The best and most direct translation for the word “soul” in Japanese is 魂 (tamashii). In Japanese, there are also a bunch of other words you can use to refer to a “soul” or the “spirit” of something.
There are many situations where we may refer to the soul of something. For instance, we may be talking about a soulmate, the spirit of someone, or the heart and soul of something. In English, when we’re talking about these things, the words and expressions we use all contain the word “soul”.
Say you wish to talk about “the heart and soul” of something for instance. In Japanese, you’d be best off using the word 心 (kokoro). If you look it up in a dictionary, the meaning would be “heart”.
However, there are many more nuances to 心 (kokoro) that dictionaries just won’t cover. That’s where this guide comes in!
Let’s learn about the significance of the “soul” in Japanese culture!
In this guide, I explain the definition and explore the nuances of the word 魂 (tamashii), and all the other related words and expressions.
All of my guides are tailored for beginners and advanced learners alike, with each entry coupled with detailed explanations and examples.
With that said, let’s begin!
Table of Contents
Soul in Japanese
Without a doubt, the word 魂 (tamashii) is the best way to refer to “soul” in Japanese. The word 魂 (tamashii) refers directly to the soul that resides within a person, put simply, the very essence of a person.
When we talk about our soul, we’re speaking of our life force, the spirit that exists within us. You can use the word 魂 (tamashii) to refer to all of these things. A person’s 魂 (tamashii) is their fundamental energy source as a human being.
I’m sure you’ve heard of people who joke that they’re so emo, that they have no soul.
watashi ni ha tamashii ga nai。
I have no soul.
As your 魂 (tamashii), your soul, is an energy that is unique to you as an individual, you can also use this word to express deeper things.
That Was Soul-stirring/Moving in Japanese
- That is soul-stirring/moving.
tamashii wo yusaburu.
When something was so moving that you felt it touched your soul, you can use the idiomatic expression 魂を揺さぶる (tamashii wo yusaburu). For instance, you could be absolutely blown away by your favourite singers’ performance and may say something like:
kashu no utagoe ha tamashii wo yusabutta。
The singers’ voice was soul-stirring (very moving).
As you may have expected, this is an extremely powerful expression you can use. There is a lot more weight to your words than simply saying “I was moved”. As such, you’re best off using such expressions in Japanese when you’re really impressed.
Let’s take a look at the components of this expression.
Firstly, 魂 (tamashii) is soul, as we’ve covered.
Secondly, を (wo) is a Japanese particle that marks the object of a verb. Ie, the person or thing the verb is done to.
Lastly, 揺さぶる is a verb that means “to shake”, or “to jolt” in Japanese. In the past tense, it becomes 揺さぶった (yusabutta), meaning “shaken” or “jolted.”
With that said, we can understand the expression 魂を揺さぶる (tamashii wo yusaburu) to literally mean “shake my soul” in Japanese.
Just like how pronouns have been omitted in the example sentence, (as they usually are in Japanese) when the context is clear, you can simply say 魂を揺さぶった (tamashii wo yusabutta) to express that you felt something was very moving.
That Was Moving/Touching in Japanese
- That was very moving/touching.
To express that something was really touching, you can use 感動した (kandou shta).
Perhaps you’ve just watched a movie that made you feel warm inside, or maybe someone has complimented you and you feel touched. During these situations, you can say 感動した (kandou shta).
hontouni arigatou. totemo kandou shta.
Thank you so much (casual). I’m really touched.
How’s that for a way to thank someone for their kind compliment.
Let’s take a look at the kanji! 感動 (kandou) is made up of two kanji.
The first 感 (kan) means “emotion”, or “feeling” in Japanese.
The second, 動 (dou) means “move” in Japanese.
Lastly, した (shta) is the past tense of the verb する (suru), which means “to do” in casual Japanese.
Putting it all together, we have an expression that quite literally means “feelings were moved”.
The above 魂を揺さぶった (tamashii wo yusabutta) is very strong, so of course, you should only use it during situations where you truly feel something as moved your soul.
Put Soul Into Something in Japanese
- I put my soul into [something].
[something] ni tamashii wo kometa.
This is another idiomatic Japanese expression you can use to emphasise how much effort you’ve put into something. Perhaps you’re super invested in your work, you may say:
shigoto ni tamashii wo kometa。
I put my soul into my work.
The verb 込めた (kometa) is the past tense for the verb that means “to put into” in Japanese. It’s important to note that the 込めた (kometa) specifically refers to putting emotion or effort into something.
In English and Japanese, saying that you’ve put your soul into something is of course a very strong thing to say. In some cases, when you say [something]に魂を込めた ([something] ni tamashii wo kometa), you’re also saying that you’ve put your heart and soul into that something. However, this can be subjective and depends on what that something is.
When you use 魂 (tamashii) here, perhaps a better translation might be “I put everything into [something]” instead. After all, your 魂 (tamashii), or your soul is the very core that makes you, you right?
When you want to emphasise that you’ve poured your heart and soul into something, you may be better off using 心 (kokoro), which I explain in the next entry of this guide.
It’s worth knowing that the word 魂 (tamashii) is very strong. When you want to say things that have emotions attached like “You have a kind soul”, or if you’re wanting to be romantic and tell someone that your souls are one of the same, you should use 心 (kokoro) instead. Let’s take a look!
Heart/Soul in Japanese
Put simply, 心 (kokoro) is a single word that unites the notion of “heart”, “soul, “spirit” and “mind” in its meaning in Japanese. You can use it to refer to the inner heart of someone. For this reason, when you put this word into google translate or any dictionary, it’ll tell you that it means “heart”.
Translating 心 (kokoro) as “heart” does not do the word enough justice. There is a lot more to this word than simply meaning “heart”.
It’s very important to remember that 心 (kokoro) does not refer to the heart that keeps us alive in the physical sense, but rather in the emotional sense. What this means is that if you’re talking about the organ that’s pumping blood around your body, you’re going to want to use the word 心臓 (shinzou), rather than 心 (kokoro).
The word 心臓 (shinzou) refers to your heart, as in the organ. Whereas 心 (kokoro) is a word that interconnects notions of “heart”, “soul”, spirit” and “mind”.
When you say the word 心 (kokoro), you aren’t simply linking those four words as one… but rather, those four words; “heart”, “soul”, spirit” and “mind” are one.
心 (kokoro) Example Sentences
With the notion of “heart”, “soul”, spirit” and “mind” in mind, when we talk about the word 心 (kokoro), let’s take a look at some examples.
You can use 心 (kokoro) to express some very deep things. For instance, perhaps you’d like to compliment someone on their kindness:
anata ha kokoro yasashii hito。
You are a kind-hearted person.
As the word 心 (kokoro) does not simply just mean “heart”, we can also translate the above expression as “You are a kind soul”.
Speaking of compliments, we can also use 心 (kokoro) to tell someone how considerate they are:
kokoro ga atatakai hito da ne。
You really are a warm-hearted person.
When we talk about someone’s 心 (kokoro), we’re concentrating our words on their spirit, their soul, and their heart. It really is difficult to explain the meaning of 心 (kokoro) without implying divisions in regard to the meaning.
心 (kokoro) refers to the “heart”, “soul”, spirit” and “mind” as one word.
Put Heart and Soul Into Something in Japanese
- Put heart and soul into something.
kokoro wo komeru.
Earlier, we discussed the expression 魂を込めた (tamashii wo kometa) which can be used to say that you’ve put your soul into something.
However, as we’ve also discussed, 心 (kokoro) brings the four words: heart, soul, spirit, mind, and their meanings together as a single entity.
This means that when we say 心を込める (kokoro wo komeru), we’re really stressing how much effort, love, and dedication we’ve put into something.
There are two ways to say that someone put their heart and soul into something in Japanese. The first is to express how someone has poured their heart and soul into something.
- [person] は [noun] に心を込めた。
Begin by replacing [person] with a pronoun or the person’s name. Secondly, replace the [noun] with the subject. For instance,
kanojo ha ryouri ni kokoro wo kometa.
She poured her heart and soul into her cooking.
As you can imagine, if someone has poured their heart and soul into something, they’ve really put in everything they’ve had into it.
The verb of this sentence 込めた (kometa), combined with 心 (kokoro) is what gives this phrase so much weight. 込めた (kometa) is the past tense of the verb 込める (komeru) which means “to put an emotion into something” in Japanese.
Wholeheartedly in Japanese
The second is to say that someone did something wholeheartedly using the template:
- [person] は心を込めて [verb].
First, replace [person] with the person’s name to who you’re referring (or use a pronoun!). Then, simply replace [verb] with the action it is that the person did wholeheartedly. For instance,
kanojo ha kokoro wo komete ryouri wo tsukutta.
She cooked a meal wholeheartedly.
Another way we can translate this exact same phrase would be “she cooked a meal with love”, essentially saying that the person has done their absolute best in making the meal.
You can use this phrase to express that you or someone else has sincerely exerted effort in something.
There is an expression we can use to convey a much stronger “with love”, however, with more emphasis on the “love” part.
Put Love Into Something
- Put love into something.
ai wo komeru.
The above phrase 心を込めた (kokoro wo kometa) largely refers to times when a huge amount of effort has been devoted to something. Whereas 愛を込める (ai wo komeru) explicitly refers to the love that has been put into the subject.
This is because the kanji 愛 (ai) means “love” or “affection”. And… as you may or may not already know, when 愛 (ai) is used in the word 愛してる (aishiteru) which is one of many ways of saying “I love you” in Japanese, it’s very strong.
The word 愛してる (aishiteru) is only used between people who are very, very much in love and have a deep bond. It should not be used as a confession to say “I like you”, or “I love you” to someone, or towards your family members.
Therefore, just like how 愛してる (aishiteru) is very strong, 愛を込める (ai wo komeru) can be a very strong expression too. Say you’re making a dish, and you want to make it with love. This might mean that you carefully measure out the ingredients properly, staying focused so that you can make it delicious for the people who are close to you.
This gentleness can be translated as:
ai wo komete su-pu wo tsukutta.
I made the soup with love.
With Love/Love From – In Letters
As we’re on the topic of 愛を込める (ai wo komeru), I wanted to point out that you can also use 愛を込めて (ai wo komete) to say “with love” to conclude a letter or message.
Perhaps you’re writing a Christmas card to a loved one, and want to end the message with a warm greeting. You can also say:
With Lots of Love in Japanese
takusan ai wo komete.
With lots of love.
With All My Love in Japanese
seiipai ai wo komete.
With all my love.
Spirit/Soul in Japanese
When searching up “soul” in a Japanese dictionary, you’ll undoubtedly come across the word 精神 (seishin). Like 魂 (tamashii) and 心 (kokoro), this word too has elements of “soul” to it.
Let’s jump straight into the kanji for 精神 (seishin) to uncover this word’s true meaning.
The first kanji, 精 (sei) has many meanings, but you’ll most often see it meaning “refined” in Japanese.
The second kanji 神 (shin) means “gods” or “mind” in Japanese. You may also see this kanji appear in words such as 神経 (shinkei), meaning “nerve”, 神話 (shinwa) meaning “myth”, or 神社 (jinja) meaning “shrine”. It’s worth noting that the word 神社 (jinja) is often used to refer to the Shinto shrine, a place for gods in Japan.
With this in mind, we can understand 精神 (seishin) to mean “a refined state of mind”.
Put simply, when we use the word 精神 (seishin) we are referring to the spirit, or the mental energy levels of someone or something.
We can use 精神 (seishin) to talk about the mentality or spirit of someone. For instance:
seishinteki na enjou wo ataeyou.
Let’s give them moral support.
You can also use 精神 (seishin) to talk about nouns. For example, a 精神的な人(seishinteki na hito) may refer to a spiritual person. One who is thoughtful, knowledgeable and can look at things objectively.
On top of that, you can use it to refer to someone’s state of mind too.
seishinteki na kenkou ha taisetsu da.
Mental health is important.
Soul/Life in Japanese
There are times where we use the word “soul” to refer to someone’s life force. When talking about the very essence of the soul, or of life itself, we can use 生命 (seimei).
Let’s take a look at the kanji meanings. The first kanji, 生 (sei) means “birth” in Japanese. You may also see it in verbs such as 生む (umu), meaning “to give birth”.
Secondly, 命 (mei) is actually another word by itself. As a standalone, 命 (inochi) means “life”, “fate”, or “destiny” in Japanese. Although it is most often used as 命 (inochi), which literally refers to the life that exists within your soul.
With that said, 生命 (seimei) can be understood quite literally to mean “birth of life” in Japanese.
We can use 生命 (seimei) to ask questions such as:
seimei ha itsu tanjou shimashita ka.
When did life come into being?
Or we can use it to say things like:
watashi ha seimei hoken ni haitteru.
I have Life Insurance.
Soulmate in Japanese
unmei no hito.
There are two ways to say “soulmate” in Japanese. The first is 運命の人 (unmei no hito).
The first part of the phrase 運命 (unmei) consists of two kanji. We’ve already covered 命 (sei) which is also in 生命 (seimei) above. It means “life” or “destiny” in Japanese.
The second kanji is 運 (un). It can mean “to carry” or “destiny” in Japanese. 運 (un) can also be used to mean luck in Japanese. You can use it to say things like 運がいい (un ga ii), meaning, “I have good luck”.
Thus, the word 運命 (unmei) means “destiny” in Japanese.
The second part of the phrase is の (no), a Japanese particle, used to indicate possession. Lastly, 人 (hito) simply means “person”.
Putting all of this together, the literal translation for 運命の人 (unmei no hito) is “person of [email protected]
anata ha watashi no unmei no hito da yo.
You are my soulmate.
How romantic is that? Calling the love of your life your “person of destiny”.
More Ways to Say Soulmate in Japanese
The second way to say “soulmate” in Japanese is ソウルメイト (sourumeito). It means the same as 運命の人 (unmei no hito), explained above. Both are common ways to say “soulmate” in Japanese, and which one you use is dependent on only your preferences.
As you may have noticed, ソウルメイト (sourumeito) is very similar to the English word “soulmate”. That is because this expression is one that has been borrowed from the English language.
watashitachi ha otagai no sourumeito da yo.
We are each other’s soulmates.
You may also be wondering if you can say 魂の人 (tamashii no hito) to say soulmate in Japanese. The answer to that is you can’t. This is because 魂 (tamashii) does not convey the same nuances. (see more on this in entry #1.).
What Colour is Your Soul?
- What colour is your soul?
tamashii no iro ha nani iro desuka.
I had to include this because it’s part of the lyrics from a Japanese song I like called Anima by Reona. It’s a good question though, what colour would you say yours is?
Anyways, that concludes this article on all the ways to say “soul” in Japanese!
In summary, use 魂 (tamashii) to talk about the soul in general, 心 (kokoro) to talk about the heart and soul, and 精神 (seishin) to talk about the spirit and mind!
I hope you found this guide useful. Any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my absolute best to help you.
Before you go, fancy looking at more ultimate How-To Japanese guides?
How to say Hope in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]
How to say I Don’t Know in Japanese [Ultimate Guide]
Do you love Japanese and are a The Legend of Zelda fan?
Come and quest with me on my YouTube channel!
Practice speaking Japanese is so important, and it’s so easily skipped when doing self-study. I personally recommend Preply or Italki for online Japanese tutors because of the superb quality. To learn more, have a look at my full in-depth review of my own experiences, and honest opinions on the platform!