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Back-to-School Vocabulary: 10 School Supplies in Japanese

May 23, 2018

Back-to-School Vocabulary: 10 School Supplies in Japanese

Japanese vocabulary

Ready to go back to school? As you and your family prepare for the upcoming school year, continue your Japanese lessons and learn back-to-school vocabulary with language teacher Carol Beth L... 

As the school year starts, it’s time brush up on your vocabulary to talk about school supplies! Here are some Japanese vocabulary words that may prove useful as you head back to class.

1) Empitsu – Pencil

Hiragana: えんぴつ Kanji: 鉛筆

Because you’ll definitely need a pencil when you go back to school!

Use empitsu the same way you would use other nouns, especially tools.

  • Kanji: 鉛筆と 宿題を 書きました
  • Hiragana: えんぴつと しゅくだいを かきました
  • Romaji: Empitsu to shukudai o kakimashita
  • English: I wrote my homework with a pencil

2) Pen – Pen

Katakana: ペン

Although the word for pencil is a native Japanese word, the common word for “pen” is borrowed from English, and is therefore written using katakana.

You can use it similarly to the way you use pencil:

  • Kanji: ペンと 名前を 書いて下ださい
  • Hiragana / Katakana: ペンと なまえを かいてください
  • Romaji: Pen to namae o kaite kudasai
  • English: Please write your name with a pen

3) Kami – Paper

Hiragana: かみ Kanji: 紙

Paper-making has been in Japan for hundreds of years. It was brought over from the Asian mainland, and has traditionally been used by students, even before pens and pencils were used for writing.

You might use this Japanese vocabulary word as follows:

  • Kanji: 紙 と 鉛筆を 出して ノートを 取って下ださい
  • Katakana: かみと えんぴつを だして ノート を とってください
  • Romaji: Kami to empitsu o (take out), no-to o totte-kudasai
  • English: Please take out a piece of paper and take notes.

4) Hon – Book

Hiragana: ほん kanji: 本

The kanji for this word is, interestingly enough, also used in the Japanese word for Japan: 日本 (Nihon). In the context of school, however, it just means a book.

For example:

  • Kanji: 日本語の 本を 取りました
  • Katakana: にほんごの ほんを とりました。
  • Romaji: Nihongo no hon o torimashita
  • English: I took a Japanese book
  • Kanji: この本を 読みます
  • Katakana: このほんを よみます
  • Romaji: Kono hon o yomimasu
  • English: I’m reading this book

5) Tsukue – Desk

Hiragana: つくえ Kanji: 机

  • Kanji: 貴方の 机を 友達の 隣に あります
  • Katakana: あなたの つくえを ともだちの となりに あります
  • Romaji: Anata no tsukue wa tomodachi no tonari ni arimasu
  • English: Your desk is next to your friend

6) Teeburu – Table

Katakana: テーブル

Unlike desk, for which the native Japanese is usually used, the English word, written in katakana and pronounced with Japanese phonetics, is commonly adopted for table.

For example:

Kanji: 英語のクラスで 机が ありません。テーブルが あります
Hiragana / Katakana: えいごのクラスで つくえが ありません。 テーブルが あります
Romaji: Eigo no kurasu de tsukue ga arimasen. Teeburu ga arimasu.
English: In English class, there are no desks. There are tables.

7) Keshigomu – Eraser

Hiragana / Katakana: けしゴム  Kanji: 消しゴム

The written form of this Japanese vocabulary word is interesting because it contains both hiragana and katakana for the kana only form, and kanji and katakana for the kanji form.

Since hiragana and kanji are used for native words and katakana is used for foreign words, we can conclude that this word contains elements of both origins.

Here’s an example of how it might be used:

Kanji: 良く書きませんでした!消しゴムを 使います
Hiragana: よくかきませんでした!けしゴムを つかいます
Romaji: Yoku kakimasen deshita! Keshigomu o tsukaimasu
English: I didn’t write well! I’m using an eraser

8. Fukuro – Bag / Sack

Hiragana: ふくろ; Kanji:

This word means “bag” or “sack.” So if you’re looking for a native Japanese word to describe what you use to carry books, this is one option.

Don’t jump to any conclusions about the most appropriate word, however, until you read number nine.

9. Randoseru – Backpack

Katakana: ランドセル

This word came from Dutch, and is commonly used to describe the sturdy little backpacks that have been used by Japanese school children since about the 19th century.
Backpacks in other parts of the world are similar, and you could probably use this word for your own backpack, also.
Some people specifically use it to describe the particular style of Japanese backpack.
Kanji: クラスのまえに ランドセルを 買います
Hiragana/Katakana: クラスのまいに ランドセルを かいます
Romaji: Kurasu no mae ni randoseru o kaimasu
English: I will buy a backpack before classes

10. Shukudai – Homework

Hiragana: しゅくだい Kanji: 宿題

As the school year starts, you may receive some assignments!
  • Kanji: 今年は 宿題をしてください
  • Hiragana: きょねんは しゅくだいを してく下ださい
  • Romaji: Kyonen shukudai o shite kudasai
  • English: This year, please do your homework!

Japanese Vocabulary

Good luck as you head back to class. Make use of your new Japanese vocabulary, practice regularly, and がんばります (do your best)!

Carol BethPost Author: Carol Beth L.
Carol Beth L. teaches French lessons in San Francisco, CA. She also studied Japanese in high school and college.  She has her Masters in French language education from the Sorbonne University in Paris and has been teaching since 2009. Learn more about Carol Beth here!

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