It’s important to be able to express yourself in any language, and learning to express yourself in Japanese can help you communicate more effectively with native Japanese speakers. Here, Washington, DC language teacher Taro T. teaches you some words, phrases, and Japanese vocabulary to express your emotions…
Japanese culture is what anthropologist Edward T. Hall might call a high-context culture. In a high-context culture, you don’t have to say much in order to be understood.
When someone is from Japan, he or she can figure out what to do or say in certain situations based on Japanese social contexts. When you are new to the Japanese language, however, it’s not always easy to understand others’ thoughts or expectations.
In order to avoid misunderstandings, it’s very important to express yourself verbally. Here’s some important vocabulary Japanese to help you express yourself in Japanese.
What Are Basic Japanese Words?
When you are trying to learn Japanese vocabulary, you might be unsure of where to start. Here are some of the most common words you’ll encounter in the Japanese language:
- こと (Koto) – “About (this thing)”
- ため (Tame) – “For” or “In regards to”
- 人 (Hito or Nin) – “Person”
- 今日 (Kyou) – “Today”
- 分 (Fun or Bun) – “Minute”
- 国 (Kuni or Koku) – “Country”
- 年 (Toshi or Nen) – “Year”
- 日 (Nichi or Hi) – “Day” and “Sun”
- 日本 (Nihon) – “Japan”
- 明日 (Ashita) – “Tomorrow”
- 昨日 (Kinou) – “Yesterday”
- 時 (Ji or Toki) – “Hour” or “Time”
- 時間 (Jikan) – “Time” (As in, a time frame.)
- 月 (Getsu or Tsuki) – “Month” and “Moon”
- 物 (Mono) – “Thing”
- 週 (Shuu) – “Week”
Of course, the list doesn’t end there. We’ll take a deeper dive in this post.
How Can I Learn Japanese Vocabulary?
Whether you’re trying to master Japanese N5 vocabulary or you just want to learn enough phrases in Japanese to navigate your way around the country on your travels, here are a few ways you can learn Japanese:
- Use Japanese vocabulary flashcards (there are plenty of online resources to consider, too, like an Anki Japanese vocabulary deck)
- Practice mnemonics to memorize information
- Use a dictionary
- Try a Japanese vocabulary app
- Take Japanese classes
- Find a native speaker to help you practice
- Watch Japanese movies and listen to Japanese music
Of course, as you’re getting started, you might want to make a list of all the Japanese vocabulary words you should learn. We’ll give you a detailed Japanese vocabulary list below!
What Are the 100 Most Common Words in Japanese?
Are you looking for a master Japanese vocabulary list? Learn Japanese vocabulary by memorizing these terms.
Basic Japanese Vocabulary for Activities
Here are a few Japanese verbs to master:
- ある (Aru) – “There is” for inanimate objects and plants.
- いる (Iru) – “There is” for living things, like humans and animals.
- する (Suru) – “To do”
- です (Desu) – “To be” or “it is”
- なる (Naru) – “To become”
- 会う (Au) – “To meet”
- 作る (Tsukuru) – “To make”
- 使う (Tsukau) – “To use”
- 出来る (Dekiru) – “To be able to do” or “can do”
- 受ける (Ukeru) – “To receive”
- 呼ぶ (Yobu) – “To call”
- 学ぶ (Manabu) – “To learn”
- 帰る (Kaeru) – “To return home”
- 待つ (Matsu) – “To wait”
- 持つ (Motsu) – “To have” or “to hold”
- 着く (Tsuku) – “To arrive”
- 置く (Oku) – “To put”
- 行く (Iku) – “To go”
- 見る (Miru) – “To see”
- 言う (Iu) – “To say”
- 送る (Okuru) – “To send”
- 食べる (Taberu) – “To eat”
- 飲む (Nomu) – “To drink”
Japanese Vocabulary Words for Numbers
As you’re learning to count in Japanese, you’ll want to master these terms:
- 一-いち Ichi-One
- 二-に Ni-Two
- 三-さん San-Three
- 四-し/よん Shi/yon-Four
- 五-ご Go-Five
- 六-ろく Roku-Six
- 七-しち/なな Shichi/nana-Seven
- 八-はち Hachi-Eight
- 九-きゅう Kyuu-Nine
- 十-じゅう Juu-Ten
Days and Time Japanese Vocabulary
From telling time to knowing how to express your birthday, you’ll want to master these Japanese vocabulary words, too.
- 四月-しがつ Shigatsu-April
- 八月-はちがつ Hachigatsu-August
- 十二月-じゅうにがつ Juunigatsu-December
- 夕方-ゆうがた Yuugata-Evening
- 二月-にがつ Nigatsu-February
- 金曜日-きんようび Kinyoubi-Friday
- 一月-いちがつ Ichigatsu-January
- 七月-しちがつ Shichigatsu-July
- 六月-ろくがつ Rokugatsu-June
- 三月-さんがつ Sangatsu-March
- 五月-ごがつ Gogatsu-May
- 月曜日-げつようび Getsuyoubi-Monday
- 朝-あさ Asa-Morning
- 夜-よる Yoru-Night
- 昼-ひる Hiru-Noon
- 十一月-じゅういちがつ Juuichigatsu-November
- 十月-じゅうがつ Juugatsu-October
- 土曜日-どようび Doyoubi-Saturday
- 九月-くがつ Kugatsu-September
- 日曜日-にちようび Nichiyoubi-Sunday
- 木曜日-もくようび Mokuyoubi-Thursday
- 今日-きょう Kyou-Today
- 明日-あした Ashita-Tomorrow
- 火曜日-かようび Kayoubi-Tuesday
- 水曜日-すいようび Suiyoubi-Wednesday
- 昨日-きのう Kinou-Yesterday
Other Japanese Vocabulary Words to Learn
Here are some more terms to master if you are trying to learn Japanese.
- すみません-Sumimasen-Excuse me/ sorry
- お父さん-おとうさん-Otousan- Father
- こんばんは-Konbanwa-Good evening
- おはようございます-Ohayou gozaimasu-Good morning
- お爺さん-おじいさん Ojiisan-Grandfather
- お婆さん-おばあさん Obaasan-Grandmother
- こんにちは-Konnichiwa-Hello/ good afternoon
- お母さん-おかあさん Okaasan-Mother
- お兄さん-おにいさん Oniisan-Older brother
- お姉さん-おねえさん Oneesan-Older sister
- ありがとうございます-Arigatou gozaimasu-Thank you
- 弟-おとうと Otouto-Younger brother
- 妹-いもうと Imouto-Younger sister
…and here are some great adjectives to learn!
- うまい (Umai) – “Nice”
- きれいな (Kirei na) – “Clean” and “Pretty”
- すごい (Sugoi) – “Amazing”
- たくさん (Takusan) – “Lots of”
- とても (Totemo) – “Very”
- まずい (Mazui) – “Disgusting”
- 多い (Ooi) – “Many”
- 大きい (Ookii) – “Big”
- 大丈夫 (Daijoubu) – “All right”
- 小さい (Chiisai) – “Small”
- 少し (Sukoshi) – “Few”
- 悪い (Warui) – “Bad”
- 楽しい (Tanoshii) – “Enjoyable” or “Pleasant”
- 簡単な (Kantan na) – “Easy”
- 美味しい (Oishii) – “Delicious”
- 良い (Yoi) – “Good”
- 近い (Chikai) – “Near”
- 遠い (Tooi) – “Far”
- 醜い (Minikui) – “Ugly”
- 難しい (Muzukashii) – “Difficult”
Japanese Vocabulary List for Positive Emotions
Ureshii-desu – 嬉しいです
Use this phrase generously; it helps you establish rapport.
If you’re happy to meet someone, you could say, “oai-dekite-ureshii-desu” お会いできて嬉しいです (I’m pleased to meet you.)
desu – ______のおかげです
“thanks to (name of the person)”
In Japan, people are generally humble and don’t take credit for their accomplishments.
This phrases is also used as a formality, but crediting someone for your success is a great way to connect with Japanese people.
For example, if you were able to land a job as a result of your mentor Mr. Kobayashi’s advice, you could say, “Kobayashi-san-no-okage-de-mensetu-ni-ukari-mashita 小林さんのおかげで面接に受かりました (thanks to you (Mr.Kobayashi) I did well in the interview.)
Tanoshimi-desu – 土曜日のコンサート楽しみです
“I look forward to it” / “I’m exited about it”
Tanoshimi-desu is the most common way to express excitement in Japanese.
If you’re excited to go to a concert you can say “doyoubi-no-
Excited about traveling to Japan? Let your friends and family know by saying “Nihon-ni-ikunoga-tanoshimi-
Suki-desu – 好きです
“I like you” (romantically)
Use this phrase to show your affection.
In Japan, men and women do not often express their romantic emotions. When they do express these feelings, however, they do so in a straightforward manner.
It’s common for adolescents to say suki-desu, to their romantic interest, even before going on a first date. This is a kokuhaku 告白 (confession).
Suki-desu can also be used to simply express your affinity with anything, without any romantic connotations. For example, you could say, ”watashi-wa Tokyo-ga-suki-desu” 私は東京が好きです (I like Tokyo).
Sugoi! – すごい！
This expression is short, but it’s very useful to show your amazement. Even if you don’t speak Japanese well (yet), Japanese people will think you’re charming when you use this expression.
Try using it as an icebreaker. You may make some Japanese people laugh and win their friendship.
Japanese Vocabulary List for Negative Emotions
Want to learn Japanese for sad and other negative emotions? Keep reading!
Zannen-desu ___ – 残念です
“I’m sorry about _____)”
You can use this phrase when you feel disappointed. For example, if you learned that your mentor couldn’t make it to dinner (due to illness), you could say “Kyo-wa-byoki-de-korare-nai-
Although saying you’re sorry is technically negative, it shows your understanding of other people’s situations, which is very important in Japan. If you’re speaking in a polite form of Japanese, you could say “zannen-desu,” and if you’re speaking in a casual form, you could say “zannen-dayo.”
Atama-ni-kuru – 頭にくる
“It gets on my nerves”
So far, you’ve learned to be very polite in Japanese, but at some point you may need to express your anger.
If you feel mistreated or annoyed, you can simple say “atama-ni-kuru” (I’m angry) (頭にくる）It means literally, “it gets to my head.”
This is a safe phrase to use because it’s a direct way to express your anger.
Kanashii-desu – 悲しいです
“I’m feeling sad”
Kuyashii-desu – 悔しいです
“I’m disappointed/it’s regrettable”
Use this phrase to express your frustration. For example, if your soccer team loses a match, you can say: “kuyashii-desu” (悔しいです）or “totemo-kuyashii-desu”（
Although this is an expression of a negative emotion, there is still a positive connotation, as saying “kuyashii-desu” implies you’ve tried your best, and you may try again.
kori-gori-da! – もう懲り懲りだ
“I’m tired of this!/I’m fed up!”
Unlike saying “kuyashii-desu”, which implies you haven’t given up, saying “mou-korigori-da!” or “kori-gori-da!” means that you’re done with a situation or circumstance.
This is a strong expression and you should only say this if you’re really tired of something. If you want to say this without being too aggressive, you can say, “mou-kori-gori-desu”（
Is Japanese Vocabulary Hard?
Learning to speak Japanese can be challenging but it’s worth it. You’ll speak more fluently with a rich set of Japanese vocabulary words to choose from. It will also be easier for you to write or comprehend what you read.
Although learning Japanese vocabulary can be challenging, it’s a necessary gateway to becoming fluent in the language.
With these words and phrases, you can express your full range of emotions, from happy to angry. Learn these words, and you’ll be able to communicate more effectively in Japanese.
Need help learning hard Japanese words to say? Sign up for lessons with a private Japanese teacher!