There are a bunch of ways to say “Excuse me” in Japanese.
The main ways to say it are:
Which word you will need depends on if you are saying “excuse me” to get someone’s attention, to apologise for any reason, to express sorrow, or for something else entirely.
Depending on the situation and the level of politeness required, a different expression may be necessary.
This guide explores how to say “excuse me” in Japanese. Entries are coupled with explanations, examples and audio pronunciation clips for your reference.
How to say Excuse Me in Japanese
The phrase “Excuse Me” can be translated into several ways in Japanese, depending on the context and the level of politeness required.
One of the most useful expressions you can use is すみません (sumimasen).
The Best Way to Say Excuse Me in Japanese
すみません (sumimasen) is the most common and versatile way to say “excuse me” in Japanese. You can use it to apologise, to get someone’s attention, to ask for help, and a lot more!
It’s a polite and formal expression that can be used in most situations.
Depending on the context, it can be translated as “I’m sorry,” “Excuse me,” “Thank you,” or “Pardon me”.
Apologising with Excuse Me in Japanese
The most common use of すみません (sumimasen) is to apologise. Japanese culture places a high value on politeness and humility, making apologies an essential part of communication.
You can use すみません (sumimasen) in situations, such as:
When you bump into someone on the street.
When you’re late for an appointment.
When you make a mistake at work or school.
When you receive bad news or upsetting information.
Remember to use a polite tone and bow slightly when apologizing. You can also add ごめんなさい (gomen nasai), meaning, “I’m sorry” for added emphasis (we’ll cover this word in depth, later)!
Getting Someone’s Attention with Excuse Me in Japanese
Another common use of すみません (sumimasen) is to get someone’s attention.
It’s similar to saying “Excuse me” in English and can be used in many situations, such as:
When you want to ask for directions.
When you need help in a store or restaurant.
When you want to order something.
When you’re trying to get past someone in a crowded area.
Use a polite tone and make eye contact when using すみません (sumimasen) to get someone’s attention.
You can then follow it up with what you want to say.
Excuse me, I want to go to [place] but, I don’t know the way. すみません、[place]にいきたいんですけど、道がわかりません。 sumimasen, [place] ni ikitaindesukedo, michi ga wakarimasen.
When you don’t know the way in Japanese, you can use this phrase to someone to ask them for help. Replace [place] with the place you want to go.
You can also add ちょっといいですか (chotto ii desu ka), meaning, “may I ask you something?”to add a little more respect.
Expressing Gratitude with すみません (sumimasen)
While less common, “sumimasen” can also be used to express gratitude. In this case, it’s similar to saying “Thank you” in English and is used when someone has done something kind or helpful for you. For example:
When someone gives you directions or helps you find something.
When someone holds the door open for you.
When someone gives you a gift or pays for your meal.
Of course, you can follow it up with ありがとうございます (arigatou gozaimasu), which means “thank you very much” in Japanese.
Other Uses of すみません (sumimasen)
すみません (sumimasen) has several other uses beyond saying “excuse me”, apologising, getting someone’s attention, and expressing gratitude. Here are a few examples:
Asking for permission:
Excuse me, may I use the restroom? すみません、トイレを使ってもいいですか？ sumimasen, toire o tsukatte mo ii desu ka?
Declining an offer:
Excuse me, I’m afraid I can’t make it… すみません、もし分けございませんが、ちょっと… sumimasen, moshiwake gozaimasen ga, chotto…
Excuse me, I’m afraid I need to go now. すみません、それじゃ、失礼します。 sumimasen, sore ja, shitsureishimasu.
Asking for clarification:
Excuse me, can you repeat that? すみません、もう一度お願いします。 sumimasen, mou ichido onegaishimasu.
That must be difficult for you, I’m sorry.
残念なことですね。すみません。 zannen na koto desu ne, sumimasen.
Remember that すみません (sumimasen) is a polite and formal word. In casual situations, you may want to use “gomen” or “gomen ne” instead, which are more casual ways of saying “I’m sorry” or “Excuse me.” More on saying “Excuse me” in casual Japanese later on down!
Common Mistakes to Avoid
While すみません (sumimasen) is a useful and versatile word, there are a few common mistakes you should avoid. Here are some tips to help you use it correctly:
Don’t Overuse It
すみません (sumimasen) can be translated as “I’m sorry,” “Excuse me,” “Thank you,” or “Pardon me,” but that doesn’t mean you should use it in every situation. Overusing this word can make you sound insincere or overly formal. Use it only when necessary and appropriate. Try thanking the other person, instead!
Use the Right Tone and Bow
When using すみません (sumimasen) to apologise or get someone’s attention, combine it with the right tone and bow slightly.
Dogen, who I’ve linked below has a very comedic, yet informative video that explains how to bow in Japan.
Know When to Use “Gomen” Instead
While すみません (sumimasen) is a polite and formal word, ごめん (gomen) is a more casual way of saying “I’m sorry” or “Excuse me.” If you’re in a casual setting, it may be better to use this word instead of すみません (sumimasen).
Excuse Me in Japanese Casual
“Gomen nasai” is, in general, a more casual way to say “Excuse me” in Japanese. It’s often used between friends, family members, or in informal situations.
However, it can also be used to apologise in more formal situations, such as in a business setting.
In Japanese culture, apologising is a crucial part of social etiquette. Japanese people are taught to apologise even for small mistakes or inconveniences caused to others.
Saying “ごめんなさい” (Gomen nasai) is a way of showing respect and acknowledging the other person’s feelings.
For example, if you accidentally bump into someone on the street, you can say “すみません” (Sumimasen), which means “excuse me” or “I’m sorry”.
Or you can say “ごめんなさい” (Gomen nasai), which also expresses a similar thing, with added emphasis on the acknowledgement of the other person.
The Meaning of ごめんなさい (Gomen Nasai)
In other words, in Japanese, “ごめんなさい” (Gomen nasai) is a phrase used to apologise for one’s actions or words.
The word “ごめん” (Gomen) means “sorry,” while “なさい” (nasai) is a polite imperative form that means “please do” or “please say.” So, “ごめんなさい” (Gomen nasai) literally translates to “please say sorry” or “please apologise.”
To make the phrase very casual, you can drop the なさい (nasai), and say ごめん (gomen).
However, keep in mind that you should only use strictly casual version of the phrase with friends and family members.
How to Use ごめんなさい (Gomen Nasai)
When You Are Late
In Japan, punctuality is highly valued.
If you’re running late for something, after arriving you can say “遅れてごめんなさい” (Okurete gomen nasai), which means “Excuse me for being late.”
When You Forget Something
When you forget something important and feel you may have caused inconvenience to others, you can apologise sincerely by saying: “大切なことを忘れてしまって、ごめんなさい” (Taisetsu na koto wo wasurete shimatte, gomen nasai), which means “I’m sorry for forgetting something important.”
It’s important to note that in the above example the “something” refers to an intangible thing.
To refer to a physical object you have forgotten replace こと (koto), with もの (mono). This would make it:
I’m sorry for forgetting something important.
taisetsu na mono wo wasurete shimatte, gomen nasai.
Apologising for Causing Inconvenience
If you feel your actions or words have caused inconvenience or trouble to others, you can apologise and say:
You can say “ご迷惑をおかけして、ごめんなさい” (Gomeiwaku wo okake shte, gomen nasai), which means “Excuse me/I’m sorry for causing inconvenience.”
How to say Please Excuse Me in Japanese
失礼します (shitsurei shimasu) is a formal expression that can be translated as “Excuse Me for being rude”.
It’s used to apologise for any inconvenience caused by your actions or to politely excuse yourself from a conversation or a meeting.
What Does 失礼します (shitsurei shimasu) mean?
The phrase 失礼します (shitsurei shimasu) is commonly translated as “excuse me” or “I’m sorry for interrupting.”
However, its meaning is much broader than that.
失礼 (shitsurei) can be translated as “rudeness” or “impoliteness,” while します (shimasu) is a polite form of the verb する (suru), which means “to do.”
Therefore, “Shitsurei shimasu” can be translated as “I am being rude by interrupting” or “I am being impolite by doing this.”
How to Use 失礼します (shitsurei shimasu)
失礼します (shitsurei shimasu) can be used in various situations to show politeness and respect for others. Here are some of the most common situations where you may wish to use it:
Entering and leaving someone’s home
In Japan, it is customary to take off your shoes before entering someone’s home.
When entering a house, it is common to say 失礼します (shitsurei shimasu) to let the host know that you are entering their space.
Similarly, when leaving someone’s home, it is common to say 失礼します (shitsurei shimasu) to let the host know that you are leaving.
This may also apply to the workplace. When you finish work and are about to leave the office for the day, you may say 失礼します (shitsurei shimasu) to announce that you are leaving.
It’s similar to saying “please excuse me” in English.
In Japanese culture, interrupting someone without saying 失礼します (shitsurei shimasu) is considered rude.
Therefore, if you need to interrupt someone, it is polite to say 失礼します (shitsurei shimasu) before doing so.
This shows that you are aware that you are interrupting and that you are doing so politely.
Ending a Phone Call
You can also use 失礼します (shitsurei shimasu) before you hang up a phone call.
In English we may say “good bye” when finishing up a call, however in Japanese it’s more common to use 失礼します (shitsurei shimasu).
Simply say the phrase before you hang up, just as you would when you say “good bye” in English.
When You Leave Work
When work is done for the day in Japan, before leaving the office, it’s common to say 失礼します (shitsurei shimasu) to announce you are done and are leaving.
You say this expression when you leave as you are leaving before everyone else who is still in the workplace. You are essentially expressing that you are sorry for being rude and leaving early.
Cultural significance of 失礼します (shitsurei shimasu)
失礼します (shitsurei shimasu) is one of the many phrases that exemplifies this cultural value. By using this phrase, one is acknowledging the other person’s space, time, and feelings.
It is a way of showing that you are aware of your actions and their impact on others.
More Polite Ways to Say Excuse Me in Japanese
ちょっと失礼します (chotto shitsurei shimasu) is an even more polite way to say “Excuse Me in Japanese than just 失礼します (shitsurei shimasu).
It’s often used when you need to leave a conversation or a meeting temporarily or when you need to interrupt someone briefly.
Literal Translation of the Phrase
ちょっと失礼します (chotto shitsurei shimasu) is a polite Japanese phrase that is used to excuse oneself when interrupting someone or to ask for permission before doing something.
The literal translation of the phrase is “I’m sorry for being rude,” or “I apologize for the inconvenience.”
Figurative Meaning of the Phrase
The figurative meaning of this expression is more nuanced and goes beyond its literal translation.
The phrase expresses humility, respect, and consideration for others. It is used to acknowledge that one’s actions may be inconvenient or bothersome to others and to ask for permission or forgiveness in a polite and respectful manner.
How to Use It
ちょっと失礼します (chotto shitsurei shimasu) can be used in various situations to express politeness and respect.
For example, when interrupting someone during a conversation, you can say it to excuse yourself and ask for permission to speak.
In a business meeting or formal setting, the phrase can be used to ask for permission before leaving the room or to apologise for any inconvenience caused.
Common Misunderstandings and Mistakes
Linguistic and Cultural Barriers
Non-Japanese speakers may find it challenging to use ちょっと失礼します (chotto shitsurei shimasu) correctly due to linguistic and cultural barriers.
Like 失礼します (shitsurei shimasu), the phrase has no direct equivalent in other languages, and its usage can be difficult to understand without a thorough understanding of Japanese culture and social etiquette.
Excuse Me in Japanese: お邪魔します (Ojama shimasu)
お邪魔します (ojama shimasu) is a polite expression that can be translated as “Excuse me for intruding”.
You use it when you enter someone’s house, office, or personal space.
It’s a way to show respect and ask for permission to enter.
What does お邪魔します (ojama shimasu) mean?
お邪魔します (ojama shimasu) is a polite Japanese phrase that can be translated to “I am interrupting” or “I am intruding.”
The word お邪魔 (ojama) means interruption or disturbance, while します (shimasu) is a polite form of the verb する (suru)”, which means “to do”.
How To Use お邪魔します (ojama shimasu)
In Japanese culture, お邪魔します (ojama shimasu) is a polite phrase that is commonly used when entering someone’s home or office.
It is a way to acknowledge that you are entering someone else’s personal space and that you may be causing a disturbance.
When using お邪魔します (ojama shimasu) it is common to follow it up with a greeting or introduction.
For example, if you are visiting someone’s home, you may begin with お邪魔します (ojama shimasu),meaning “excuse me for interrupting”, before introducing yourself and your name.
To reiterate, in Japanese culture, respect and politeness are highly valued, and お邪魔します (ojama shimasu) is a reflection of this.
By acknowledging that you are interrupting or disturbing someone, you are showing respect for their time and space.
Summary of How to Say Excuse Me in Japanese
Knowing when to use each phrase is essential to avoid any confusion or miscommunication. Here are some guidelines to help you choose the right expression:
Use it to apologize for any inconvenience caused.
Use it to get someone’s attention politely.
Use it to ask for help or information.
ごめんなさい (Gomen nasai)
Use it to apologize to friends, family members, or in casual situations.
Use it to apologize for minor mistakes or misunderstandings.
失礼します (Shitsurei shimasu)
Use it to excuse yourself politely from a conversation or a meeting.
Use it to apologize for any rude behavior or interruption.
Use it to end a phone call.
ちょっと失礼します (Chotto shitsurei shimasu)
Use it to interrupt someone briefly.
Use it to excuse yourself temporarily from a conversation or a meeting.
お邪魔します (Ojama shimasu)
Use it to show respect and ask for permission to enter someone’s house, office, or personal space.
Learning Japanese can be a challenge for English speakers due to several factors, including the writing system, pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary.
However, there are many benefits English speakers will notice, too!
The post-beginner to pre-intermediate stages of Japanese language learning is hands down the most difficult part of the process.
Despite looking intimidating, learning the most used Japanese script, or alphabet; hiragana, actually takes a lot less time than you might think, even if you only know English.
In fact, as a native English speaker who only knew English, I was able to come to grips with it in under a few hours.
It’s when you hit the post beginner stage when things start to become challenging, mainly because of grammar.
However, once you develop a basic understanding of how the Japanese language works, the intermediate stages and beyond become a lot easier.
So with that said, let’s take a look at precisely how hard learning Japanese is for English speakers!
Why the Japanese Alphabet is Hard For English Speakers
One of the most significant challenges when learning Japanese is the writing system.
Unlike the English writing system which uses a single alphabet with 26 letters, the Japanese writing system consists of three different writing systems, Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji.
The Hardest Part of Japanese For English Speakers – Kanji
Kanji are Chinese characters that have been adopted into the Japanese language.
There are over 2,000 commonly used kanji, and they are used for nouns, verbs, and adjectives.
Each kanji represents a concept or idea, rather than a sound.
For example, the kanji for “tree” represents the idea of a tree, rather than the sound of the word “tree.”
Chinese speakers will find that they have a massive advantage with kanji..
While Chinese speakers may not be able to read the characters in Japanese, they will be able to deduce the meaning of words without much difficulty at all.
For English speakers on the other hand, because of how different they are to English, and the sheer quantity of them, kanji is hands down the most difficult part of the Japanese writing system to learn.
Some people may question if they really need to learn kanji, and while that does depend on your goals with the language, I highly recommend at least getting the basics down.
Hiragana is a phonetic script that is used for Japanese words that do not have a corresponding kanji, as well as for verb conjugation and grammatical particles.
There are 46 basic hiragana characters, and each one represents a syllable. For example, the character あ represents the sound “a.”
The Easiest Part of Japanese For English Speakers- Katakana
Katakana is another phonetic script that is used for loanwords, foreign names, and onomatopoeia.
It has the same basic characters as hiragana, but they are written in a different style. Katakana is often used in advertisements and signage to make words stand out.
Katakana & The Advantage as an English Speaker
While Kanji is where English speakers may struggle the most, katakana is where English speakers will notice they have an advantage (even over Chinese speakers)!
This is because a hefty number of katakana words are words that have been borrowed from the English language.
The reverse is also true; there are many words that have been borrowed from the Japanese language into English.
For instance words such as “karaoke, karate, sushi, ramen, anime, and manga” are all Japanese words.
Katakana is essentially the opposite of this. Let’s take a look at a few.
サッカー (sakka) means soccer/football.
ケーキ (ke-ki) means Cake.
レストラン (resutoran) means restaurant.
マクドナルド (makudonarudo) means Mcdonalds.
コンピューター (conpu-ta-) means computer.
It may take you a moment to work out what word is written, but you will notice a huge advantage understanding the meaning of these words as an English speaker.
There are also katakana words that have been taken from other countries and languages too.
パンツ (pantsu) – means “pants”, which is the word for underwear in British English.
アルバイト (arubaito) – means “part-time job”, which is derived from the German word.
ノルマ (noruma) – means “quota” which is derived from the Russian word.
Differences Between Japanese and English Writing
Phonetics vs. Logograms
One of the most significant differences between the Japanese and English writing systems is the use of phonetic scripts versus logograms.
English uses the Latin alphabet, which is a phonetic script. Each letter represents a sound, and words are formed by combining these sounds. Japanese, on the other hand, uses kanji, which are logograms.
To reiterate what I mentioned earlier, each kanji represents an idea or concept, rather than a sound. This means that Japanese words cannot be sounded out in the same way as English words.
Syllables vs. Letters
Another difference between Japanese and English is the way that words are broken down into units.
English words are made up of letters, which are combined to form syllables.
In Japanese, words are made up of syllables, which are represented by hiragana and katakana characters.
English words are separated by spaces, which makes it easy to distinguish where one word ends and another begins.
Japanese, however, does not use spaces between words. Instead, kanji are used to separate words in written text.
Learning the Japanese Alphabets as an English Speaker
Learning the Japanese writing system can be a daunting task, but it absolutely can be done as an English speaker. It doesn’t take long to learn the basics, either!
Here are some tips for learning the three scripts:
Start with Hiragana
Hiragana is the most basic of the three scripts, and it is used for almost everything in Japanese. Start by learning the 46 basic characters and then move on to kanji.
Oh, and avoid romaji completely!
Learn Kanji in Context
Kanji can be overwhelming, but it is important to learn them in context. Start by learning the kanji for the words you use most frequently, and then build from there.
Use mnemonics to assist with remembering the kanji. I strongly recommend taking a look at Hesig’s method.
Flashcards are a great tool for learning kanji. One that I have been using consistently for years is Anki I cannot recommend it enough.
Anki is a free digital flashcard application that incorporates SRS.
It has been one of my most powerful tools to help me remember and learn vocabulary and grammar.
Take it Slow
Learning the Japanese writing system takes time, so be patient with yourself. Don’t try to learn everything at once; instead, focus on one script at a time.
Learning all three writing systems can seem overwhelming, especially since kanji has thousands of characters.
However, the three alphabets do flow together very well.
Getting the hang of how the Japanese writing system works can take some time as an English speaker.
Yet, you’ll soon realise how hiragana, katakana and kanji work together.
Japanese pronunciation can be challenging for English speakers because of how different it can be from English.
Particularly, Japanese has five vowel sounds, which are pronounced differently than in English.
Take a listen how you pronounce the vowels in Japanese!
Additionally, there are many Japanese sounds that don’t exist in English, such as the “tsu” sound.
I strongly recommend taking a look at Dogen’s videos on YouTube.
He goes over in depth the differences between English and Japanese pronunciation/pitch accent.
He also covers the most common mistakes English speakers make when learning Japanese that make them sound unnatural.
Intonation Can be a Challenge For English Natives
Japanese has a unique pitch accent system that can pose a challenge to English speakers.
The pitch accent system involves placing emphasis on specific syllables in a word to change its meaning.
For example, the word “hashi” can mean “bridge” or “chopsticks,” depending on the pitch of the syllables.
The first syllable has a high pitch, while the second syllable has a low pitch when it means “bridge”.
In contrast, the second syllable has a high pitch when it means “chopsticks.”
Japanese pronunciation is also characterised by the use of consonant clusters and the elongation of vowels.
Again, take a look at Dogen on YouTube who covers this topic in immense detail.
How Hard is Japanese Grammar For English Speakers?
One of the most difficult aspects of Japanese learning for English speakers is without a doubt, the grammar.
Japanese vs English Sentence Structure
Let’s begin with sentence structure. In English, we typically use subject-verb-object word order, such as “I eat sushi.”
In Japanese, however, the word order is typically subject-object-verb, such as “I sushi eat.”
This can take some getting used to for English speakers, but it becomes more natural with practice.
Japanese & English Verb Tenses
In English, we have a wide variety of verb tenses to convey different meanings, such as past, present, and future.
In Japanese, however, there are only two verb tenses: present/future and past.
Instead of relying on verb tenses to convey time, Japanese uses context and particles (small words that indicate the function of a word in a sentence) to convey the time frame of an action.
Speaking of particles, they are a key part of Japanese grammar and can take some time to master.
Particles are small words that attach to other words to indicate their grammatical function in a sentence.
For example, the particle “は” (wa) is used to indicate the subject of a sentence, while the particle “を” (wo) is used to indicate the object.
There are many different particles used in Japanese, each with their own unique function.
In English, we use pronouns such as “I,” “you,” and “they” to refer to people and things.
In Japanese, however, pronouns are often omitted and instead the person or thing being referred to is indicated by the context of the sentence.
For example, instead of saying “I am going to the store”, in Japanese you might say ” 買い物に行きます (kaimono ni ikimasu), meaning “I go to the store”, with the context indicating that the speaker is the one going to the store.
This may take some getting used to for English speakers, but after some practice, it actually feels very logical and natural.
This does mean though that most of the time when you wish to call out to, or address someone in Japanese, you will need to use their name!
The Japanese language does have words for “you”, however they are extremely nuanced words. You should definitely be careful with using words such as “anata”, which is the most common term that dictionaries will show you.
This is because this is a word that is often used when speaking to your significant other.
In Japanese, verbs often end in a variety of endings depending on the function of the verb in the sentence.
For example, the endingます (-masu) is used to indicate a polite form of a verb, such as 食べます (tabemasu) meaning “to eat”.
Verbs ending with ている (teiru) is used to indicate the “-ing” form of a verb, such as 食べている (tabeteiru), meaning “eating”.
Remembering how verbs conjugate can take some getting used to for English speakers, but with practice, it becomes easier to understand.
While there are only two tenses in Japanese, there are a lot of different forms.
The te-form is one of the first you will learn. Once you’ve got the general gist of how the forms work down, Japanese grammar becomes significantly easier to digest in my experience.
Here are some examples:
The passive form.
The conditional form which is used to express “if” statements in Japanese.
The causative form which is used to indicate that someone is causing something to happen.
The te-form is used to indicate a sequence of actions, to connect clauses, to make requests, and more.
The potential form is used to indicate the ability to do something.
The conditional perfect form is used to express hypothetical situations that could have happened in the past.
Honorific forms of verbs.
How Hard is Japanese Vocabulary For English Speakers?
Japanese vocabulary can be challenging for English speakers because some words may not be easily rendered into English.
Japanese has many words that don’t have an English equivalent, such as もったいない (mottainai), which means something along the lines of “a sense of regret concerning waste.”
Another common one is よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu).
IT has many intertwined meanings. Therefore, you can use this phrase to say anything along the lines of:
nice to meet you.
Understanding Japanese Words and Meanings
There are a lot of words in Japanese that, when put in the dictionary, will give the same English definition. I’ve mentioned this earlier using the Japanese word for “heart” as an example, but it goes beyond this, too.
Remembering and becoming familiar with them all can be a challenge for some.
In Japanese, plurals indicate that there is more than one of something.
However, unlike in English, Japanese plurals do not involve changing the form of the noun itself.
Instead, there are certain patterns that are used to indicate plurality.
Basic Japanese plurals
One common way to form Japanese plurals is by adding the suffix たち (tachi) to the end of a noun.
For example, 子供 (kodomo) means “child”, but by adding たち (tachi) to the end, you get 子供たち (kodomotachi), which means “children”.
Similarly, 学生 (gakusei) means “student”, but adding たち (tachi) results in 学生たち (gakuseitachi), meaning “students”.
Irregular Japanese plurals
Not all Japanese plurals follow the たち (tachi) pattern, however.
Some words have irregular plurals that you simply have to memorise.
For example, 人 (hito) means “person,” but the plural form is 人々 (hitobito), which also means “people.”
Other times, some don’t even require any modification at all.
For example, 本 (hon) means “book,” but the plural form is also 本 (hon), meaning “books.”
Counters in Japanese
Another way to indicate plurality in Japanese is by using counters.
Counters are words that are used with nouns to indicate quantity. For example, if you want to specify “one book” in Japanese, you would say 一冊の本 (issatsu no hon).
Here, the counter for books is 冊 (satsu), which is used after the number.
Similarly, if you want to say “three friends” in Japanese, you would say 三人の友達 (san nin no tomodachi). Here, 人 (nin) is the counter for people, and it is also used after the number.
Differences between Japanese and English plurals
As mentioned earlier, Japanese plurals do not change form based on singular or plural.
This is because there are no grammatical articles in Japanese like “a” or “the.” Instead, context and other particles are used to indicate whether a noun is singular or plural.
.For example, if you say “I have one book” in Japanese, you would say 私は本が一冊あります (watashi wa hon ga issatsu arimasu).
Here, the particle が (ga) indicates that “book” is the subject of the sentence, and the counter 一冊 (issatsu) indicates that there is only one book.
Japanese Honorifics Can Be Difficult!
One aspect of Japanese that can be particularly challenging for English speakers to grasp is the use of honorifics, which are titles or suffixes used to show respect and politeness when addressing or referring to others.
Understanding Japanese Honorifics
Japanese honorifics are a fundamental part of the language and are used to indicate the social status, relationship, and level of formality between the speaker and the listener.
There are two main types of honorifics: formal and informal.
As the names suggest, formal honorifics are typically used in more formal or professional situations, while informal honorifics are used in casual or familiar settings.
There are many different types of honorifics used in Japanese, including suffixes that are added to names, titles that are used before or after a person’s name, and expressions that are used to show respect or gratitude.
Some common honorifics include “san,” which is a general honorific used to address people in formal or business settings, “sama,” which is a more respectful and formal honorific used to address someone with higher status, and “chan,” which is a more informal and affectionate honorific used to address children, close friends, or pets.
You attach these honorifics to a person’s name. For instance customers in Japan are generally referred to as 客様 (kyaku sama), which can be understood as meaning “sir/madam customer”.
The use of honorifics in Japanese can be quite complex, and it is important to understand the appropriate context and level of formality for each situation.
For example, using the wrong honorific or using a formal honorific in an informal setting can be seen as disrespectful or inappropriate.
Honorifics and Japanese Culture
Honorifics are not just a linguistic feature of Japanese, but are deeply rooted in the country’s culture and social norms.
In daily life, honorifics are used to show respect and politeness to others, and are an important part of Japanese etiquette.
In business and work settings, honorifics are used to show respect for colleagues, superiors, and clients, and are considered essential for building professional relationships.
Honorifics also play an important role in Japanese media and entertainment.
For example, in anime and manga, honorifics are often used to convey character personalities and relationships, and can be an important part of understanding the story and dialogue.
Challenges in Learning Japanese Honorifics
Learning Japanese honorifics can be challenging for English speakers due to the complex system of different levels of politeness and formality applied in different situations, as well as the differences in honorifics across regions and generations.
Additionally, it can be difficult to learn the appropriate context for using honorifics, as the rules can vary depending on the speaker’s relationship with the listener and the level of formality required.
Japanese honorific words are often completely new words entirely.
This means that you wont be conjugating words you’ve already learned, but in regards to the vocabulary, it’s almost like having to learn a whole new language within a language.
So, Is Japanese Hard to Learn for English Speakers?
Learning the Japanese language gets easier the more you progress your ability. In my opinion, Japanese language learning at the beginner stage is when it’s the hardest.
As you become more proficient at the language and break into the intermediate levels, you will notice that a lot of Japanese grammar is just a repeat of “form conjugation + grammar point”.
With that said, as an English speaker, your biggest advantage will be with understanding katakana, and your biggest disadvantage will be with kanji and wrapping your head around the sentence structure which is often very different to English.
If you’re planning to learn Japanese or have already begun your studies, you will come across Kanji, the logographic system of writing used in the Japanese language.
With over tens of thousands of them, it’s only natural to wonder whether learning all those Kanji is necessary for mastering the language.
To answer that question immediately, skipping learning kanji is like skipping leg day at the gym. Kanji is a core part of the Japanese language.
By skipping it, you’re going to develop an imbalance in the body of your language ability.
It may hinder your progress towards becoming proficient in the language (and even in spoken Japanese). Let’s take a look at why, starting with the basics.
Japanese & Kanji
Learning a new language is a challenging but rewarding experience, and Japanese is no exception.
The language has a unique writing system that includes Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana. Among these, Kanji is perhaps the most challenging part of the Japanese language for learners.
Kanji consists of Chinese characters that represent words, ideas, or meanings.
Although there are more than 50,000 kanji, only 2,136 are commonly used in modern Japanese. These are called the Jōyō kanji.
What are The Jōyō Kanji?
Jōyō Kanji refers to a list of 2,136 kanji that the Japanese government deems necessary for everyday use. The list was created in 1981 and revised in 2010 to include additional kanji that were not previously included.
The purpose of the list is to simplify the learning process for Japanese learners, especially non-native speakers.
The Jōyō Kanji list includes kanji used in official documents, newspapers, books, and other written materials. It is also used in schools to teach kanji to students. The list includes both traditional and simplified versions of kanji.
Do I Need to Learn Kanji? In a Nutshell
Kanji is an essential component of the Japanese language, and it’s impossible to master the language without learning Kanji.
Like I mentioned before, neglecting kanji is similar to neglecting leg day at the gym. It’s going to cause an imbalance in your proficiency.
Unlike Hiragana and Katakana, which are phonetic writing systems, Kanji represents words or ideas, making it a vital tool for communication in Japanese.
They also often have multiple readings and meanings, which can make them intimidating for people who are just getting started.
Kanji is used everywhere in Japan. You’ll find it extensively in written Japanese, including newspapers, books, and websites. Even in conversations, kanji can be used to clarify the meaning of a word or phrase.
To elaborate, if your main purpose for learning Japanese is solely to communicate with others via spoken conversations, then you can get by without learning kanji.
With that said, having knowledge of kanji can come in useful during conversations too.
For instance, if you’re having a conversation with someone and don’t know the meaning of a word, you could ask them to write down the kanji. If you know the characters, you will be able to deduce the meaning of a word much more easily.
While you don’t necessarily need to know kanji in order to communicate, learning them does come with massive advantages.
How Hard Is It to Learn Kanji?
Learning Kanji is undoubtedly a challenging task, especially for beginners.
Even with the governments Joyo Kanji list reducing the number to 2,136 characters, it can seem overwhelming, but it’s not impossible.
You absolutely don’t need to learn all 2136 to become proficient in Japanese, but the more you know, the more it will benefit you in the long run.
Kanji is a skill that requires time and dedication to master, and it’s best learned through consistent practice and exposure.
One way to make Kanji learning more manageable is to break it down into smaller components. Start by learning the basic radicals, which are the building blocks of Kanji characters.
Once you’ve mastered the radicals, move on to learning the most common Kanji characters used in everyday communication.
It’s also helpful to use mnemonics and other memory aids to remember Kanji characters.
For example, the Kanji character for “tree” (木) looks like a tree with its roots in the ground. By associating a visual image with the character, it becomes easier to remember.
If this method of learning sounds interesting to you, (it was the most fun for me), I strongly recommend taking a look at Hesig.
However, on average, it takes between 1 to 2 years of consistent study to learn the most commonly used Kanji characters. I studied for 10 minutes everyday and was able to learn the 2136 kanji in around 3 years.
It’s worth noting that learning Kanji is not a one-time process. To maintain your Kanji skills, you’ll need to continue practicing and reviewing Kanji characters regularly.
You will forget them if you don’t keep revising ones you’ve learnt. Try to avoid cramming too much into your head at once. Give yourself time to digest them.
Do Native Japanese Speakers Know All Kanji Characters?
No, even native Japanese speakers don’t know all Kanji characters. While they may have a more extensive Kanji vocabulary than a non-native speaker, they may still encounter unfamiliar Kanji characters from time to time.
It’s also worth noting that not all Kanji characters are equally important. Some characters are more commonly used in everyday communication, while others are more specialized and used in specific fields, such as medicine or law.
Some tools can make the learning process more manageable. One such tool is Furigana, a reading aid that displays Hiragana above or beside Kanji characters.
This helps learners read Kanji characters while they are still building their Kanji skills. Be careful not to become too overly reliant on furigana, though, as they aren’t used outside of study materials very much at all.
If your goal is to play games in Japanese though, you might be pleasantly surprised to learn that games sometimes do include Furigana in their text.
Another tool is Romaji, a system of writing Japanese words using the Latin alphabet. While Romaji can be helpful for beginners, it’s essential to note that it’s not commonly used in written Japanese.
Therefore, it’s not a long-term solution for learners who want to become proficient in the language. In fact, I recommend skipping romaji entirely and going straight to learning hiragana.
Advantages of Learning Kanji
Learning Kanji can be challenging, but it also has many benefits. Here are some of the ways that learning Kanji can enhance your Japanese learning experience:
Improved Reading and Writing Skills
One of the most obvious and significant advantages of learning Kanji is that it enhances your reading and writing skills in Japanese.
Kanji provides context and meaning to written communication, making it easier to understand complex texts.
Translation apps and resources are becoming better by the day, however Japan is largely still a paper-based society.
You will be getting paper postal mail, rather than emails, contracts in paper form rather than digital etc.
By learning Kanji, you will find that you’ll have a much easier time reading Japanese newspapers, books, and websites without relying on translations.
Deeper Understanding of Japanese Culture
Many Kanji characters have a cultural and historical significance in Japan. By learning Kanji, you can gain a deeper understanding of Japanese culture, traditions, and history.
Kanji is everywhere in Japan, and learning it will make travelling and exploring the country that more interesting for you when you can understand their meaning and significance.
Some kanji have very deep meanings that are unique to Japanese culture. Take the Japanese word for “soul”, for example. 魂 (tamashii).
This kanji has nuances attached to the word that are very different to the word for “soul” in the west. This word refers to a soul that can reincarnate, and can sometimes take on a physical form.
Improved Vocabulary and Comprehension Skills
Kanji characters often have multiple meanings and readings. Knowing Kanji will help you to deduce the meaning of words even if you can’t read them.
For example, the Japanese language has multiple words for “heart”. 心 (kokoro).
However you do not use this word when referring to your physical heart, but rather you use it when referring to some spiritual or mental.
For instance, when you want to say something like “from the bottom of my heart, thank you” in Japanese.
Furthermore, learning Kanji directly aids your ability to retain vocabulary and and make sense of grammar in Japanese.
As Japanese sentences dont contain spaces between words, it can be difficult to read a passage that is solely composed of hiragana.
Words that are written in kanji are more obvious that they are individual words
Enhances Career Opportunities
Learning Kanji can also enhance your career opportunities in Japan. Many job opportunities in Japan require proficiency in written and spoken Japanese, including knowledge of Kanji.
By learning Kanji, you can increase your chances of finding a job in Japan and enhance your career prospects.
To put it simply, if you want to become proficient in Japanese, you need to learn Kanji.
While it’s possible to communicate in Japanese without Kanji, you’ll be limiting your abilities to read, write, and understand the language.
Better Access to Japanese Resources
Many Japanese resources, such as books, websites, and newspapers, are written in Kanji. By learning Kanji, you can access a wider range of Japanese resources, which can help you improve your Japanese even further.
Many of the advanced Japanese learning materials are written in Japanese. Hence, understanding Kanji can be very useful and beneficial to improving other elements of language study.
How Many Kanji Do I Need to Know?
The number of Kanji you need to know depends on what your goals are with the Japanese language.
The JLPT consists of five levels, with level five being the easiest and level one being the most difficult.
To give you an idea of how many Kanji you need to know for each level, here’s a breakdown:
JLPT Level 5
Beginner Japanese is the easiest level and requires knowledge of approximately 100 Kanji characters.
JLPT Level 4
Lower-intermediate Japanese that requires knowledge of approximately 300 Kanji characters.
JLPT Level 3
Upper-intermediate Japanese that requires knowledge of approximately 600 Kanji characters.
JLPT Level 2
Business/advanced level Japanese that requires knowledge of approximately 1,000 Kanji characters.
JLPT Level 1
Proficient/fluent Japanese is the most difficult level and requires knowledge of approximately 2,000 Kanji characters.
Keep in mind that these numbers are only estimates, and the actual number of Kanji you need to know may vary depending on your goals and level of proficiency.
So, How Important is Kanji?
Learning Kanji is a core part of Japanese, and therefore is necessary for mastering the Japanese language.
While it can be challenging, it has many benefits for language learners, including improved reading and writing skills, a deeper understanding of Japanese culture, improved vocabulary and comprehension skills, and better access to Japanese resources.
Don’t be discouraged by the initial difficulty of learning Kanji.
With time and dedication, you can master this essential aspect of the Japanese language and open up new opportunities for communication, culture, and knowledge.
I was able to learn 2136 of the Joyo Kanji by stuyding for 10 minutes a day for 3 years. You can definitely do it faster!
Can I Learn Japanese Without Learning Kanji?
If you really dont want to bother with kanji at all, it is possible to communicate in Japanese without learning itm but it’s not recommended.
Kanji is an essential component of the Japanese language, and it’s almost impossible to master the language without learning Kanji.
How many Kanji characters do I need to learn?
There are over 2,136 Joyo Kanji characters that are commonly used in modern Japanese. While it’s not necessary to learn all of them, it’s recommended to learn the most commonly used characters first.
How long does it take to learn Kanji?
The time it takes to learn Kanji varies from person to person and depends on several factors, such as your learning style, study habits, and the amount of time you dedicate to learning.
However, on average, it takes between 1 to 2 years of consistent study to learn the most commonly used Kanji characters.
I used the application everyday for 10-20 minutes. With more study time, you could definitely speed up this process.
Are there any shortcuts to learning Kanji?
There are no shortcuts to learning Kanji, but some tools can make the learning process more manageable.
For example, you can use flashcards, mnemonic devices, or Kanji learning apps to help you remember the characters more easily.
Can I learn Kanji on my own?
Absolutely! You can learn Kanji on your own, but I recommended to take a structured approach and use textbooks or online resources that provide clear explanations, examples, and practice exercises.
I strongly recommend using Anki! It’s completely free for Android/PC. Costs a bit of money for Iphone. Sorry Iphone users!
Don’t be intimidated by the initial difficulty of learning Kanji. With the right tools and a structured approach, you can learn this crucial aspect of the Japanese language and achieve your language learning goals.
For instance, perhaps a friend suggests you play some video games together. You don’t feel like it and say:
今あまりその気分じゃない。 ima amari sono kibun janai. I don’t really feel like it right now/I’m not in the mood for it right now.
The expression その気分じゃない (sono kibun janai) has three components.
その (sono) means “that” in Japanese.
気分 (kibun) means “mood” or “feeling” in Japanese.
じゃない (janai) means “not” or “is not” in Japanese. It is a casual variant of ではない (dewanai) and ではありません (dewarimasen). These are the negative versions of です (desu).
For that reason, when you use その気分じゃない (sono kibun janai) you express literally how you are not feeling up to something right now. You are not in the mood.
Let’s remember that omitting pronouns is more natural. Hence you do not need any pronouns when speaking this expression.
Don’t Be Sad/Cheer Up in Japanese
Don’t be sad/cheer up.
元気だして。 genki dashite.
Use 元気だして(genki dashite) to communicate the words “cheer up” in Japanese.
If someone is feeling sad, down or out of energy, you can use this expression to encourage them that things will get better.
元気 (genki) is a noun that means “energetic” and “lively” in Japanese. だして (dashite) is the te-form of the verb だす (dasu), meaning “to take out” or “release”. One of the functions of the te-form is to transform verbs into light requests.
In essence, 元気だして (genki dashite) can be literally translated to “take out your energy”. Therefore when you tell someone 元気だして (genki dashite) you’re encouraging them to cheer up and be more energetic.
You can add more to this expression to encourage them further. Adding extra words of reassurance is one way to do this. For instance,
元気だして。きっと大丈夫だよ。 genki dashite. kitto daijoubu dayo
Cheer up. Everything will surely be okay.
For a full list and explanation on how to ask if someone is okay and reassure them in Japanese, refer to the below ultimate guide.
The second way to ask someone if they are feeling sad in Japanese is:
Are you feeling sad?
悲しんでるの？ kanashinderu no?
Use 悲しんでるの？ (kanashinderu no?) to ask someone if they are feeling sad or unhappy. The の (no) is an optional addition that emphasises the phrase as a question, and your concern for the other person.
悲しんでる (kanashinderu) is the casual progressive verb form of the adjective 悲しい (kanashii), meaning “sad”.
The verb for “sad” in Japanese is 悲しむ (kanasimu). In the progressive form, it becomes 悲しんでいる (kanashindeiru).
This is already a casual expression, meaning it’s best suited for use between friends, family and those you are personally close with. However, you can remove the い (i) to make it more casual.
This makes it 悲しんでる (kanashinderu).
When you ask someone if they are sad, you ask in the continuous tense. You’re asking if they are still and are continuing to feel sadness at the very moment you ask them.
Hence, when you ask them if they are feeling sad in Japanese using a verb, it needs to be in the progressive form.
I Feel Down in Japanese
I feel down.
Use 落ち込んでる (ochikonderu)to express that you’re feeling down in Japanese.
When you feel unhappy or in low spirits, saying 落ち込んでる (ochikonderu) will communicate that.
As it’s more natural to omit pronouns in Japanese, you do not need to specify that it’s you who is feeling down. You can simply say 落ち込んでる (ochikonderu) by itself.
When you say 落ち込んでる (ochikonderu), you’re saying “I feel down” in Japanese. Add more to this expression to slightly alter what you convey. For instance,
ちょっと落ち込んでる。 chotto ochikonderu.
I feel a little down.
You can ask someone if they feel down in Japanese as well. To do this, you simply phrase the expression as a question. When you do this, pronouns are again, not necessary!
落ち込んでるの？ ochikonderu no?
Are you feeling down?
The addition of の (no) attached to the end of the expression is optional. This の (no) is a sentence-ending particle. Including it communicates slightly more feeling and concern and emphasises the question being asked.
落ち込んでる (ochikonderu) is the progressive form of the verb 落ち込む (ochikomu), meaning “to feel down” or “to feel depressed”.
As being in a state of unhappiness is an emotion that you’re continuing to feel when you say this expression, you need to use the progressive form 落ち込んでる (ochikonderu).
Sulking in Japanese
The word for sulking in Japanese is すねってる (sunetteru). Use it to describe silent, moping behaviour.
You can say すねってる (sunetteru) to communicate “I’m sulking” in Japanese. Or, you can phrase it like a question, similar to the 落ち込んでる (ochikonderu), explained above.
Once again, you do not need pronouns when speaking this expression. For example,
すねってるの？ sunetteru no?
Are you sulking?
You may also wish to ask someone why they are sulking in Japanese, too. To do this, insert どうして (doushite) before the expression. This makes the expression:
どうしてすねってるの？ doushite sunetteru no?
Why are you sulking?
There are many different ways to say “why” in Japanese. Which one you use will change the exact nuances you convey. Take a glance at the below guide for more details.
One of the most natural ways to express that something makes you sad in Japanese is to use 悲しくなる (kanashikunaru).
When something or someone is the reason why you are feeling sad, use 悲しくなる to express “it makes me sad” in Japanese.
You can specify what makes you sad as well. For instance, if you hear something that makes you feel unhappy you can express:
それを聞くと悲しくなる。 sore wo kikuto kanashikunaru. Hearing that makes me sad.
Likewise, if you’re told something that makes you feel in low spirits use this phrase:
そういう言われると悲しくなる。 souiu iwareru to kanashikunaru. Being told that makes me sad.
You Make Me Sad in Japanese
If the reason why you’re sad is because of another person, you can tell them directly as well.
[name]のせいで悲しくなる。 [name] no seide kanashikunaru. You make me sad.
When you want to tell someone “you make me sad” in Japanese, remember that the most natural way to address the person is by their actual name. In other words, the best way to say “you” in Japanese is to say the person’s name instead.
Say 悲しくなる (kanashikunaru) by itself to say “it makes sad” generally. Alternatively, extend the phrase and specificy to give more context.
悲しくなる (kanashikunaru) is formed of two components. Firstly, 悲しい (kanashii), which is the i-adjective for sad in Japanese.
This i-adjective is then conjugated with the grammar point なる (naru).
なる (naru) means “become” in Japanese. Therefore, conjugating 悲しい (kanashii) with なる (naru) changes the meaning to literally “become sad”.
To conjugate with なる (naru), take the last い (i) of the i-adjective and replace it will く (ku). Finally, attach なる (naru) after く (ku).
悲しい (kanashii) becomes 悲しく (kanashiku) and then finally 悲しくなる (kanashikunaru).
As pronouns are dropped in Japanese, when you say 悲しくなる (kanashikunaru) you express that you will become sad as a result of something.
When the context is already understood by the speaker and listener, saying 悲しくなる (kanashikunaru) is enough to communicate that something makes you sad.
So Sad it’s Painful in Japanese
So sad, it hurts.
A very powerful way to communicate that you or someone feels sad in Japanese is つらい (tsurai).
The word つらい (tsurai) is an i-adjective that you can use to describe an emotion that’s painful, heartbreaking or cruel.
To describe how you’re feeling an immense sadness you can say つらい (tsurai) without any pronouns.
You can emphasise the emotional pain further by extending your sentence. If you’re feeling devasted after having your heart broken you can say
つらい。こころが痛い。 tsurai. kokoro ga itai.
It’s painful. My heart hurts/aches.
You can also use つらい (tsurai) to emphasise how something is emotionally painful.
For example, if your job is extremely taxing and is taking a toll on you mentally, you can say
仕事はつらい。 shigoto wa tsurai. Work is emotionally draining/painful.
Use this template to say express how something is emotionally painful in Japanese.
Replace the word 仕事 (shigoto) with a noun of your choice to communicate how you feel incredibly unhappy with it.
Miserable in Japanese
惨め (mijime) is a na-adjective that you can use to describe someone or something that is miserable.
Use it when something or someone is in a wretched state of despair or distress.
惨めな人生。 mijieme na jinsei.
This word is a na-adjective. Therefore, when 惨め immediately follows a noun, you need to insert な (na) in between 惨め and the following noun.
惨めな人。 mijieme na hito.
You can use 惨め (mijime) as an adverb as well. To make it an adverb attach に (ni) to 惨め (mijime).
This makes it 惨めに (mijime ni), meaning “miserably”. Finally, place 惨めに (mijimeni) before a verb.
惨めに失敗した。 mijime ni shippai shita.
I failed miserably.
Upset in Japanese
There are a few ways to express upset in Japanese. Which one you use depends on what kind of upset emotion you are feeling.
If you’re feeling upset and angry, use this expression.
If you’re feeling upset and sad because your feelings have been hurt use this expression.
Upset (hurt feelings).
怒ってる (okotteru) Explained #1
When using the first expression, 怒ってる (okotteru), you communicate that you’re upset and angry.
怒ってる (okotteru) is the progressive form of the 怒る (okoru), the verb for “angry”.
This verb needs to be in the progressive form as when you express you are upset and angry you continue to feel those emotions when you’re speaking. You are already frustrated and the emotion is continuous.
Whereas saying 怒る (okoru) to someone will instead communicate “I’ll get angry” in Japanese. This is because 怒る (okoru) is used to refer to an event that is going to happen.
Use 怒ってる (okotteru) as a response or statement to express you are angry, disappointed, unhappy about something and/or upset.
For instance, if someone asks how you are, you can say:
今起こってる。 ima okotteru.
I feel angry/upset right now.
傷ついた (kizutsuita) Explained #2
Use 傷ついた (kizutsuita) to express your feelings have been hurt and you feel upset.
For example, if someone has said something to you that has made you feel upset you can say 傷ついた (kizutsuita) to communicate it.
The difference between 怒ってる (okotteru) and 傷ついた (kizutsuita) is that 怒ってる (okotteru) conveys anger more than 傷ついた (kizutsuita).
Therefore use 傷ついた (kizutsuita) when you feel generally upset and 怒ってる (okotteru) when you are upset and angry.
The kanji in 傷ついた (kizutsuita) is 傷.
This kanji means “wound”, “injury”, “hurt”, or “pain”. Hence, 傷ついた (kizutsuita) infers that your feelings have been hurt.
You can use 傷ついた (kizutsuita) in situations such:
どうして無視をしたの？傷ついた。 doushte mushu wo shita no? kizu tsuita.
Why did you ignore me? I’m upset.
Furthermore, 傷ついた (kizutsuita) can be used to refer to both emotional and physical pain.
Hence, when using it to refer to physical pain, it translates as “hurt”.
I Feel Like Crying in Japanese
I feel like crying.
When you feel so sad you feel like bursting into tears you can use 泣きそう (nakisou).
Saying 泣きそう (nakisou) will communicate “I feel like crying” in Japanese.
Therefore when you say 泣きそう (nakisou) to someone you are telling them that you feel like you are going to cry.
Heartbroken in Japanese
The word for heartboken in Japanese is 失恋 (shitsuren).
The kanji for 失恋 (shitsuren) is 失 and 恋, meaning “lose” and “romance” respectively.
Therefore the meaning of 失恋 (shitsuren) is literally “lose romance”. Use this word to describe or state a feeling of unrequited love or brokenheart.
失恋に耐えてる。 shitsuren ni taeteru.
I’m enduring a broken heart.
However, 失恋 (shitsuren) is a word that is found more so in stories. Such as those from books and movies, rather than in general conversation. It can sound somewhat poetic.
Hence to describe that you have a broken heart without sounding super poetic, there is another expression you can use.
心を傷つけたんだ。 kokoro wo kizutsuketanda.
You broke my heart.
If somebody breaks your heart and you want to express that feeling to others, you can say:
[name]は私の心を傷つけた。 [name] wa watashi no kokoro wo kizutsuketa.
[name] broke my heart.
Replace [name] with the name of the person who broke your heart to personalise the sentence.
That’s Sad (pathetic) in Japanese
To refer to something or someone as being sad or tragic in the pathetic sense, use the i-adjective なせけない (nasekenai).
Say なせけない (nasekenai) to describe something or someone as pitiful, shameful or pathetic.
For instance, if you are appalled at someone’s performance on something you can say (sarcastically or not):
さっきは何だ？なせけなかったね sakki wa nanda? nasekenakatta ne.
What was that? That was pathetic.
As なせけない (nasekenai) is an adjective, you can use it to describe nouns as pathetic or shameful directly.
なせけない状態。 nasekenai joutai.
You can also use it to describe yourself.
私はなせけない人だった。 watashi wa nasekenai hito datta.
I was a pathetic (sad) person.
Depression in Japanese
The word for depression in Japanese is うつ病 (utsubyou).
Use the word うつ病 (utsubyou) to express that you are or feel depressed.
There are a few ways you can use うつ病 (utsubyou) to communicate levels of depression.
For example, to state that you are depressed, you can use:
私はうつ病だ。 watashi wa utsubyou da.
I am depressed.
To emphasise the pain you feel you can say:
つ病だに苦しんでる。 utsubyou ni kurushinderu.
I’m suffering from depression.
As うつ病 (utsubyou) is a noun, you can use verbs to state that you “suffer from” or “feel” depressed.
Happy in Japanese
The word for happy in Japanese is the i-adjective 嬉しい (ureshii).
嬉しい (ureshii) is the opposite of 悲しい (kanashii), like how “happy” is the opposite of “sad” in English.
You can say 嬉しい (ureshii) by itself to say “I am happy” in Japanese.
Alternatively, you can use it to describe something or someone else as happy.
For a comprehensive explanation of how to say “happy” in Japanese refer to the below ultimate guide.
To express that someone else is unhappy use the following template.
[name]は嬉しくない。 [name] wa ureshikunai.
[name] is unhappy.
Simply replace [name] with the name of the person who is not happy.
Use this next phrase to express that it seems like someone is sad.
They appear unhappy or at least give off that impression.
[name]は嬉しくないみたい。 [name] wa ureshikunai mitai.
[name] seems unhappy.
みたい (mitai) is a grammar point to say how something seems like something in Japanese. By attaching みたい (mitai) to the end of 悲しくない (kanashikunai), the meaning changes from “unhappy” to “seems unhappy”.
I’m Sad There’s No More!
I’m sad there’s no more.
もうないのは悲しい。 mou nai no wa kanashii.
When you’re sad that there is no more of something use the above phrase.
Perhaps you’re disappointed or sad that there is no more of your favourite food left in the fridge.
Or, Maybe you’re sad that you’ve reached the end of this guide!
But there’s no need to be sad! 元気出して！(genki dashite!).
6 vital factors influence how long it takes to learn Japanese.
Your language goals and learning purpose(s).
Your mindset and motivation.
The resources you use and how you implement them into your studies.
The environment you learn in.
Your prior knowledge.
The amount of time you can dedicate to study.
When measuring how long it takes to learn the Japanese language, consider how the above six points relate to your individual circumstance.
Realise what your language goals are and what it is that you want to achieve.
What’s your attitude towards learning Japanese in the first place? Does the Japanese language excite or fascinate you? What about it does or doesn’t? And why?
Is your desire to learn potent enough to support you when you need it? Studying Japanese or any language for that matter is an adventure with ups and downs.
There may be times when you’re enjoying your studies and other times when grammar doesn’t make sense.
It may be tough at times, but if you’re truly passionate about learning, keep going! Anyone can learn Japanese!
What resources do you have access to? Your resources and how you implement them into your studies are vital.
This can be the difference between it taking 500 hours or 1500 hours to reach your desired Japanese ability.
The environment you’re in is also important. If you’re already in Japan, first-hand exposure to the language and culture will make a world of difference.
Finally, how much time can you dedicate to studying? If you can only manage an hour a week, progress will naturally be slower than someone studying an hour a day.
This ultimate guide explains in great detail how long it takes to learn Japanese based on the above six factors.
Please note that this post may feature affiliate links, meaning I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase through them. For more information please visit the Disclaimer page.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese?
According to the official Japanese Language Education Center, with no prior knowledge, it takes students between 3000 and 4800 hours of study to pass the JLPT N1 and reach fluency in Japanese.
The JLPT refers to the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. This test is globally recognised as the official way to assess and verify your Japanese language ability as a non-native speaker.
There are five levels of the JLPT. N5, N4, N3, N2 and N1.
N5 is considered to be the beginner level and the easiest to pass. While N1 is the most advanced level and most difficult to pass.
N5: An ability to understand some basic Japanese. (325-600 hours).
N4: An ability to understand basic Japanese. (575-1000 hours).
N3: An ability to understand Japanese to an everyday level to a basic degree. (950-1700 hours).
N2: An ability to understand Japanese at a business level. (1600-2800 hours).
N1: An ability to understand complex Japanese. (3000-4800 hours).
Japanese N2 is the minimum requirement necessary to work in Japan or study at a Japanese university as a general rule of thumb.
When I say study in Japanese, I don’t mean studying Japanese at a university in Japan, but enrolling in the same university as a Japanese student and taking the same classes/examinations.
N2, on the other hand, is said to take upwards of 2800 hours to pass.
The JLPT and You
With that said, despite it being the official way to prove your Japanese ability, the JLPT doesn’t test your speaking or writing.
Therefore investing thousands of hours to learn Japanese is by no means necessary to speak the language to a decent level.
It’s possible to learn Japanese to a conversational level or to a level where you can somewhat communicate your thoughts in Japanese very quickly.
How you study is without a doubt the most important factor in what determines how long it takes to learn a language.
This is because everyone has different reasons for studying language, different goals, and motivations.
Furthermore, everyone has their unique learning style. What works for someone well, might not work for someone else at all.
That’s why it’s important to think about your purpose for studying Japanese and then discover what learning style works best for you.
How Long Does it Take to Be Able to Understand Japanese?
How long it takes you to learn and understand Japanese will depend on your reasons/motivations for studying and your language goals.
What’s your purpose for learning Japanese?
To greet people in Japanese on a business trip.
Converse confidently in Japanese.
To be able to read complex Japanese writings (academic essays, books, newspapers).
To work/live in Japan.
For understanding Anime.
A more personal/unique reason.
Likely, your purpose for studying and learning Japanese is not limited to a single reason. Instead, you may have multiple reasons for wanting to learn Japanese.
If your purpose is related to travel or vacation in Japan, it will take you much less time to learn Japanese than if you wanted to be able to read a newspaper, for instance.
You can learn sufficient Japanese for travel in as quick as a week. Whereas developing the ability to read a newspaper may take upwards of 2800 hours of study time, according to the Japanese Language Education Center.
Developing the proficiency to hold a steady conversation in Japanese takes less time than you’d think at first, also.
Conversational Japanese is considered to be at around the N3 level. This means need between 950 and 1700 hours of study, going by the JLPT study time standards.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese on Average?
How long it takes to learn Japanese will be different for each person. It depends on if you have any previous knowledge, classroom learning time vs self-study time, what resources you use and the study methods you utilise.
The JLPT N3 takes a maximum of approximately 1700 study hours to pass. This is considered the average level at which a person can have a general conversation in Japanese.
However, even if you reach the high levels of JLPT, you still may feel unconfident using Japanese in certain situations.
That’s why it’s so important to recognise your purpose for studying the language. By focusing on what you are interested in you’ll have a motivator to help you study, as well.
In 2010, 65000 people who took the JLPT exam were surveyed. They were asked to describe what they feel comfortable doing in Japanese with their achieved JLPT level.
The survey reveals what the average person of each Japanese ability feels they can accomplish in Japanese.
Refer to the survey for a comparison of how long it would take to learn Japanese on average to reach your desired goal.
It is entirely possible to learn Japanese in a year. You can become incredibly proficient as well.
Going by the JLPT standards it takes between 3000 and 4800 hours to pass the N1 exam.
Therefore, if you study 9-13 hours a day for 365 days, theoretically you’ll reach N1 and be fluent.
However, it’s not as simple as just studying for 13 hours 365 days a year. Besides, the definition of “fluent” is extremely objective as well.
Honestly, going by the JLPT levels, you only need N3 to be conversationally fluent in Japanese.
If we use the metric governed by the official language centre, you can achieve a conversational level of Japanese (N3) from zero prior knowledge by studying 3 hours a day for 365 days on average.
Reaching Your Language Goals in a Year
Your goals and purpose for studying Japanese play a huge factor as well.
How you study each day will determine if you’re able to reach your goals or not. What does each hour of study look like to you? What does it entail?
Your study goals may also reflect how you study as well. If your goal is to be able to converse in Japanese, you may want to look into getting an online language teacher.
When selecting a tutor, make sure that you don’t just pick any online teacher.
Research the teacher’s profile, ask them lots of questions and really make sure they are right for you. Disregard their qualifications. You want someone who can truly help you reach your goals. I’ve written a post on finding an online teacher who is right for you here.
If your goals are to watch anime without subtitles, you may wish to use sites like this one which can help you do so.
Learning Japanese is an adventure that takes time. How much time it takes is dependent on you and your goals.
While everyone learns differently, the next sections in this guide will walk you through learning Japanese in the most optimal way possible.
Textbooks to Start Learning Japanese From Zero
While there are many amazing textbooks for learning Japanese, there are two series that stand above the rest.
The Genki series textbooks are hands down one of the most popular ways to learn Japanese independently. The first book in the series, Genki I, is designed for absolute beginners.
Described as an integrated course for Elementary Japanese, Genki I walks you through the Japanese language from literally zero, making it one of the best ways to get started.
The Kanzen Master series books are what I used as I reached post-beginner levels of Japanese.
Due to having extensive coverage of reading, listening, vocabulary and kanji along with an expansive collection of practice questions available the Kanzen Master books are an excellent resource to have when it comes to preparing for the JLPT exams.
Genki I Pros
Genki I introduces you to the fundamentals of the Japanese language in a fun, immersive and engaging way. It breaks down the very basics of the Japanese language without overwhelming you with needless explanations.
The book is straightforward and to the point. Each lesson and topic is designed in such a way that learning progression feels natural and practical. Strong visual aids are provided for context.
Lessons start with a dialogue, followed by the vocabulary, clean grammar explanations and examples and a practice page.
Lessons feel intuitive and flow really well. The pacing is not too fast and not too slow. The book also includes some activities to do if you’re studying with a friend or in a class.
Learning hiragana is one of the first things you should do as early as possible when learning Japanese.
In the reading section, Genki I teaches hiragana and provides diverse hiragana learning activities keeping your studies enjoyable.
Genki I Cons
The biggest con of Genki I is that you have to purchase another separate book, called the workbook to truly get the most out of it.
While the Genki I textbook contains all the dialogues, vocabulary, and grammar, the practice questions are limited.
Instead, the practice questions are mostly contained in a separate book, called the Genki I workbook.
While having two books side by side makes questions on dialogues easier to refer to, having to purchase a second book to get the most out of the Genki experience is something I did not realise myself at first.
The workbook is, in my opinion, an essential supplement to the Genki I textbook.
The Best Ways to Minimise How Long it Takes To Learn Japanese
Study techniques, high-quality resources and how you implement them into your studies are vital.
You don’t need to know tens of thousands of words and hundred and grammar combinations to be “fluent” in Japanese.
Instead, there are other, often overlooked factors and techniques that substantially increase language proficiency.
Listed below are five crucial factors/study techniques that will significantly improve your Japanese proficiency.
Learn the core vocabulary necessary for your goals.
Refrain from stressing about learning complex grammar.
Develop the ability to explain the meaning of words in Japanese.
By implementing these steps into your studies, you’ll greatly reduce the length of time you’ll need to confidently communicate in Japanese.
Establish a Core Japanese Vocabulary (1)
As a complete beginner with zero knowledge of Japanese, after learning how to read hiragana, the very next thing you should do is establish a core vocabulary.
Begin by building up a vocabulary of around 100-500 words to get you started.
Of course, simply staring at a list won’t keep the words in your memory. You’ll need to implement study techniques to ensure they stick. There is a multitude of effective ways to do this.
Learning words in context coupled with well-composed explanations will greatly reduce the time it takes for you to learn Japanese words.
We have a collection of Ultimate How-To Japanese guides that you can use for free. All guides list how to say numerous expressions and phrases, all of which are coupled with explanations, sentence examples and audio for your pronunciation reference.
As a beginner, you can start by familiarising yourself with a bunch of words and then watch videos that explain and show how to use them.
You may find remembering Japanese words challenging at first and feel that it’s taking you a while to learn them. This is completely natural; the more words you learn, the quicker your brain will adjust to recognising and understanding how Japanese words generally look and feel to read.
Some videos add some colour to your learning. You may find this more visually appealing and thus easier to remember.
Learning new words, phrases and expressions in context will drastically reduce the time how long it takes you to learn Japanese.
This is because your brain will retain information much more effectively, compared to trying to absorb information from a list with no examples/explanations.
If and when you can, try explaining the use of the new vocabulary you’ve acquired to someone else.
Explaining what you’ve learned to someone else increases your ability to recall. It’s a fantastic way for your brain to process the information and turn what you’ve learned via input, into output.
Why Learning Lots of Grammar is Not Necessary (2)
While grammar is another core element of language, learning the advanced stuff is not necessary to be able to communicate effectively in Japanese.
It’s more important to focus on learning and improving your knowledge of beginner N5 and N4 grammar. There are multiple reasons for this.
Firstly, you will use and hear the beginner grammar in everyday conversation more.
Secondly, a lot of advanced grammar is not used in general conversation.
Thirdly, mastering beginner grammar will make studying the advanced stuff significantly easier.
With that said, you will need to understand as much grammar as possible if your goals are to pass the JLPT exams.
Ensuring you have a solid understanding of beginner grammar will provide the perfect platform for you to increase your knowledge further.
Complex Grammar is Not Necessary for Conversation
Yet if your goal is to communicate well in Japanese in as short a time as possible, refrain from stressing about learning intermediate/advanced grammar.
Instead, focus on learning and mastering beginner grammar to become confident and fluid in communicating in Japanese quickly.
Much more often than not, you can communicate almost everything you’ll want to say with beginner grammar.
So much of the advanced grammar has specific uses and unique nuances that are hard to recognise and understand without context.
Attempting to use more advanced grammar in conversations that you don’t fully understand risks sounding very unnatural.
This is because N2 and N1 contain advanced grammar that is often used for academic writings, newspapers, public speeches etc.
Words and grammar that are usually reserved for these kinds of instances are called 書き言葉 (kakikotoba). These are words and grammar that are generally only used in essays/papers etc.
In essence, don’t overwhelm yourself with the grammar, study a bit at a time. Focus on mastering beginner grammar.
This will make transitioning into learning the more difficult grammar so much easier later on.
Mastering Beginner Grammar Makes Learning Complex Grammar Easy
Moreover, strengthening your knowledge of beginner grammar will prepare you for when you do learn more advanced sequences and conjugations.
A huge amount of the advanced N2 and N1 grammar expands on the beginner N5 and N4 content.
For example, the て (te form) is one of the hardest grammar conjugations to learn for beginners.
But don’t worry if you’ve yet to encounter the て (te form) yourself! Once you do learn it and master it, you will find learning and using all of the other grammar to be noticeably easier.
Furthermore, as you refine your understanding of the beginner stuff you’ll begin to notice a pattern in how Japanese grammar sequences are formed.
The once seemingly confusing rules of how Japanese grammar works will become easier to understand.
More often than not, Japanese grammar follows the simple pattern of “verb+conjugation+grammar point”.
Once you master the て (te-form), conjugating words in Japanese, in general, becomes easier. There is always a lot of conjugation going on in Japanese and the て (te-form) is the biggest hurdle for beginners to overcome.
The Post-Beginner Hurdle
During post-beginner (N4) to intermediate (N3) levels of Japanese learning, recognising conjugated words can very be challenging.
This is because, by this point in your studies, your vocabulary and grammar knowledge has expanded to the point where you are capable of communicating a variety of things.
You’ll likely know a good number of words and a range of different verbs. The vocabulary and grammar knowledge you possess will be versatile enough to have solid conversations in Japanese.
When you’re learning verbs, in particular, you’ll probably only learn them in their stem-form or dictionary form.
In simple terms, you’ll be learning verbs in the present tense. You won’t be learning them in the past tense or in the te-form etc.
Firstly, you’ll want to develop the ability to recognise words when they’re spoken.
In particular, practice recognising words that are in a post-conjugated state. For example, you might know the verb 行く (iku), which means “to go”. Kanji will also help you with this.
But can you recognise 行く (iku) when it’s spoken? What about when it’s conjugated into another form?
To list a few, imagine you hear 行く (iku), 行って (itte), 行かない (ikanai), 行かなくて (ikanakute), 行け (ike), 行った (itta), 行かなければならない (ikanakerebanaranai), and 行ける (ikeru).
You can’t see the kanji of a word when it’s spoken, and you can’t control the speed that which the word is spoken either.
Therefore as your grammar and vocabulary expand, be sure to try making example sentences with a variety of verbs and words.
Eventually, as you become more familiar with hearing conjugated verbs, your brain will be able to process the meaning much faster.
Explain the Meaning of Words in Japanese (3)
When you don’t know a word in Japanese, it’s very easy to jump to English. This is especially true when you’re still a beginner as your current vocabulary repertoire is small.
However, you should refrain from switching to English when you can.
Instead, focus on utilising your current knowledge of Japanese to explain a word/phrase you don’t know or understand. Think of related words, synonyms, and ways you can explain the word’s meaning.
Explaining a word you don’t know using words you do is without a doubt one of the absolute best skills you can develop.
By explaining the word you don’t know or are unable to recall you’ll be able to keep a conversation going with minimal pauses.
Hence not only will the flow of the conversation will be much smoother, but you’ll also sound much more natural.
The best part of this skill is that you’re substantially more likely to remember the word you didn’t know/ couldn’t recall after you’ve finished explaining its meaning.
The person you’re speaking with can likely deduce what word it is that you’re explaining. It’s a eureka moment when they mention it and you’ll retain the word you were explaining better.
Let’s say you want to know the word for “astronaut” in Japanese. You can say something such as:
ね、職業として宇宙に行く人って何という？ ne, shokugyou toshite uchuu ni iku hito tte nantoiu?
Hey, what do you call someone who goes to space as their occupation?
It takes some practice to be able to explain the meaning of words in Japanese. However, with a bit of time, it will massively boost your Japanese skills.
When you’re able to explain the meaning of any word, the time it takes you to learn Japanese will be cut drastically as you won’t need to spend all that time hammering vocabulary.
In fact, I recommend making a note of the words you explain each day. You’ll find it a hundred times faster and easier when you do sit down and study the words again later.
Therefore, even when you don’t know a word, being able to explain the meaning of what you want to say is an extremely powerful skill to have.
How Long Does it Take to Learn the Japanese Alphabet?
The more accurate question is “how long does it take to learn the Japanese alphabets” as there are three of them.
The three Japanese alphabets are hiragana, katakana and kanji. Kanji are Chinese characters, katakana is mainly used for words “borrowed” from other languages, and hiragana is a Japanese phonetic alphabet/script.
Out of the more than 50,000 kanji, only 2136 of them are considered to be the most important.
These select 2136 are referred to as the joyo kanji, the number of kanji learned in compulsory education in Japan.
However, very few Japanese people know anywhere near 50,000 kanji.
Even so, 2136 kanji is a considerable amount and it may be daunting to think about how long it would take you to learn them all.
For starters, you don’t need to know any of them to speak Japanese at a conversational or fluent level.
However, kanji is important for reading and writing.
But perhaps more important is hiragana; the core of the Japanese language.
Out of the three (kanji, hiragana, katakana) hiragana is the most used.
Furthermore, to be able to read kanji, you first need to be able to read hiragana. And to top it all off, Japanese kanji can be written in hiragana.
You might be thinking that if kanji can be written in hiragana, why is kanji (and this many of them) even needed? This guide has more coverage: How to Read Japanese [Ultimate Guide].
In short, hiragana is the most important and the alphabet you need to prioritise learning.
Let’s have a look at how long it takes to learn hiragana, kanji and katakana respectively.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Hiragana?
Hiragana makes up the core of the Japanese language and can be picked up surprisingly quickly.
There are only 46 hiragana and you can become consistent in recognising them within a matter of hours.
Some textbooks begin by teaching Japanese in romaji, which is Japanese written in roman characters; the alphabet we use in English.
As a native English speaker, you may feel this method of learning Japanese is more suited to you as romaji is familiar.
Yet, in Japanese, romaji is only used in a few unique situations. For example, Japanese city names are written in both kanji and romaji on signs.
For this reason, I strongly recommend avoiding any language resources that teach solely in romaji.
Romaji is not used outside of a few sparse scenarios as outlined above. Learning Japanese in romaji won’t help you when you need to read or write actual Japanese.
Instead, your priority should be to learn hiragana and become proficient in recognising the characters.
Learning hiragana is not difficult and can be done in a day. I recommend revising the characters every day for at least the first week or so after you’ve finished learning them. This helps them stick in your long-term memory.
Besides, all post-beginner textbooks teach in hiragana. You’ll need to learn it sooner than later to progress in your studies.
After you’ve learned the hiragana, being able to jump in and read actual Japanese text that early on in your studies feels overwhelmingly satisfying! I promise.
How to Learn Hiragana
Learning Hiragana was the first thing I did when I decided I wanted to learn Japanese.
Becoming familiar with Hiragana and being able to decipher their readings within 5 seconds was my goal.
There are so many superb free resources available online to learn hiragana. You do not need to make any purchases!
Firstly, I recommend taking a look at a hiragana chart.
Once you’ve spent a little time familiarizing yourself with how hiragana generally look, you have a few pathways.
I used this site to learn Japanese hiragana. The English equivalent of hiragana will appear. Click on the hiragana that it represents. Continue practising until you can achieve a perfect score of 100-0 as quickly as possible.
Kana Bento is also a fantastic web game with more visuals to learn hiragana and katakana.
You can also utilise mnemonics. This is a learning method that helps you remember hiragana by associating them with images, songs, rhymes etc.
Take a look at our Japanese Core; a fun way to learn Japanese hiragana quickly through mnemonics.
There are a few really good videos that can help you can learn hiragana:
Furthermore, Misa has an excellent video for beginners looking to learn hiragana that introduces some vocab too!
There are only 46 hiragana and you can learn them in less than a day. Learning to write hiragana is not that challenging either! Learning how to write hiragana will also rapidly speed up your ability to recognise and recall them.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Kanji?
As mentioned, there are over 50000 kanji in Japanese.
But, you only need to know 2136 of them to be in line with what Japanese students learn in their compulsory education. These 2136 kanji have been labelled as the joyo kanji by the Japanese Ministry of Education.
It takes Japanese students 6 years to learn the first 1006 of the joyo kanji. They learn 1006 kanji in Primary (Elementary) school through grades 1-6.
In Secondary (Junior High) school Japanese students learn an additional 1130 kanji through grades 7-12. Therefore it takes students another 6 years to learn the remaining 1130 kanji.
In total, Japanese students spend 12 years learning kanji. By the end of these 12 years, they will have learned 2136 kanji.
For people who didn’t go through the Japanese compulsory education system, how long it takes to learn kanji will differ.
Let’s use the 2136 joyo kanji metric. If you were to learn 10 kanji a day, it would take you almost 214 days to finish learning all of them.
How to Learn Kanji
Before going further, let’s look at some popular methods to learn kanji.
While there are without a doubt many fantastic methods out there, finding the right one for yourself is vital. Especially when it comes to how long it’ll take you to learn all the joyo kanji.
Learn Kanji Using Anki
The most popular, and in my opinion, the best way to successfully learn kanji is through the spaced-repetition method using Anki.
Spaced repetition is a memory technique that involves reviewing information (often via flashcards) during spaced intervals. The spaced intervals gradually increase in size as you become more proficient.
Anki is a digital flashcard app that utilised spaced repetition learning. You can use Anki on your computer, or your android phone, for free (there is no paid service).
Anki offers complete freedom in creating your own flashcards as well as the freedom to download pre-existing decks online.
There are even multiple decks available for download that contain the joyo kanji. This means you can start learning the most important kanji straight away!
How Anki Works
You can choose how many words you learn each day/session.
When you learn words through flashcards using Anki, it will remember what cards you’re good at and which ones you need some more practice with.
Each day you complete a review of cards that you previously got wrong. Eventually, as you get better at remembering those cards, Anki will increase the intervals in which they are shown.
For instance, let’s say there’s a card that you failed to recall. Anki will show it to you again in the following day’s review. If you get it correct on that day, it won’t show it to you again until 2 days after. If you get it correct again, it won’t appear for 5 days.
The interval will keep increasing until it’s burned in your long-term memory.
You can adjust the speed of the interval to your liking, you can add notes to cards, and you can draw temporary notes on them (I recommend doing this to practice your writing!).
However, Anki is a spaced-repetition app. This means that if you miss your review because you didn’t have time (this will inevitably happen) your review for the next day will contain your regular cards and the previous day’s cards in the same review.
This can get quite chaotic and overwhelming if you miss multiple days in a row.
Therefore, I recommend whenever you have a spare minute, before bed, in the morning after waking up, or commuting to work/school etc, open Anki! You can even schedule an additional review session if you have the time!
The Heisig Method
One of the best ways to speed up how long it takes to learn kanji is to implement the Heisig Method.
The Heisig Method teaches how to learn kanji by using your imagination in a creative way. It’s a method to learn and remember kanji that involves using your imagination and creative stories.
It’s a much more effective and enjoyable way to learn kanji as opposed to mindlessly staring at them without a strategy and just hoping they will stick in your head.
Each kanji is composed of multiple small pieces called radicals. There are 214 radicals in Japanese and kanji are made up of multiple combinations of them. Some radicals also function independently as kanji, too.
Using the Heisig Method we can break down the individual radicals in each kanji and make connections/stories using our imagination.
For instance, the kanji for “tree” in Japanese is 木 (ki). This kanji also functions as a radical.
By placing two trees together we make the kanji 林, which means “grove”.
Finally, by placing three trees together we make the kanji 森 (mori), which means “forest”.
The Heisig Method helps you remember the kanji through stories and explanations like these. It makes learning the kanji intuitive and the meanings make sense.
By breaking down each individual component of the kanji and understanding them, kanji no longer looks like jumbled-up scribbles. But rather of a combination of radicals that make sense.
Going by the metric earlier, if you studied 10 kanji a day using Anki, you’d have to study for 214 days straight before you get through all the kanji.
This doesn’t include how many days afterwards you’ll need to review the new kanji until they’re burned to your long-term memory.
Of course, you could increase the number of kanji you learn in a day to reduce how long it would take. You could double it to 20 kanji a day, for instance.
This would halve how many days it takes to learn all the kanji to 107.
However, learning kanji is not a process you can rush. You can attempt to speed through it, but it will be tough.
The first few days or even weeks will feel pretty good. You’ll feel productive, motivated and generally positive about your learning progress.
This is all great until your reviews for each day keep getting bigger and bigger. After a certain threshold, your brain will begin to struggle to keep up. This is because your brain needs time to process your learning.
You’ll begin forgetting kanji you’ve already learned and it will become frustrating.
There will be some days where you can study, and some you cannot – you’ll feel pressured that you have to study/review your cards even when you’re exhausted, or are on holiday.
Managing Your Anki Studies
Although not Japanese, there’s this very interesting video of a guy who tries to memorise the 2500 most commonly used words in Spanish in a week.
He uses Anki to learn 500 Spanish words a day for a week. Take a look to see how he coped with this endeavour. It’s a very fascinating watch!
As incredible as having digital flashcards are, they only work as well as your brain lets them. Finding your comfortable number of kanji to study a day is important.
Timing is also a very valuable skill to have. On regular days I studied 5 kanji a day. If I knew I had a weekend with no plans I’d schedule 50 new kanji for Friday night and use Saturday and Sunday to review them, perhaps even adding a few more new ones over the weekend.
If I knew I was going on holiday, I’d hold off learning any new kanji until I got back. It’s quite discouraging to come back to a 1000+ card review on Anki.
With this method, it took me close to 3 years to finish my reviews and learn the joyo kanji. You could do it faster or slower, it depends on you and how much time you have to put in!
How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese if You Know Chinese?
Having any knowledge of the Chinese language can help massively with learning Japanese.
Regardless of whether you’re a native Chinese speaker or a beginner, if you’ve studied Chinese before, you will quickly discover how much of an advantage your knowledge brings.
In short, this is because a large portion of Japanese vocabulary is borrowed from Chinese. In particular, the kanji; Chinese characters.
The Chinese language is solely made up of kanji and the Japanese language adopts a hefty amount of them.
It’s worth noting that while the Chinese language is written in only kanji, the Japanese language is not.
With that said Kanji is the most dominant of the three alphabets/scripts in the Japanese language.
According to the Japanese Language Education Center, having prior knowledge of Chinese can cut how long it takes to learn Japanese to fluency down by up to a whopping 65%.
While it’s estimated that it takes up to 4800 hours to learn Japanese to fluency with zero prior knowledge, knowing Chinese can reduce that time to a mere 1700 hours.
How Knowing Chinese Helps You Learn Japanese Faster
Firstly, having any knowledge of Chinese can help you to understand and even read numerous Japanese sentences without having ever studied the language.
This is because the Chinese language shares many of the same characters (kanji) with the Japanese language.
If you’re fluent in Chinese or a native speaker, you will immediately feel the familiar presence of so many Chinese characters in Japanese text.
Take the kanji (Chinese characters) for numbers in Japanese and Chinese for instance, they are both the same!
Even if you’ve only studied Chinese a little, you will still find that you’re able to learn Japanese at a quicker pace than someone with no Chinese ability.
As long as you know the meaning of kanji, deciphering the general meaning of a sentence becomes easier.
How Knowing Kanji Speeds Up Your Japanese Learning (Example)
For example, take the below Japanese sentence.
今年の祭りは二月にある。 kotoshi no matsuri ha ni gatsu ni aru. This year‘s festival is in February.
This sentence is full of kanji that are the same in Chinese. Therefore, even if you’ve never studied Japanese before, just by recognising/knowing the kanji, you can make a very good guess at the meaning.
Let’s see how much meaning we can comprehend by only looking at the kanji.
今年 means “this year“.
祭 means “festival“.
二月 means “February“.
Just from kanji alone and without even considering grammar, we can establish that the sentence is talking about a festival this year in February.
This can make studying Japanese, in general, feel less daunting, and instead be encouraging. Hence the time it would take you to learn Japanese can be significantly sped up.
Being a native speaker or learner of the Chinese language exposes you to various kanji quickly.
Hence with Chinese knowledge, you can significantly speed up how long it takes to learn Japanese.
In essence, knowing the meaning of kanji enables you to make a very solid guess at what a written sentence means in Japanese.
All that’s left is to study the grammar to help you to fill in the gaps in the sentences’ overall meaning.
Chinese & Japanese Pronunciation
Having any prior knowledge of Chinese can help with pronunciation and greatly speed up your Japanese learning process.
While the majority of words in Japanese and Chinese are pronounced differently, some words are more alike than you may realise at first.
In the beginning, it’s natural to feel lost with Japanese kanji pronunciation. However, as Japanese kanji are borrowed from the Chinese language, many pronunciation similarities exist.
Hence, you can often make a pretty good guess as to how a kanji is pronounced.
For instance, take the word for weather in both Japanese and Chinese.
In Japanese: 天気 (tenki)
In Chinese: 天氣 (tianqi)
These two words have very similar pronunciations and have the same meaning.
You’ll quickly notice how many Chinese and Japanese words sound alike, especially when the Japanese word is read with the onyomi reading.
Therefore, knowing Chinese can strongly impact your ability to learn and recall how a Japanese word is pronounced. You will notice that the more you progress in your studies, the more accurate your guesses will become.
How Knowing Chinese WON’T Help You Learn Japanese Faster
As discussed above, the Japanese and Chinese languages share many similarities when it comes to vocabulary.
There are also a few connections between how some of the grammar functions, too.
For instance, the Chinese 的 (de) works similar to the Japanese grammar particle の (no). Both can be used to refer to possession of something.
In Japanese, attaching の to 私 (watashi), meaning “I” makes 私の (watashi no), meaning “my”.
In Chinese, attaching 的 (de) to 我 (wo) meaning “I” makes 我的 (wo de), also meaning “my”.
私の犬。 watashi no inu.
我的狗。 wo de gou.
Both sentences mean “my dog” and the の (no) in Japanese has a similar function to the 的 (de) in Chinese.
With that said, one of the biggest differences between the two languages is how the sentence structures are unlike.
Chinese sentence structure shares a lot of similarities with English. Whereas the Japanese language sentence structure flows like Korean.
As an example, in Japanese, the verb often comes at the end of the sentence. Whereas Chinese and English reflect each other.
Let’s take a look:
Japanese: 私はケーキを食べたい。 Chinese: 我要吃蛋糕 English: I want to eat cake.
In summary, while the Japanese sentence structure is mostly different to Chinese, there are some grammar similarities and many identicals in terms of vocab/kanji.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese From English?
There are also many advantages you can reap as an English speaker learning Japanese.
You might think that because Japanese and English sentence structures and alphabets are vastly different it would be difficult for you to learn Japanese.
However, there is one element of the Japanese language that is considerably easier for English speakers to learn – even compared to Chinese speakers.
Even if you have zero knowledge of Japanese at all, there are a large bunch of Japanese words that you can learn right now.
English to Japanese Loan Words
The Japanese language is made up of three alphabets or scripts; hiragana, katakana, and kanji.
Most of the words written in katakana are called “loan words” or 外来語 (gairaigo). These are words that have been essentially “borrowed” from another language and adopted into the official Japanese dictionary.
A huge number of these “loan words” have been borrowed directly from English.
Hence, many words in Japanese sound very similar to how they do in English.
For example, take the word for Facebook. As this word has also been adopted into the Japanese language from English, the Japanese pronunciation is similar to the English one.
In Japanese, this word is フェイスブック (fueisubukku).
Let’s look at a few more examples of loan words.
Some words come from other languages too, such as German and Russian.
Part time job.
For a more extensive look at loan words and their use in Japanese take a look at the following ultimate guide.
When you improve your ability to recognise these borrowed words your vocabulary will quickly expand. Moreover, the number of words you’ll be able to say will drastically increase.
Therefore, as an English speaker who can recognise these loan words, the time it takes you to learn Japanese is reduced dramatically.
Japanese to English Loan Words
Furthermore, just as there are many “borrowed words” in Japanese, there are also a lot of Japanese words that have been adopted into the English language, too.
These words have become part of the English dictionary. Examples of Japanese words commonly used in the English language are:
All of these words are originally Japanese words. As an English speaker, you have the advantage of knowing a lot of these words straight off the bat.
Compared to a native Chinese speaker, who will most likely have to learn most of these words from scratch!
Some of these words have slightly different, or added nuances/meanings attached to them too. Take the word for “emoji” for instance. This Japanese word does not refer to the English word “emotion”!
Therefore, you will find that there are a whole bunch of Japanese words that feel familiar to you as an English speaker.
These loan words are used in Japanese all the time. Hence, once you adjust to how these words are pronounced and sound when spoken in Japanese, picking up on them will become a breeze.
This will help a lot with Japanese language ability tests too. As these words are unfamiliar to non-English speakers, they may appear in the reading section of the JLPT exam. The question may ask you to recognise the meaning and pick a synonym.
It’s a great confidence booster when you’re able to pick up on the meaning of these katakana words.
Thus, as an English speaker, the time it takes for you to learn Japanese katakana will be lessened.
With that said, it’s still important to learn their correct Japanese pronunciation!
It’s very easy to slip into English pronunciation when speaking the borrowed words in Japanese. Try to avoid doing this!
How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese to N2?
The JLPT is the official standardised test that learners of Japanese can take to evaluate and prove their language proficiency. The JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) N2 is the second-highest level on the test.
Passing JLPT N2 is considered to be proof that your Japanese language ability is of business level or higher. This means that you should have little to no problem communicating in the Japanese workplace.
N2 is often considered to be the minimum level of Japanese ability required for working or studying at a university level in Japan. Although sometimes N1 is required.
The official amount of time it takes to learn Japanese to N2 (and pass the exam!) according to The Japanese Langauge Learning Center is 1600-2800 hours if you have no prior knowledge of kanji.
If you do know kanji the time it takes to learn Japanese to the N2 level is 1150-1800 hours.
It’s worth noting that kanji knowledge is essential for the JLPT exams because there is no speaking or writing component. Despite this, the JLPT exam is recognised as the official way to gauge your actual Japanese ability.
The N2 exam is 155 minutes in total with a 105-minute reading section and a 50-minute listening section. There are a total of 180 points in the N2 exam; you need 90 or higher to pass.
These points need to come from both sections of the exam. You also need to score at least 19 points in both the reading and listening sections to pass. You can’t just botch the reading section and smash the listening, for instance.
With that said, the amount of time it takes to reach Japanese N2 will also depend on your circumstance.
Resources to Learn Japanese N2 Quickly
There are a bunch of amazing resources you can use to speed up how long it takes to learn Japanese to the N2 level.
The best resources I used to learn Japanese to N2 are a combination of four things.
Kanzen Master Books – Language manuals that prepare you and give you confidence for all questions in the JLPT N4, N3, N2 and N1 exams.
Anki is hands down one of the best ways to learn kanji and vocabulary.
At first glance, it may seem like a regular digital flashcard app, but it’s so much more than that. It utilises spaced repetition learning to ensure that the words you’re learning stick in your head. I explain Anki in more detail under the “learning kanji” section of this guide.
Kanzen Master Books to Master the JLPT Exams
As the N2 exam mainly tests business Japanese I cannot recommend the Kanzen Master textbooks enough.
There are books for the N4-N1 exams and individual books for listening, kanji, reading comprehension, grammar and vocabulary respectively.
The vocabulary, grammar and reading comprehension books particularly have helped me tremendously.
While superb resources, the listening and kanji books aren’t as necessary, in my opinion. I say this because there are many just-as-good free resources available online.
Listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos or watching streams are excellent ways to boost your listening ability.
Can I reach N2 by Studying Japanese at University?
If you study Japanese at a university level (from zero) you can reach N2 by the end of the 4-year course.
You can also achieve the N2 level by studying at a university that’s not in Japan. Although I would only study at universities that offer a year abroad in Japan as part of the curriculum.
Some universities are affiliated with several Japanese universities. This means that if you study Japanese at a university that offers a year abroad, you will have multiple Japanese universities to choose from.
Therefore, research all the Japanese universities available when preparing for your year abroad.
If you can, stay at a dormitory where the majority of students there don’t speak your native language. You will be forced to use Japanese, hence, your ability will skyrocket especially if you put yourself out there and get involved with everyone and ongoing events.
When you’re surrounded by non-English speakers, you have to resort to Japanese. Thus, you’ll quickly learn how to communicate basic phrases you didn’t know how to say before. For example, “I’m hungry” or “I’m thirsty”.
When I first began texting in Japanese, it took me upwards of half an hour to compose a reply. Once I got done checking the grammar and spelling it felt like sending a simple text had transformed into a study session.
When studying abroad, all of these things quickly become natural to you. This is because of exposure. By being constantly surrounded by Japanese wherever you go you’ll see a massive improvement in your language ability and in your confidence to speak.
How Long Does it Take to Reach N2 Japanese at University?
To answer the question, how long does it take to reach the N2 level by studying at university, we can do some calculations. Using myself as an example, I began studying Japanese without any prior knowledge.
Excluding my year abroad, I had around 150 hours of Japanese language class time a year at University. I was there for 3 years, so that makes 450 hours. I had 850 hours of class time during my year abroad. In total, that’s 1300 hours of class time over four years.
Of course, I would also study for a few hours in the evening almost every day. Sometimes this would be more, sometimes it would be less. Let’s say I studied on average a generous one hour a day for the four years.
This means that I studied 1460 hours in four years by myself.
In total this would mean it took me 2760 hours to reach N2 level Japanese within four years.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese Fluently?
When asking how long it takes to learn Japanese to fluency, we have to remember that each person’s idea of what “fluency” is and sounds like will be different.
Generally, fluency is measured by the extent to which an individual possesses the ability to use language for communication and comprehension with a level of accuracy.
We often consider that level of accuracy to be very high.
The word “fluent” refers to an ability to express and communicate thoughts and ideas accurately and articulately. We can use the word “fluent” to refer to any one of (or all of) the four language skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking.
The Japanese Language Education Center estimates it takes upwards of 4800 hours to learn Japanese to N1 level, which is considered to be “fluency”.
However, simply putting a number on how long it takes to reach that high a proficiency is not really an accurate representation.
For starters, exposing yourself to the language and culture by actually being in Japan can drastically affect those study hours. Yet, sometimes packing your bags and heading to Japan is not easily done.
Secondly, the JLPT only measures reading and listening proficiency. There are so many factors that are measured when gauging fluency as a whole.
From being able to read a book, or a newspaper, being able to articulate thoughts and ideas, comprehend audio, write in the language with accuracy, speak with correct pronunciation, understand dialects, speak with a native-like pitch accent and much more.
All of these above factors are vital when considering what fluency actually is.
Popular YouTuber Matt vs Japan has composed an interesting formula on how to master Japanese from the comfort of your own bedroom and without ever going to Japan.
He was able to achieve native-level proficiency in five years via self-study.
However, language learning doesn’t really ever end. This goes for any second or third languages you learn, and for your native language.
Learning Japanese From Anime
If you’ve watched anime, it’s likely that you’ve picked up on a few words that are commonly spoken by characters.
Because of how often some words are used, it’s pretty easy to remember them. Here’s a list of a few words that you may have heard and the general meaning:
先生 (sensei) – teacher
先輩 (senpai) – upperclassman.
ばか (baka) – idiot/silly.
うるさい (urusai) – shut up.
お兄さん (oniisan) – older brother.
妹 (imout0) – younger sister.
大丈夫 (daijoubu) – okay.
かわいい (kawaii) – cute.
ダメ (dame) – no/not allowed.
行こうぜ (ikouze) – let’s go (masculine).
行くわよ (ikuwayo) – let’s go (feminine).
Some of these words are used in conversation outside of anime, as well. Whereas others, such as 行こうぜ (ikou ze), you will only really hear in anime.
Saying these kinds of words in everyday conversation would be unnatural and surprise some people. It may come across as you’re trying to mimic an anime character or that you speak in a childish way.
Therefore there are also elements of Japanese in anime that are unique only to anime.
In particular, characters in anime will often use fantasy words and unique expressions to exaggerate what’s happening.
A famous expression in the West is the expression お前はもう死んでる (omae ha mou shinderu) which translates roughly as “you’re already dead”.
The only time when you might actually use this phrase in natural speech is when you’re playing against a friend in a game.
To up the hype and express how easy it’s going to be to win, you tell them how they’re already dead with お前はもう死んでる (omae ha mou shinderu).
Even then, if you’re speaking to a Japanese person, it may come across as being unnatural.
These kinds of words and expressions aren’t really used in everyday conversation.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese From Anime?
If you’re fluent in Korean, you may be able to learn Japanese by only watching anime. I’ve met one Korean person who had learnt Japanese entirely from watching anime.
They were able to achieve a high level of proficiency this way because not only do Japanese and Korean sound very similar, but the grammar structures are also the same. The closest comparison I believe I can make is to compare English to German. Many phrases sound similar.
The Korean person claimed that they were able to reach a conversational level within two years. However, even though they reached a conversational level of Japanese from anime, many Japanese natives did comment on how they sounded like an anime character.
Therefore learning Japanese via anime-only is not recommended. You risk learning words and expressions that sound unnatural to use in everyday conversation.
Instead, you should use anime as a supplement to your overall language studies.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese to Watch Anime?
Furthermore, as anime is scripted, the conversation may be slightly unnatural at times.
However, if your main goals are to learn Japanese for the purpose of watching anime, I recommend the following.
Firstly, watching anime with English subtitles can hinder your language progress.
When you watch an anime with English subtitles, your brain will be more focused on reading the English text rather than taking in the Japanese.
Moreover, English and Japanese grammar are considerably different. This makes it harder to read the English subtitles and understand the Japanese at the same time.
Hence, when you reach a high enough level, try to watch Japanese with Japanese subtitles. You’ll find that you’ll learn so many new words. There may also be multiple instances where you’ll learn a word you knew but didn’t recognise before.
Many times when I rewatch an anime with Japanese subtitles, I’m able to pick up on a bunch of words that I already knew, but my brain wasn’t hearing and processing properly when they were spoken by the characters.
This could be because they were spoken with a unique dialect, accent, or even conjugated in a way that I’ve not seen it been conjugated before.
With that said, learning enough Japanese to understand slice-of-life anime (such as school setting) can be done relatively quickly
Yet learning enough Japanese to understand fantasy anime is much more challenging.
I recommend watching fantasy anime with Japanese subtitles. Learning the meaning of kanji to understand the subtitles in fantasy anime will also help tremendously.
The characters will speak the reading of the words for you. And you can deduce the meaning of the words by looking at the kanji in the subtitles.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese? Summary
How long it takes to learn Japanese will be different for each person. Learning the Japanese language is an adventure that should be enjoyed.
Discover your own purpose/reasons for learning Japanese and use that as the initial energy to fuel your motivation for studying.
Sometimes you may not feel like you’re making progress with your studies, even though you very much are.
Implementing the digital flashcard application Anki, into your studies is a powerful way to utilise spaced-repetition learning and accelerate your overall learning speed.
Studying abroad is another factor that can boost language acquisition significantly, especially if you’re in an environment where English is not used.
To reach conversational fluency, focus on mastering the beginner N5 and N4 grammar (and some N3) before moving on to the harder N2 stuff.
You can use beginner grammar to comprehend a huge amount of spoken Japanese. Likewise, N4 and N5 grammar are enough to articulate complex sentences in Japanese as well.
Typically, は is pronounced as “ha”. However, the final は (wa) in こんにちは (konnichiwa) and こんばんは (konbanwa) is unique as it’s pronounced as “wa”, rather than “ha”.
See the audio for pronunciation reference!
Nice to Meet You in Japanese #2
Nice to meet you.
よろしくお願いします。 yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
The phrase よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) is unique in that it doesn’t have a direct English translation.
One of its meanings is commonly understood as “nice to meet you” in Japanese. You may see it translated like this in textbooks.
However, よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) has distinct nuances and a number of different uses compared to the former 初めまして (hajimemashite).
よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) Meaning
Let’s take a look at what よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) actually means.
As mentioned, textbooks teach this phrase early on as meaning “nice to meet you” in Japanese.
よろしく (yoroshiku), the first part of the phrase, is an adverb that literally means “well” or “suitable” in Japanese.
お願いします (onegaishimasu), the second part, is a formal verb that originates from お願い (onegai). The word お願い (onegai) means “request” or “wish” in Japanese.
Therefore, being a verb, お願いします (onegaishimasu) means “to make a request/to make a wish” in Japanese.
This means that the full phrase よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) literally translates to “to make a well/suitable request”.
However, despite the strange literal translation of “making a suitable request”, よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) is used as an expression which holds multiple intertwined meanings:
“Please treat me well”.
“Please take care of…”.
“It’s nice to meet you”.
“Please remember me”.
Nice to Meet You in Japanese #2 Example
When you meet someone for the first time, you know you’ll be working together, or if you’ll be in each other’s company for a while, use よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) to communicate that you’re hoping for a good, healthy relationship with them.
A simple yet natural dialogue may look like this:
初めまして。[name] です。よろしくお願いします。 hajiemashite. [name] desu. yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
Nice to meet you. I’m [name]. Please take care of me. (nice to meet you).
Put simply, 初めまして (hajimemashite) is used at the beginning of an introduction or greeting to mean “nice to meet you”. While よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) is used at the end of an introduction or greeting.
You don’t say よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) before you’ve introduced yourself.
The only exception to this is if someone else has introduced you first. In either case, once you’ve been introduced to the other party, saying よろしくお願いします (yoroshishiku onegaishimasu) is perfectly natural and it’s very polite to do so.
In short, use this phrase once your initial introduction has concluded!
It’s a nice way to finish and close off your initial conversation with someone you’ve not met before.
よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) VS 初めまして (hajimemashite)
As mentioned, both 初めまして (hajimemashite) and よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) can be used to say “nice to meet you” in Japanese.
初めまして (hajimemashite) is said at the beginning of the first greeting, while よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) is said at the end.
However, unlike 初めまして (hajimemashite), よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) can be used outside of first-time greetings/introductions as well.
It has many unique uses and is generally said all the time, especially in the workplace.
For example, when a company makes a request to or has a conversation with another company via phone call, they may finish the call with よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu).
よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegai shimasu) Examples
Referring to the 6 intertwined meanings as listed earlier, you can also use よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) when you want to say “please take care of…” in Japanese.
If you have a Japanese partner, for instance, their parents may say to you:
娘をよろしくお願いします。 musume wo yoroshiku onegai shimasu. Please take careof our/my daughter.
You may also use it to say “give my regards to” in Japanese. This can be very useful to say things such as:
アーロンによろしくお願いします。 a-ron ni yoroshiku onegai shimasu. Give my regards to Aaron.
Replace “Aaron” with the name of the person you wish to send greetings to. This is a great way to show positivity when you want to ask someone to tell a person to say hello to them.
It’s important to remember that you can also use よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) to communicate that you’re looking forward to developing a good relationship with someone.
This doesn’t necessarily only have to be said when you’re meeting them for the first time.
If you’re about to begin a task, project or some kind of work with someone, you may tell them:
今日はよろしくお願いします。 kyou wa yoroshiku onegai shimasu. I’m looking forward to working with you today.
There are two ways to respond to someone who has just said “nice to meet you” to you.
In the first entry, we clarified that 初めまして (hajimemashite) is best used to say “nice to meet you” in Japanese at the beginning of the initial greeting.
Therefore the best response to 初めまして (hajimemashite), is by also replying with 初めまして (hajimemashite).
This would be the same as responding with “nice to meet you” to “nice to meet you” in English.
A more accurate way to convey the full phrase “nice to meet you, too” in Japanese would be to use the following expression:
Nice to meet you too. こちらこそよろしくお願いします。 kochira koso yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
With the information explained in the earlier entry in this article, we know that よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) is an expression that functions as “nice to meet you” at the end of a greeting.
The word こちらこそ (kochira koso) is also an expression that is best translated as “it is I who should say so” in Japanese.
This is a formal expression that emphasises that it is you, the speaker who is delighted to meet the other person.
Therefore, attaching こちらこそ (kochira koso) to よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) means “nice to meet you too” in Japanese.
Another way to understand this expression is to interpret it as meaning “the pleasure is mine” or “I’m pleased to meet you” in Japanese.
To summarise, when someone says よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) to you in Japanese, you can reply with こちらこそよろしくお願いします (kochirakoso yoroshiku onegaishimasu).
For clarification, you cannot say こちらこそよろしくお願いします (kochirakoso yoroshiku onegaishimasu) straight after someone has said 初めまして (hajimemashite) to you.
In this case, it’s more natural to repeat 初めまして (hajimemashite) back to the other person!
Nice to Meet You in Japanese Formal
While よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu), explained above, is already a formal way to express “nice to meet you” in Japanese, there is a way to increase that formality.
When you’re speaking with your company’s main boss or a headteacher, for instance, you may wish to make a good first impression and say “nice to meet you” in Japanese formally.
This level of high-formality style of speech is referred to as Keigo in Japanese.
Use the following expression to say “nice to meet” you in Japanese Keigo:
Nice to meet you (formal).
よろしくお願いいたします。 yoroshiku onegai itashimasu.
This is the most formal way to say “nice to meet you” in Japanese.
Use it when speaking with those who are considered to be of higher social status than yourself.
This is useful when you’re speaking to your boss, or perhaps to a potential employer. This expression is great for interviews!
よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) and よろしくお願いいたします (yoroshiku onegaiitashimasu) Difference
Grammatically speaking, there is one difference between よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) and よろしくお願いいたします (yoroshiku onegai itashimasu).
That is that the ending changes from します (shimasu) to いたします (itashimasu).
Put simply いたします (itashimasu) is the most formal version of します (shimasu).
To explain, します (shimasu) is the formal version of the verb する (suru), meaning “to do”. いたします (itashimasu) is one step beyond that to the most formal level.
Generally, you would use する (suru), the casual variant of the verb “to do” when speaking with friends or family.
します (shimasu) is the formal variant which you would use when speaking with colleagues or strangers.
Finally, いたします (itashimasu) is the most formal variant which you use in situations where the max level of formality is required.
We clarified earlier that the literal meaning of お願いします (onegai shimasu) is “to make a request.”
Breaking down the components reveals that お願い (onegai) means “request” and します (shimasu) means “to do”. Therefore the overall meaning is literally – to do a request.
Nice to Meet You in Japanese Casual
Nice to meet you (casual).
You can shorten the expression よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) to just よろしく (yoroshiku).
When you do this, the expression becomes casual. Therefore, you can use よろしく (yoroshiku) when you want to tell someone “nice to meet you” casually in Japanese.
Like the full expression, よろしく (yoroshiku) is most naturally used at the end of the initial greeting.
Once you’ve introduced your name and any other details you deem necessary, you finish with よろしく (yoroshiku) to communicate that it’s nice to meet the person.
It’s important to remember that よろしく(yoroshiku) is not a formal expression. When you meet someone for the first time, you’ll generally want to use formal language.
However, when you say よろしく(yoroshiku) to someone at the end of your introduction you establish the “social level” of the relationship. Using よろしく(yoroshiku) establishes a friendly relationship with the other person.
Yet, this friendliness is not to be mistaken for genuine goodwill. The type of relationship that is established by saying よろしく(yoroshiku) is a friend-friend one.
You’re essentially communicating to the other person to skip the formalities.
You can also say “nice to meet you” casually in Japanese while conveying friendly vibes by using:
よろしくね。 yoroshiku ne.
Nice to meet you. (friendly).
Let’s remember that it’s natural to omit pronouns in Japanese, therefore, there is no need to mention “I” or “you”.
You can simply use やっと会えて嬉しいです (yatto aete ureshii desu) to someone when you want to express that you’re happy to have finally met them.
I’m Happy to Meet You in Japanese
I’m happy to meet you.
お会いできて嬉しいです。 odeai de kite ureshii desu.
Telling someone that you’re happy to meet them can be a nice gesture.
You can communicate that feeling in Japanese with the above phrase.
Use this phrase at the very beginning of your initial greeting with someone – right around the time when you introduce your name.
Likewise, if someone was to say this phrase to you, you can reply with こちらこそ (kochira koso). Replying like this is the same as saying “me too” in English.
It Was Nice to Meet You in Japanese
You can use a similar pattern to communicate the same expression at the end of your first meeting.
In English, when we’ve concluded the first greeting with someone and had a brief chat we sometimes say “it was nice to meet you” to round off the conversation.
This English sentence is in the past tense and the Japanese variant of this expression is in the past tense too.
It was nice to meet you.
おで会いきて嬉しかったです。 odeai de kite ureshikatta desu.
This is a formal phrase you can use when you wish to express that you feel delighted to have met someone. It would be most natural to use it at the end of your first chat with the person you’ve just met.
I’m Looking Forward to Meeting You
I’m looking forward to meeting you.
お会いできるのを楽しみにしております。 odeai de kiru no wo tanoshimishte orimasu.
You can express how you’re looking forward to seeing someone formally and casually in Japanese.
For the formal variant, please refer to the above expression.
You may want to use this expression after you’ve arranged a time and date to meet up with someone. This could be by email or phone for instance.
As such, you can say this phrase at the end of your conversation on the phone or via email. In doing so, you communicate that you’re fondly anticipating your meeting with them.
If you’re speaking with a friend or partner (whom you haven’t seen for a while), you may wish to use the casual variant of this expression.
The casual way to say “I’m looking forward to meeting you” in Japanese is:
会うのを楽しみしてる。 au no wo tansohimi shteru.
I’m looking forward to meeting you. (casual).
This phrase begins with 会う (au) the kanji for “to meet” in Japanese.
It ends with 楽しみしてる (tanoshimi shteru). This is a verb that means “looking forward to” in Japanese.
The middle contains two particles. These are の (no) and を (wo). Grammatically speaking, の (no) transforms the preceding verb, 会う (au) into a noun. This allows it to be modified by another verb.
The を (wo) particle connects a noun and verb together. It marks the preceding noun as the “thing” that the following verb is doing.
We clarified that the verb “to meet”会う (au) has been transformed into a noun. The following verb is “looking forward to”, 楽しみしてる (tanoshi mi shteru).
Therefore the literal translation can be understood as “looking forward to meet”.
Just like others in this article, this expression also omits pronouns. This is because it’s natural to completely drop all pronouns in Japanese.
It’s an Honour to Meet You
You can express how it’s an honour to meet someone in Japanese through the use of Keigo; the polite style of Japanese speech.
In Keigo, words and phrases often change drastically from how they are in the dictionary (regular) form.
The verb for “to meet” in Japanese is 会う (au). In Keigo, it’s much longer. It becomes お目にかかる (me ni kakaru). For those curious, 目 is the kanji for “eyes” in Japanese.
As Keigo is a very polite style of speech, we can utilise it to say things such as “it’s an honour to meet you” in Japanese.
The word for honour in Japanese is 光栄 (kouei).
Combining these two words in the same sentence will make:
お目にかかれて光栄です。 o me ni kakarete kouei desu.
It’s an honour to meet you.
お目にかかる (o me ni kakaru) has been changed into お目にかかれて (o me ni kakarete). This is the potential te-form.
The potential form is used to describe an ability or inability to do something. Hence, the potential form of the Keigo word for “meet” in Japanese is a polite “can meet”.
Whereas the te-form enables verbs to connect to another noun/verb, extending the sentence length. The te-form is necessary here as Japanese sentences typically end with the verb. The te-form allows this to be bypassed.
In essence, you express how it’s an honour that you can meet this person when you use this phrase.
You may also wish to communicate things such as:
いつお目にかかれますか。 itsu o me ni kakaremasu ka?
When can I see you?
As this phrase is also in Keigo, it’s a very formal way of asking someone when you can see them.
Nice in Japanese!
The Japanese word for “nice” is ナイス (naisu)! Although this word is not used to communicate that you’re happy to meet someone. Instead, you use it to give compliments or to describe something as being good.
For more examples of how to introduce yourself properly in Japanese using some of the phrases listed in this guide, I recommend this video:
The video covers how to say “nice to meet you” in Japanese as part of your self-introduction. It also teaches how to expand your self-introduction with additional information.
For example, introducing your age, where you’re from, your job and where you live in Japanese.
For more ultimate How-to Japanese guides from me, I recommend these:
Generally, the best way to say “good night” in Japanese is with the casual おやすみ (oyasumi) or the formal おやすみなさい (oyasumi nasai).
You can use おやすみ (oyasumi) to say “good night” to a friend in Japanese before you or they go to bed.
In Japanese, you can also use おやすみ (oyasumi) to say “good night” to someone when it’s late at night and they are leaving to go home.
For example, perhaps you and your friend are on the last train of the night together. At the moment when they are about to get off the train at a stop before yours, you can tell them おやすみ (oyasumi).
Likewise, we also use “good night” in various situations in English. For instance, we may also use it as a general parting greeting.
We may say a friendly good night to the staff at a store just before closing time. Or we may just want to wish someone in having a good night.
Furthermore, we normally include much more into our “good night” parting phrase in English. We add additional phrases and expressions after saying good night. For example, we may also say “sweet dreams”, “sleep well”, or even “I love you”.
These types of expressions can be challenging to translate into Japanese.
Yet, that’s not to say there is no way to communicate these expressions at all. There are many alternative expressions we can use to convey a similar meaning in Japanese.
This ultimate guide covers all the ways to say “good night” in Japanese as well as similar related expressions. All entries are coupled with a native pronunciation recording for your reference along with detailed explanations and examples.
This guide is suitable for beginners and intermediate users alike!
Good Night in Japanese
The expression おやすみ (oyasumi) is the casual way to say “good night” in Japanese. Thus, you use it between friends, family and those who you are close with.
As mentioned, you can use おやすみ (oyasumi) to say “good night” to someone just before you or they go to bed.
Similar to English, it’s natural for the person to repeat おやすみ (oyasumi) back to you, the same as how someone would say “good night” to you after you’ve just said it to them.
You can also say おやすみ (oyasumi) as a parting greeting to someone when it’s late at night.
Perhaps you and your friend are walking home together late at night. Eventually, you go separate ways as your houses are in different directions. At this point you may say to them:
今日ありがとう。おやすみ！ kyou arigatou. oyasumi!
Thanks for today. Good night!
In short, you can use おやすみ (oyasumi) to say good night to someone before they go to bed, or as a parting greeting when it’s late at night.
Refer to the above recording for a native pronunciation reference on how to say “good night” in Japanese.
Good Night in Japanese Kanji
When written in kanji, おやすみ (oyasumi) is お休み (oyasumi).
The kanji is 休, which means “rest” in Japanese.
You’ll often see 休 appear in the verb 休む meaning “to rest”.
What does おやすみ (oyasumi) mean?
Strictly speaking, おやすみ (oyasumi) does not translate directly into “good night”. Instead, it is used to convey the meaning of “good night” to someone before sleep.
This is because おやすみ (oyasumi) is composed of two components.
Firstly is お (o) which is a pre-fix used in Japanese Keigo, polite style speech. You place it at the beginning of a word to essentially beautify and make the word polite.
Secondly, やすみ means “rest” in Japanese. Written in kanji it’s 休み (yasumi). The word 休み (yasumi) is the noun version of the verb 休む (yasumu), meaning “to rest”.
Combining お (o) and やすみ (yasumi) together makes おやすみ (oyasumi).
Therefore, when you say おやすみ (oyasumi) to someone you’re actually telling them to rest up, rather than to have a “good night” specifically.
With that said, you still communicate the same sentiment with おやすみ (oyasumi) as you do when you say “good night” to someone in English.
It’s worth noting that although おやすみ (oyasumi) is made up of a Japanese Keigo component, it’s still considered a word that you use casually. There is a different expression for saying good night formally.
おやすみ (oyasumi) Uses
The expression おやすみ (oyasumi) has additional uses outside of just being a way to say “good night” to someone.
In the above section, we covered that おやすみ (oyasumi) is composed of two parts. First is お (o), a pre-fix to make the following polite. The second is やすみ (yasumi), the word for “rest” in Japanese.
One of the reasons おやすみ (oyasumi) does not translate directly to “good night” is because it can be used to mean “day off“, “rest“, or “holiday.
In essence, you can use おやすみ (oyasumi) to talk about a day off, a holiday or an absence.
For example, you can use おやすみ (oyasumi) to talk about when you have a day off from work/school.
明日はお休みです。 ashita wa oyasumi desu.
Tomorrow is a day off.
If you’re going to be absent from work or school for a while, you can communicate this too.
学校からしばらくお休みします。 gakkou kara shibaraku oyasumi shimasu. I will be absent from school for a while.
Likewise, if you’ve taken some time off from work for any reason, you can use the following sequence:
お休みを取りました。 oyasumi wo torimashita.
I took a holiday.
Generally, you’ll hear おやすみ (oyasumi) used to say “good night” in Japanese.
However, it’s worth noting that you can also use おやすみ (oyasumi) to talk about a day off or an absence.
Good Night in Japanese Formal
Good Night (formal).
When you want to say “good night” in Japanese formally, use おやすみなさい (oyasuminasai).
Like おやすみ (oyasumi), this expression is also a night greeting.
おやすみなさい (oyasuminasai) is an extension of おやすみ (oyasumi) with the addition of なさい (nasai).
It has three major components.
お (o) is a prefix that beautifies the word it’s attached to; making it polite.
やすみ (yasumi) is the noun version of the verb やすむ (yasumu), meaning “to rest”.
Hence, using なさい (nasai) is a way to issue a soft command in Japanese.
By combining all three components together we have おやすみなさい (oyasuminasai). We can interpret it literally as a polite expression for ” have a rest”.
Therefore, when you want to tell someone to have a good night in Japanese, use おやすみなさい (oyasuminasai) to wish them in having a rejuvenating sleep.
More Ways to Say Good Night in Japanese
While the casual おやすみ (oyasumi) and the formal おやすみなさい (oyasuminasai) are great ways to say good night in Japanese, they do have their limitations.
In English, we use the phrase “good night” frequently in all kinds of situations. You may say it to your colleagues as a farewell when you go home for the day/evening, for instance.
In Japanese, unless it’s very late at night, it’s uncommon to wish someone a good night ahead of time.
Instead, when you’re finishing work for the day, to tell your colleagues “good night” you can use:
Good Night/Thank you (for your hard work).
お疲れ様です。 otsukare sama desu.
It’s common to say お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu) to colleagues when you’ve finished work today. It’s a way to announce that you’re going home, thank them for the day and to express “good night” all in one word.
You’ll hear this expression all the time in the workplace even when you’re not actually finished for the day.
お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu) Explanation
In any case, when someone has completed some kind of work, task or project it’s natural to say お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu) to express gratitude and to compliment what they’ve done.
Remember that Japanese is an honorific language, meaning that it’s polite to thank others for work they’ve done regularly.
For a full in-depth explanation of お疲れ様です (otsukare sama desu), refer to this ultimate guide:
The final ね (ne), is a grammar particle. You use it at the end of a sentence to ask or show agreement.
In summary, use the above phrase to express “good night” to someone in Japanese in the sense of having a good time.
Enjoy Your Night in Japanese
If someone is particularly excited about something that’s happening at night, you can join in on their feeling of joy with this phrase:
今夜楽しみだね。 konya tanoshimi da ne.
Tonight will be exciting, won’t it?
You can use this phrase if you’ll be participating in whatever it is that they are looking forward to or not. Using this phrase is a considerate way to acknowledge someone’s enthusiasm or excitement for something.
The Japanese Word For Night
The word and kanji for “night” in Japanese is 夜 (yoru). In hiragana, it’s written as よる (yoru).
When saying “good night” to someone in Japanese, you don’t actually use the word 夜 (yoru) at all.
With that said, you can use the word 夜 (yoru) to refer to the night or at a particular time in the night using other words.
今夜 (konya) – Tonight.
ゆうべ (yuube) – Last night.
夜中 (yonaka) – In the middle of the night/ Midnight.
明日の夜 (ashita no yoru) – Tomorrow night.
The Japanese Word for “Good”
Just like 夜 (yoru), you don’t use the word for “good” in Japanese when wishing someone a good night.
The word for good in Japanese is いい (ii). Yet there are many other ways to say “good”. I’ve composed an ultimate guide that covers all the ways to say “good” in Japanese coupled with explanations, examples and pronunciation references.
When translating “good night” into Japanese using automated tools, you may come across the following phrase:
いい夜を。 ii yoru wo.
This phrase contains the words いい (ii) and 夜 (yoru) which do mean “good” and “night” respectively.
However, this phrase sounds unnatural and you should not use it.
Instead, you should use おやすみ (oyasumi) and お疲れ様です (otsukaresama desu), as explained in earlier entries.
Good Night, Sleep Well in Japanese
There are a few ways to say “good night, sleep well” in Japanese.
The first way is to say it casually.
Good night, sleep well. ゆっくり寝てね。おやすみ。 yukkuri nete ne. oyasumi.
You can use this phrase with a friend, family member or someone you’re close with just before you or they sleep as a natural way to wish them a restful sleep.
Let’s break down the entire phrase and the components. Firstly, we know that おやすみ (oyasumi) can be used to say “good night” in Japanese.
Secondly, the phrase ゆっくり寝てね (yukkuri nete ne) means “sleep well”. Yet, the literal meaning is sometimes interpreted as “sleep slowly”.
This is because the word ゆっくり (yukkuri) is most commonly associated with meaning “slowly“, “unhurriedly“, or “without haste“.
However, it can also mean “well (referring to sleep)“, or “comfortably“.
Thirdly, 寝て (nete) is the te-form of the verb 寝る (neru), meaning “to sleep“. Thus, when you combine 寝て (nete) with ゆっくり (yukkuri) in a sentence, you’re literally saying “sleep comfortably/sleep well” in Japanese.
Finally, the ね (ne) is an optional sentence-ending particle that you use to show or ask for agreement. In this example, it functions similarly to saying “get some good sleep tonight, okay?” in English.
Sleep Well in Polite Japanese
To wish someone in having a good night’s rest formally in Japanese, you can use the following phrase:
ゆっくりお休みください。 yukkuri o yasumi kudasai.
Sleep well (polite).
Similar to saying “sleep well” in Japanese casually, this phrase also utilises ゆっくり (yukkuri).
As mentioned ゆっくり (yukkuri) is an adverb that commonly means “slowly”, but it can also mean “well” or “comfortably”.
Also discussed in earlier entries, 休み (yasumi) that means “rest” in Japanese. Preceding 休み (yasumi) is お (o). This お (o) acts as a beautifier to transform a word into a formal one. You may see it appear in other words, such as:
お水 (omizu) – Water.
お寿司 (osushi) – Sushi.
お酒 (sake) – Alcohol.
お金 (okane) Money.
In all of these examples, お (o) functions as a beautifier, making the words respectful and formal.
Appearing last is ください (kudasai), a formal way to say “please” in Japanese.
Therefore, when put together, the full phrase ゆっくりお休みください (yukkuri oyasumi kudasai) literally translates as please rest well”.
With that said, you use it when you want to say “sleep well” to someone formally in Japanese.
Asking Did You Sleep Well in Japanese?
After saying to someone “sleep well”, the next thing would be to ask if they actually did manage to sleep well or not the next morning.
To ask someone “did you sleep well” formally in Japanese, use:
よくお休みしましたか。 yoku yasumimashita ka.
Did you sleep well? (formal).
よく (yoku) is the adverb of いい (ii), meaning “good” in Japanese. Therefore, the “well” part of this phrase is communicated through the word よく (yoku).
The word お休みしましたか is the polite form, or the ます (masu) form of 休む (yasumu), the verb for “to rest”.
The ending か (ka) is used to denote a question when speaking formally.
Therefore, asking someone if they slept well with this phrase is synonymous with asking if they rested well.
よく寝た？ yoku neta?
Did you sleep well? (casual).
Use the above phrase to ask if someone has had a rejuvenating sleep casually in Japanese.
A typical instance when you may use this phrase is with a friend who the next morning after they’ve travelled some distance to see you.
In essence, when you’re wondering if someone was able to get adequate sleep, or if you’re just wanting to be polite, use よく寝た (yoku neta).
Good Night, Sweet Dreams in Japanese
When someone is heading to bed, sometimes you may want to wish them sweet dreams in their sleep.
Although there is not a perfect translation for “sweet dreams” in Japanese, there are other expressions we can use that hold similar nuances.
Firstly, you can in fact convey the nuances attached to “sweet dreams” by using:
Good night (sweet dreams).
As discussed in the earlier section of this ultimate guide, you use おやすみ (oyasumi) when you want to say “good night” to someone in Japanese.
Yet, おやすみ (oyasumi) is not strictly only translated as “good night”. You can, of course, use it in place of the English “good night” as a night greeting before sleep. This is how this phrase is commonly used.
As explained, おやすみ (oyasumi) actually translates literally to “have a good rest” in Japanese. It’s often used when you want to wish someone a relaxing, peaceful rest.
In English, we use the phrase “sweet dreams” when we want to express good wishes to someone before they go to sleep. Therefore we can use おやすみ (oyasumi) to convey a similar meaning.
Native speakers also often translate the phrase “sweet dreams” as おやすみ (oyasumi) in Japanese.
Sweet Dreams in Japanese
With that said, there are also some alternative Japanese expressions that also convey something similar to the English “sweet dreams”.
Depending on the person you are saying “sweet dreams” to, there are different expressions you can use.
For instance, you may say to a child:
楽しい夢を見てね。 tanoshii yume wo mite ne.
Have some fun dreams.
Or you may wish to communicate something more romantic to a partner.
夢で一緒に遊ぼう！ yume de isshoni asobou!
Let’s have some fun (let’s play) together in our dreams!
For more information on how to express “sweet dreams” to someone in Japanese, take a look at the below ultimate guide.
Calling someone “my love” after saying “good night” to them is another instance where it’s difficult to translate it perfectly into Japanese.
There are multiple workarounds, however, as well as a literal translation that you may be able to use in some unique circumstances.
The most natural way to express something similar to “good night, my love” in Japanese is to refer to the person with whom you are speaking by their actual name.
Good night, [name].
おやすみ [name]。 [name] oyasumi.
This is because calling someone by their actual name in your “good night” greeting makes it much more personal.
You can, of course, just say おやすみ (oyasumi) to them, which is the standard way of saying “good night” in Japanese.
However, including the person’s name, (especially their first name!) is a great way to personalise the expression.
The literal translation for “good night, my love” in Japanese is:
Good night, my love.
おやすみ、私の愛。 oyasumi, watashi no ai.
私の愛 (watashi no ai) translates literally as “my love” in Japanese. 私の (watashi no) means “my”, and 愛 (ai) means “love”.
But, calling someone your 愛 (ai) in Japanese can come across as very strong, and even unnatural at times.
This phrase is the kind of thing you may hear in a romantic-heavy drama series or movie.
Outside of this, you would hardly ever use it. If you were to use this with your Japanese partner, they may be taken a bit off guard and think you are mimicking a line you’ve heard in a script/video/movie somewhere.
Although with that said, it is a fun way to get a conversation going, so I’d recommend trying it, maybe!
Good Night Darling in Japanese
There are a few ways to refer to your significant other as “darling” while wishing them a good night in Japanese.
The first is to use the word ダーリン (da-rin), which is a borrowed word from the English word “darling”.
Good night, darling.
おやすみ、ダーリン。 oyasumi, da-rin.
We’ve learned that おやすみ (oyasumi) is the standard natural way to say “good night” in Japanese.
Hence, you can simply include the word ダーリン (da-rin) after saying おやすみ (oyasumi), to say “good night, darling” in Japanese.
However, ダーリン (da-rin) also has some strong romantic nuances attached. Therefore it’s not used very often.
Another way to call your partner “darling” in Japanese is to use あなた (anata).
Good night, darling.
おやすみ、あなた。 oyasumi, anata.
Textbooks teach あなた (anata) as the standard way to say “you” in Japanese. However, it’s much more natural to use the person’s actual name rather than あなた (anata).
You should still call the person by their name, even when you’re speaking with that person directly. This is the best way to say “you” in Japanese.
Yet, you may have heard あなた (anata) used in movies or songs to address someone as “you”. In these scenarios, あなた (anata) is considered a romantic word and translates as “darling”.
Outside of movies or song lyrics, あなた (anata) is not used to call someone “darling” very often at all.
It’s still safer to just use the person’s name instead. This is the most natural way to make the phrase “good night” more personal!
Good Night I Love You in Japanese
Good night, I love you.
おやすみ、愛してるよ。 oyasumi, aishiteru yo.
We include the expression “I love you” when saying “good night” to a partner in English fairly often.
For some people, saying “I love you” when you go to bed may have become like second nature.
Yet, in Japanese, telling someone you love them is considered to be very strong by most people.
The closest phrase to the English “I love you” is 愛してる (aishteru). However, as mentioned, telling someone you love them with 愛してる (aishteru) can be considerably intense for the receiver.
Just like the phrases for “darling” in Japanese, 愛してる (aishteru) is often used in movies and song lyrics.
Using 愛してる (Using aishteru)
With that said, 愛してる (aishteru) can be said between two very closer lovers in Japanese. It conveys a very strong romantic image and therefore should not be used in high-frequency.
Instead, you should only use it for those exceptionally special situations when you love your partner (and they love you back) dearly.
In these scenarios, telling someone “good night, I love you” with おやすみ、愛してるよ (oyasumi, aishteru yo) is a great expression to use.
Using it on your honeymoon after marriage would be a great time to take advantage of this expression.
You could even make it even more personal by including the person’s name!
おやすみ [name]。愛してるよ。 oyasumi [name]. aishteru yo.
Good night [name]. I love you.
Have a glance at the below ultimate guide for a full breakdown of the nuances associated with saying “I love you” and “I like you” in Japanese.
To clarify, you don’t need to include the “I” pronoun when saying “I love you” in Japanese. Likewise, the “you” pronoun is also not needed! This is because it’s more natural to omit pronouns in Japanese.
The final よ (yo) in 愛してるよ (aishteru yo) is an optional grammar particle used to emphasise what’s being said.
It was a Good Night in Japanese
You can express how a night was particularly enjoyable for you in Japanese by using this phrase.
It was a good night.
楽しい夜だった。 tanoshii yoru datta.
This is a casual expression you can use to say how you enjoyed the night.
As this expression is in the past tense, you’ll want to use it when speaking about a night that has already happened.
This could be as soon as the night is over, as well. For instance, imagine you were out with friends for the night, you’re on your way home with them and you say:
楽しい夜だったね！ tanoshii yoru datta ne!
That was a fun night! Wasn’t it?
楽しい (tanoshii) is an i-adjective, meaning “fun”.
夜 (yoru) is the word for “night”.
だった (datta) is the casual past tense for です (desu), meaning “it is”.
You can also use this expression to talk about an enjoyable night that’s happened in the distant past. Perhaps you’re feeling nostalgic about it. For example:
去年のパーティーは楽しい夜だった！ kyonen no pa-tei- ha tanoshii yoru datta!
Last year’s party was a great night!
You can make this expression formal, by changing だった (datta) to でした (deshita).
This would make it:
楽しい夜でした！ tanoshii yoru deshita!
It was a fun night! (formal).
This phrase may come in handy if you’re reminiscing about a fun night with colleagues for instance.
See You in the Morning in Japanese
After saying “good night”, the next thing that naturally follows is “see you in the morning”.
We use this as the final sentence in our good night greetings. We generally specify that it will be the morning the next time we see each other.
Yet in Japanese, it’s usually “see you tomorrow” that’s said, rather than specifically “see you in the morning”.
With that said, the best way to say “see you in the morning” in Japanese is to use:
See you tomorrow (in the morning).
また明日。 mata ashita.
This is the expression that is used after you say good night to someone. Use it when you would usually say “see you in the morning” to someone in English.
Of course, as this phrase does actually mean “see you tomorrow”, you can use it as a general farewell too. It’s a casual parting phrase that you can say to friends or family to say goodbye.
To clarify また (mata) means “again”, and 明日 (ashita) means “tomorrow”. In the literal sense, this phrase translates as “tomorrow again”. Although it’s used to convey the meaning of “see you tomorrow” or “see you in the morning”.
However, if you have arranged to meet someone in the morning, you can communicate the specific time with this phrase:
また朝に会おう！ mata asa ni aou!
Let’s meet in the morning!
This is a casual phrase you can use to confirm that the morning is the time when you will next meet.
Generally speaking, however, you will want to use また明日 (mata ashita) to say “see you in the morning” to someone after you’ve told them “good night”.
The most natural way to express “good night” in Japanese is with おやすみ (oyasumi).
You’ll find that a lot of the phrases you use to say good night in English can be expressed with おやすみ (oyasumi) in Japanese.
Expressions such as “night night” or “night” are examples of this.
There are three main ways to say “why” in Japanese. They are:
These three words all mean “why” in Japanese and can be used when enquiring about the cause, reason, or purpose of something.
However, they each have specific differences and it’s important to be able to distinguish between them.
Generally speaking, 何で (nande) is mostly informal. It’s best used when speaking with friends.
どうして (doushte) can be either formal or informal. However, it is a slightly more ‘weighted’ way of asking someone “why”, meaning that you convey a little more emotion when you use it.
The third word, なぜ (naze) is a formal way of saying “why” in Japanese. You’ll mainly see it appear in academic writing, books, poetry, song lyrics etc.
With that said, there are other ways to say “why” in Japanese, as well as other nuances attached to the three words listed above. Although these three are certainly some of the most commonly appearing expressions.
In this ultimate guide, you can find a list of all of the ways to say “why” in Japanese, coupled with explanations, examples and native audio for your pronunciation reference.
Why in Japanese
The word 何で (nande) is one of the best ways to say “why” in Japanese.
It is mostly an informal way of asking “why” and should be used primarily when speaking with friends, family members, or those who are on the same ‘social’ level as you, such as a same-grade classmate.
You can use 何で (nande) to ask about the case, purpose or reason for something.
It is very similar to the English word for “why”. Just like the English word, you often place 何で (nande) at the beginning of a sentence when asking “why”.
How to say Why in Japanese with Examples
何で日本語を勉強してる？ nande nihongo wo benkyou shteru? Why are you studying Japanese?
Essentially, place 何で (nande) at the beginning of a sentence when you wish to compose a “why” question.
Should context allow it, you can also use 何で (nande) by itself to ask “why” to something, just like you would in English.
Let’s say you’re with a friend at a restaurant you’re ordering food. They tell the waiter that they’ll just have water for their drink when you’re expecting them to order some alcohol with you. You may ask them:
え、何で？ お酒飲まないの？ e nande? osake nomanai no?
Huh, why? Aren’t you going to drink any alcohol?
Despite being a casual word, you may still hear 何で (nande) during formal speech. This is considered a little impolite (even if you attempt to make it formal by attaching ですか (desuka) to the end of the word. This would make it 何でですか (nande desuka).
Attaching ですか (desuka) transforms a sentence or phrase into a formal question. However, due to the nuances of 何で (nande), it still remains somewhat impolite even when it’s 何でですか (nande desuka).
Therefore you should avoid using 何で (nande) when speaking formally.
Use a different word (such as どうして (doushte), explained below) when you wish to ask “why” something in Japanese.
Why in Hiragana
The hiragana for 何で (nande), meaning “why” in Japanese, is なんで (nande).
As 何で (nande) is a casual word, you can write it in either hiragana or kanji as both are considered to be natural.
何で (nande) is commonly used in daily casual conversation, although you may find yourself writing (or typing) it when messaging a friend. During these situations writing 何で (nande) in hiragana is perfectly fine.
Why in Japanese Kanji
何で (nande) is a way to say “why” in Japanese that has a kanji. This kanji is 何 and means “what”. The kanji by itself is read as なに (nani), meaning “what” in Japanese.
Therefore, when you wish to ask “why” make sure that you include the で (de) that follows after 何 (nani). Otherwise, the meaning will change to “what”.
More Ways to Say Why in Japanese
The word どうして (doushte) is the second of the three most common ways to say “why” in Japanese.
Unlike 何で (nande), どうして (doushte) can be used for both formal and informal speech.
However, when you use どうして (doushte) you’re asking with more ‘weight’ with your words. In other words, using どうして (doushte) communicates a little more emotion when you ask “why”.
You can use どうして (doushte) in many similar situations as you can 何で (nande) – to ask a for a reason, purpose or cause.
Generally, you place it at the beginning of the sentence, the same way as you would when asking “why” in English.
どうして泣いてるの？ doushte naiteru no? Whyare you crying?
As mentioned, どうして (doushte) carries a little more emotional impact. Therefore using どうして (doushte) to express extra emotion or concern can be useful.
It’s also important to note that, using the above sentence as an example, it is common to omit pronouns in Japanese.
If you are with someone who is crying, it’s obvious that you’re speaking to them when you ask them “why”.
For this reason, when the context is understood, it’s natural to drop the pronouns.
The biggest difference between どうして (doushte) and なんで (nande) is that どうして (doushte) can also be used for formal speech.
どうして何も言わなかったのですか。 doushte nanimo iwanakatta no desuka? Whydidn’t you say anything?
Just like 何で (nande), you place どうして (doushte) at the beginning of a sentence to compose a why question.
Why in Japanese Formally
The word なぜ (naze) is a way to say “why” formally in Japanese with some specific usage.
First, it’s important to know that while なぜ (naze) is a formal word, it’s not formal in the sense that it’s polite. It sounds somewhat unnatural if you use なぜ (naze) when you wish to ask someone “why” in Japanese politely with Keigo (honorific language).
なぜ (naze) is a way to say “why” strictly in the formal sense – meaning that you’ll see it used mainly in academic essays, public speeches, books, song lyrics or poetry.
You don’t want to use なぜ (naze) when speaking with friends, for instance.
To ask a senior, a teacher, manager, stranger, (or customer if you’re staff) “why” formally/politely in Japanese, you should use どうして (doushte), explained above.
On the other hand, if you’re composing song lyrics, or writing a script for a speech or essay, なぜ (naze) is the best word to use.
Formal Why – Examples
For song lyrics, you have all the freedom to use なぜ (naze) how you wish:
なぜいないの？ naze inai no? Whyaren’t you here?
There aren’t any restrictions on how you use なぜ (naze) in these types of scenarios, either.
なぜ君は私のそばにいてくれないの？ naze kimi wa watashi no soba ni ite kurenai no? Whywon’t you be by my side?
Following the trend with 何で (nande) and どうして (doushte), なぜ (naze) can also be placed at the beginning of the sentence to make a “why” question.
Another way to understand なぜ (naze) is as a rational way to ask “why” in Japanese. Essentially, you can use it when you’re asking for the logic behind something. It can come across as considerably direct.
なぜ君はお金を使い果たしたのか？ naze kimi wa okane wo tsukai hatashta no ka? Whydid you use up all the money?
In the above example, you’re seeking the logic behind an action. Remember, that なぜ (naze) is impolite when used in everyday conversation.
何で (nande), どうして (doushte), なぜ (naze) Difference
The three main ways to say “why” in Japanese, each has their own nuances and usage. This section serves as a summary of the most important differences between 何で (nande), どうして (doushte) and なぜ (naze) for your reference.
For a more detailed explanation and examples please see each individual listing above.
The word 何で (nande) is a casual/informal way of saying “why” in Japanese. Using it with friends is the most natural way to use it.
It has a kanji that you may sometimes see. The kanji is 何 and means “what” in Japanese. Attaching で (de) makes it 何で (nande) and changes the meaning to “why”.
You can use 何で (nande) when speaking formally but should be avoided as it can appear impolite.
The word どうして (doushte) is both a casual and formal word. This means you can use it in more situations compared to 何で (nande), which is generally perceived as a casual word.
どうして (doushte) communicates more emotion when you use it to ask “why” in Japanese.
The word なぜ (naze) is a formal/rational way of saying “why” in Japanese. なぜ (naze) is not considered to be polite. Instead, it’s a formal way to ask “why”.
You primarily use it when writing academic pieces, essays, song lyrics, public speeches, poetry etc. Being a rational way of asking “why”, なぜ (naze) is best used to seek the logic or thought behind something.
It sounds unnatural to use なぜ (naze) when asking “why” to a friend.
Compared to どうして (doushte), なぜ (naze) carries no emotional context.
But Why in Japanese
でも、何で/どうして？ demo nande/ doushte?
The literal translation for “but why” in Japanese is first to say でも (demo), and then follow it up with either 何で (nande) or どうして (doushte).
でも (demo) is a conjunction that means “but” in Japanese.
Just like in English, saying でも (demo) before asking 何で (nande) communicates an objection, uncertainty or confusion about something.
In English, we use “but” to introduce a word or phrase that contrasts with something. You use でも (demo) to do the same thing.
Sometimes we use the phrase “but why” to show that we’re seeking more information or an explanation. For example:
でもどうしてパーティーに来なかったの？ demo doushte pa-tei ni konakatta no? But whydidn’t you come to the party?
Here, the speaker is asking for clarification on why the person didn’t come to the party.
If you’re really wanting to know the reason behind something, you can communicate that feeling more directly, too.
でもどうして！ 理由を教えてよ。 demo doushte!– riyuu wo oshiete yo! But why! Tell me the reason!
The above example is quite a strong way to express your feelings of wanting to know the truth. The person you’re speaking to will feel that too and will (hopefully) tell you their reasonings.
That’s Why in Japanese
The word だから (dakara) means “that’s why”, “therefore” or “so” n Japanese. You say だから (dakara) at the beginning of a sentence to explain a reason or purpose.
It works similar to “that’s why” in English and is a great way to respond to a question or statement to give your reasoning behind something.
For instance, if someone tells you that you look pretty tired, you might say something like:
うん。だから帰ってから寝る。 un. dakara kaette kara neru.
Yeah. That’s why I’m going to sleep when I get home.
When you want to explain your past or future actions, だから (dakara) is a fantastic word to use.
As another example, imagine it’s snowing pretty hard and you’re late to class or work because of it. When you arrive someone mentions how the snow is pretty bad.
You may say:
だから遅れたよ。 dakra okureta yo. That’s whyI was late.
So That’s Why in Japanese
You can also use だから (dakara) as a means to confirm a statement or to presume an answer to something.
For instance, perhaps yesterday a classmate or colleague went home unexpectedly early. Later, they tell you that they had a migraine that same day.
Similar to how we would say “so that’s why you…” in English, we can say:
だから昨日早く帰ったの？ dakra kinou hayaku kaetta no? So that’s whyyou went home early yesterday?
In the above example, we use だから (dakara) to explain the answer to something.
You use it when talking about past or future circumstances.
Imagine you have a friend on a super strict diet. You know they won’t touch chocolate or sweets at all! Or at least that’s what you thought until they tell you they want to buy 2 mars bars and 3 snickers bars.
You find out later that they are having a celebration. You may respond:
だからチョコレートを買いたいんだ！珍しいと思ったよ。 dakra chocore-to wo kaitainda! mezurashii to omotta yo. So that’s whyyou want to buy chocolate! I did think it was unusual for you.
Having just worked out the reasoning behind something, you express your findings or thoughts with だから (dakara).
Why Do you Ask in Japanese
Saying “why do you ask” in Japanese can be done one of two ways.
The first way simply involves using 何で (nande) as a response to somebody’s question. We learned that 何で (nande) is one of the ways that mean “why” in Japanese. But the words’ meaning and nuances can stretch to mean “why do you ask” also.
The second, and more literal way of asking someone, is to use:
Why do you ask?
何で聞くの？ nande kiku no?
Note that this can come across as somewhat direct.
We know that 何で (nande) means “why” in Japanese.
The second word, 聞く (kiku) is a verb that means “to ask” or “to listen” in Japanese.
The final の (no) is an optional addition that adds a little more emotion to your words.
This sentence is a casual way of saying “why do you ask” in Japanese.
You can add more words to this phrase, too. For example, you can specify the matter or thing that the person is asking you about.
何でそれを聞くの？ nande sore wo kiku no? Whydo you ask that?
Just like in English, each phrase conveys slightly different nuances depending on which version you use.
Why Are You Asking?
You can use the template of this phrase to change it to a continuous phrase, too.
Why are you asking?
何で聞いている？ nande kiite iru?
The word 聞いている (kiite iru) is the present continuous form of 聞く(kiku). This means that 聞いている (kiite iru) means “asking”, and 聞く(kiku) means “to ask”.
In English, we use the two phrases “why do you ask” and “why are you asking” somewhat interchangeably. In Japanese, this is similar.
The Reason Why Is… in Japanese
To give a reason for something using the phrase “the reason why is…” in Japanese, we have to use an N3 Grammar point.
There are two grammar points we can use to say this. They are:
The reason why is…
なぜかというと…からだ。 naze ka toiu to… kara da.
The reason why is…/because.
なぜかというと (naze ka toiu to) Japanese Grammar
なぜかというと (naze ka toiu to) is an N3 grammar point that quite literally translates to: “if I had to say why then…”
Out of the two phrases, なぜかというと (naze ka toiu to) is on the less-formal end of the scale.
The first part of this grammar is なぜか (naze ka), an adverb that means “somehow” or “for some reason” in Japanese.
Secondly, the という (toiu) that follows なぜか (naze ka) in なぜかというと (naze ka toiu to) is an expression verb that means “to say” in Japanese. Sometimes, you may see it written in kanji as と言う (to iu). To clarify, 言 is the kanji for “say” or “speak”.
The final と (to) is one of the four ways to say “if” in Japanese. Use this “if” to say that something is absolute if it happens. Use it to say things like:
ボタンを押すとおつりがでる。 botan wo osu to otsuri ga deru.. Ifyou push the button change will come out.
Just like in the example, you use と (to) to describe something that is definite or 99.9% expected.
In conclusion, the addition of the final と (to) at the end of なぜかというと (naze ka toiu to) adds an “if” nuance to the construction of this grammar point.
Breaking down the grammar point like this may help you understand it. However, it’s not always necessary.
Instead, it’s important to understand the entire phrase なぜかというと (naze ka toiu to) as a way to say “the reason why is…” in Japanese.
なぜかというと (naze ka toiu to) Examples
Place なぜかというと (naze ka toiu to) at the beginning of the sentence to compose a sentence that begins with “the reason why is”.
You use this grammar point when you wish to express a reason for something.
You can say things like:
なぜかというと甘いものが好きだからです。 naze ka toiuto amaimono ga suki dakara desu. The reason why isbecause I like sweet things.
When you use this grammar point to give a reason for something, you should end the sentence with から (kara).
The best way to understand から (kara) is to remember it as a way to say “because” in Japanese. By itself, から (kara) is an N5 beginner grammar point.
Remember that should the word preceding から (kara) be a na-adjective or noun, you need to include だ (da) between the word and から (kara).
To clarify, use なぜかというと (naze ka toiu to) when the item/thing you’re giving a reason or explanation for has already been mentioned.
なぜかというと疲れたからです。 naze ka toiuto tsukareta kara desu. The reason why isbecause I was tired.
In this example, the reason is given because of something that happened in the past. なぜかというと (naze ka toiu to) is a tool you can use to introduce that reason/explanation.
For more information on how と (to) functions in this sentence, I recommend this video by Misa.
The second way to say “the reason why is” in Japanese is to use なぜなら (nazenara).
This is mostly a formal phrase, therefore is best used in such situations.
なぜなら彼が招待したからです。 nazenara kare ga shoutai shta kara desu. The reason why isbecause he invited me.
You also place なぜなら (nazenara) at the beginning of a sentence to introduce a reason or explanation for something.
Similarly, it’s important to include から (kara) at the end of the explanation/reason phrase to complete the sentence properly.
Secondly, ん (n) is an optional addition which makes the phrase more natural and somewhat more considerate.
ん (n) adds slightly more emotion to your words.
The final じゃない (janai) is an expression that you use at the end of a sentence. It has a few meanings. It functions as an expression that means “is not” or “am not” while also a tool that’s used to confirm the response being made.
I’ve written more about this word in detail in this guide: How to say No in Japanese [Ultimate Guide].
In short, じゃない (janai) is used to confirm information in the sense of “isn’t it”?. By attaching it to いい (ii), (meaning “good” in Japanese) we can understand いいんじゃない (iinjanai) to mean “good, isn’t it?” in a literal translation.
Note that this is a casual phrase, and should only be used between friends. To make it formal, attach ですか (desuka) to the end, making it:
いいんじゃないですか。 iinjanai desuka.
Why not. (formal).
Why That Much? in Japanese
To emphasise an element of surprise when expressing “why” in Japanese, use the following phrase:
Why that much?
何でそんなに？ nande sonna ni?
We know that 何で (nande) is one of the standard ways to say “why” in Japanese.
You can use そんなに (sonna ni) to express something that is a lot in quantity. A great way to understand そんなに (sonna ni) is to interpret it as “that much”.
For instance, we can form the sentence:
何でそんなに日本語を勉強したいの？ nande sonna ni nihongo wo benkyou shtai no?
Why do you want to study Japanese that much/badly?
A question that would certainly have many answers, indeed.
What makes you passionate about the Japanese language?
One of the reasons for me is The Legend of Zelda!
Looking at the original Japanese text of the Zelda games to uncover secrets and new insights into the lore and story is truly fascinating.
Join me on my YouTube channel where we delve into the Japanese versions of the Zelda games!
The best way to express your longing for someone and say “I miss you” in Japanese is to use 会いたい (aitai).
The word 会いたい (aitai) literally translates as “I want to meet you”, but it’s most commonly understood as meaning “I want to see you”. This is the best and most common way to express that you miss someone in Japanese.
I say “way to express” because there is no perfect one-to-one literal translation for “I miss you” in Japanese. The closest we get to a perfect translation is with 会いたい (aitai).
With that said, the meaning and nuances associated with 会いたい (aitai) are not limited to “I want to meet you”.
While 会いたい (aitai) communicates a desire to see someone, it also connotes a sense of loneliness.
To text your partner “I miss you” in Japanese, for instance, simply saying 会いたい (aitai) is the most natural way to do it.
Furthermore, as 会いたい (aitai) does carry these additional connotations, the implications of “I miss you” can be understood and felt even though the exact words “I miss you” were not spoken.
There are also so many other ways to convey the words “I miss you” in Japanese through other expressions and phrases.
This ultimate guide explains in detail how to say “I miss you” in Japanese with 会いたい (aitai), and with other expressions. All entries are coupled with native audio pronunciation for your reference.
I Miss You in Japanese
I miss you.
When you miss someone, the best word you can use to express the feeling is to say 会いたい (aitai), which means “I want to see you”.
You can use 会いたい (aitai) to tell someone that you’re close to, such as a partner, or boyfriend/girlfriend, that you miss them. You should generally use it with those who you are close with.
With that said, telling your parents that you miss them with 会いたい (aitai) may be considered slightly strange. This is because saying “I miss you” to your parents is not something that’s done often in Japanese culture.
You could say it to a sibling if you are really close to them.
This is mainly because of how heavy a word 会いたい (aitai) can be when you want to tell someone you miss them.
You can say it to friends, however, when you say 会いたい (aitai) to someone, they may interpret your words to mean that you have a romantic interest in them. This is especially true if the person you’re saying “I miss you” to already has romantic feelings for you.
The word 会いたい (aitai) can be literally translated as “I want to meet you”, although it’s best understood as meaning “I want to see you”.
The kanji for 会いたい (aitai) is 会 which means “meet, meeting, party, association”.
会いたい (aitai) is made up of two parts.
The first part is 会い (ai), which is the ます (masu) stem of the verb 会う (au), which means “to meet”.
The second part is たい (tai) which is beginner N5 grammar that is used to express a desire or wish using verbs in Japanese.
To express a desire using verbs in Japanese, we have to use たい (tai). Here’s a quick guide on how to make and use the たい (tai) form and express “want” using verbs in Japanese.
Firstly, take a verb. For example, 食べる (taberu). The verb for “eat” in Japanese.
Secondly, change the verb into the ます (masu) mass form. Therefore, 食べる (taberu) becomes 食べます (tabemasu).
Remove the ます (masu) from 食べます (tabemasu). It becomes 食べ (tabe).
Finally, attach たい (tai) to the verb. 食べ (tabe) becomes 食べたい (tabetai); meaning “I want to eat”.
The same can be applied to the verb “to meet” in Japanese.
The verb is 会う (au), which, in ます (masu) form becomes 会います (aimasu).
Remove the ます (masu) from 会います (aimasu) and it becomes 会い (ai).
Attach たい (tai) to あい (ai), and it becomes 会いたい (aitai), meaning “I want to meet/I want to see” in Japanese.
It may also be worth knowing that 会いたい (aitai) functions as an i-adjective when conjugating it.
You in Japanese
As you may have noticed, you can say 会いたい (aitai) to someone to express how you miss them, without including any pronouns.
This is because pronouns are dropped in Japanese when the context is clear.
The full phrase “I miss you in Japanese” would be:
私はあなたに会いたい。 watashi wa anata ni aitai.
I miss you (with pronouns).
However, this expression sounds unnatural for a number of reasons.
Firstly, is the use of あなた (anata). The word あなた (anata) is the most direct translation of the pronoun “you” in Japanese.
Yet when speaking the language, it’s much more common and natural to use the person’s actual name, rather than addressing them with the pronoun “you”. This means you will have to know the person’s name to address them in Japanese.
There are some rare exceptions to this rule, however. If you are a customer in a store, for instance, you’ll most likely be addressed as お客様 (okyaku sama), in place of the pronoun “you”.
Yet, I doubt you’ll find yourself in the position of a customer service representative who’s finding themself wanting to tell a customer “I miss you” in Japanese. So I don’t think it’ll be an issue!
In Japanese, あなた (anata) is used to address one’s significant other. A wife may call their husband あなた (anata), for example.
In these scenarios, using あなた (anata) to specify that it’s your significant other you miss, would be natural.
With that said, the easiest and best way to tell someone you miss them using pronouns is to use their name!
I recommend this video for a deeper dive into the nuances and connotations associated with あなた (anata) and Japanese pronouns in general.
Saying “I” in Japanese
Secondly, the use of 私 (watashi) may also be considered unnatural.
This is also because when you say 会いたい (aitai) to someone in Japanese, it’s already obvious that you are the one who is missing them. Specifying that it’s you who is missing them can sound unnatural and redundant.
I Miss You So Much in Japanese
I miss you so much.
すごく会いたい。 sugoku aitai.
Use this expression to say “I miss you so much” in Japanese. This expression is made up of two components.
The last part of the expression, 会いたい (aitai) is the same word that’s explained in detail in entry #1 above. It means “I miss you” in Japanese.
The inclusion of すごく (sugoku) makes the expression much more powerful. It amplifies how much you’re longing for someone.
すごく (sugoku) is an adverb that originates from the word すごい (sugoi), which means “great, awesome, incredible, amazing”.
Therefore すごく (sugoku), being an adverb, has the meaning of “amazingly” or “immensely”.
Pairing すごく (sugoku) with 会いたい (aitai) communicates “I miss you” but to a much greater extent.
In essence, we can understand すごく会いたい (sugoku aitai) to mean “I miss you immensely” or “I miss you so much”.
For instance, you might text your partner:
もうすぐ帰るの？ すごく会いたい。 mousugu kaeru no? sugoku aitai.
Are you coming home soon? I miss you so much.
It goes without saying that this is a very strong expression. For that reason, it’s best reserved for partners.
I Really Miss You in Japanese
Another way to express how much you miss someone in Japanese is with the expression 本当に会いたい (hontou ni aitai).
We’ve covered 会いたい (aitai) to mean “I miss you” in Japanese, as explained above.
Saying 本当に (hontou ni) before 会いたい (aitai) is an alternate way to express how much you miss someone to a great extent.
ね…本当に会いたい。 ne…hontou ni aitai.
Hey…I really miss you.
This is because 本当に (hontou ni) means “really”, or “truly” in Japanese.
Therefore when you use this complete expression and tell someone 本当に会いたい (hontou ni aitai), you’re communicating how you’re really longing for them. You truly miss them.
An additional way to communicate how much you really miss someone is with 早く (hayaku).
早く (hayku) is another word you can place before 会いたい (aitai) to exaggerate the meaning. 早く (hayku) is an adverb/noun that originates from 早い (hayai), an i-adjective that means “fast”, “quick”, “rapid”, “soon” or “early”.
The adverb/noun 早く (hayaku), means “quickly” or “soon”.
I miss you (I want to see you soon/I want to hurry and see you).
For that reason, 早く会いたい (hayaku aitai) has a unique nuance that conveys a stronger desire to see someone soon/quickly.
I Miss You Too in Japanese
I miss you too.
私も会いたい。 watashi mo aitai.
To respond to someone who has told you that they miss you, (assuming the feelings are mutual) you can say 私も会いたい (watashi mo aitai), meaning “I miss you too” in Japanese.
A typical response may look something like this:
私も会いたい。ずっとそばにいてほしい。 watashu mo aitai. zutto soba ni ite hoshii.
I miss you too. I want you to always be by my side.
You may have noticed that this expression contains the 私 (watashi), “I” pronoun. I mentioned before that pronouns are generally omitted in Japanese as it sounds more natural.
However, the usage of 私 (watashi), the pronoun for “I” in Japanese, is necessary here to communicate the words “I miss you too”.
This is because we need to follow 私 (watashi) with も (mo) which is a grammar particle that means “also, too, as well” in Japanese.
You use も (mo) to say “this too”, or “this also” in Japanese. Therefore も (mo) needs a preceding noun to function.
In the case of 私も会いたい (watashi mo aitai), meaning “I miss you too”, the preceding noun is 私 (watashi). In essence, it’s you.
This means that we can make the sentence:
私も。 watashi mo.
Which you could also use as a response to someone who has just told you they miss you. Although, they might be expecting you to relay the full phrase back “I miss you, too”, rather than simply saying “me too”.
I Will Miss You in Japanese
I will miss you.
もう会いたい。 mou aitai.
Let’s say you’re about to say goodbye to someone. You want to communicate that you are going to miss them when they do go.
To say “I will miss you” in Japanese, use もう会いたい (mou aitai).
This expression is made of two components. The second is 会いたい (aitai), meaning “I miss you” (fully explained in the earlier entries).
Preceding 会いたい (aitai) is もう (mou), an adverb that means “already, before long, by now” in Japanese.
In the expression, もう会いたい (mou aitai), the もう (mou) can be understood as meaning “already”. Interpreting it this way gives the expression the literal meaning of “I already miss you”.
Perhaps your partner is leaving tomorrow for a few weeks to go on a trip. The night before you may say something like this:
明日行くよね。もう会いたいよ。 ashita iku yo no. mou aitai yo.
You’re going tomorrow, aren’t you? I will/already miss you.
To reiterate, use よ (yo) at the end of a sentence to emphasise the preceding words.
Attaching よ (yo) in the above example conveys a stronger sense of longing, as opposed to omitting it. With that said, よ (yo) is optional, and it’s fine to drop it!
I Missed You in Japanese
I missed you.
Your loved one has just returned and they are back in the warmth of your arms. You are apart no more, and I’m sure you’re feeling overjoyed!
During this moment you may tell them 会いたかった (aitakatta), meaning “I missed you” in Japanese.
The biggest difference with this expression is the change of tense. To put it simply, 会いたかった (aitakatta) is the past tense of 会いたい (aitai), meaning “I miss you”.
Of course, being in the past tense, you should only use this expression when talking about something that happened in the past.
This is because you’re specifically communicating that your missing that person was a feeling you had.
It’s naturally assumed that that feeling has been erased now that you have been reunited (which is when you would use 会いたかった (aitakatta).
I Missed You So Much in Japanese
I missed you so much.
ずっと会いたかった。 zutto aitakatta.
If you’re feeling particularly overjoyed when being reunited with your partner for the first time in a while, you may wish to communicate how much you’ve truly missed them all this time.
By pairing ずっと (zutto) with 会いたかった (aitakatta), we compose the expressionずっと会いたかった (zutto aitakatta), which means “I missed you so much” in Japanese.
This is a powerful expression you can use for special moments when you and your partner are finally back together in person again.
The word ずっと (zutto) is what makes this expression so meaningful. ずっと (zutto) means “the whole time, all this time, all the way” in Japanese.
Use ずっと (zutto) to refer to a specific continuous state that has remained unchanged for an extended period of time.
The best way to interpret the meaning of ずっと (zutto) is as “for a long time”. Therefore when you connect it with 会いたかった (aitakatta), you express how you’ve missed the person for a prolonged duration.
It’s also possible to increase the number of times you say ずっと (zutto) in this expression.
ずっと、ずっと会いたかった。 zutto, zuttoaikatta.
I’ve missed you so so much.
You can also substitute the ずっと (zutto) for すごく (sugoku), the meaning of which is explained above in an earlier entry that covers “I miss you so much” in Japanese.
I Miss Him in Japanese
I miss him.
彼に会いたい。 kare ni aitai.
You can also use 会いたい (aitai) to specify who it is that you’re missing. If the person you miss is male, you can use 彼に会いたい (kare ni aitai).
This phrase is particularly useful when you’re talking to someone else about the person you miss.
ああ~...彼に会いたい。 aa~… kareni aitai.
Ahh… I miss him.
彼 (kare) is the word for “him” in Japanese.
Following 彼 (kare) comes に (ni), a grammar particle that, in this case, marks the preceding word as the object of the upcoming verb.
In short, に (ni) marks 彼 (kare) as the thing that the verb is doing. To clarify, 彼 (kare), aka “him”, is the “thing” that’s being “missed”.
You always use に (ni) when talking about someone you miss, or someone you will meet with 会う (au) in Japanese.
I Miss My Boyfriend in Japanese
If the person you miss is your boyfriend, you can communicate that in Japanese too.
The word for boyfriend in Japanese is 彼氏 (kareshi).
Following the same structure as the above entry, we substitute the word 彼 (kare), meaning “him”, for 彼氏 (kareshi), meaning boyfriend.
Therefore to be specific and say you miss your boyfriend in Japanese, use the following phrase:
彼氏に会いたい。 kareshi ni aitai.
I miss my boyfriend.
Note that it is possible to replace the word 彼氏 (kareshi) with the person’s actual name.
This would make it:
[name] に会いたい。 [name] ni aitai.
I miss [name].
I Miss Her/My Girlfriend in Japanese
I miss her.
彼女に会いたい。 kanojo ni aitai.
If the person you miss is female, you can specify with the phrase 彼女に会いたい (kanojo ni aitai).
彼女 (kanojo) means “her” or “girlfriend” in Japanese. Be careful in that there is no way to clearly distinguish the difference between the two meanings; “her” and “girlfriend”. The word 彼女 (kanojo) can mean both.
Therefore when you refer to someone using 彼女 (kanojo) in conversation, misunderstandings could happen, especially if the person you’re speaking with doesn’t know you very well.
Generally speaking, however, when you use 彼女 (kanojo) in a sentence to talk about them as the person you miss, it will be assumed that you are in a relationship.
This is because the word 会いたい (aitai) is generally used when speaking about partners as previously mentioned. People will naturally assume you’re together when you address the person you miss as 彼女 (kanojo).
The phrase 彼女に会いたい (kanojo ni aitai) generally follows the same grammatical structure as “I miss my boyfriend”, explained above.
The に (ni) functions to mark the preceding word as the object that the verb is doing. In essence, “she” (the object in the sentence and the verb is doing) is the one being “missed” (the verb).
More Ways to Express I Miss You in Japanese
I miss you (I’m lonely).
There are other ways to express “I miss you” in Japanese without using 会いたい (aitai).
One of these alternatives is with 寂しい (sabishii).
You can use 寂しい (sabishii) to communicate that you miss someone and that you desire their company.
The word 寂しい (sabishii) is an i-adjective that means “lonely” in Japanese. The kanji in 寂しい (sabishii) is 寂 which also denotes loneliness or mellowness.
At the beginning of this guide, I mentioned that it’s natural to omit pronouns (you & I) in Japanese. You also omit them when using 寂しい (sabishii) to express how you miss someone.
This means that simply saying 寂しい (sabishii) to someone is enough to communicate the full sentence “I’m lonely” in Japanese, without using any pronouns.
Furthermore, the term 寂しい (sabishii) is often used to indirectly express that you miss someone.
If someone were to tell you that they are 寂しい (sabishii) it’s very probable that they are missing you.
いつまた会えるの？ 寂しいよ。 itsu mata aeru no? sabishii yo.
When can we meet again? I miss you (I’m lonely).
Using the above sentence as an example, 寂しい (sabishii) can also be paired with よ (yo) to enhance the meaning of the word.
It’s an optional addition that you can use to communicate an extra level of emotion when telling someone you miss them.
Sometimes Japanese speakers may use the word さみしい (samishii). This word is the same as 寂しい (sabishii).
While さみしい (samishii) is the phonetically incorrect way to pronounce 寂しい (sabishii), many people choose to use it in daily conversation anyway. It has become somewhat of a culturally accepted way to pronounce the word.
More Ways to Express I Missed You in Japanese
Putting the word 寂しい (sabishii) into the past tense turns the meaning into “I missed you” (lit. I was lonely) in Japanese.
The past tense of 寂しい (sabishii) is 寂しかった (sabishikatta). Similarly to the nuance and functions of the present tense 寂しい (sabishii), the past tense version can also be used without any pronouns.
Simply saying to someone 寂しかった (sabishikatta) communicates that you missed them and that you were lonely.
I missed you.
You might use 寂しかった (sabishikatta) when you’ve finally been reunited with your partner after a long period of time without each other.
As 寂しかった (sabishikatta) is in the past tense, you express that you were lonely and you missed the person when you didn’t see them.
Using 寂しかった (sabishikatta) is the same as telling someone that you missed them in English, only with the added nuance of feeling lonely.
I miss your voice.
[name] の声を聞きたい。 [name] no koe wo kikitai.
While you might miss the person themselves, you may also miss hearing their voice.
Telling someone that you miss their voice can be a romantic thing to do, and you can communicate that in Japanese!
Firstly, when telling someone that you miss their voice, you should address the person by their actual name (even when you’re speaking to that person directly).
This is because the best and natural way to say “you” or “your” in Japanese is to use the person’s name.
Therefore, begin this phrase with the person’s name, and attach の (no). This would make it [name]の.
の (no) is the possessive grammar particle that connects two nouns together. The noun preceding の (no) is the person’s name, and the noun following の (no) is 声 (koe), meaning “voice” in Japanese.
Saying [name] の声 ([name] no koe) is the same as saying “[name]’s voice” in Japanese.
Next comes を (wo), another grammar particle that identifies the verb’s object; the person or thing to which the action is performed.
In this case, the object is the person’s voice and the verb is the final component in the sentence: 聞きたい (kikitai).
The verb 聞きたい (kikitai) means “want to hear” in Japanese. The たい (tai) is the same たい (tai) as the one in 会いたい (aitai). To clarify, たい (tai) is a beginner’s grammar point that is used to express a desire or wish to do something.
In short, the phrase [name] の声を聞きたい ([name] no koe wo kikitai) literally means “I want to hear [name]’s voice”.
However, while this phrase does grammatically translate as wanting to hear someone’s voice, it also connotes a true feeling of longing; a desire for their voice.
I Miss Your Smile/Laugh in Japanese
I miss your smile/laugh.
[name] の笑顔をみたい。 [name] no egao wo mitai.
While telling someone you miss their voice may be considered romantic, telling them you miss their smile or laugh could be even more so.
The grammatical structure of this sentence follows the exact same structure as “I miss your voice” in Japanese, explained above, just with different words. Read the above entry for a deeper explanation of the composure of the grammar in this sentence!
You can use this phrase to express how you miss someone’s laugh or smile. In Japanese, address the person whose laugh/smile you miss by their actual name (even when speaking to that person directly) instead of “you”.
笑顔 (egao) means “smiling face” or “smile” in Japanese. We know that の (no) is the possesive grammar particle that connects two nouns together.
Therefore saying the person’s name followed by の (no) and then 笑顔 (egao) would make: [name]の笑顔 ([name] no egao). This means “[name]’s smile” in Japanese.
The verb in this sentence is みたい (mitai), which is the たい (tai) form of みる (miru), meaning “to see”. The たい (tai) form is used to express a desire or wish, hence, みたい (mitai) means “want to see” in Japanese.
The literal translation of this phrase is “I want to see your smile”.
Yet, similar to saying “I want to hear your voice” in Japanese, expressing a desire to see someone’s smile has very close nuances to the English phrase “I miss your smile”.
In short, when you miss seeing someone’s smile, use this phrase to express that to them in Japanese!
I Miss You in Japanese Using Google Translate
Translating “I Miss you” or “I miss…” from English to Japanese using Google Translate will tell you that 恋しい (koishii) is the word you need.
However, the word 恋しい (koishii) is primarily used for objects and places, rather than for people.
Perhaps you’ve been away from home for a while and you miss your mother’s cooking. You may say:
母の料理が恋しい。 haha no ryouri ga koishii.
I miss mum’s cooking.
In essence, use 恋しい (koishii) to describe something that you miss, rather than for someone who you miss.
You can place any noun and attach ~が恋しい (ga koishii) to say that you miss it in Japanese.
If you’re feeling nostalgic about your visit to Japan, for instance, you can express that using ~が恋しい (ga koishii).
日本が恋しい。 nihon ga koishii.
I miss Japan.
You also don’t need to include any pronouns (I) when using this phrase!
Another example! Perhaps you miss getting out and adventuring:
旅行が恋しい。 ryokou ga koishii.
I miss travelling.
Maybe you miss cold weather:
寒い天気が恋しい。 samui tenki ga koishii.
I miss the cold weather.
I Miss When… in Japanese
There may be occasions when something feels nostalgic to you and you miss it. You can express nostalgia with:
Use the word 懐かしい (natsukashii) to describe something that you fondly remember, something that’s dear to you or something that is beloved.
Perhaps you’ve recently moved house and you’re feeling nostalgic about the old one.
前の家が懐かしい。 mae no ie ga natsukashii.
The old house is nostalgic (I miss the old house).
When you describe something as 懐かしい (natsukashii) in Japanese, you indicate that you remember it fondly, perhaps so much so that you kind of miss it.
ここ、懐かしい！ koko natsukashii.
This place brings back memories!
Use 懐かしい (natsukashii) for those situations!
I Miss You Dearly in Japanese
The verb 慕う (shitau) is another word that appears frequently when using translation tools for “I miss you” in Japanese.
It is an old-fashioned way to say “I miss you dearly” in Japanese. It used to be an elegant/traditional way to express love or longing for someone. However, this is now an old meaning and thus is dated.
In more recent times, 慕う (shitau) is used when you find yourself attached to someone.
It’s not used to describe a relationship between partners or love, but rather to describe someone you idolise, someone you look up to.
祖父を慕ってる！ sofu wo shtatteru.
I adore/idolise my grandfather.
You’ll often see 慕う (shitau) used to express a feeling towards a parent or close relative.
I Miss Japan!
日本が恋しい！ nihon ga koishii!
I miss Japan!
Japan is a wonderful place to visit, and it’s even better if you can converse in the language!