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animals in Japanese

QUIZ: Which Japanese Animal Are You?

There are certain animals that are significant in Japanese culture and history. Some animals are feared because of their supernatural powers, while others are loved and trusted by the Japanese people.

So whether you’re taking Japanese lessons or you’re just an animal lover, learn some vocabulary and find out if you’re a friend or foe with this quiz!

 

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Learn how to say more animals in Japanese with this infographic!

 

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animals in Japanese

Japanese Vocabulary: 10 Animals in Japanese

animals in Japanese

If you’re taking Japanese lessons, you’ve probably learned the basics like greetings and phrases. So, let’s get into some fun Japanese vocabulary. Here, Brighton, MA Japanese teacher Kaoru N. teaches you the names for common animals in Japanese…

1. Inu – 犬 / 狗  – Dog

Humans and dogs have a special bond, and just like in the rest of the world, dogs are important animals in Japanese.

There are two kanji letters for “dog,” but the second one is less common, and only used when it’s part of a word, for example: “走狗”,“天狗,” (running dog).

The left part of the second kanji is called kemono-hen, the (beast-hen). In general, “hen” is the left part of the kanji, which indicates what the kanji is related to. If a kanji has this (hen) part, it most likely stands for some kind of animal or beast.

2. Neko – 猫 – Cat

Writing “cat” is a bit more complicated than writing “dog” in Japanese. Notice this kanji also contains the “beast-hen.”

3. Saru – 猿 –  Monkey

There are a lot of Japanese legends and idioms about monkeys, they’re important animals in the Japanese culture.

In some Japanese hot springs, you can bathe with wild monkeys. If you go sightseeing in Nikko, you will see lots of monkeys in the streets. Make sure to hide your plastic bags from the monkeys in Nikko. The monkeys know plastic bags usually contain food, and they will attack you and try to take your food!

A law protects the monkeys, so you cannot harm them. In some cases, monkeys are smart and friendly; in other cases, they can be sly and mean.

4. Kitsune – 狐 –  Fox

In Japan, the fox is treated both as a monster and a god. According to Japanese superstition, these animals have supernatural powers and can play tricks on humans.

Because of these supernatural abilities, Japanese people generally respect and fear animals that dwell in the wild. A fox represents these mountain-dwelling animals. There are still a lot of fox shrines all over Japan.

5. Tanuki – 狸 – Raccoon

A raccoon is another wild, mountain-dwelling creature. There is a Japanese expression about these kinds of “monstrous” animals: “狐狸の類い” (kori no tagui),which means “a kind of fox and raccoon.”

6. Kuma – 熊 –  Bear

Bears aren’t supernatural, but they’re still dangerous. Several people are killed by bear attacks each year. Sometimes,  bears visit human-inhabited areas in search of food. If you go to the mountains in Japan, watch out for bears.

7. Sika – 鹿 –  Deer

Deer live deep in the mountains in Japan. But In Nara, you can see deer everywhere.

Deer are a nationally-protected species, so you can’t harm them, even though they can potentially hurt you. Just like monkeys, they’re cute but dangerous.

8. Tori – 鳥 / 鶏 – Bird / Chicken

There are two different kanji for this animal, and they’re pronounced exactly the same. The kanji on the left means “bird,” but the kanji on the right refers to a chicken or a rooster.

9. Ushi – 牛 – Cow / Bull

Cows are important animals in Japan, especially as agricultural resources. Not only are cows useful for meat and milk, in the past, ushi-kai (cow shepherds) used cows to till the land and carry heavy supplies.

10. Uma – 馬 – Horse

You can’t talk about a cow without mentioning a horse, of course. For military and agricultural purposes, horses are just as important as cows.

Surprisingly, in Japan, we even incorporate horse meat in meals. In fact, a horse sashimi plate is a very common food item. Not quite ready to try horse sashimi? Here’s a guide to some more conventional sushi!

Here’s a chart to help you learn the animals in Japanese.

animals in Japanese

 


Now that you know how to say common animal names in Japanese, find out which Japanese animal you are in this fun quiz

 

Kaoru N.Post Author: Kaoru N.
Kaoru teaches Japanese, guitar, and classical guitar lessons in Brighton, MA. Originally from Tokyo, he graduated from Berklee College of Music with a dual major, and is available for in-home, in-studio, and online lessons. Learn more about Kaoru here!

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Japanese vocabulary

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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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!

“Amazing”

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! 

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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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Jam Along to JPop- 6 Fun Songs to Help You Learn Japanese

Jam Along to JPop: 6 Fun Songs to Help You Learn Japanese

Jam Along to JPop- 6 Fun Songs to Help You Learn Japanese

While language lessons are the best, most effective way to learn Japanese, you can learn faster and have more fun when you listen to popular Japanese music.

J-Pop (Japanese pop) is great for beginning Japanese students because the songs have simple lyrics and catchy rhythms. Plus, Jpop has taken Japan, and the rest of the world by storm, so you may already be familiar with some of the most popular songs and Jpop artists.

Get ready to learn Japanese vocabulary and impress your friends at your next karaoke night with these fun J-pop songs!

The Jpop hit has basic, elementary-level vocabulary and a catchy beat.

“Automatic” – Hikaru Utada

Hikaru is an international vocalist and Jpop sensation. As a child, Hikaru split her time between Tokyo and New York. As a result, she learned to speak both English and Japanese.

Because of her knowledge of both languages, her music appeals to her English and Japanese-speaking fans. Hikaru’s beginner-friendly songs are great for Japanese-language students.

“Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” – SMAP

SMAP is Japan’s version of the boy band.

SMAP released “Sekai Ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” in 2004, and  the song became an instant hit.

Still a popular karaoke selection, the song is also taught to kindergarten students in many public schools in Japan.

The Jpop hit has simple grammar and a snappy beat, which makes it ideal for anyone who is new to the Japanese language.

“Koi Suru Foochuun Kukkie” AKB48

With its decidedly western sounds and girl band persona, AKB48 became an instant favorite across all of Japan and most of the Asian continent.

While the band never took off in the English-speaking world, the simple vocabulary and upbeat, fun nature of the music makes it catchy and easy to follow.

Once you hear it, you’ll have a hard time getting this song out of your head!

“Umi wo Mi ni Ikou” – Spitz

Spitz is Japan’s answer to classic rock.

This Japanese summer anthem is all about going to the beach.

“Makenaide” – ZARD

This song, by Japanese pop star ZARD, is a popular Japanese sports anthem (like “We are the Champions” in the United States).

Simple verses and an easy-to-follow pop rhythm make it a catchy crowd favorite. So whether you’ve been speaking the language for years, or you’re just starting to learn Japanese, add this Jpop hit to your playlist.

The Blue Hearts – “Linda Linda”


A classic J-pop ballad, “Linda Linda” is a favorite among karaoke enthusiasts.

The music is a little faster than the other songs on the list, so it’s a great challenge for intermediate learners.

Pick your favorite songs from this list and add them to your playlist. With a little practice, you’ll learn the words and expand your Japanese vocabulary.

Remember, if you come across words or phrases you don’t understand, write them down and review them with your Japanese teacher.

What do you think of these Jpop songs? Let us know in the comments below! 

—– Please copy everything below this line including spaces —–

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15 Japanese Vocabulary Words for Travelers

15 Japanese Vocabulary Words for Travelers

Japanese vocabulary

You don’t have to master the entire Japanese language to be able to communicate on a basic level with native Japanese speakers. When it comes to basic communication, a few essential words and phrases can help you get by on your trip to Japan. Whether you’re taking Japanese lessons or planning a trip to Japan, here are the Japanese vocabulary words you should know.

Traveling to Japan

Whenever you travel to a new country, you need your passport. The Japanese word for passport is pasupoto (pah-soo-pohh-toh).  You will take a hikoki (airplane) to travel to Japan, and you will fly into the kuko (airport). When you arrive, grab your sutsukesu (suitcase) from the baggage claim.

Getting Around Town

Once you leave the kuko (airport), you can find a takushi (taxi), ride the basu (bus), take the densha (train), or ride the chikatetsu (subway). If you’re taking the bus, train, or subway, you will need to purchase a kippu (ticket). You can pay for your taxi, bus, or train with okane (money).

Make sure you count your money before you leave! Learn to count in Japanese with this infographic: Japanese numbers 1 – 10.

At the Hotel

Once you figure out which type of transportation to take, you will want to go to your hoteru (hotel). The concierge can help you check in to your rumu (room), and make sure you get your  (key) to open the door. When you get to your room, make sure the beddu is comfortable, so you can get some rest after your long day of traveling!

These 15 words will help you get around during your trip to Japan. While you’re exploring, you will run into lots of native Japanese speakers; make sure you’re prepared with these essential Japanese phrases.

Japanese vocabulary for travelers

Want to learn even more Japanese vocabulary? Search for a Japanese tutor today!

 

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Japanese Vocabulary: 11 Mealtime Words and Expressions

let's eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Japanese

Practice using Japanese words and expressions related to different (and delicious) Japanese foods and mealtimes. 

Food is an essential part of life and a central part of any culture. Japan is well known for its sushi, curries, soups, noodles, and more, and Japan’s penchant for courtesy and respect also plays a part in the country’s mealtime expressions.

Here are some Japanese vocabulary terms you can use during meal times.

1) Gohan (meal)

hiragana: ごはん kanji: 御飯

This term literally refers to the white rice that plays a big role in most meals. Over the years, it has become understood in context to refer to a meal in general.

2) Asagohan (breakfast)

hiragana: あさごはん kanji: 朝御飯

Asa literally means “morning.” You might recognize gohan from our first Japanese vocabulary word. When you combine the two, asagohan translates literally to “morning meal.”

3) Hirugohan (lunch)

hiragana: ひるごはん kanji: 昼御飯

Just as asa means morning, hiru means noon. So hirugohan literally means “noontime meal.”

4) Bangohan (dinner)

hiragana: ばんごはん kanji: 晩御飯]

By now you may have already guessed that ban means “evening.” So yes, bangohan means exactly what you’d think – “evening meal.”

5) Itadakimasu (Let’s eat!)

hiragana: いただきます kanji: 頂きます

This is a traditional phrase to say before you eat; it’s almost like saying bon appetit in French.

6) Gochisou sama deshita (What a feast!)

hiragana: ごちそうさまでした kanji:

The literal translation for gochisou sama deshita is “What a feast.” Figuratively, however, it’s a way to say, “Thank you for the food,” or “What a great meal!”

It’s generally considered polite to wait for everyone and say, “Let’s eat”; but it’s also polite to recognize the cook’s hard work. If you have ever tried Japanese food, or observed a Japanese cook at work, you may already have an appreciation for his or her way of doing things.

7) Taberu (to eat)

hiragana: たべる kanji: 食べる

You may have noticed that many of the mealtime phrases that include verbs end in –masu, while this verb in its given form ends in -ru. This is because taberu is the dictionary form, while other phrases have been conjugated into a more typical present-tense format.

The -masu form of taberu is tabemasu. To say “I am/you are/we are/they are eating breakfast,” you could say:

Asagohan o tabemasu. (Romaji)
あさごはんをたべます。(Hiragana)
朝御飯を食べます。(Kanji)

In most cases, you don’t conjugate Japanese verbs according to subject. You can also leave out pronouns, for the most part, since the intended pronoun is generally understood from context.

Among friends or peers, you can simplify the verb by using the dictionary form, but stay on the safe side and use the -masu form the majority of the time.

8) (O)cha (tea)

hiragana: (お)ちゃ kanji: (お)茶

Tea is one of the most widespread and common drinks in Japan. The Japanese have also developed very elaborate tea ceremonies as part of their traditions and culture.

The optional “o” at the beginning is a title of respect – rather appropriately, since tea is a respectable drink.

9) Nomu (to drink)

hiragana: のむ kanji: 飲む

Like taberu, nomu is the dictionary form.

The masu form is nomimasu (hiragana: のみます kanji: 飲みます).

So to say “(Someone is) drinking tea,” you could say:

Ocha o nomimasu. (Romaji)
おちゃをのみます。(Hiragana)
お茶を飲みます。(Kanji)

10) (O)hashi (chopsticks)

hiragana: (お)はし kanji: (お)箸

Like tea, chopsticks can be referred to in a more formal or respectful fashion by adding “o” () to the beginning.

11) Chawan (tea cup)

hiragana: ちゃわん kanji: 茶碗

Traditional Japanese teacups are simple, but difficult to create. They are very artistic; the potter must use techniques and materials to allow the inner spirit of the piece to emerge. Take a closer look next time you enjoy a cup of tea!

 

Japanese Meal Vocabulary: Let's eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Japanese

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Along with these words, make sure you learn appropriate Japanese etiquette for meal times. Try using these words when you go out to eat or sit down for a meal with family and friends. Consistent practice with a private Japanese tutor will help you improve your speaking skills.

If you’re not sure if Japanese lessons are right for you, try TakeLessons Live, and sign up for a free 30-day trial to learn Japanese and other languages.

vocabulary to describe japanese family members

Japanese Vocabulary: 18 Words to Describe Your Family

Learning how to talk to and describing your family in Japanese is an essential part of expanding your vocabulary and improving your conversational skills.

When it comes to family, the Japanese language is more precise than English because it accounts for relative age. There are also alternate terms to address a member of another person’s family, versus your own.

Are you ready to continue learning how to speak Japanese with these necessary vocabulary words for family? If so, you’ve come to the right place.

How to Say “Family” in Japanese & More!

Here are some of the most important Japanese vocabulary words to describe your family members. Take note of how the Japanese language really reflects the importance of family, hierarchy, and respect.

Japanese Vocabulary to Describe Family and Relatives

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Japanese Vocabulary Terms for Family & Relatives

Kazoku – “Family” in Japanese

  • Kanji: 家族  //  Hiragana: かぞく

You can use this term to talk about your family or someone else’s family in Japanese.

Haha – “Mother”; Okaasan – Someone Else’s Mother

  • Kanji: 母  // Hiragana: はは
  • Kanji: お母さん  //  Hiragana: おかあさん

Pay attention to which Japanese vocabulary word you use in which circumstance. When you’re talking about another person’s mother, it’s disrespectful (and rude) to call them haha (はは).

Chichi – “Father”; Otosan – Someone Else’s Father

  • Kanji: 父  //  Hiragana: ちち
  • Kanji: お父さん  //  Hiragana: おとおさん

Just like okaasan and  haha, be sure to use the correct term in the correct situation to avoid sounding rude when talking about family in Japanese.

Sobo – “Grandmother”; Obaasan – Someone Else’s Grandmother

  • Kanji: 祖母  //  Hiragana: そぼ
  • Kanji: お婆さん  //  Hiragana: おばあさん

In addition to describing another person’s grandmother, obaasan is also a term of respect for older women. It doesn’t matter whether or not the woman has children or grandchildren; the term can still be used.

Sofu – “Grandfather”; Ojiisan – Someone Else’s Grandfather

  • Kanji: 祖父  //  Hiragana: そふ
  • Kanji: お爺さん  //  Hiragana: おじいさん)

Similarly to obaasan (おばあさん), ojiisan (おじいさん) can be used to talk about someone else’s grandfather, or to address an elderly (respected) man, regardless of whether or not he has any children. (We told you talking about family in Japanese was more complex than in English!)

SEE ALSO: 8 Essential Japanese Greetings and Japanese Honorifics (Name suffixes and prefixes)

Ani – “Big Brother”; Oniisan – Someone Else’s Older Brother

  • Kanji: 兄  //  Hiragana: あに
  • Kanji: お兄さん  //  Hiragana: おにいさん

The main difference in the respectful form (for someone else’s older brother) and the familiar form (for your own older brother) is the beginning vowels. The vowel at the end of the respectful form is longer, and the addition of the respectful form of address -san (-さん).

Remember that for Japanese vowels, a long vowel doesn’t mean that the pronunciation changes. It simply means that the vowel sound takes longer to say.

Ane – “Big Sister”; Oneesan – Someone Else’s Older Sister

  • Hiragana: あね
  • Kanji: お姉さん  //  Hiragana: おねえさん

The difference between the respectful and familiar forms of older sister are similar to the differences between the respectful and familiar forms of older brother. The respectful form has a longer vowel at the end and calls for the respectful address (san さん).

If you have older siblings, you may want to show respect when you address them. If you want to talk about how old family members are, you will need to learn how to count in Japanese. This infographic can help you learn the Japanese numbers 1 – 10.

Otouto – “Little Brother”

  • Kanji: 弟  //  Hiragana: おとおと

The word is the same in this case, just add -san (-さん) to show respect when you’re talking about someone else’s younger brother. Fortunately, not all the words for family in Japanese are complex.

Imouto – “Little Sister”

  • Kanji: 妹  //  Hiragana: いもおと

As in the case of otouto, just be sure to add -san (-さん) if you’re talking about someone else’s younger sister.

Oba – “Aunt”

  • Kanji: 伯母 (If she is older than parents)
  • Kanji: 叔母  //  Hiragana: おば (Younger than parents)

The pronunciation for aunt is very close to the word for grandmother. The primary difference is that the ending “a” vowel is long for obaasan (おばあさん) or “grandmother” and standard length for obasan (おばさん) or “aunt.” Add -san (-さん) to show respect when you are talking about someone else’s aunt.

Oji – “Uncle”

  • Kanji: 伯父 (Older than parents)
  • Kanji: 叔父  //  Hiragana: おじ (Younger than parents)

The pronunciation for uncle is very close to the pronunciation for grandfather. The primary distinction lies in the short vowel for ojisan (おじ さん) or “uncle” and the long vowel for ojiisan ( おじいさん) or “grandfather.” Add -san (-さん) for respect when you are talking about someone else’s uncle.

Giri No – “In-law”

  • Kanji: 義理の  //  Hiragana: ぎりの

If you want to talk about a younger sister in law,  you would say “giri-no imouto.” If you want to talk about your friend’s father in law, you would say “____-san no giri no otosan,” (____さんのぎりのおとおさん). Just fill in the blank with your friend’s name.

Now that you know how to talk about your family in Japanese, you’re off to a great start! What other Japanese vocabulary words would you like to learn? Let us know in the comments below!

Want to improve your Japanese-speaking skills even more? Find a Japanese tutor near you today, or try Japanese group classes with TakeLessons Live.