Japanese vocabulary

Japanese Vocabulary: 10 Ways to Express Yourself

Japanese vocabulary

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 Japanese vocabulary to help you express yourself in Japanese.

Positive Emotions

 Ureshii-desu – 嬉しいです

“I’m happy”

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.)


(______ no-okage-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-concert-tanoshimi-desu” (I’m excited about the concert Saturday night!)

Excited about traveling to Japan? Let your friends and family know by saying “Nihon-ni-ikunoga-tanoshimi-desu“(I’m excited about going to Japan).

 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.

 Negative Emotions

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-to-kiki-taihen-zannen-desu” (I’m very sorry to hear that you’re sick and can’t make it today). (今日は病気で来られないとのことで大変残念です)

 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”

You can say “kanashii-desu” when you’re really sad or want to express sympathy.
For example, if someone loses a loved one, you can say: “totemo-kanashii-desu” (I’m very sad) とても悲しいです.

 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”とても悔しいです) for I’m very disappointed.

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.

Mou-korigori-da!/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”(もう懲り懲りです).

Express Yourself

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 Japanese vocabulary? Sign up for lessons with a private Japanese teacher! 

Japanese vocabulary

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Taro TPost Author: Taro T.
Taro T. teaches Japanese and ESL in Washington, D.C. He is a language acquisition specialist and mentors students from the United States, Thailand, Italy, Korea, Turkey, and El Salvador. Born and raised in Japan, Taro came to the United States when he was 16 to learn English and American culture. He gained fluency in both English and Spanish. Learn more about Taro here!

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