Japanese Language

Have a Good Day in Japanese

How to say Have a Good Day in Japanese

Despite being a very polite language, the Japanese language lacks a way to directly communicate “Have a Good Day.”

In English, we say things like: “Have a good day at work today,” or “Have a nice weekend” quite frequently. Whereas, in Japan, the custom of expressing these kinds of wishes to people isn’t really a thing.

Japanese is a language with many honorifics, many of which are mandatory in many social situations to show respect. So it’s certainly a little strange that there isn’t a way to say exactly: “Have a good day” in Japanese.

That is not to say that there isn’t a way to even slightly convey these wishes to someone in Japanese at all though, however. Depending on the situation, whom you’re speaking to, and even when you’re speaking to them, there are plenty of phrases that you can use to express something similar to that of: “Have a good day” in Japanese.

In this post, I am going to break down this phrase and explore all of the possible ways, and expressions that you can use when you want to tell someone “Have a good day” in Japanese.

Author’s Note: The audio files presented are the natural way to pronounce each entry of “Have a good day” in Japanese, so I recommend using them when referring to pronunciation if you can!

Have a Good Day in Japanese

We quite frequently say “Have a Good Day” in English. It might be something you say to the shop assistant after they help you with your shopping, to a friend when you part, or to a family member as they are about to go out the door for work.

In English, telling someone to “Have a good day” is as simple as saying those very words. In Japanese however, you’re going to need to say something different depending on the situation. Let’s jump in!

  • Have a Good Day
    いってらっしゃい
    itterasshai

The closest you’ll get to a natural translation of “Have a good day,” in Japanese is いってらっしゃい (itterasshai). Japanese people say いってらっしゃい (itterasshai) to say “Have a good day” to someone they’re living with when they depart the household.

Put simply, いってらっしゃい (itterasshai) is best used when you want to tell someone to “have a good day” as they’re about to go to work, leave for school, or go to a place that is away from you.

Have a Good Day in Japanese Examples

For instance, It would be common for a mother to say, いってらっしゃい (itterasshai) to their son or daughter as a parting phrase when they’re about to depart for school in the mornings.

You can also say いってらっしゃい (itterasshai) when someone tells you that they’re heading off somewhere. If you’re living with a partner or spouse, you might shout out to them いってらっしゃい! when they leave for work. This literally tells them “Have a good day at work!” in Japanese.

  • 今行ってくるね!
    ima itte kuru ne!
    I’ll be off now!

And you could reply:

  • もう行くの?いってらっしゃい !
    mou iku no? itterasshai!
    You’re off already? Have a good day!

You’d want to avoid using this phrase if you’re searching for an expression to use to tell someone to “have a good day”  for other occasions though. For example, if you’re at a supermarket doing some shopping, you wouldn’t say いってらっしゃい (itterasshai) to the cashier to wish them a good day after they’ve finished serving you. In those situations, you’re best sticking to a simple polite thank you instead.

Good Luck Today in Japanese

When we wish someone a good day, sometimes we mean “Good luck today” instead.

  • Good Luck Today
    今日頑張ってね
    kyou gannbatte ne

I have composed a guide with detailed explanations of all of the possible ways on how to say “Good Luck” in Japanese. Check it out for more examples and expressions!

When you want to wish someone good luck with their day you can say 今日頑張ってね (kyou gannbatte ne).

The first section of the phrase, 今日 (kyou) translates to “today.”

The second part, 頑張って (gannbatte) means to “do your best,” or “good luck.”

Put together, you have a phrase that literally translates to “Today, Good Luck.”

You can use 今日頑張ってね (kyou gannbatte ne) when you want to send words of encouragement to someone and to wish them good luck. You could say 今日頑張ってね (kyou gannbatte ne) to someone on the day of their job interview for instance, or on a day of a similar big event that is important to them.

  • 今日は仕事の面接の日でしょう。頑張って!
    kyou ha shigoto no mensetsu no hi deshou. ganbatte!
    Today is the day of your interview, isn’t it. Good luck!

You might have noticed the ね (ne), attached to the end of this phrase. By attaching ね (ne), you communicate with a higher level of kindness compared to when it’s absent. Moreover, the addition of this extra character transforms the phrase into a casual expression.

Good Luck Today Formally in Japanese

Formality: As Japanese is a polite language, it has different levels of formality that you should use when speaking to someone who is your manager, teacher, or a stranger to you.

In this case, to change the phrase from its casual variant to a more formal one, we change the ending.  今日頑張って becomes 今日頑張ってください. ください (kudasai) is a polite way to say please in Japanese.

  • この日がやっと来ましたね。今日頑張ってください!
    kono hi ga yatto kimashita ne. kyou ganbatte kudasai!
    This day has finally come, hasn’t it? Good luck today! (Formal)

Even though saying “Good luck today please” may certainly sound strange in English, in Japanese, it’s the correct way to say to someone “Good luck today,” in Japanese politely.

Have a Good Time in Japanese

 

Have a Good Time

  • Have a Good Time
    楽しんでね
    tanoshinde ne

Say a friend is off to a party… Perhaps they’re starting their first day at a new workplace… Or going to an event of some kind. During these kinds of situations, you may want to tell them “have a good time.”

To wish someone to have a good time in Japanese, you can use the expression 楽しんでね (tanoshinde ne).

You can use 楽しんでね (tanoshinde ne) in situations where you to wish someone to have a good time in whatever they’re doing/going to do.

  • 明日は台湾に行くんだ!楽しんでね!
    ashita ha taiwan ni ikunda! tanoshinde ne!
    You’re going to Taiwan tomorrow right? Have a good time!

Similar to “Good luck today,” detailed above, the addition of ね (ne) adds a sense of warmth and kindness to the expression when you communicate it.

You can omit the ね (ne) and simply say 楽しんで (tanoshinde) if you wish to. It comes down to your personal preference depending on the situation, and whom you’re speaking to.

Say Have a Good Time Formally in Japanese 

Formality: This expression is in its casual form, meaning that it’s best used between friends and family. If you’re wanting to increase the politeness in the expression, (which you should do if you’re using this when speaking to a manager, teacher, stranger, or even a spouse/partner’s parents!) you can do so.

Just like when you’re politely telling someone “Good luck today,” (above) Remove the ね (ne), and attach ください (kudasai) to the expression. You might hear the formal variant on TV when broadcasters tell you to enjoy something.

  • 今から伝説のゼルダの新しいトレーラーを皆さんに発表したいと思います!楽しんでください!
    ima kara densetsu no zeruda no atarashii tore-ra- wo mina san ni happyou shitai to omoimasu! tanoshinde kudasai!
    We’re now going to present to all of you, the new Legend of Zelda trailer! Please enjoy it!

ください (kudasai) is a polite way to say please in Japanese. As mentioned earlier, although it may feel strange to say “have a good time please,” in English, in Japanese, it’s how you show respect to the person you are speaking with.

Enjoy Your Day in Japanese

 

Enjoy your Day in Japanese

  • Enjoy Your Day
    今日楽しんで
    kyou tanoshinde

今日楽しんで (kyou tanoshinde) the best way to say “Look forward to your day,” or  “Enjoy your day” in Japanese. You can use it exactly how you would when you say the same thing in English.

If someone is really looking forward to their day ahead, you can use 今日楽しんで (kyou tanoshinde) to wish them to have fun on that day. You can imagine that the uses are very similar to the “Have a good time” expression above.

  • 友達と一緒に遊園地に行くの?いいな。今日楽しんで。
    tomodachi to isshoni yuuenchi ni iku no? ii na. kyou tanoshinde
    So you’re going to a theme park with a friend today? Sounds great. Enjoy your day.

The first part of this phrase 今日 (kyou), pronounced as [ky-ou] means “today.”

The second part is 楽しんで (tanoshinde) (also the same as the phrase above) pronounced as [tah-no (as in the [no] in the British pronunciation of the word [not]) -shin-deh].

Formality: Noticed a trend with these phrases yet? Just like the phrases above, 今日楽しんで (kyou tanoshinde) is also a casual expression. To increase the level of politeness, attach ください to the end. ください (kudasai), literally means “please” and when attached to this phrase, the politeness level elevates.

Have a Good Weekend in Japanese

  • Have a Good Weekend
    週末はゆっくりしてね
    shuumatsu ha yukkuri shite ne

When someone you know has had a little bit of a rough or busy week you can use 週末はゆっくりしてね (shuumatsu ha yukuri shite ne) to tell them “Have a good weekend.”

Be careful though, as, in Japanese, this phrase doesn’t have the exact same nuances as it does in English.

For example, In English, we can say to anyone, during any situation “Have a good weekend.” We say it as a friendly gesture, an act of kindness towards someone. In English, we might wish the cashier at the shop on a Friday evening a good weekend for instance.

In Japanese however, when we say 週末はゆっくりしてね (shuumatsu ha yukuri shite ne), the nuances are slightly different. A more accurate way to use this phrase would be when you want to tell someone “have a relaxing weekend,” or to “Take it easy on the weekend.” This is the closest we’ll get to “Have a good weekend” in Japanese.

  • 今週は大変だったね。週末はゆっくりしてね。
    konnshuu ha taihen datta ne. shuumatsu ha yukkuri shite ne.
    This week was rough for you, wasn’t it. Have a relaxing weekend.

 週末 (shuumatsu) means “weekend” in Japanese.

The next part, は (ha) is a subject marker in Japanese. It’s used to tell the listener that the preceding word is the subject of the sentence.

Thirdly we have ゆっくりして (yukkuri shite) which is the part that changes the nuances of this phrase, giving the entire phrase a slightly different meaning to that of its English equivalent.

ゆっくりして (yukkuri shite) means to “go slowly” or “take it easy” in Japanese.

Good Work Today in Japanese

 

Good Work

  • Good Work Today/ Thank You For Today
    お疲れ様
    otsukaresama

Let’s say you’re finishing up at work and it’s almost time to go home. During this time, you might say to your colleagues お疲れ様(です)(otsukaresama).

When you say お疲れ様 (otsukaresama), you’re telling the person that you acknowledge their hard work today, and that you’re thankful for it.

In English, it’s quite common to say to your colleagues: “Have a good night” when you’re done for the day. The Japanese, however, usually don’t directly say “good night” to their colleagues at the end of a shift.

Instead, in Japanese, it’s much more common to say お疲れ様です (otsukaresama desu) to thank your colleagues for all of their efforts.

  • 今日お疲れ様です。
    kyou otsukaresama desu.
    Good work today.

Hope You Had a Great Day #2

There is another way you can use お疲れ様 (otsukaresama) to convey a meaning similar to “Hope you had a good day” in Japanese. For all the ways you can say “hope” in Japanese, check out this ultimate guide!

Imagine you’re at home, and your partner whom you’re living with has just arrived home from work/an event of some kind that required their effort.

First, you might say お帰り!(okaeri) to tell them “Welcome Home”.  This is also a very common phrase used in Japanese and Japan.

Next, you might say お疲れ様 (otsukaresama). If you use the phrase this way, you communicate “Hope you had a good day, time to rest up!” in Japanese to the person with whom you’re speaking to.

  • お帰り!お疲れ様。
    okaeri! otsukaresama.
    Welcome home! Hope you had a great day.

Of course, there is still the heavy implication of the acknowledgement of their hard work. In this case, it’s not a direct “I hope you had a good day” specifically, instead, you’re more communicating a “well-done today, rest up.” kind of thing to the listener.

Recap on Formality

When you use the phrase to tell one of your colleagues “Good Work today” ensure that you attach です (desu) making it お疲れ様です (otsukaresama desu). This is the polite version.

If you want to tell a partner or one of your friends, “I hope you had a great day” in Japanese, you can use the standalone: お疲れ様 (otsukaresama).

I Hope You Had a Good Time in Japanese

I Hope you Enjoyed your day

  • Did you have a good time?
    楽しかった?
    tanoshikatta? 

For a more frequently used expression to say anything along the lines of “I hope you had a good time,” or “I hope you had a great day today” in Japanese, use 楽しかった? (tanoshikatta).

This expression is in the past tense. Therefore, you should use it when you want to express your wishes that the persons’ day, which is now over, has gone well in Japanese.

Personally, I use this expression all the time. It’s very easy to use as it doesn’t have any special exemptions or irregular uses.

To be more time-specific, attach the word 今日 (kyou), meaning “today” to the beginning of the expression. By doing so, you ask the listener specifically if their day went well.

  • 今日楽しかった?。
    kyou tanoshikatta?
    Did you have a good time today?

Keep in mind that when you want to say to someone “I hope you had a good time today” in Japanese, you have to phrase it like a question. This is because the direct translation of 楽しかった (tanoshikatta)  in Japanese is “Did you have fun?” rather than “I hope you had fun.”

Even so, when you ask someone 楽しかった? (tanoshikatta), it still has the connotation of “I hope you had a good time.” The person you’re speaking to will understand that you’re interested in what happened and that you hope they enjoyed themselves.

I Hope You Had a Good Time Today (Formal)

When you’re speaking to people whom you don’t know too well, such as a manager or teacher, you need to speak politely. To do this, attach ですか (desuka), to the end of the expression.

This makes the expression much more formal.

  • 海は楽しかったですか?
    umi ha tanoshikatta desuka?
    Did you have a good time at the beach?

With the added か (ka) the expression retains its status as a question too.

How to say Have a Good Day in Japanese Casually as a Parting

 

Have a Good Day Casually

  • See you/ See you later
    またね・またあとで
    mata ne/ mata atode

As mentioned earlier, In Japanese, there isn’t a way to directly tell someone to “Have a good day.” Most of the time though, we wish someone to have a good day when we part with them.

In Japanese, instead of saying “Have a good day” to mean “goodbye”, people will simply say またね (mata ne).

You can use またね (mata ne) when you want to say “See you” in Japanese as a farewell, or parting phrase.

In English, we may say to your friends and family to “Take care, and have a good day” as a parting phrase. In Japanese though, you should use またね (matane) in these circumstances when you’re saying “bye” to someone.

Alternatively, you could still say 今日楽しんでね (kyou tanoshinde ne), which means “enjoy your day in Japanese” (phrase explanation detailed above). Which one you prefer will be dependent on you. You’ll hear またね (mata ne) frequently in Japan when people want to say “goodbye” or “Have a good day” to each other.

To say “See you later” in Japanese, simply remove ね, and attach あとで (atode).

  • 今日ありがとう!またあとで!
    kyou arigatou! mata atode!
    Thanks for today! See you later!

 あとで (atode) by itself means “later,” or “after.” By making it またあとで, the phrase can be understood as a way to say “See you later” in Japanese.

Note that you should only use this phrase between people who are close to you personally like friends and family.

Have a Good Day in Japanese Politely

Before we jump into the next phrases, I want to highlight some misconceptions about them. Although these upcoming phrases are a direct way of saying “Have a good day” in Japanese, you do not hear them used in everyday conversation.

The next two phrases are both grammatically correct and a native speaker will understand what you mean. However, they are very unnatural and would sound off to Japanese people. Think of it as if someone were to use the word “Godspeed” to you suddenly.

You’re parting, and you say “Catch you later,” and they respond “Godspeed.” It would probably catch you off guard a little right? That’s the same kind of feeling someone would feel if they were to hear you use these phrases in speech.

With that said, let’s take a look!

  • Have a Good Day
    ごきげんよう
    gokigenyou

You can use this phrase (if you desire to, (read above!)) as a farewell or greeting. As both a greeting and a farewell, it is analogous to “Good Day” in English. It is an elegant phrase that you should only use when you want to politely say “Good Day” in Japanese. ごきげんよう (gokigenyou).

– The first part of the phrase is an honorific prefix. This honorific prefix tells the listener you’re being polite/respectful.

きげん – The second part means “mood” or “spirits.”

よう – The final part is an old fashioned way of saying よい (yoi), meaning “good” in Japanese.

Practical meaning: “Be in a good mood.”

Remember the comparison to “Godspeed” I made earlier? That is because this phrase is also quite old-fashioned. Therefore you may hear characters in movies or anime using this phrase. Characters who do use ごきげんよう (gokigenyou) portray an old-fashioned upper-class image.

Literal ways to say Have a Good Day in Japanese

This phrase is similar to ごきげんよう (gokigenyou) (above). Although it is the most direct phrase of “Have a good day” in Japanese, it is not a combination of words that the Japanese frequently use together in conversation.

  • Have a good day.
    良一日を (過ごしてください)
    yoi ichinichi wo (sugoshite kudasai)

If you were to Google Translate “Have a good day” into Japanese, this is what you would get. Let’s break it down. Firstly, 良い (yoi) means “good.” Secondly, 一日 (ichi nichi) means “a day.”

The final part in brackets 過ごしてください (sugoshite kudasai) is a polite way of saying “please spend.”

Combining the parts together and you have a complete phrase that means exactly “Have a good day” in Japanese.

The only problem… is that it’s not a commonly used phrase.

The only time you might encounter this phrase is if someone is being extremely formal with you, or perhaps in a story, book, letter or email. Otherwise, a quick Google of “How to say have a good day in Japanese” will get this phrase appearing everywhere.

If you’re wondering why Google Translate doesn’t do too great with Japanese, check out this entertaining video by Abroad in Japan.

Chris does a fantastic job of exploring how Google Translate processes Japanese.

That’s it from me today. I hope this article has given you some coverage on how you can say “Have a good day” in Japanese. I hope you can find some expressions and phrases you can use that convey something similar. Let us know if you have any questions by leaving a comment, or by visiting our Contact page. We’re here to help!

Have a nice day everyone! またね!

Have a Good Day Studying Japanese!

This would be:

  • Have a Good Day Studying Japanese!
    日本語の勉強を頑張って!
    nihongo wo benkyou wo ganbatte!

If you want to have a real good day studying Japanese, check out our dedicated page of free Japanese reading practice for all levels! All entries are composed by me and include Kanji/Furigana texts, vocabulary lists, grammar explanations, and tests!

Alternatively, if you’re interested in further Ultimate Guides:

How to Say What’s up in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

How to Say Go Away in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

Or, if you like The Legend of Zelda, come and quest together with me!

 

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Good luck in Japanese

How to say Good Luck in Japanese

There are plenty of reasons as to why you might want to wish someone Good Luck. In English, we have a singular phrase that allows us to express those very words to someone. In Japanese, however, fundamentally there isn’t a phrase that wishes “luck” to the recipient of the encouragement at all. There are, however, a variety of similar phrases you can use to urge someone on or express votes of confidence or encouragement.

When we say Good Luck in English, we often use it to encourage others; to cheer them on. Of course, you might use it to actually wish them “Good Luck,” or something like “I hope it turns out well for you.” But when trying to do this in Japanese, it can become a little tricky.

That’s not to say there aren’t any workarounds, however! Japanese is a complex and vibrant language that has its own unique way that you can utilise to wish someone “Good Luck.”

Luckily though, there are many ways you can express wishes such as “Good Luck to You” in Japanese, or “Best of Luck” in Japanese.  Whether you’re seeking ways to send someone encouragement and cheer them on,  or if you genuinely just want to wish someone “Good Luck…” You can achieve this in Japanese, and I’ll show you how!

Author’s Note: The audio files presented are the natural way to pronounce each entry of “Good Luck” in Japanese, so I recommend using them when referring to pronunciation if you can!

Good Luck in Japanese

Let’s jump straight into the most common, and direct way you can wish someone Good Luck in Japanese.

  • Good Luck (casual)
    頑張って
    ganbatte

This is a powerful phrase that has many uses and variations. As we mentioned earlier, Japanese does not have a frequently used phrase to explicitly wish someone Good Luck. Although that may be the case, you can, however, use 頑張って (ganbatte) to express Good Luck in the form of encouragement to the recipient.

For instance, before taking a test, in English, someone might say to you “Good Luck, you can do it!” That is exactly what this phrase does in Japanese, it tells a person, you’re rooting for them. The phrase 頑張って (ganbatte) is the best phrase you can use to tell someone Best of Luck in Japanese.

  • 今日のテストを頑張って!
    kyou no tesuto wo ganbatte!
    Good Luck on the test today!

When you use 頑張って (ganbatte), you’re essentially telling someone to “do their best” on a task.

Imagine that you’ve come to cheer your friend on during their sporting tournament. Before the tournament begins, you tell them 頑張って (ganbatte), meaning “Good Luck.” Then, during halftime, you meet up with them again. This time, you tell them once again: 頑張って (ganbatte). This second application would convey an expression more like “do your best, hang in there!”

If you use this phrase while someone is in the midst of something, it tells them “You can do it, almost there.”

Adding Formality when saying Goodluck

  • Good Luck (Formal)
    頑張ってください
    ganbatte kudasai

As you may already know, the Japanese language has many different levels of formality. The language, words you use, and the way you use them can change quite drastically depending on who you are speaking to. If you’re speaking with someone in a professional environment, such as a colleague, or even a stranger, you’ll want to be using formal Japanese.

Luckily for us, when you want to say Good Luck formally in Japanese, it’s really quite simple. Take the casual phrase for Good Luck in Japanese 頑張って (ganbatte) and attach ください (kudasai). By adding ください (kudasai) to the phrase, you make it formal. That’s all there is to it!

You might be wondering why ください (kudasai). By itself, ください (kudasai) is a formal way of saying “please” in Japanese. So a literal translation would be “Good Luck Please,” or rather, “Please do your best.” Regardless of whichever meaning you intend to convey, to say Good Luck formally in Japanese, you need to attach ください (kudasai) to 頑張って (ganbatte).

Well Done in Japanese

You can use a variant of 頑張って (ganbatte) to tell someone “well done” or to stress to them that you know that they did their best at doing something.

well done in Japanese

  • You did your best/ You really tried hard didn’t you
    頑張ったね
    ganbatta ne

For example, imagine that your friend has just finished their tournament and you go to see them. You can say 頑張ったね (ganbatta ne), essentially telling your friend “Well done, you did well.”

The reason it becomes 頑張った (ganbatta), and not 頑張って (ganbatte), is because by changing the て (te) to a た (ta) you change the verb into the past tense. This is because when you tell someone “Well done” in English, you are specifically referring to an event that happened in the past. It’s the same in Japanese.

The ね (ne) at the end of the sentence doesn’t have a direct translation into English. However, by adding ね (ne), which is optional by the way, you convey a “didn’t you” kind of nuance.

For instance, if you said 頑張った (ganbatta) by itself, you would be stating “You really tried hard/ You did your best. Adding the ね (ne) at the end, would make it equivalent to “You really tried hard, didn’t you” in English. Ultimately it’s up to you if you wish to include the ね (ne) or not, but it does add a touch of warmth to your words.

Saying Good Luck to Cheer Someone On in Japanese

The phrase below is another variant of 頑張って (ganbatte) (explained above). When you want to cheer someone on in Japanese, in the midst of all the action, this is how you can do it!

go for it in Japanese

  • Hang in there!/Go for it!/Keep at it!
    頑張れ
    ganbare

Let’s take the same example we used earlier; you’ve come to cheer on your friend at a tournament. We’ve discussed earlier how what you want to convey can depend on if you tell someone 頑張って (ganbatte) before their tournament begins, or during half-time. But what about during their tournament? You can use 頑張れ (ganbare) to encourage your friend to keep going, effectively telling them to “hang in there!” or “go for it!”

You can use this phrase the same way as you would use it in English to cheer someone on.

 

  • Fight!
    ファイト
    faito

There’s a good chance that you’ve heard ファイト (faito) used in various Japanese media, TV, movies, or anime. It is a very casual phrase that you can use when you want to cheer on your friend during their important event in Japanese.

You’ll most likely want to avoid using this phrase when speaking to managers, or teachers, though however. The meaning of ファイト (faito) is quite self-explanatory, it is an easy way that you tell someone “keep going, keep pressing on, you can do it” in Japanese.

It is very similar to the above 頑張れ (ganbare) and can be used interchangeably.

Good Luck, You Can Do It in Japanese

Just like English, Japanese has some fantastic phrases that you can use to encourage someone. Let’s dive in!

You can do it in Japanese

  • You can do it
    君ならできる
    kimi nara dekiru

君ならできる is a powerful phrase that you can use to bolster someone’s confidence.

Bear in mind though, that this isn’t something you would shout out to cheer on a friend in the midst of their tournament or important event. There are other ways in which you can use for those situations (see Cheering Someone On in Japanese above).

A direct translation of this phrase in English would be “if it’s you, you can do it.”

Let’s break down the phrase a little more.

Firstly: 君 (Kimi), means “you” in Japanese. To add more weight to this phrase’s meaning, you can substitute out the 君 (Kimi) for the persons’ actual name. It completely ups the emotion felt when the person hears you say this so definitely use their name if you can!

Let’s look at the next part of this phrase. なら (nara) means “if” in Japanese.

Finally, the last part, できる (dekiru), translates to “can do.” Essentially meaning:

きみならできる

kimi nara dekiru

You if, can do it

Japanese sentence structure is often the reverse to that of English, making the meaning “You can do it.” This is a fantastic phrase to say to someone to encourage them before an event that’s important to them!

I Believe In You in Japanese

  • I believe in you
    あなたに信じる
    anata ni shinjiru

Next up, is a phrase that has the exact same nuances, meaning, and uses as it does in English. When you want to tell someone “Good Luck” and that “you believe in them,” あなたに信じる (anata ni shinjiru) is the perfect way to do it.

あなた (anata) is one of the many ways that you can say You in Japanese. In Japanese, the word “you” isn’t used anywhere near as much as we do in English. Instead, when you can, you want to avoid saying あなた (anata) and always try and use the persons’ name.

Japanese is fantastic in pretty much forcing you to remember people’s names. Unless you want to try and have a conversation without using the word “You” at all. (Which is very difficult, trust me!)

You might be wondering, why you should avoid あなた (anata) for this phrase? あなた (anata) is often used to refer to your spouse in Japanese, so you’re best off using the persons’ actual name unless you are speaking to your spouse of course!

The next part, に (ni), is a Japanese particle, which in this case, can be translated to “in”.

信じる (shinjiru), is the verb for “believe” in Japanese.  Unlike English, Japanese verbs come at the end of the sentence. As “Believe” is a verb, in Japanese it is said last.

What about how to say “I” in Japanese? Like “you,” there are also many different ways of saying “I.” However, these pronouns are often omitted in speech.

You could attach 私は (watashi ha), to the beginning of the phrase, which would make it a complete direct translation. However, the Japanese language often omits the “I” pronoun, so you shouldn’t worry at all about not using it!

I Wish You Good Luck in Japanese

We don’t often say “I wish you Good Luck” in Japanese. However, there are some ways in which you can say it,  let’s take a look!

Praying for Good Luck in Japanese

  • I wish you Good Luck
    幸運を祈ります
    kouun wo inorimasu

This is a very formal expression that you can use to wish someone Good Luck in Japanese.

幸運を祈ります (kouun wo inorimasu) is not really used in conversation. Although it makes sense and a native Japanese speaker will understand you, it sounds somewhat unnatural. Instead, you might find this phrase used in an email or letter of some sort.

It is a direct translation of “I wish you Good Luck.” Let’s break this phrase down a little.

幸運 (kouun) in Japanese literally ” Good Fortune.”

を (wo) is a Japanese grammar particle and marks the object of the verb in the sentence.

いのります (inori masu) is the polite version of the verb いのる (inoru), meaning “to pray” or “to wish” in Japanese.

As 幸運 (kouun) in Japanese means “Good Fortune,” you can attach を祈ります (wo inorimasu), which means”to pray for.” With that said, by putting it together, you have a phrase with a literal translation of “I’m praying for your good fortune” in Japanese!

Good Luck And Take Care in Japanese

  • Good Luck and Be Careful
    気を付けて
    kiwotsukete

Sometimes you may want to say to someone “I wish you Good Luck” in the sense of “be careful.” In those situations, this is the phrase you’ll want to use. You can use 気を付けて (kiwotsukete) to tell someone to be careful in Japanese.

For instance, in English, we might want to tell our friend Good Luck just before they go on a long solo-cycling trip.

  • 旅行を気を付けて!
    ryokou wo kiwotsukete!
    Good luck and be careful on your travels!

In this variation of “Good Luck,” you are also telling them to “be careful” as well right? That’s exactly the meaning that this phrase conveys, and you can use it the exact same way as you do in English!

In situations where you will need to use polite speech, you can say 気を付けてください (kiwotsukete kudasai).

All the Best in Japanese

  • All the Best/Best of Luck
    お元気で
    ogenki de

You can use お元気で (ogenki de) to tell someone “Best of Luck,” or “All the best” in Japanese. It’s a fantastic phrase to use to express your hope to the receiver in that they will remain healthy. It’s quite a casual expression that is primarily used as a parting phrase.

Say you’ve spent the day with a friend and it’s time to say goodbye. In English, we often say things like “all the best” during these situations. To convey that same thing in Japanese, we can simply say お元気でね (o genki de ne), with the addition of ね (ne) for emphasis.

If you are writing a letter or an email and wish to conclude it with a simple “all the best”, “best of luck” or “kind regards”, use 敬具 (keigu). Reserved for written formal situations such as email writing, 敬具 (keigu) expresses a polite “best of luck” in Japanese. Note that 敬具 (keigu) should only be used in written Japanese.

In conversations where you should show respect, simply saying では (deha) as a parting phrase is the best way to say “best of luck” or “all the best” in Japanese.

I have Good Luck in Japanese

You can say things such as I am Lucky in Japanese, or I/You have good Luck. Let’s take a look!

  • I have Good Luck
    運がいい
    un ga ii

Those days where you feel like you’ve been particularly lucky… perhaps you caught that pancake mid-flip that you were sure was going to fall to the floor, received some generous tips at work, or somehow managed to flook that exam you were struggling… Whichever the case, sometimes you feel like you’re lucky, or maybe you’re just generally a lucky person.

During these experiences, you’re going to want to say “I’m Lucky” in Japanese. 運がいい (un ga ii), as a literal translation, means “luck is good.” The best thing about this phrase is that you can use it to say that you yourself have good luck or use it to say to someone else that they have good luck in Japanese.

You can use 運がいい (un ga ii) as a general phrase, or you can use it immediately after an event has happened. For instance, just as you would say “Wow, I’m lucky,” in English after winning the lottery,  you can use this phrase to communicate the same thing in Japanese.

When you’re wanting to tell someone else “You have Good Luck” in Japanese, you can attach ね (ne), to the end of the sentence. This makes it 運がいいね (un ga ii ne) which changes the phrase to consistently convey the meaning of “You have good luck”.

Formality: If you want to say “I have good luck” politely in Japanese, you can attach です (desu) to the end of the phrase, making it 運がいいです (un ga ii desu).

I Am Unlucky in Japanese

Maybe, you’ve had one of those days, or maybe you’re just an unlucky person… Whichever the case, you’re going to need to know how to say “I am unlucky” in Japanese.

unlucky in Japanese

  • I am unlucky
    運が悪い
    un ga warui

So things aren’t going well, and you’ve been a bit unlucky.

During those times, you can say 運が悪い (un ga warui) which means “I am unlucky,” or as a literal translation: “My luck is bad”.

Perhaps you’ve just clocked in 20 seconds late to work, or maybe your phone died just as you were about to send an email. During all of these unfortunate circumstances, in English, we would say that it was unlucky. You can use 運が悪い (un ga warui) to say “I am unlucky” in Japanese during all of those unfortunate situations.

Similarly to how you can say 運がいいね(un ga ii ne) to tell someone that they’re lucky (as explained above), you can attach ね (ne) to the end of this phrase, to tell someone else, somewhat kindly that they’ve been unlucky. Although, I’m sure they already know they have been after what might have happened.

That Was Lucky in Japanese

 

Lucky in Japanese

 

  • Lucky
    ラッキー
    rakki

You can use ラッキー (rakki) which is an expression that has the same meaning and nuances as the word “Lucky” in English.

In Japan, this is a very casual phrase that Japanese people will often use as a standalone to convey the meaning of “I am lucky.” What I mean by this, is that instead of saying the entire “I am Lucky” phrase, Japanese people will just use ラッキー! (rakki!) which conveys the same meaning.

For instance, if manage to get yourself a high score on a Japanese reading test, you could simply say ラッキー (rakki), which would mean the same thing as “I’m lucky” or “that was lucky” in English.

 

That Was Unlucky in Japanese

 

  • That was unlucky/ that was unfortunate
    残念
    zannen

When you’re referring to a specific thing or event as being unlucky, or unfortunate in Japanese, this is the phrase you can use! 残念 (zannen), literally means the same as the word “unfortunate”.

In Japanese, where the context is understood by both the speaker and listener pronouns, words, and subjects are omitted.

For instance, if you’re playing a game of monopoly with your family (always goes well), and you just don’t quite have enough to pay the bills, in English, you might say “that was unfortunate,” or “that was unlucky.” In Japanese, you can simply say 残念 (zannen), which means the exact same thing!

Formality: You can up the politeness on this phrase if you’re speaking with someone such as a manager, or stranger. Simply add です (desu) to the end of the phrase to make it formal.

Symbols of Good Luck in Japan

There are actually many symbols of Good Luck in Japan, despite there only being a few literal ways to say “Good Luck” in its language.

Lucky Cat – Beckoning Cat (Maneki-Neko)

Japanese Good Luck Cat Ornament

 

One of the most popular, and well-known symbols would be the Maneki-Neko, or beckoning cat in English. It is a Japanese figurine that is commonly placed in doorways, on top shelves, etc, to bring its owner good luck. You can find these ornaments all over Japan. The cats are very symbolic to Japanese culture, and some temples in Japan are absolutely covered in them.

Here is a picture I took during my cycle across Japan.

 

Lucky Cat Temple Japan

 

Another amazing thing about these cats is that each colour attribute represents something different. For instance, a pink cat would represent love and romance, whereas a white cat would represent positivity and purity.

You can check out more information on these cats here.

Bringing Good Luck to the weather

Japan has many other unique elements to its culture that represent Good Luck. A teru teru bozu, literally “shine shine monk” is a Japanese doll made from white paper or cloth that you can hang outside your window. It is said that this hand-made doll has magical powers, and by it outside your window, it can halt rainy days and bring good luck to the weather.

You could even make your own!

 

The Legendary Japanese Four-leaf Clover Taxi

 

Four Leaf Clover Taxi Japan

 

In Kyoto, Japan, there is a Taxi company called Yasaka, which uses clovers as its logo. These clovers are located all over the taxis themselves, including on the top. There are 1400 of these taxies in Kyoto, of which, a mere four of them have a four-leaf clover logo imprinted on their top, as opposed to the standard three-leaf-clover logo the remaining 1396 of them have.

It is said that those who see these mysterious taxis, or better yet, have the privilege of riding in one, will be brought eternal happiness.

Be on the lookout for these when you next visit Kyoto! According to rumours, If you’re lucky enough to ride one, you will be blessed with happiness in your life.

If you’re looking for some Japanese Reading practice, check out our regularly updated page with culture-infused exercises for all Japanese levels. Good luck with your Japanese!

Further How-To Ultimate Guides:

 No Problem in Japanese

Have a Good Day in Japanese

How to Read Japanese

Would you like to further your studies? How about an online language tutor?

 

I have composed a full review on Preply, one of the world’s biggest and most popular online language learning platforms. I fully review Preply and discuss my honest opinion on everything it has to offer.

How to say No in Japanese

You’d think that saying No in Japanese would be as simple as remembering a single phrase. But as Japanese has a bunch of formalities, it makes it a little more complicated.

How you say No in Japanese can change depending on who you’re speaking to. On top of that, the Japanese are very polite people, which means that they don’t often say No directly as often as you might think!

This means that there are a bunch of ways you can say No in Japanese, No politely in Japanese, or no thank you.

It’s in the Japanese culture to be polite when declining an invitation or saying no to something.

When Japanese people want to say No to something, being indirect in their response can be quite common.

For instance, if someone invites you to a party and you’re not too keen on going, in English you might say something like “No thank you, I don’t feel like going today.” And that would be that.

In Japanese however, you would say something like “Hmmm, I’m not too sure, I think that maybe… Today is no good for me. I’m sorry to be a nuisance.”

In Japanese culture, there is a great emphasis placed on considering the face of others when saying no to them.

There are plenty of ways that you can say No in Japanese. Let’s take a look so you’ll have a suitable response for when you want to say no in Japanese.

While this article is a comprehensive resource for learning all of the different ways to say “no” in Japanese, LingoDeer is a fantastic language learning app for beginner and intermediate learners to master sentence structures and expressions.

LingoDeer boasts diverse lesson styles, professional audio quality voiced by native speakers (the best I’ve encountered on any language app so far), and an engaging story component that tests your reading AND listening skills.

No in Japanese

Let’s get started with the most literal way to say No in Japanese.

  • No
    いいえ
    iie

If you’re looking for a direct, and literal translation of how to say No in Japanese, いいえ (iie) would do the job.

This phrase will show up as the No in Yes/No options on a confirmation screen of some kind.

For example, if you’re playing a video game and it asks you: “Are you sure you want to save?” You would then select いいえ if you didn’t intend to save the game.

In terms of using this phrase, you should be careful it can give off the wrong impression if you just use this phrase on its own.

If you’re looking for a way to say no to decline an invitation or refuse something, for instance, this would be the wrong phrase to use. Instead, you should use it to correct an assumption or statement.

If someone asks you if you can speak Spanish (assuming you can’t), you would say something like “No I can’t speak Spanish” in English right? It’s the same in Japanese, you would use the word いいえ, followed by a phrase such as スペイン語が喋れないです, which would translate to “No I can’t speak Spanish.”

Formality: The level of formality that you may need to use in Japanese, depends on who you’re speaking to. Sometimes, words/phrases should be completely avoided if you’re speaking to someone politely, such as a manager, teacher, or stranger.

In this case, いいえ is a polite way of saying No in Japanese, so you can use this phrase for purposes where formality is necessary.

Saying No Casually

So, how can you say No in Japanese when you’re speaking to your friends or family? There are a few phrases you can use to do this, they mirror the uses of いいえ (see above). Let’s jump in!

  • No
    ううん
    uun

Casual variants of Yes and No in Japanese are particularly interesting, as they are almost not like actual words at all. Think of how we say “Uh” in English when we’re thinking.

If you take that sound and add the soft N sound to the end of it, you get something like this: uh-n. This is how you can say Yes in Japanese casually: うん (un).

Noticed the similarities yet? That’s right: No in Japanese casually is the same as Yes, but the “uh” sound is extended for a slightly longer duration.

Note that you don’t make the “uh” sound twice, but rather you just extend the duration you’re saying it a little.

When Japanese people say ううん in Japanese, they dip in tone when they reach the middle part of the words’ pronunciation, then rise again towards the end. Have a listen to the comparisons here for clarity.

Yes and No Pronunciation Difference

ううん (no) Pronunciation:

うん (Yes) Pronunciation:

The difference in tone makes it much easier to learn and distinguish between the two phrases. Just imagine what it would be like without the tones! Intonation and pitch accent is important in Japanese, but the number of existing tones doesn’t quite match that of the Chinese language at least!

Just like its formal counterpart いいえ (above), this phrase should be avoided when refusing things from other people.

Instead, you can use it to correct things people have said.

For example, if someone asks you if you’re a Japanese person (assuming you’re not actually one), in English you’d reply with something like “no I’m not.” In Japanese, it’s the same. You’d reply first with ううん, followed by a phrase such as 日本人じゃない, which means: “I’m not a Japanese person”.

  • ううん、日本人じゃない。
    uun, nihonjin janai.
    No, I’m not a Japanese person.

Formality: As this is a casual way of saying No in Japanese, you should avoid using it with managers and teachers. you’ll find that when speaking with friends, this phrase is used a lot.

Nope in Japanese

Nope in Japanese

  • Nope
    いや
    iya

いや (iya) is a very casual way of saying “Nope” in Japanese.

When speaking this word, you pronounce it somewhat quickly. Its use is similar to how Nope is used in English.

Imagine if someone asks you if you had eaten the last bit of birthday cake they’d been saving, and they say something like: “Hey, was it you who ate my cake last night?” Your response in English might be something like “Nope, it wasn’t me.”

Japanese uses a similar pattern to this, and a reply might be something like いや、食べてないよ, which translates to “Nope, I didn’t eat it.”

  • いや、食べてないよ
    iya, tabetemai yo.
    Nope, I didn’t eat your cake.

You can also use the word いやだ which is a very casual way of saying “Nope, I don’t want to.”  Imagine a reluctant child being told to go to bed by their parents.

  • いやだ。寝たくない。
    iyada. netakunai.
    No! I don’t wanna sleep.

Formality: As this is a very casual phrase, it’s best used with close family members or friends. If you were to use this phrase with your manager, you’d probably get fired quite quickly as it’s very informal.

How to say No Politely in Japanese

Chotto - saying no to an invitation in Japanese

  • It’s a little bit…
    ちょっと
    chotto

ちょっと (chotto) is used very often in the Japanese language. It’s a super common phrase that you can use to turn down requests, or refuse something.

ちょっと (chotto) is a very indirect phrase, so it’s perfect for saying No politely in Japanese.

As mentioned earlier, it’s in the Japanese culture to be polite when turning down requests, offers or invitations, etc. Because of this, no matter the reason, Japanese people use this phrase to tell people “No,” indirectly.

In English, imagine if everyone’s response in declining your invitation to attend an event was “Ah, Uhmmm, Hmmm, today is kind of…Maybe… Yeah… I’m not too sure, if…”. Okay, maybe I exaggerated a little bit there, but by simply just saying ちょっと (chotto) you convey all of those hesitations at once.

Essentially, when you say ちょっと (chotto)  to say no in Japanese, you convey an “I’m not too sure if I can make it” kind of meaning to the requester. It’s used in Japanese to help preserve face.

Formality: This phrase can actually be used in both formal and casual settings. When you want to speak politely, just be sure to add the です (desu), to the end of the sentence if it’s a noun, or use the ます ending for a verb.

Using this phrase on its own, however, will typically convey the message of No to the requester.

I Wonder in Japanese

  • I wonder…
    かな
    kana

Continuing from the phrase ちょっと (chotto), as explained above, you can often combine it with かな (kana). The literal translation of かな is “I wonder…” and when used in the same sentence as ちょっと, you exaggerate the sense of indirectness, and convey an “I’m not sure…” meaning.  かな is used after a verb, whereas ちょっと will come before it. Let’s take a look at an example sentence.

ちょっと行かないかな

Remember the declining an invitation example with ちょっと earlier?  The sentence above shows an example of how you could use it. If you know that 行かない means “won’t go”, the meaning of the sentence becomes clear!

Umm… I’m not sure if I will go.

By using かな (kana) at the end of the sentence and ちょっと (chott0) at the beginning, you really emphasise the fact you don’t really want to go. Use かな (kana) when you want to say No indirectly in Japanese without hurting the other persons’ feelings.

Saying No Directly

So, what if you’re thinking that you just want to tell someone straight-up No in Japanese. Well, there are ways you can achieve this, and I’ll show you how!

  • No, impossible!
    むり
    muri

You can use むり (muri) when you want to up-right refuse someone. A direct translation to English would be “impossible,” and you can use it in Japanese the same way you do in English.

For instance, if someone asks you: “Hey, wanna come to my party tonight?” Muri. “Want to go out on a date with me?” Muri. “Fancy watching a movie with me later?” Muri. It’s a fantastic way you can say “no” to someone directly. Or perhaps you want to be even more direct, and tell someone “no” and to “go away” in Japanese.

Formality: I mean, you can up the formality by adding です (desu) to the end of the phrase, making it むりです (muri desu). But I’d still advise using it in formal situations, and here is why.

Imagine your manager asks you to do them a favour, and you respond with: “No, that’s impossible.” I’d expect that it probably wouldn’t go down well with most managers… So this phrase is best of being reserved for casual situations only.

No Good in Japanese

No Good - dame in Japanese

  • No good
    だめ
    dame

Similarly to the above むり (muri), you can use だめ (dame) to refuse invitations.

Let’s say that you’ve ordered a pizza, and you’re really hungry and really looking forward to it. You pick up the pizza and taste the first bite, and you think: “Um, this flavour is kind of disappointing…” A very unfortunate situation indeed, a situation where one might describe the pizza as だめ (dame), meaning “no good”.

If you’re busy on a day when someone has invited you out, you could also reply with:

  • 今日はだめ。
    kyou ha dame.
    Today is no good.

You may have also seen in movies or anime, where characters might scream the phrase だめ (dame). In this scenario, だめ translates to “No, stop!” or “No, that’s not allowed.”

Formality: This phrase is also a noun, so you can add です(desu) to the end of the word making it だめです (dame desu) to make it more formal.

No That’s Not It in Japanese

  • No, that’s not it!/ It’s different
    違う
    chigau

違う (chigau) is used very often to say No in Japanese. You should use it in the same way as you would use いいえ (iie) and ううん (uun).

This means that you’re best off using the phrase when you’re wanting to correct someone in regards to if something is true or not. For instance, if one of your flatmates accuses you of eating their cake, you could respond with 違う!(chigau), meaning “No, that’s not it!”

  • 違う、私じゃないもん
    chigau, watashi janai mon.
    No, it wasn’t me.

You could also use this as a response to questions such as: Are you’re a native Japanese speaker?

  • 違います、日本人のネイティブではありません
    chigaimasu. nihonjin no neiteibu deha arimasen.
    That’s not right, I’m not a native Japanese speaker.

Formality: This phrase can be used in both casual, and formal situations. To make this phrase formal, you can change it to its ます form. It would become 違います (chigaimasu).

I Don’t Think So in Japanese

  • No, I don’t think so
    そう思わない
    sou omowanai

This phrase directly translates to “I don’t think so” in English. You can also use it the same way as you would in English to state your opinion about a matter.

For example, if someone is gossiping about someone else, and they say to you “Hey, that girl, she’s super rude, don’t you think?” in Japanese, you could reply with a simple そう思わない (souomowanai) which would the same as saying “No, I don’t think that.”

  • そう思わない。優しいと思う。
    sou omowanai. yasashii to omou.
    I don’t think so. I think she’s friendly.

Formality: This phrase is a verb, so it will need to be changed into ます (masu) form. In ます (masu) form, it becomes そう思いません (souomoimasen) which is perfect for those situations that require formality.

I Don’t Have

  • No, I don’t
    ない
    nai

When someone asks you if you have something in Japanese, you’re going to need to use a specific phrase to tell them you don’t have the item. This phrase is a verb, and you can use it to tell someone that you don’t have possession of said item.

For instance, your friend asks you if you have a pen that they can borrow.  So, being the amazing friend you are, you dive into your pencil case to find a pen, only to realise that you don’t have a spare. In this case, you could respond with ない (nai). It’s the same as telling your friend “I don’t have one” in English.

  • ペンがない。ごめんね。
    pen ga nai. gomen ne.
    I don’t have a pen. Sorry.

Formality; This phrase is currently in its casual form, but to up the level of politeness, you can add です (desu) to the end of the phrase.

No Thank You in Japanese Politely

In this section, let’s take a look at some ways that you can say No Thank You in Japanese politely.

No thank you in Japanese

  • No Thank You
    結構です
    kekkou desu

This phrase is a very formal phrase in which you should use with your managers and teachers, or with strangers.

結構です (kekkou desu) is an expression that you can use to say no thank you formally. Perhaps when you go into the store, and the merchant asks if you would like to purchase any additional items, you can reply with 結構です (kekkou desu) to politely decline.

Formality: This phrase is a formal expression that you can use to politely decline something in Japanese.

No Thanks

  • No Thanks
    大丈夫
    daijoubu

You can use 大丈夫 (daijoubu) to convey something very similar to 結構です (above) but much softer. For instance, when someone asks you if you’d like/need something and you want to decline them, you can say 大丈夫 (daijoubu) which conveys a kind of no thanks.

I personally often use this expression as it comes across much warmer when refusing someone.

It is very similar to “no thanks” in English and can be used the same way. Perhaps someone asks if you want to eat some of their cake, and (assuming you don’t want any cake) you could reply 大丈夫!meaning, “no that’s alright, thanks anyway”.

This is truly a fantastic phrase to use, and I catch myself using it all the time.

Formality: Just like the previous phrases, to increase its formality you can add です (desu) to the end, making it 大丈夫です (daijoubu desu).

No Thank you in Japanese Casually

  • Nah thanks
    いらない
    iranai

When you’re speaking to friends, there are other phrases you can say apart from 大丈夫 (above) to say No Thanks. いらない (iranai) is a super casual phrase that you can use to say “Nah” in Japanese. When someone asks if you’d like something and you want to tell them kindly that you don’t, you can say いらない (iranai).

What’s interesting about いらない (iranai) though, is that it is actually the negative form of いる (iru), meaning “need”. This means that when you say いらない (iranai) you’re literally saying “I don’t need it”. Imagine saying you don’t need cake in English!

  • ケーキを食べる?。
    ke-ki wo taberu?.
    Want some cake?

As a reply:

  • ケーキをいらない。
    ke-ki wo iranai.
    Nah thanks.

Now for some dialect for you! In Kansai, they say いらん (iran) as opposed to いらない. Super casual!

  • 酒いらん。
    sake iran.
    I’ll pass on the alcohol.

Formality: This is a very casual phrase that should be avoided when speaking to managers, teachers, or strangers.

No Problem in Japanese

We have our own detailed article on how to say no problem in Japanese here!

Oh No in Japanese

There are a few ways you can Oh No in Japanese, some being a little more informal than others. In this section, let’s take a look at some of the phrases!

shimatta - Oh no in Japanese

  • Oh no/Oh crap
    しまった
    shimatta

This phrase is something you can blurt out when you make a mistake, very similar to “Oh no” or “Oh Crap” in English. For instance, if you miss your train, you could say しまった (shimatta). It’s the same as English!

  • Oh Shoot
    やばい・やばー
    yabai/yaba-

やばい (yabai) has many, many uses. You can use it to describe something as either crazy, sick, delicious, terrible, and many more. This phrase is incredibly informal, so it should be avoided during formal situations. It is has a very similar use to “Oh Shoot” or “Oh S**t” in English. Some Japanese people will say やばー which means the same thing, just a little more informal.

  • Oops
    うわっ!
    uw-a

You can use うわっー (uw-a) during situations where you make a mistake and are surprised. For instance, if you’re holding a glass, and you suddenly drop it, you might say うわっ! (uw-a) in Japanese, or “Oops” in English.

That’s it from us today! As there are many ways to say No in Japanese, it can be difficult to select the right phrase to decline or refuse something. I hope you enjoyed your read and found some useful phrases and expressions here!


No! I want more Japanese Content!

Check out our page for more Ultimate How To Japanese guides.

Recommended:

How to say How Are You in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

How to say Let’s Go in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]

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No Problem in Japanese

How to say No Problem in Japanese

Hey everyone! In today’s post, I’m going to provide you in detail all the possible ways you can say no problem in Japanese. Of course, I won’t be providing you with just a single phrase. Instead, I will break down all of the phrases and expressions, and teach you when you should, and should not use each one!

We’ve all made mistakes, and we’ve all done favours for each other too. Whether you’re searching for a way to reply to an apology, or for a perfect response for when someone thanks you, or to say you’re welcome,  there will surely be plenty of time where you’re going to want to say: no problem.

This singular phrase actually has quite a few variants in Japanese, and a lot of it depends on the situation and circumstances.

Let’s have a look at the phrases, and I’ll help you become familiar with how and when to use each one.

Author’s Note: The audio files presented are the natural way to pronounce each entry of “No Problem” in Japanese, so I recommend using them when referring to pronunciation if you can!

No Problem in Japanese

Let’s jump straight to the most literal way to say no problem in Japanese. But first, you might want to learn about all the ways to say “no” in Japanese with our ultimate guide.

  • No problem
    問題ない
    mondai nai

Being the most direct, and literal expression of no problem in Japanese, you can use 問題ない(mondai nai) when you simply want to say to someone: no problem.

The first part of the expression 問題 (mondai) means “problem”.

The second part ない (nai) means: “to not exist”. So essentially this expression directly translates to “problem does not exist.”

You can use this expression during occasions when someone asks you for a favour or if it’s okay for them to do something. For instance,

  • 今日のパーティー、8時に行っていい?
    kyou no pa-tei-, 8ji ni itte ii?
    Can I go to today’s party at 8?

To which, you can respond:

  • 問題ないよ
    mondai nai yo
    No problem

In this example, the addition of よ (yo) makes the expression more friendly. You’re essentially saying “sure, it’s no problem.” It is very casual and should only be used when speaking with friends or family.

Formality: Note that as Japanese changes depending on the level of formality, this expression is in its casual form, therefore is best used when communicating with friends and relatives.

If you were speaking to a manager or someone who is of higher status, however, you can add the Japanese です (desu) to the end of the expression making it: 問題ないです (mondai nai desu). If you’d like to learn more about how to read Japanese, you can visit our detailed page which explains how to read Japanese from the ground up.

Of Course, No Problem in Japanese

  • Of course
    もちろん
    mochiron

When someone thanks you for your help, or asks “Could you do this for me?” you might want to say もちろん (of course). You can use this expression exactly as you would use it in English. Let’s say you stayed up all night helping a friend build their computer despite having to go to work the next morning. Your friend might say:

  • 昨日ありがとう!
    kinou arigatou!
    Thanks for yesterday!

Your response:

  • もちろん
    mochiron
    of course

You could also combine it with the above expression 問題ない (mondai nai) and say: もちろん問題ない (mochiron mondai nai) meaning: “Of course, it’s no problem!” This one is nice, as it’s fairly easy to understand, as its uses and nuances are the same as in English.

You can also use this expression when you want to say yes to someone’s request.

  • 明日パソコンのことだけど、手伝ってもらっていい?
    ashita pasokon no koto dakedo , tetsudatte moratteii?
    About the computer tomorrow, would you mind helping me?

If you are all up for it, you can of course say:

  • もちろん手伝うよ.
    mochiron tetsudau yo.
    Of course, I’ll help.

If you use it like this, you sound very willing to help and that it’s no problem at all.

Formality: When you’re speaking with people to who you should show a higher level of respect, managers, teachers, and strangers, you can just add です (desu), to the end. This makes it もちろんです (mochiron desu).

I Don’t Mind in Japanese

  • I don’t mind/it doesn’t matter
    構わない
    kamawanai

You can use this expression in two ways to say no problem in Japanese. Firstly, you can use it as an answer to a request. If your friend were to ask if you could wait for them for instance, you could say 構わない (kamawanai) which would mean “sure, I don’t mind.”

  • 図書館で待ってくれる?
    toshokan de matte kureru?
    Will you wait for me at the library?

You could reply:

  • 構わない.
    kamawa nai.
    I don’t mind waiting.

During these situations, you can also say “no worries,” which is explained in the next entry.

Secondly, you can use 構わない (kamawanai) to say: “it doesn’t matter.” This can be in the context of meaning: “it’s no problem whichever or whatever the case.” For example, if your friend asks if you’d rather meet at the supermarket as opposed to the library you could also reply with  構わない (kamawanai), meaning: “it’s no problem whatever the case.”

Formality: In terms of formality, this expression is in its casual form. To add formality to it, you would say 構いません (kamaimasen).

No Worries in Japanese

Friendly No Problem

Sometimes, no worries and no problem can be interchangeable, but the purpose of this section is to demonstrate how to say “No Problem” in Japanese with a warmer/friendly touch.

  • No worries/it’s no problem at all
    全然いい(よ)
    zenzen ii yo

This expression is powerful in conveying a friendly no problem in Japanese. You can use it in a wide variety of circumstances. For example, you can use it in response to someone when they ask you for a favour, or even when someone apologies to you. Furthermore, it has a very friendly connotation attached to it, making it a brilliant expression to use when someone thanks you.

いい (ii) has many meanings: “good, okay, no problem.” In fact, you can just use いいよ (iiyo) by itself as it conveys the meaning of “no problem” in a friendly matter. It’s the よ (yo) that makes this expression sound particularly friendly, as opposed to just いい (ii). You could say いい (ii) by itself, however, but it comes across as somewhat cold.

So, いいよ is a friendly and warm way of saying: “no problem” in Japanese. But what about 全然 (zenzen)? Grammatically, 全然 (zenzen) is used at the start of a sentence with a negative ending to convey the meaning of “not at all.” However, recently Japanese people have begun using 全然 (zenzen) to add emphasis to affirmative phrases. Although grammatically incorrect, it is widely understood and accepted by the Japanese that 全然 can be used like this.

Here, 全然 is used to express: “not at all,” and with いいよ coming after it, completes the expression 全然いいよ, literally – “no worries at all”.

Formality: When speaking to non-friends and relatives, be sure to add that extra layer of formality by adding です, making it 全然いいですよ. (zenzen ii desuyo).

It’s Okay in Japanese

how to say no problem in Japanese

  • It’s okay (no problem)
    全然大丈夫
    zenzen  daijoubu

You can use 大丈夫 (daijoubu), to express “No problem” in Japanese. This is a very flexible phrase that you can use in plenty of situations. It would be best translated as: “that’s okay, no problem” in English. Similarly to the 全然いいよ phrase explained above, 大丈夫 (daijoubu) can also be paired with 全然 (zenzen). Also, in this case, 全然 (zenzen) exaggerates and amplifies the meaning of 大丈夫 (daijoubu).

See as adding 全然 (zenzen) to the phrase as a way of saying: “It’s absolutely fine” or “It’s absolutely okay, no problem” in Japanese.

As a response to a request:

  • 本当にパソコンを使っていい?
    hontouni pasokon wo tsukatte ii?
    Is it really okay to use your computer?

Your reply:

  • ぜんぜん大丈夫
    zenzen daijoubu
    No problem at all.

As response to an apology:

  • パソコンが壊れた!ごめんね!
    pasokon ga kowareta! gomen ne!
    The computer broke! I’m sorry!

Your reply:

  • ぜんぜん大丈夫
    zenzen daijoubu
    No problem at all.

As a Thank you:

  • 新しいパソコンを買ってくれてありがとう!
    atarashii pasokon wo katte kurete arigatou!
    Thank you for buying me a new computer!

Your reply:

  • ぜんぜん大丈夫
    zenzen daijoubu
    No problem at all.

You can also use 大丈夫 on its own, and you will sound perfectly natural. When you do, you’re simply saying “It’s no problem.”

Formality: Just like the phrases before this one, adding です (desu) to the end of the phrase ups the level of formality. This makes it 全然大丈夫です (zenzen daijoubu desu). Don’t forget to do this when speaking with a stranger,  your manager, or teacher!

Nevermind in Japanese

Don't worry in Japanese

When we want to say “no problem” to someone,  sometimes we want to say: “No problem, don’t worry about it.” In this section, I’m going to break down the phrases that convey just that meaning!

  • Don’t worry about it (nevermind)
    気にしないで
    kinishinaide

When you use 気にしないで (kinishinaide) you’re essentially saying “Don’t worry about it, it’s no problem, nevermind.” You can use this phrase in situations where you want to tell someone not to worry.

For those of you who have studied Japanese before you might notice that this word has the grammar しないで (shinaide) attached to it. This grammar means “not do.” The affirmative conjugation of this phrase is 気にする (kinisuru) which means “to mind.” With しないで (shinaide) attached to the word, we can see how the translation for this phrase is “nevermind.”

You can also use it as a response to an apology. Perhaps someone can’t hold back their cravings anymore and eats the chocolate that you’d been saving for a special occasion. If you’re willing to forgive the person you would say: 気にしないで, conveying the meaning of “nevermind, don’t worry about it.”

Formality: You can add ください (kudasai) to the end of the phrase to increase the formality. ください (kudasai) is a formal way of saying “please” and is often paired with this word when an increase of formality is needed.

Don’t Worry About It in Japanese

  • Don’t worry about it 
    心配しないで
    shinpaishinaide

This expression is the literal translation of “don’t worry about it.” 心配 (shinpai) means “to worry,” and ないで (naide) means: “without doing,” making the complete expression literally, “don’t worry.”

This phrase is very easy to use, as it has the same functions and uses as it does in English! It conveys the meaning of “it’s no problem, don’t worry about it.” You can use this phrase when you want to reassure someone that they don’t need to worry or overthink something and that everything is okay. When you combine it with 大丈夫 (daijoubu), above, you can say “It’s okay, don’t worry about it.”

  • ケーキの全部をたべちゃった、ごめんなさい。
    ke-ki no zenbu wo tabechatta, gomen na sai.
    I accidentally ate all of the cake, I’m sorry.

Being the nice person you are, you say:

  • 大丈夫!心配しないで。
    daijoubu! shinpaishinaide.
    No worries, don’t worry about it.

You can also use this expression to really try to calm someone down.

By saying:

  • そんなに心配しなくていいよ。
    sonna ni shinpai shinakute ii yo.
    Don’t worry too much.

You’re telling that person that they needn’t worry too much in Japanese. 

Formality: Similarly to the phrase above, add ください (kudasai) to the end of the phrase. By adding ください (kudasai) which means “please,” you add an additional layer of formality to the phrase.

You’re Welcome in Japanese

When we want to say “No Problem” in Japanese, sometimes, a “You’re welcome” will do the job perfectly. Let’s take a look at how you can say “you’re welcome” in Japanese.

  • You’re Welcome
    どういたしまして
    douitashimashite

The most simple way to say “You’re welcome” in Japanese is to use the phrase: どういたしまして (douitashimashite). This phrase is very flexible because you can use it with anyone, regardless of formality. It is the closest phrase to “You’re Welcome” in Japanese and can be used when you want to respond to a “thank you.

Formality: You don’t need to make any additional changes to this phrase as it is already formal.  You can use this phrase to say “You’re welcome” to anyone without the worry of formality.

Modest ways to say You’re Welcome in Japanese

The Japanese language has multiple layers of formality, and it’s in the culture to be modest when saying “You’re Welcome” in Japanese. Let’s take a look at the phrases and ex[ressopms in more detail!

  • No, no, it’s nothing! (no problem)
    いえいえ
    ieie

When you say a single いえ (ie) in Japanese, you’re saying “no.” This expression is いえ (ie) x2, so quite literally this expression can be translated as “No no.”

When you go to Japan and speak Japanese to someone, there’s no doubt you’ll be complimented on your (amazing) Japanese. Japanese people are very polite, and will often say things like 日本語上手ですね!Which translates to: “Wow! You’re Japanese is amazing!” People will often say this to you immediately after you’ve told them: “Hello.”

The best (and sometimes expected) way to reply to this is to be modest. In Japanese culture, after being complimented it can be polite to say things like “No no, that’s not true at all!” And the same goes for after someone thanks you. When someone thanks you in Japanese, it is polite to tell them: “no, no, it was no problem at all!” Which is the exact meaning that いえいえ (ieie) conveys.

Formality: いえいえ (ie ie) is perfectly fine in all situations as it’s already a expression you’ll use when you want to be modest.

Check out this video on “Wow” You’re Japanese is amazing.” It’s become a sort of meme in the Japanese language learning community.


Thank You Too In Japanese

  • Thank you too!
    こちらこそ
    kochirakoso

When you want to say “Thank you too” in Japanese, こちらこそ (kochira koso) is the expression you’ll need.

This expression is quite on the modest side, and its literal translation would be more something like: “It is I who should be thanking you.” So you’ll want to use this expression after someone has thanked you to show that you’re also (perhaps even more so) appreciative of that person. It is a very polite expression that is used frequently among Japanese people.

  • 今日はとても楽しかったです。ありがとうございます。
    kyou ha totemo tanoshikatta desu. arigatou gozaimasu.
    Today was really fun. Thank you.

Your response can be:

  • こちらこそ
    kochirakoso
    Thank you too.

Formality: As this is a modest expression, you don’t need to change it in any way.

An alternative response that you can use is 私も (watashi mo), which essentially means “me too” in Japanese. Unlike こちらこそ (kochira koso) this is a very casual expression and should only be used with friends and family.

No problem using Japanese loan words

The Japanese language consists of borrowed words called katakana. There are ways to say “No Problem” in Japanese, using English (or English-sounding) phrases and expressions. Let’s take a look!

  • Okay
    オーケー
    O-ke

This expression means the same as “OK” in English, and can be used the same way. Convenient, right!

Formality: You can use オーケー (o-ke) as a standalone expression, but adding です (desu) to the end secures that formality if in doubt.


  • I don’t mind
    ドンマイ
    donmai

This phrase is borrowed from the English language phrase “I don’t mind.” Just as you’d expect, it means exactly that! You can ドンマイ (donmai) in Japanese the same way as you would use “I don’t mind” in English. You’re probably best off using this one with your friends, as opposed to with your manager or teacher.

Formality: You should use this casual phrase with your friends.

It’s no problem, no big deal In Japanese

  • It’s no problem, no big deal
    大したことはない
    taishita koto ha nai

At times when someone is bigging up the fact you’ve done them a huge favour, you can use 大したことはない (taishita koto ha nai). When you use this expression you’re telling the person that “it was nothing, no biggie.” For instance:

  • 家まで荷物を持ってくれてありがとう。
    ie made nimotsu wo mottekurete arigatou.
    Thanks for carrying my things all the way home for me.

As a reply, you can say:

  • 大したことはない
    taishita koto ha nai
    no problem, no big deal.

You can also use this expression to say “it’s nothing special.” Maybe you’ve received many compliments for being really good at something. People talk about you to others and say things like “thanks to them we won the baseball championship!”

By replying with 大したことはない (taishita koto ha nai) you’re telling them “it’s no big deal, nothing special.” Be careful not to sound too cocky of course!

That covers pretty much all of the ways you can say No Problem in Japanese! I hope you found this useful, thanks for reading!

More Resources for learning Japanese? No Problem!

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More Recommended Ultimate Guides:

How to say What’s up in Japanese

How to say How Are You in Japanese

Free Resources:

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Free Japanese Reading Practice eLearning PDFs!

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How to read Japanese Main

How to Read Japanese: Ultimate Guide

“How do you read those Japanese symbols? How do you understand what they mean?”

These are questions that people have asked me a lot.

Before I studied Japanese, I had that same thought. “Can I really learn to read Japanese?”

I thought to myself: Where and how do I even begin to understand the language? It looks like a jumbled mess.

For those of you who have minimal experience in the Japanese language, what do you see when you see this?

Example of reading Japanese

Does it just look like squiggles and random symbols? I know it did for me when I first began my studies!

The Japanese language is certainly unique, and famously complex too. But don’t fret! That’s how it looks to most of us when we first start out! Despite seeming really complex, the Japanese writing system is actually very logical, making it super easy to learn.

In this guide, I will break down the steps on how to read Japanese so that you too, no longer see a squiggly mess, but rather; the enchanting beauty that lies within the foundation of the Japanese language!

Please note that this post features several affiliate links, meaning we’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase through these links. For more information please visit the Disclaimer page.

How to read the Japanese Alphabet

 

The Japanese language consists of three alphabets or scripts.

You might be thinking, “three!?” But don’t worry! Actually only one of them requires a significant amount of time (compared to the others) to learn.

Here are the three scripts:

Hiragana

Katakana

Kanji

If you want to be able to read Japanese, I highly recommend making learning hiragana a top priority.

 

Reading Japanese Romaji

 

Before we jump into hiragana, I wanted to explain briefly about romaji. Romaji literally means Roman Characters, the very same characters we use for the English alphabet. Although Japanese does contain romaji, you will only really see romaji in important circumstances to help those who can’t understand Japanese text. You can often find city names displayed in romaji on signs.

 

reading signs in japan

 

This is a picture I took during my 700-mile cycle across Japan. I aimed for Shirakawago (from Nagoya) in one day. Despite the endless struggle up multiple mountains, somehow I actually made it. You can see the Japanese text on the sign. Below the Japanese text, you can see the corresponding romaji (the English name). Other than a few minor exceptions, the Japanese language does not use romaji very often at all, and if you want to be able to read Japanese, you should definitely start with hiragana! Let’s begin!:)

 

What is Hiragana?

 

Hiragana is the core of the Japanese language.

It is a phonetic script, consisting of 46 characters. Each character of the hiragana script represents a syllable sound. You will be able to pronounce any word in the Japanese language once you’ve learned each one.  All of these syllables represent every sound within the Japanese language. This means that once you have learned all 46 of the Hiragana characters, you’ll be able to read and say anything in Japanese.

 

How to read Japanese Hiragana

 

Let me show you an example. Two of the 46 characters are す and き.

す is pronounced: su   (as in the su in super).

き is pronounced: ki    (as in the word: key).

By putting them together and you get: すき, (pronounced su key) or in romaji: suki

すき (suki) means: like.

Just like in English, Japanese also has vowels. All of the hiragana characters will have a vowel in them. Except for the vowels themselves and a few exceptions,  you can pronounce all of the characters in Japanese the same way as you would pronounce two Latin letters. The second letter is always a vowel and the first one is always a consonant.

For example, just now we looked at す (su). The romaji and pronunciation for the hiragana す is a consonant [s] followed by a vowel, [u]. Just as you might have guessed, you could change the [u] for an [a], and you get [sa] (pronounced the same as [sa] in sat). The Japanese alphabet doesn’t cover all of the consonants we have in English though. There is no [lu] for instance. We’ll talk about this a little more later.

That’s all there is to it, every sound in the Japanese language is like this, and once you’ve remembered each one, it’s just a matter of remembering the vocabulary! Hiragana is also used in the majority of Japanese grammar too.

A full sentence in Japanese would consist of multiple hiragana characters together. Something like this: にほんがすき. (which means  “I like Japan”) In Japanese, there are no spaces between words!

 

How to learn Japanese Hiragana

 

So, that’s great, but how can you learn them?

Firstly, take a look at these.

 

The hiragana す (su) from the Japanese alphabet.

 

This is our Japanese Core Hiragana Core card for the character す (su). We have created a study resource called: Hiragana Core to help you learn hiragana. All of the resources that I make for our site are resources that I wish that I had when I first began learning Japanese. So I hope you’ll find them useful!

The best way for you to learn the hiragana, rather than just remember them is through mnemonics. By using mnemonics you can build a visual connection to each individual hiragana character. For the す (su) character, we created a connection by linking it to the [su] in superman as the pronunciation is the same. These techniques will allow your brain to recall the hiragana much more effectively and efficiently, burning them into your long term memory.

Next, let’s take a look at the card for き (ki).

 

The hiragana character き ki in the Japanese alphabet.

 

On this Japanese Core card, we have the character き (ki).

As I mentioned earlier, the hiragana き (ki) is pronounced the same as the English word for [key]. It even looks the same as one!

“How can I learn how to read Japanese quickly?” is a question I often see. My biggest advice would be to incorporate this study technique. By using this method you can enjoy studying the hiragana characters, as well as retaining the reading of each one, very quickly.

We have a full resource on the Japanese Core Hiragana Quest in development, be sure to check this page here.

By referring to our hiragana chart you can see all 46 characters and how to pronounce them.

how to read japanese hiragana - alphabet

More Hiragana Reading and Study techniques

Practice reading hiragana through tests and games!

 

We are currently in the midst of developing our own hiragana testing system. Until it is completed, I recommend using this site to test your ability to recall the characters.

I used this Japanese hiragana test to test myself over and over again when I was learning hiragana. See how fast you can eventually crack 100 score without getting a single one wrong!

You could also try Dr Lingua’s Drag and Drop Kana Bento. It adds a little more flavour to your hiragana learning with graphics of a Japanese lunch box (bento). You simply drag each hiragana to it’s corresponding English (romaji) counterpart. This one also has an integrated timer making it easier to record your timings. It also comes with a feature allowing you to test your hiragana recall ability vs your katakana recall ability. We’ll be talking about katakana later on in this guide. Definitely give it shot!

 

Learning how to read Hiragana through videos

 

I also recommend giving this video a watch to boost your hiragana studies. This video was produced by the guys at Japanesepod101, and they use a similar technique to the ones we use here. I love their creativeness in their visual associations they’ve made to help you learn the hiragana.

 

 

You can also try Japanese Ammo with Misa’s video. She adds a lot more vocabulary to her teachings of the hiragana characters. This makes it useful if you’re looking to pick up some vocab on the way too!

 

Japanese Language Resources

One of the best ways to learn a language in my opinion is without a doubt by taking online classes. But not just any online class, you have to find one that’s right for you. It’s so important to find a tutor who can support you, recognise your weaknesses, strengths and deliver you a fulfilling language learning experience.

Preply    Italki

That is why I recommend Preply or Italki. I have written a full review on Preply here, so if you’re interested in affordable 1-on-1 online classes you can take from the comfort of your own home, take a look! I cover the entire platform, the good and not so good, as well as provide my honest opinion on using Preply.

Learn how to read Japanese for beginners – Recommended Textbooks: Practice reading Japanese!

 

If you’re looking for a textbook to dive into and start your Japanese language journey as a complete beginner, take a look at Japanese From Zero Book 1.

I’ll write a complete review of this book, but I will briefly mention how this book is perfect for complete beginners in Japanese.

Learning how to read Japanese best resources

The book is the first of a 5 volume series. George Trombley produced the book, targeting complete beginners in Japanese.

It is a communication-based book containing a whopping 13 chapters and uses a progressive method to help ease you into the Japanese language.

What I mean by this, is that at the beginning, the book uses romaji to help you learn the hiragana. The content at the beginning is primarily in romaji. Then, as you progress through the book, the romaji are gradually replaced with hiragana.

This is a fantastic method to help you learn hiragana at your own pace while gaining some experience in actually using it too.

Being a communication-based book with 13 chapters, it teaches you how to say many things in Japanese by providing you with engaging activities to complete. The activities are coupled with illustrations and examples to make your start to Japanese language learning as smooth as possible. The book includes a vocabulary list to refer to should you get stuck.

The content in the book is excellent in terms of helping you learn to read, write, and speak Japanese. An FAQ section is at the end of each chapter. This is great as it answers any questions you might have about what you’ve just read.  The content in this book is excellent, I didn’t need to refer to the internet for extra clarity even once.

 

The Difference between Hiragana and Katakana

 

Katakana is the next of the three scripts in Japanese. Katakana, like hiragana, is a phonetic script that consists of 46 characters. In fact, the katakana characters have the exact same pronunciation as their hiragana counterparts. This means you don’t need to learn any new sounds. Rather, katakana is just another symbol that represents the same sounds of each hiragana.

For example, the hiragana す(su), which we learned earlier, actually has a second way to write it. In katakana, it becomes ス (su). These two characters have the exact same pronunciation. They just look slightly different. In general, hiragana characters will be more rounded and smooth, cursive almost. Whereas the katakana counterpart of each hiragana will be much sharper around the edges.

Now I bet you’re wondering the same thing as I did when I first learned about katakana’s existence.

Why on earth do they have two alphabets if they’re the exact same bar writing style?

 

What is Katakana?

 

The Japanese language has borrowed words. These borrowed words are words that have been taken from other languages, such as English, German, even Russian. These borrowed words are katakana. We actually have them in English too, words such as karaoke is an example of a word that has been borrowed from Japanese.

There are actually a fair amount of words that the Japanese language has borrowed. Being an English speaker is definitely an advantage to help you learn them.

As spoken Japanese does not mirror the exact same sounds we have in English, some words can’t be said the same.

For example, there are no single letter phonetic characters in the Japanese alphabet that aren’t vowels, bar ん(n).

Take the word [gym] for instance, in Japanese it becomes ジム, (jimu) pronounced jim moo. Because most of the characters in Japanese are pronounced as two Latin letters, borrowed (katakana) words will often have an additional sound to be pronounced, one that doesn’t exist in the original Latin word. For example, in English when we say the word [gym], we finish on the [m] sound, because the single letter [m] is a letter in our alphabet. In Japanese, they don’t have these single letter characters, so naturally, the ending will be pronounced differently. in this case, [gym] becomes [jimu] ending on the [u] sound.

 

How to read Japanese L and R

 

Also, there are no distinct L or R sounds in Japanese.

The word [table], is an example of a borrowed word in the Japanese language. [Table] becomes, teburu. pronounced tay, (as in taylor), bu, (as in Boo!), and ru (But because there is no L or R in Japanese, it becomes a mix between the loo, in loose, and the roo, in room). This is the case for the entire R+vowel line in Japanese. Have a quick listen!

 

 

Just as there is no sound quite like this in English, there is no R sound in Japanese. So words with R’s in them are quite difficult for Japanese people to pronounce without practice. Take the word [rainbow] for instance, it would become [lainbow].

These borrowed words are written in katakana, rather than hiragana, which lets you know that these aren’t original Japanese words. It’s actually quite good fun trying to decipher the meaning of katakana. Sometimes you can get the meaning straight away, and other times, it might take you a minute. I remember in class spending quite a while trying to work out what Fueisubukku was. (フェイスブック)

Have a look for yourself, and see if you can recognise any words!

 

 

Why learn to read Japanese katakana

 

This is why it’s so important to not skip learning katakana. By learning katakana, you will be able to understand the correct pronunciation of words in Japanese. This makes you sound way more natural in your speech, and it also means that Japanese people will be able to understand you. It’s also very useful to learn katakana, as you will find when you go to Japan, a lot of menu items will be written in katakana. You will be able to read them and decipher from the sounds of the katakana what the English word might be.

Say you wanted to order a big mac burger at McDonalds. You could go into the restaurant, and as you can read katakana, you could skip the pointing at the images charade and tell the waiter you’d like a ビッグマックバーガー(biggumakku ba-ga-). The word “burger” is in katakana on the menu too. That’s all you need to do to be able to read a basic menu in Japan!

So, we’ve established that katakana are borrowed words, and hiragana make up the core of the Japanese alphabet and language. Grammar, and all other words that aren’t borrowed words, is constructed in hiragana. Hiragana can also be combined with other hiragana to make Kanji, but we’ll get onto that section a little later.

How to read Japanese Katakana

 

Once you’ve got hiragana down, and are fairly confident in it, I recommend making your next step learning katakana.

Another one of the main reasons I recommend learning hiragana first, then katakana is because many of the hiragana and katakana characters’ appearance is relatively similar. Already being able to recognise hiragana helps a lot when you’re learning katakana as you can make visual connections with them.

Take a look at these.

ki in katakana

Earlier, we saw the hiragana character き (ki). Its katakana counterpart is actually very similar. Here is it! キ (ki) The strokes are much more straight, and firm. I think that katakana is actually much simpler than hiragana, and if you already have hiragana under your belt, you’ll be able to understand katakana and be able to read Japanese in no time!

Let’s take a look at another.

ka in katakana

These two characters, か, and カ are pronounced as ka (as in the [ca] in cat). Can you guess which one is the hiragana and which one is the katakana character?

Going with what we learned previously, we know that katakana is less cursive, and are more straight in their strokes. With this knowledge in hand, this makes we can deduce that か is the hiragana and カ is the katakana!

As you can see, they are quite similar, making them super easy to learn!

 

More Katakana reading and study techniques

Reading Japanese practice: Katakana tests and Games

 

Like the test we introduced to you to help you learn hiragana, there is actually a katakana version too. Give it a shot, and see if you can also crack a 100 to 0 score on it.

For the ultimate hiragana to katakana test, I recommend Dr Lingua’s Drag and Drop Kana Bento. Here you can set the game mode where you have to match each hiragana and it’s corresponding katakana counterpart together. This is a fantastic way to challenge yourself on both your hiragana and katakana ability.

If you are considering studying Japanese at university, I highly suggest you master hiragana and katakana before your classes begin. It helps out a ton when you can jump right into the content, and you can start making notes in Japanese immediately from the get-go. (as opposed to romaji). If you’ve already got hiragana and katakana down, you’re ready to start reading actual Japanese texts with no Latin at all.

 

The Difference Between the Katakana so (ソ), n (ン), tsu (ツ), shi (シ)

 

A quick shout to the [so] and [n] katakana for looking so alike, and giving me the best embarrassing memories. I’d say they are almost as bad as シ (shi) and ツ (tsu). But these ones have a special place in my heart.

I’m sure if you’ve already begun your katakana studies, or if not, you’re about to find out, about the beautiful nightmare these four characters can be. I mean, maybe they look not so bad when they’re next to each other like this: シソツン. Maybe they do actually, I take that back.

But when you see one on its own like this: ツ. it tries to trick you for a second, making you stop and just double check you’ve remembered this character correctly. (This has happened to me multiple times during Japanese university tests, or even in normal Japanese texts).

I want to break down the difference between these characters, to help you be able to recognise the difference in them a little more clearly. After all, you’re going to need to be able to tell the difference straight away in order to be able to read Japanese swiftly.

Let me enlarge them for you a bit.

enlargement of the Japanese katakana tsu, shi, n, so

Let’s start by breaking them down and analysing them as pairs, rather than as a group of four.

So we have ツシ and ンソ

Each katakana in the first group has an additional stroke, making them somewhat easily differentiable from the second group. We’ll take the first group and look at them some more.

 

What is the difference between the Katakana ツ[tsu] and シ [shi]?

 

ツシ are [tsu] and [shi] respectively. They both have three strokes, and three letters in their romaji spelling. That’s how you can remember them, three strokes=three letters.

The way I like to look at these katakana is to imagine that a gust of wind is blowing them downwards, or to the side.

difference between katakana tsu and shi

A method you can use to try and help you remember the characters is to think about the direction the wind is blowing the characters. In the case of シ [shi], the wind is being blown from the west. And the word in Japanese for west happens to be 西 [nishi], which has [shi] in it! Also, you can see the wind is blowing the character eastward. You guessed it! The word for the east in Japanese also contains [shi]. That word is 東 [higashi]. It’s almost like they’ve done this on purpose! From these findings, we can deduce that the second one is ツ [tsu], making it super easy to remember!

 

What is the difference between the Katakana ソ[so] and ン[n]?

 

Next up we have ソ [so] and ン [n]. I mentioned earlier that it’s thanks to these characters that I have some embarrassing memories I’ll never forget.

At an exchange party between Japanese students and English students at my university, we all wore name badges.  We wrote our English name, and our katakana name on our name badges ourselves. In Japanese Latin names are written in katakana by the way. Despite not being confident in katakana yet, I gave it my best shot in writing my name. Now, my name happens to end in an [n], which I ended up writing in katakana as: アーロソ, which in English would be Aaroso. I didn’t realise the whole time that I had completely butchered my name. I have also made the mistake of writing ソ instead of ン on job application forms, and of course, I had to rewrite the entire thing.

Since then, I no longer make these mistakes with the ソ[so] and ン[n] characters.

So,

To help you, I’ve come up with a knack to remember them.

difference between katakana so and n

 

We can use English to help us remember these characters this time! In the case of ソ [so] we draw a line from the small stroke, to the closest end of the long troke. You will find that when you do this, the closest end will always be southward, and as the word [south] begins with[so] we can deduce that this one is ソ [so]! Similarly, if we do the same with ン [n] and draw a line from the small stroke to the closest end of the long stroke, you will find that the closest end will always be northward. And as coincidence has it, the word [north], begins with [n]!

I hope that helps you better understand the difference between ツ、シ、ソ、ン.

 

What is Japanese Kanji

 

what is kanji?

 

Now we’re onto the big one; kanji.

Put simply, kanji are Chinese characters. They were brought to Japan from China, many years ago. Some of them are very slightly different from the actual Chinese characters, but they are mostly similar.

 this is a kanji. It means [love]. Kanji are the things that you’ve probably read about being the most difficult part of learning Japanese. I mean, at first glance, they do look complex, they’re a mess of squiggles. There are thousands among thousands of these things, and their numbers just keep increasing totalling up to 50000. But don’t worry! I’m going to show you how you can come to 愛 kanji.

The Japanese government has done us a huge favour and has given us a list of the top 2136 most used kanji in Japanese. These kanji are called the joyo kanji.

So, if you want to be able to read most Japanese texts,  you’re going to have to know the 2136 joyo kanji.  Of course, children’s books won’t use as many kanji as something like a newspaper. But it’s kind of understood by everyone who is studying Japanese, that to read a newspaper, you need to know the kanji.

 

The difference between Japanese Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana

 

Unlike hiragana and katakana, each kanji has its own (multiple) meaning(s). Some kanji may have more meanings than others.

Let me teach you three now.  一、二、三 are the kanji for one, two, and three respectively. Unfortunately the kanji for four changes from just increasing the numbers of lines, to 四 instead. But hey, now you only have 2133 more to go!

This doesn’t mean that every word will have its individual kanji though, some words will be made up of multiple kanji. After you know the meaning of each kanji, it becomes quite easy to make educational guesses on the meanings of words even though you don’t know how to read them. The kanji for [person] is 人, and the kanji for [two] is 二. Put them together and you have 二人, literally meaning [two people].

That’s all there is to it in regards to getting the meaning of words down. It’s the reading and writing that make it more tricky, but it’s worth doing.

 

How to read Japanese Kanji?

 

Remember the hiragana earlier? Kanji are made of one or more hiragana that constitutes the reading of a kanji. Let’s take the kanji 愛 for example. The reading for this kanji is あい [ai] (pronounced [I]). This is why it is important to learn the hiragana first, so you read kanji later. You could just write Japanese all in hiragana, but there are two reasons why Japan doesn’t do this. Take a look at these two sentences.

げんごわたしにとってすばらしいけいけんだらけのだいぼうけんです!

言語にとって素晴らしい経験だらけの大冒険です!

The first sentence uses all hiragana, and the second uses kanji for the hiragana. I have highlighted the hiragana reading for the kanji in both sentences. As the Japanese language doesn’t use spaces between words, the first sentence is much more difficult to read.

The second reason is homonyms. A sequence of hiragana together can actually have two completely different meanings, which is why kanji is used to allow for clear differentiation.

Let’s take a look at the kanji for [kanji] for example.

漢字, in its hiragana form, would be かんじ [kanji]

The kanji for [feeling] in Japanese is:

感じ, and in its hiragana form かんじ [kanji]

The two have different kanji but the same hiragana. This is why having kanji can be very useful in helping readers work out what the meaning is of a word.

 

Kunyomi vs Onyomi

 

Kanji often have two different types of readings too. These are the Kun-reading, and the on-reading, or the kunyomi. and the onyomi.

When learning kanji, and how to read Japanese, you’re going to have to remember the two readings of every kanji. Which one you have to use, depends on the word, and the context. It comes naturally to you as you learn the Japanese language, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much!

 

How to read Japanese Onyomi

 

As we mentioned earlier, Chinese characters were brought over to Japan a long time ago. When they were introduced to Japan, the Japanese began to adopt the characters into their language. Originally they tried to keep the pronunciation the same, but there are plenty of differences in pronunciation between the Japanese and Chinese language, so that didn’t quite work. So, Japan adopted Chinese characters and altered their pronunciation. These characters are Onyomi.

This is not to say that all of the Chinese characters that were brought over into the Japanese language had their pronunciation changed though. Some actually remain the same. For example, let’s take the Japanese kanji for the number three. As I mentioned earlier, it consists of three horizontal lines. 三, pronounced さん (san). All of the Japanese kanji for numbers are the same as Chinese kanji for numbers, and out of all of them, only 三 remains the same in terms of pronunciation.

A lot of the time, Onyomi will be used in more complex words, where multiple kanji are attached together to form a single word, and often have an increased formality associated with them. Lots of them are used in writing, or when speaking formally.

 

Reading Japanese: Onyomi Examples

 

This isn’t always the case though. For instance,  kanji for the days of the week use onyomi.

Did you know that the Japanese days of the week in English are associated with elements? For example, Sunday is actually the day of the sun, and Monday is the day of the moon. Well, the Japanese language actually has this too with its days of the week.

days of week in Japanese

Credit goes to Percivalias for this image. 

 

Thursday is the day of the tree, and the word for tree in Japanese is 木, in its hiragana form き. (ki, pronounced [key]). However, because it is read in it’s onyomi when it is read as a day of the week, it becomes, もく, (moku, pronounced mo as in [mono] and ku as in the coo in [cucoo]. As you can see, all of the days of the week have multiple kanji together that forms each word for each day of the week.

This is why when you search a Japanese word up on the dictionary, (we recommend Jisho for your online Japanese dictionary) it will show a katakana reading and a hiragana reading. As we discussed earlier, katakana are borrowed words from other languages. The same goes for the readings. All of the onyomis for every kanji will are often in katakana, because they are borrowed readings from China! It’s important to note though, that this is only the case for dictionaries. If you want to write an onyomi word without writing it in kanji, you’d write it in hiragana.

 

How to read Japanese Kunyomi

 

This leaves us with Kunyomi, the original Japanese pronunciation for words. Some kanji will have multiple kunyomis too. Although it can seem overwhelming, you’ll find that a lot of words use similar patterns. For example, the Japanese kanji for a person is 人. When this kanji is by itself it’s pronounced as ひと [hito], pronounced as (he toe). But when you put it together with other kanji, its reading changes. For example, if you want to say [Japanese person], you would put the kanji for [Japan] which is 「日本」 before the kanji for [person]「人」, making it [日本人]. This also changes the reading from kunyomi to onyomi, making it pronounced as じん [jin].

Many Japanese adjectives and verbs are kunyomi. Sometimes additional hiragana accompany kanji and complete a word. Whereas, onyomi will not have any accompanying hiragana necessary to complete word. These hiragana are okurigana.

Maybe you noticed earlier during the initial kanji explanation, the kanji for the word [feeling] (which happens to be pronounced and read the same way as the kanji for [kanji], despite having different kanji) had an accompanying hiragana.

The word for [feeling] in Japanese is 感じ (kanji). The じ (ji) hiragana is pronounced as the letter [G].

The word for hot is another example of an accompanying hiragana. 暑い、(pronounced atsui).

These accompanying hiragana are okurigana.

 

How to learn to read Japanese Kanji

 

Luckily, there is a system in place to help us learn to read kanji. They are: Radicals.

Radicals are small parts that make up a kanji. By learning the radicals, you can break down even the most complicated looking kanji, and eventually, kanji stop looking like squiggles and like a bunch of radicals squished together instead.

There are 214 of them, and some of them are actually standalone kanji. Although all radicals aren’t kanji, I highly suggest learning them straight away if you want to be able to read Japanese. If you know the radicals, learning the kanji becomes significantly easier, as you can begin to understand the construction of each kanji.  You can find them, here.

 

How to read Japanese by learning the Radicals

 

Kanji and radicals are actually very clever. They work together extremely well. Let me show you. The kanji (and radical) for a tree is 木. Can you see it? It kind of looks like a tree doesn’t it?

 

reading kanji

 

The magic with radicals is that they can make sense, and help you to learn kanji if you let them. Let me show you another example. You have this tree radical, but what would happen if you put two together like this. 林.

reading kanji 2

 

Well, two trees make it a grove. But, we can actually go one step further and make it three trees: 森. Any idea what three trees together might mean?

Reading kanji 3

 

You guessed it! It’s a forest! So we have, 木、林、森, meaning tree, grove, and forest respectively.  This is why taking the time to learn radicals are so important if you chuck in a little bit of creativity in the learning process if you can pick up multiple kanji just from knowing one radical, makes learning the radicals super attractive! Let’s take another look at the kanji for love 愛 あい [ai] (pronounced [I]).

We can also break this one down using radicals too. Take a look!

 

understanding kanji

 

We have the radical for heart 心, and the radical for accept 受. The act of accepting someone’s heart is the same as accepting their love, so naturally, by putting them together, we can make [love]! (no pun intended)

Have a look at some radicals, learn a few, and you’ll notice this will definitely help you with your kanji studies. You’ll be reading Japanese in no time!

 

So, how do you read Japanese?

 

Well, sometimes Japanese is written vertically, so you read it from top to bottom.  On top of that, authentic Japanese books follow are read right to left, as opposed to the left to right system we’re used to here in the west.

Sometimes you read Japanese both vertically and horizontally at the same time. An excellent example of this is a newspaper.

 

reading Japanese newspaper

 

It allows more information to fit onto the page, making use of as much white space as possible.

Websites and mobile phones display the text horizontally, however, reading from left to right. That’s it for the different layouts. The number of different layouts might feel a little discouraging, but I promise you, it’s not that bad! Other than that, reading Japanese is a matter of learning the hiragana, katakana, and kanji respectively. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be reading Japanese no problem!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide! If you need any help, feel free to message us or write us a comment below!

 

Japanese Reading Practice

 

Now that you know how to read Japanese, how about learning how to say some expressions and phrases right off the bat?

Ready to start reading some Japanese? I have developed a Japanese Reading Practice eLearning Interactive PDF resource free for you. My goodness, that certainly was a mouthful! You can read all about it, and get free lifetime access here!

There is no better way to learn Japanese than to converse with native speakers. Have a look at my full honest review of Preply here!