni tsunaide itadakemasu ka.
“Could you connect me with Mr. Ueno of the International Department?”

A: 
確認いたします、少々お待ちくださいませ。
Kakunin itashimasu, shōshō o-machi kudasai mase.
“I will check, please hold for a moment.”

— a minute later —

A: 
申し訳ございません、上野はただ今外出中です。ご伝言を承りましょうか。
Mōshiwake gozaimasen, Ueno wa tadaima gaishutsuchū desu. Go-dengon o uketamawarimashō ka.
“I’m sorry, Ueno is out of office now. Would you like to leave a message?”

B:
はい、お願いします。送り状の件について確認したくて電話しました。上野さんに、明日私へ折り返し電話するようお伝えいただけますか。
Hai, onegai shimasu. Okurijō no ken ni tsuite kakunin shitakute denwa shimashita. Ueno-san ni, ashita watashi e orikaeshi denwa suru yō o-tsutae itadakemasu ka.
“Yes, please. I called because I’d like to check about the invoice. Could you please tell Mr. Ueno to call me back tomorrow?”

A: 
かしこまりました。上野へ田中様からのご伝言をお伝えいたします。
Kashikomarimashita. Ueno e Tanaka-sama kara no go-dengon o o-tsutae itashimasu.
“Certainly. I will send the message from Mr. Tanaka to Ueno.”

B: 
ありがごうございます。よろしくお願いいたします。では、失礼いたします。
Arigatō gozaimasu. Yoroshiku onegai itashimasu. Dewa, shitsurei itashimasu.
“Thank you. Please do so. May I be excused now?”

A:
お電話ありがとうございました。失礼いたします。
O-denwa arigatō gozaimashita. Shitsurei itashimasu.
“Thank you for calling. Goodbye.”

10. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced the most useful and frequently used Japanese phone call phrases. Once you master this list of polite expressions, you can make or receive your next call in Japanese with confidence—whether you’re chatting with a friend or getting info from a customer service rep.

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language and pick up additional Japanese phrases for different situations, you’ll find a lot of helpful content on JapanesePod101.com. We provide a variety of free lessons designed to help improve your Japanese language skills. 

Not sure where to start? Check out these articles: 

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

Before you go, let us know in the comments if there’s a topic you’d like us to cover in a future article. What words, phrases, or cultural topics would you like to learn more about? We’d be glad to help, and we look forward to hearing from you!

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

Say “I Love You” in Japanese with These Love Phrases

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Love phrases are often very romantic…

“My sweet love.”
“Your eyes are very beautiful.”
“You’re my dream girl.”

But keep in mind that Japanese love phrases are usually mild in comparison to those above. People could view you as a player or sleazy flirt if you use such artificial romantic words in Japan!

There are some things to consider before expressing your love in Japanese.

Japanese people are usually shy compared to Western people when it comes to expressing love. For example, while hugs and kisses are a common greeting between couples or good friends in Western culture, this is not common in Japan—even between couples. In Japan, thoughtfulness (気遣い [kizukai]) and caring behavior (思いやりのある行動 [omoiyari no aru kōdō]) are much preferred over very amorous words in romantic relationships. 

With such characteristics in mind, we’ll introduce natural and practical Japanese love phrases you can use at each stage of your romantic endeavors: first contact, your first date, taking your relationship to the next level, and even proposing marriage! At the end of this article, we’ll also show you some inspirational Japanese love quotes.

Learn Japanese love phrases here at JapanesePod101.com and win the heart of someone special!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. First Contact / Show Your Interest: Pick-Up Lines
  2. Get Closer: Phrases to Use While Dating
  3. Fall in Deeper: “I Love You,” and More
  4. Take it One Step Further: “Will You Marry Me?” and More
  5. Japanese Love Quotes
  6. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

A Book with Two Pages Folded Down to Look Like a Heart

Learn some romantic Japanese love phrases that touch his/her heart.

1. First Contact / Show Your Interest: Pick-Up Lines 

When someone catches your interest at a bar, during an event, or even on the street, the following phrases are useful. For your first contact with this person, using the formal form (polite honorific) would be nice; it will give them the impression that you’re a polite and decent person. Unless you’re a teenager, talking to someone for the first time in the informal/casual form may sound like flirting. Nonetheless, we’ve included the casual form for each phrase as well. 

1 – 今ちょっといいですか。

Reading: Ima chotto ii desu ka.
Meaning: Is it okay to talk for a second? / Can I talk to you now?
Informal / Casual Form: 今ちょっといい? (Ima chotto ii?)

Example:

A:
すみません、今ちょっといいですか。
Sumimasen, ima chotto ii desu ka.
“Excuse me, can I talk to you?”

B:
はい、なんですか。
Hai, nan desu ka.
“Yes, what is it?”

2 – ここによく来るんですか。

Reading: Koko ni yoku kuru n desu ka.
Meaning: Do you come here often?
Informal / Casual Form: ここによく来るの? (Koko ni yoku kuru no?)

Example:

A:
このバー、今年オープンしたんですよね。ここによく来るんですか。
Kono bā, kotoshi ōpun shita n desu yo ne. Koko ni yoku kuru n desu ka.
“This bar seems to have opened this year. Do you come here often?”

B:
いいえ、初めて来ました。
Iie, hajimete kimashita.
“No, I came here for the first time.”

3 – 名前はなんて言うんですか。

Reading: Namae wa nan te iu n desu ka.
Meaning: What is your name?
Informal / Casual Form: 名前はなんて言うの? (Namae wa nan te iu no?)

Example:

A:
名前はなんて言うんですか。聞いてもいいですか。
Namae wa nan te iu n desu ka. Kiite mo ii desu ka.
“What is your name? Can I ask?”

B:
ええと、、さとみです。
Ēto…Satomi desu.
“Well…I’m Satomi.”

4 – 友達 / 彼氏 / 彼女と来たんですか。

Reading: Tomodachi / kareshi / kanojo to kita n desu ka.
Meaning: Did you come with your friend(s) / boyfriend / girlfriend?
Informal / Casual Form: 友達 / 彼氏 / 彼女と来たの? (Tomodachi / kareshi / kanojo to kita no?)

Example:

A:
今日はここに友達と来たんですか。
Kyō wa koko ni tomodachi to kita n desu ka.
“Did you come here with your friend(s) today?”

B:
はい、友達と来ました。あそこにいるのが私の友達です。
Hai, tomodachi to kimashita. Asoko ni iru no ga watashi no tomodachi desu.
“Yes, I came with my friend. My friend is over there.”

5 – 連絡先を聞いてもいいですか。

Reading: Renrakusaki o kiite mo ii desu ka.
Meaning: Can I ask for your contact information?
Informal / Casual Form: 連絡先を聞いてもいい? (Renrakusaki o kiite mo ii?)

Example:

A:
連絡先を聞いてもいいですか。ライン使ってますか。
Renrakusaki o kiite mo ii desu ka. Rain tsukatte masu ka.
“Can I ask for your contact information? Do you use LINE?”

B:
はい、いいですよ。私のラインIDは____です。
Hai, ii desu yo. Watashi no rain ID wa ____ desu.
“Yes, it’s okay. My LINE ID is ____.”

6 – また会いたいです。

Reading: Mata aitai desu.
Meaning: I’d like to see you again.
Informal / Casual Form: また会いたいな。(Mata aitai na.)

Example:

A:
もっとゆっくり話したいので、また会いたいです。
Motto yukkuri hanashitai node, mata aitai desu.
“I’d like to see you again because I want to talk more when we have more time.”

B:
そうですね。ここは少しうるさいので、今度はどこか静かなところで話しましょう。
Sō desu ne. Koko wa sukoshi urusai node, kondo wa dokoka shizuka na tokoro de hanashimashō.
“I agree, it’s a bit noisy here, so let’s talk somewhere quiet next time.”

7 – 今度一緒に食事でもどうですか。

Reading: Kondo issho ni shokuji demo dō desu ka. 
Meaning: How about dining out together next time?
Informal / Casual Form: 今度一緒に食事でもどう? (Kondo issho ni shokuji demo dō?)

Example:

A:
今度一緒に食事でもどうですか。
Kondo issho ni shokuji demo dō desu ka.
“How about dining out together next time?”

B:
いいですね。平日は忙しいですが、週末なら大丈夫です。
Ii desu ne. Heijitsu wa isogashii desu ga, shūmatsu nara daijōbu desu.
“Sounds good. I’m busy on weekdays but weekends are okay.”

A Man and Woman Chatting and Laughing at a Party with Drinks

今度一緒に食事でもどうですか。 (Kondo issho ni shokuji demo dō desu ka.) – “How about dining out together next time?”

2. Get Closer: Phrases to Use While Dating

After the first meeting and maybe a few message exchanges, you may think you’re getting to know the person better and feel closer to them. At this point, it’s okay to use the informal/casual form if you’re in the same age group as her/him and if you feel comfortable enough to talk casually. If the other person is much older than you, or if you still feel like you don’t know her/him very much, then talking in the formal register would be better.

8 – また会えて嬉しいです。 

Reading: Mata aete ureshii desu. 
Meaning: I’m happy to see you again.
Informal / Casual Form: また会えて嬉しいよ。 (Mata aete ureshii yo.)

Example:

A:
来てくれてありがとう、また会えて嬉しいよ!
Kite kurete arigatō, mata aete ureshii yo!
“Thank you for coming, I’m happy to see you again!”

B:
こちらこそ、誘ってくれてありがとう。
Kochira koso, sasotte kurete arigatō.
“Likewise, thank you for asking me out.”

9 – 手をつないでもいいですか。

Reading: Te o tsunaide mo ii desu ka.
Meaning: Can I hold your hand?
Informal / Casual Form: 手をつないでもいい? (Te o tsunaide mo ii?)

Example:

A:
手をつないでもいい?
Te o tsunaide mo ii?
“Can I hold your hand?”

B:
うん、いいよ。
Un, ii yo.
“Yeah, it’s okay.”

10 – ___ は 優しい / かわいい / かっこいい / 面白い ですね。 

Reading: ___ wa yasashii / kawaii / kakkoii / omoshiroi  desu ne. 
Meaning: ___ (insert their name*) is thoughtful / cute / handsome / fun. **
Informal / Casual Form: ___ は 優しい ね。 (___ wa yasashii ne.)

*Add さん (san) after their name when using the formal form. This gives a polite impression.
**In Japanese, calling someone by their name is more common than saying “you are…” (あなたは [anata wa]).

Example:

A:
仕事で表彰されたんですか、けんじさんはかっこいいですね!
Shigoto de hyōshō sareta n desu ka, Kenji-san wa kakkoii desu ne!
“You got awarded at work? Kenaji-san, you are cool!”

B:
ありがとう、褒めてくれて嬉しいよ。
Arigatō, homete kurete ureshii yo.
“Thank you, I’m happy you gave me a compliment.”

11 – 今日はとても楽しかったです。

Reading: Kyō wa totemo tanoshikatta desu.
Meaning: Today was really fun. / I enjoyed today very much.
Informal / Casual Form: 今日はとても楽しかったよ。 (Kyō wa totemo tanoshikatta yo.)

Example:

A:
一緒に過ごせて、今日はとても楽しかったです。
Issho ni sugosete, kyō wa totemo tanoshikatta desu.
“It was really fun today to spend time together with you.”

B:
私も楽しかったです。
Watashi mo tanoshikatta desu.
“I enjoyed it, too.”

12 – 彼氏 / 彼女 になってほしいです。

Reading: Kareshi / kanojo ni natte hoshii desu.
Meaning: I want you to be my boyfriend / girlfriend.
Informal / Casual Form: 彼氏 / 彼女になってほしいな。 (Kareshi / kanojo ni natte hoshii na.)

Example:

A:
僕の彼女になってほしいな。
Boku no kanojo ni natte hoshii na.
“I want you to be my girlfriend.”

B:
嬉しい、私も同じこと考えていたよ!
Ureshii, watashi mo onaji koto kangaete ita yo!
“I’m happy to hear that, I was thinking the same!”

13 – 私 / 僕 と付き合ってください。

Reading: Watashi / boku to tsukiatte kudasai.*
Meaning: Please go out / go steady with me.
Informal / Casual Form:  私 / 僕 と付き合って。(Watashi / boku to tsukiatte.)

*私 (watashi), which is “I” in neutral, is normally used by females; 僕 (boku), which is “I” in mild masculine, is used by males.

In Japan, 告白 (kokuhaku), which is a “confession” of one’s romantic feelings, is very common before becoming boyfriend-girlfriend in order to make it clear.

Example:

A:
はるかちゃん、僕と付き合ってください。
Haruka-chan, boku to tsukiatte kudasai.
“Haruka-chan, please go steady with me.”

B:
嬉しいけど、もっとお互いを知るために友達から始めよう。
Ureshii kedo, motto otagai o shiru tame ni tomodachi kara hajimeyō.
“I’m glad, but let’s start from friends to know each other more.”

A Japanese Couple Looking at Something Funny on a Cell Phone

君と一緒にいると楽しいよ。 (Kimo to issho ni iru to tanoshii yo.) – “It’s fun to be with you.”

3. Fall in Deeper: “I Love You,” and More

Once you’ve been seeing each other for a while, you might want to start expressing your deeper feelings for the other person. Here are a few romantic Japanese phrases commonly used among couples—feel free to try them out yourself, keeping in mind that they’re typically used in the informal/casual form. 

14 – 好きだよ。 

Reading: Suki da yo. 
Meaning: I like you.

This is the most common way to express your affection in Japan. When used toward someone special, the Japanese word 好き (suki), meaning “like,” conveys a more affectionate nuance than the English word “like.”

Example:

A:
好きだよ、早く会いたい。
Suki da yo, hayaku aitai.
“I like you, I want to see you soon.”

B:
私も、週末が待ち遠しい!
Watashi mo, shūmatsu ga machidōshii!
“Me too, I can’t wait for the weekend!”

15 – 大好きだよ。 

Reading: Daisuki da yo. 
Meaning: I like you very much.

This phrase is similar in nuance to “I love you,” in English. This is the most common phrase to express love toward a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Example:

A:
はるき、大好きだよ!
Haruki, daisuki da yo!
“Haruki, I like you very much!”

B:
何、いきなり。僕もだよ。
Nani, ikinari. Boku mo da yo.
“What is it suddenly? Me, too.”

16 – 愛してる(よ)。 

Reading: Aishite ru (yo).
Meaning: I love you.

This phrase is used when you really want to express that you love someone. It conveys a profound nuance, so it might sound cheesy if you were to use it too often.

Example:

A:
亡くなった妻の最後の言葉は「愛してるよ」でした。
Nakunatta tsuma no saigo no kotoba wa “aishite ru yo” deshita.
“The last word of my wife who passed away was, ‘I love you’. ”

B:
彼女はとても愛していたんですね。
Kanojo wa totemo aishite ita n desu ne.
“She must have loved very much.”

17 – XXXがいないと寂しいよ。

Reading: ___ ga inai to samishii yo.
Meaning: I feel lonely without ___ (insert their name). / I miss you.

Example:

A:
たかしがいないと寂しいよ。いつ出張から帰ってくるの?
Takashi ga inai to samishii yo. Itsu shucchō kara kaette kuru no?
“I feel lonely without you, Takashi. When do you come back from your business trip?”

B:
来週の金曜日だよ。
Raishū no kin-yōbi da yo.
“Friday next week.”

18 – 次はいつ会える?

Reading: Tsugi wa itsu aeru?
Meaning: When can we see/meet next?

Example:

A:
寂しいな。次はいつ会える?
Samishii na. Tsugi wa itsu aeru?
“I miss you. When can we meet next?”

B:
土曜日はどう?
Do-yōbi wa dō?
“How about Saturday?”

19 – 泊まりに行ってもいい?

Reading: Tomari ni itte mo ii?
Meaning: Can I come to stay over (at your place)?

Example:

A:
今すぐ会いたい!今日泊まりに行ってもいい?
Ima sugu aitai! Kyō tomari ni itte mo ii?
“I want to see you right away! Can I come to stay over tonight?”

B:
ごめん、明日は朝早く起きるから無理。
Gomen, ashita wa asa hayaku okiru kara muri.
“Sorry, you can’t because I have to get up early tomorrow morning.”

A Japanese Couple in Winter Clothes

大好きだよ。(Daisuki da yo.) – “I like you very much.”

Someone Holding a Bouquet of Roses behind Their Back

愛してるよ。(Aishite ru yo.) – “I love you.”

4. Take it One Step Further: “Will You Marry Me?” and More

Are you ready to commit? Do you look forward to spending the rest of your life with this person? Below are several love phrases in Japanese you can use to let your boyfriend or girlfriend know that you want to take your relationship to the next level. 

20 – 一緒に住もう。 

Reading: Issho ni sumō. 
Meaning: Let’s live together.

Example:

A:
一緒に住もう!どうかな? 
Issho ni sumō! Dō ka na?
“Let’s live together! What do you think?”

21 – ずっと一緒にいたい。

Reading: Zutto issho ni itai.
Meaning: I want to be with you forever.

Example:

A:
これから先、ずっと一緒にいたい!
Kore kara saki, zutto issho ni itai!
“From now on, I want to be with you forever.”

B:
うん、一生一緒だよ。
Un, ishhō issho da yo.
“Yeah, we will be together for the rest of our lives.”

22 – ___ がいない人生は考えられないよ。 

Reading: ___ ga inai jinsei wa kangaerarenai yo.
Meaning: I can’t think of my life without you / ___ (insert their name).

Example:

A:
ゆかがいない人生は考えられないよ。
Yuka ga inai jinsei wa kangaerarenai yo.
“I can’t think of my life without you, Yuka.”

B:
私もだよ。
Watashi mo da yo.
“Me, too.”

23 – 一生 幸せ / 大事 にするよ。

Reading: Isshō shiawase / daiji  ni suru yo. 
Meaning: I will make you happy for the rest of my life.

Example:

A:
愛してる。一生幸せにするよ。
Aishite ru. Isshō shiawase ni suru yo.
“I love you. I will make you happy for the rest of my life.”

B:
嬉しい!私も愛してる。
Ureshii! Watashi mo aishite ru.
“I’m happy to hear that! I love you, too.”

24 – 私 / 僕 の両親に紹介したい。

Reading: Watashi / boku no ryōshin ni shōkai shitai.
Meaning: I want to introduce you to my parents.

Example:

A:
私の両親に紹介したいんだけど、いつがいい?
Watashi no ryōshin ni shōkai shitai n da kedo, itsu ga ii?
“I want to introduce you to my parents, when is good for you?”

B:
僕はいつでもいいよ。
Boku wa itsu demo ii yo.
“Anytime is okay for me.”

25 – 結婚しよう。

Reading: Kekkon shiyō.
Meaning: Let’s get married.

Example:

A:
大好きだよ、結婚しよう!
Daisuki da yo, kekkon shiyō!
“I like you very much (I love you), let’s get married!”

B:
え?これはプロポーズってこと?
E? Kore wa puropōzu tte koto?
E? Kore wa puropōzu tte koto?

26 – 私 / 僕 と結婚してください。

Reading: Watashi / boku to kekkon shite kudasai. 
Meaning: Will you marry me? [In a polite/official way.]

Example:

A:
僕と結婚してください!
Boku to kekkon shite kudasai!
“Will you marry me?”

B:
はい、喜んで。
Hai, yorokonde.
“Yes, I’d love to.”

27 – 一緒に幸せな家庭を作ろう。

Reading: Issho ni shiawase na katei o tsukurō.
Meaning: Let’s make a happy family together.

Example:

A:
結婚しよう、一緒に幸せな家庭を作ろう!
Kekkon shiyō, issho ni shiawase na katei o tsukurō!
“Let’s get married and let’s make a happy family together!”

B:
嬉しくて泣きそう。
Ureshikute nakisō.
“I’m about to cry with joy.”

A Man Proposing to a Woman on a Bridge

一生幸せにするよ。(Isshō shiawase ni suru yo.) – “I will make you happy for the rest of my life.”

5. Japanese Love Quotes

A quote is a concise and comprehensible statement of a general principle that often expresses the truth of things. Here are some words of wisdom about love by well-known Japanese people.

自分に誠実でないものは、決して他人に誠実であり得ない。

[ by Japanese novelist 夏目漱石 (Sōseki Natsume) ]

Reading: Jibun ni seijitsu de nai mono wa, kesshite tanin ni seijitsu de arienai.
Meaning: Anyone who is not honest with oneself can never be honest with others.

Sōseki Natsume is a famous novelist and literary person, whose portrait is printed on the Japanese 1000 yen note

This quote is a famous line from one of his novels. It’s an enlightening phrase that tells us we need to be honest with ourselves before dealing with others.

恋愛は、チャンスではないと思う。私はそれを意志だと思う。

[ by Japanese novelist 太宰修 (Osamu Dazai) ]

Reading: Ren’ai wa, chansu de wa nai to omou. Watashi wa sore o ishi da to omou.
Meaning: Love is not a chance. I think it is a will.

Osamu Dazai was a talented but distressed famous author who left behind many well-known novels. Though he completed many written works, he also had many romantic relationships throughout his agonized life; he eventually decided his own fate (and that of his lover at the time) by committing a double suicide. 

His words are compelling, telling us that loving someone does not always occur by chance; we can also make the choice to love someone. 

本当の愛は見返りを求めない無償の愛。

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

Reading: Hontō no ai wa mikaeri o motomenai mushō no ai.
Meaning: True love is love that asks nothing in return.

Akihiro Miwa is a famous entertainer who survived the atomic bombings of Nagasaki when he was young and has led a life full of ups and downs. Being viewed as a unique and unusual character back in the day, he went through a lot of difficult times. Considering his life experiences, his message is persuasive and resonates with many people’s hearts. 

そのときの出会いが人生を根底から変えることがあるよき出会いを。

[ by Japanese poet 相田みつを (Mitsuo Aida) ]

Reading: Sono toki no deai ga jinsei o kontei kara kaeru koto ga aru yoki deai o.
Meaning: Have a good encounter that can change your life from the ground up.

Mitsuo Aida was a famous Japanese calligrapher and poet who had studied Buddhism and zen when he was young. His poetry conveys messages about humanity and life, written in his unique style of calligraphy. 

This message tells us that an encounter with someone may completely change our lives thereafter, so it’s important to have good encounters.


Two Hearts Drawn in the Sand on a Beach

愛の格言 (Ai no kakugen) – “love quotes”

How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

In this article, we introduced Japanese love phrases you can use at various stages of your romantic relationship. We also covered a few famous Japanese quotes about love to inspire and encourage you to act on your crush! 

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 get you started, here are some more Japanese love vocabulary lists and inspiring Japanese quotes for language learners: 

And we have so much more to offer you!

For instance, you’ll gain access to our personal 1-on-1 coaching service, MyTeacher, when you sign up 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 love phrases is your favorite, and why! 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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Why learn Japanese? Here are 10 great reasons.

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Are you interested in learning Japanese but are not yet committed to the idea? Then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll outline a few reasons why you should learn Japanese for either personal (travel, entertainment, culture) or professional (career and business opportunities) gain. 

Whether you’re a fan of Japanese anime, a Karate trainee, an adventurer who’s willing to travel around Japan to experience the amazing culture and enjoy the mouthwatering Japanese food, or an ambitious international businessperson, learning Japanese will bring you a lot of benefits. Japanese is not as common a language as English, for example, but it’s worth learning if you’re even remotely interested in Japan.

Get to know the benefits that are in store for you with JapanesePod101.com!

A Tourist Holding a Map

Knowing the language will make your trip even more fun and satisfying.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. Japan and the Japanese Language
  2. Benefits of Learning the Language
  3. Personal Aspects
  4. Professional Aspects
  5. Is Japanese Easy to Learn?
  6. Conclusion

1. Japan and the Japanese Language

If you’re wondering why to learn Japanese, you should consider the language’s remarkable history as well as its massive popularity as an internet language. Take a look: 

1. Japan: A Country of Rich Culture and High Technology

Japan has an abundant and rich culture, as the country’s history can be traced back as far as 16,500 years ago to the 縄文時代 (Jōmon Period) via scientifically proven cultural records. Nowadays, both traditional Japanese culture from the ancient times and the modern subcultures are known worldwide and attract many foreigners. 

A study carried out by the Bank of Korea found that of 5,586 companies older than 200 years in 41 countries, 56% were in Japan. Japan also has 32 companies that were established more than 500 years ago, and 7 companies older than even 1000 years. No other country has nearly as many centuries-old companies as Japan does.

While Japan is one of the top leaders of timeless tradition and universal craftsmanship in the world, Japan is also known for modern high-technology. Toyota, Sony, Cannon, Panasonic, Toshiba, Mitsubishi, Honda, Yamaha, Hitachi, Nintendo…the list of examples is endless. Although Japan is a small island country with scarce natural resources, it has the third largest economy in the world (with China having taken over Japan’s second-place position in the last decade). 

Learning the language of a country with such amazing characteristics would never be a waste!

2. Japanese is a Popular Internet Language

What do you know about the Japanese language? While Japanese is not as commonly used worldwide as English or Romance languages are, it is one of the top 10 languages used on the internet. 

Most of the languages on this list would not surprise you. After all, these languages are either spoken in many different countries (English and Spanish), essential for international business (Arabic), or spoken by a massive population (Chinese). 

On the other hand, Japanese is spoken almost exclusively in Japan but has still earned a spot on this list. That is to say: There’s much information available in Japanese, especially when it comes to content regarding Japan. A lot of the most interesting and attractive information available online—whether it be about a new anime or manga series, the latest technology, the best local restaurants, or little-known but nice places to visit—is not translated into other languages.

Learning Japanese will allow you to access this exclusive content, make new friends online, or even create a new opportunity for yourself. If you own websites, localizing them into Japanese means creating more traffic and increasing your potential for business growth. Though the language is spoken almost exclusively in Japan, there are approximately 125 million Japanese speakers!

    → To learn more about the Japanese language, also check out our articles Japanese Language Overview: All the Facts You Need to Know and How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese?
A Globe Showing Japan and Japanese Cities

Japan is an incredible country that has a unique language and a fascinating culture.

2. Benefits of Learning the Language

While studying the Japanese language can help you gain insight into the culture and history of Japan—not to mention open up new business opportunities in the internet world—the potential gains do not end there! Other benefits of learning Japanese include gaining a broader perspective on the world and learning more about other Asian cultures. 

3. Gain New Insights and Global Perspective

When you learn a new language, you’re doing so much more than studying vocabulary and grammar rules—you’re also giving yourself the opportunity to explore a new culture and a unique slice of history. The more dissimilar a language is from your mother tongue, the more you’ll expand your mind by learning it! 

Through learning the Japanese language, you’ll deepen your understanding of unique values and philosophies that will allow you to see things from different perspectives. With this new knowledge and insight, you’ll be more flexible and resilient whenever you need to deal with cultural differences. 

This whole process also trains your brain to expand your potential and enhance how attractive you are to potential employers (or romantic partners, or friends…). 

4. Gateway to Other Asian Cultures and Languages

Because Japan’s history was closely influenced by other Asian countries, especially China and Korea, there are a few similarities between Japan and these countries. 

For example, many of the Japanese Kanji characters were originally brought to Japan from China. If you know Japanese Kanji, you would be able to recognize some of the Chinese characters as well (especially traditional Chinese), even though the Chinese language is very different from Japanese grammatically and phonetically. On the contrary, Korean and Japanese share grammatical and phonetic similarities instead of a writing system. 

While each country has its own culture, East Asian countries have many similarities to each other. These include things like religious beliefs (Buddhism, Confucianism), values, ethics, and aesthetics—all of which are very different from those of Western cultures.

In short: Learning Japanese will make it easier for you to learn and familiarize yourself with other East Asian languages and cultures.

A Dish of Sushi, with Chopsticks, Dishes, and Soy Sauce for Dipping

Sushi and Tempura are not the only Japanese words you should know!

3. Personal Aspects

Are you wondering how a knowledge of the Japanese language can improve your personal, everyday life? Here are three great examples for you to consider! 

5. Enjoy Japanese Culture in the Original Language

Learning Japanese will allow you to enjoy the Japanese culture deeply. 

Whether we’re talking about traditional Japanese calligraphy, martial or culinary arts, or a modern subculture represented by anime, manga, literature, movies, games, etc., there’s no better way to understand and enjoy them than in the original language! 

There are actually a lot of Japanese words that cannot be translated into other languages, due to the culture’s unique concepts and philosophies. When such words are translated, they lose subtle nuances and implicit contexts. Speaking Japanese allows you to understand the culture more deeply and better enjoy the original version. You’ll discover a whole new world in the original version that you would never be able to in translated versions.

To learn more about this fun topic, please check out our article Untranslatable Japanese Words.

A Woman Watching a Video with Headphones on Her Tablet

Enjoy Japanese anime, movies, and games in the original language!

6. Traveling Will Become Easier and More Fun 

Japan is one of the most popular destinations to visit among Asian countries. In 2018, more than 31.2 million people traveled to Japan.

Although Japanese people are known to be very kind and polite, always willing to try their best to help you when you ask for directions, you’ll find that it’s difficult to communicate unless you speak Japanese. Most of the local people are not good at speaking English.   

If you know Japanese, you’ll be able to easily get around, find the most useful local information, and discover the best eateries that don’t appear in travel guidebooks written for foreigners. And most of all, you’ll meet new people and communicate with locals, which will make your experience more enjoyable and memorable.

People Dining at a Sushi Bar

Knowing Japanese will allow you to find the best restaurants popular among locals easier.

7. It Will Make You a Different and Unique Person

Knowing Japanese will make you different from others, especially if you’re from an English-speaking country. Because many people choose to learn Spanish, French, or German as a second language, learning Japanese will automatically set you apart from others and will encourage others to see you as an earnest and open-minded person. You may enjoy special privileges and get rare opportunities that most people would not have access to. 

In addition, because learning such a unique language gives you new insights and the ability to see things from other perspectives, you’ll be able to understand and appreciate your own language and culture better. 

4. Professional Aspects

While learning Japanese can improve your personal life, it also comes with plenty of benefits for your professional life! 

8. More Career Options

As mentioned, Japan has the third biggest economy in the world with multi-billion businesses in various industries. Even if you don’t live and work in Japan, knowing Japanese will enhance your professional value and increase your career options in various sectors, including import/export business, aviation, journalism, diplomacy, technology, and science (to name a few). 

By learning Japanese, you’ll also understand the culture. Being aware of the Japanese work culture and business etiquette is valued in the professional world, and it means that you’re more likely to have a chance to work for branches of Japanese multinational corporations that are located all around the world (or for domestic companies that have offices in Japan).

Moreover, as the economies of Asian countries grow, more career opportunities are becoming available. And this includes areas outside of Japan, such as those in Asia-Pacific regions. 

Wherever you are, knowing Japanese is beneficial for your career!

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo is one of the biggest business cities in Asia.

9. More Business Opportunities

Likewise, having a good command of the Japanese language and understanding the culture behind it will create more business opportunities for you. If you’re a businessperson or diplomat, you’ll likely be expected to manage making deals and to avoid conflicts caused by misunderstandings. 

Pushed by the growing popularity of Japanese culture, there are increasing business opportunities related to Japanese cultural exports/imports. In addition to things like Karaoke bars and Sushi restaurants, there are new types of businesses that are gaining fans nowadays. These include cat cafes, manga cafes, Ramen and Okonomiyaki restaurants, Real Escape Room games, cosplay events, etc. Knowing the Japanese language and culture will help you find local Japanese partners faster and boost your marketing efforts.

There are also business opportunities in tourism. Japanese people love traveling overseas, from budget backpackers to luxury resort-lovers who don’t hesitate to spend money on shopping and nice experiences. You can strengthen the marketing of local businesses toward Japanese tourists by posting ads and attractive information on social media and various websites in Japanese. You could also make booking/purchasing systems available in the Japanese language and list prices in Japanese Yen. 

Even if you don’t live and work in Japan, there are countless ways to make use of your command of the Japanese language for business opportunities!

Papers being Signed while Two Businessmen Shake Hands on a Deal

Knowing Japanese is useful for business opportunities.

5. Is Japanese Easy to Learn?

Anyone interested in learning Japanese has asked this question at some point. The FSI (Foreign Service Institute) ranks Japanese as a Category 5 language, meaning it’s one of the most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn. 

However, that’s not technically true if you focus on oral communication alone. Which leads us to reason #10: Learning Japanese is actually a lot easier than you think.

The Japanese writing system with its three different character sets is, of course, very different from what speakers of alphabet languages are used to, and it takes a lot of time and effort to master. Still, learning Hiragana and Katakana as well as basic Kanji does not require endless effort. Once you master Hiragana, you’ll know how to pronounce any Japanese word. At the beginner level, using Roma-ji (romanization of Japanese) is really helpful in understanding and familiarizing yourself with Japanese. 

Putting aside the writing system, speaking and listening to Japanese is much easier compared to doing so in English as there are fewer vowel and consonant sounds. In addition, Hiragana and Katakana are very simple; each character represents a specific sound and there’s no variation like there is in English (e.g. the pronunciation of “a” varies from word to word: “ant” / “ace” / “cat”). Therefore, Japanese phonetics is very easy to learn.

From a grammatical point of view, Japanese grammar is indeed very different from English grammar. However, it’s also said that Japanese grammar is simpler than that of English or Romance languages in many ways. 

For example: 

  • There is no distinction between singular and plural.
  • We do not use articles (such as “a” or “the”).
  • There is no verb conjugation according to the speaker (“I do” / “she does”).
  • Japanese only has two simple tenses: the present and the past (there is no “perfect tense” form or “future”).

Now, you can relax a bit and enjoy learning Japanese with this newfound hope!

A Woman Smiling with a Book on Her Head

Listening and speaking Japanese is not actually so difficult!

6. Conclusion

In this article, we’ve explained the reasons why you should learn Japanese. Learning Japanese will bring you to a new world where you can enjoy a lot of benefits in both your personal life and your professional life. 

If you’re wondering where to learn Japanese online, look no further. Create an account with JapanesePod101.com for the fastest and easiest way to fluency. With a variety of rich, free lessons and tools, your Japanese-language skills will improve immensely. 

Don’t forget that you’re not alone. When you use our Premium PLUS MyTeacher service, you get your very own tutor who can always help you practice and guide you through personalized assignments.

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

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

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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!

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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.

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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! 

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English Words in Japanese: Do You Know Japanglish?

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

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

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

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

A Map of Japan

There is a lot of Japanglish vocabulary used in Japan.

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

1. Introduction to Japanglish

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

Loanwords Used in Japanese

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Katakana chart

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

Japanglish Wasei-Eigo: English Made in Japan 

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

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

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

A Japanese Businessman Getting Ready to Leave for Work

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

2. Typical English Loanwords in Japanese

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

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

A Table Set with Wine Glasses, Silverware, and Plates

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

3. Japanglish Wasei Eigo

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

English Words Used With Different Meanings

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

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

Examples

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

Two Pancakes on a Griddle

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

Abbreviated Word Combinations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Examples

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

Someone about to Change the Channel with a Remote Controller

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

Words That Combine English and Japanese

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

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

Examples

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

Loanwords Turned Into Japanese Verbs

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

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

Examples

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

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

A Party

パーティーをする (pātī o suru) – “to party”

4. How to Say These Names in Japanese

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

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

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

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

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

A McDonald’s Cheeseburger and French Fries

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

5. English Words Borrowed From Japanese

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

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

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

折り(ori) – “fold” 



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

絵 (e) – “picture”



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

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

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

A Tsunami Washing Over Buildings

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

How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Brief Overview of Japanese Culture

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

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

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

Are you ready? Then let’s begin.

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

1. Japanese Values and Philosophies

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

Japanese culture is unique and fascinating.

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

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

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

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

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

The Jizō Statuettes in Japan

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

2. Religions and Beliefs

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the difference between Shrines and Temples?

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

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

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

A Shrine in Japan with a Red Gate

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

3. The Family and Home 

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

A- Japanese Family

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

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

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

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


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

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

B- Japanese Houses

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

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

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

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

A Wild Monkey Enjoying an Onsen During Winter

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

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

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

A Tatami Floor

Tatami floors are seen in traditional Japanese houses.

4. School and Work 

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

A- School and Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

B- Work

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

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

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

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

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

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


5. Art and Entertainment

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

A- Ukiyo-E Art

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

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

An Ukiyo-e Depicting a Kabuki Actor.

An Ukiyo-e depicting a Kabuki actor.

B- Shodō

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

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

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

C- Kabuki

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

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

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

D- Haiku

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

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

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

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

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

E- Manga and Anime 

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

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

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

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

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


F- Video Games

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

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

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

6. Table Etiquette and Food

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

A- Table Etiquette 

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

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

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

Before:

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

After:

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

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

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

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


B- Japanese Food

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

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

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

A Variety of Japanese Dishes Arranged on a Table

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

7. Traditional Holidays and Celebrations

There are many traditional holidays and celebrations in Japan. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Koinobori Waving against a Blue Sky

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

  • Around August 15 – お盆 (O-bon)

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

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

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

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

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

8. How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

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

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

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

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

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

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