A Rundown Of Japanese Pronunciations

A Rundown Of Japanese Pronunciations

Introduction

Fair enough, unlike some other languages, the Japanese language is not the most difficult language to pronounce. It also depends on your native language as well — most of it can be quite easy. You can easily make the most accurate sounds just like a native Japanese speaker.

However, there are a few sounds that aren’t quite that easy. A lot of the time, people can’t seem to get it right. That’s because some of the pronunciations in the Japanese language don’t seem to exist anywhere else outside of the language itself!

While it’s possible to spend hours and hours talking about Japanese pronunciation and trying to master it, I’ve compiled a general rundown of the Japanese pronunciations that will do just as well — if not better. Let’s take a look at everything there is to know about the Japanese pronunciations and how to fix yourself if need be.

Japanese Sounds

The Japanese sounds aren’t all that difficult. In fact, the Japanese pronunciations are consistent, repeatable and predictable! If you compare it to the English language, the Japanese pronunciation rules are the easiest in the world!

The English language consists of vowels and consonants that make up syllables. If you sit down and actually calculate the number of syllables we have in the English language, you can be here all day! A consonant and a vowel combined can have multiple ways of pronunciation.

That’s not the case at all in the Japanese language — there are no consonants at all, just vowels and a fixed number of syllables that are always pronounced the exact same way. So if you have learned the hiragana, you basically have mastered 95% of the entire Japanese pronunciations.

It’s just the 5% that I’m going to help you tackle.

Japanese Vowels

The Japanese vowels are much like English vowels. There are 5 of them: あ, え, い, お and う

あ is not pronounced as “eh” like how we pronounce the letter A, but as “ah” like when we say “ah, that’s right”.

え is also not pronounced like “ee” when we pronounce the letter E — it’s pronounced as “eh”; you might say it’s similar to the letter A but there’s a bit of a difference.

い is so far from the letter I where it’s pronounced “ai”, and is more like “ee” — kind of like the letter E.

お is the simples; it’s pronounced just like the letter O.

う is similar to the letter U, but it’s just “oo” instead of “you”.

Japanese Syllables

As mentioned before, the Japanese language has a fixed set of syllables. Instead of having consonants, they have individual sounds instead. So there’s no hiragana that represents consonants but only vowels and then skip to the syllables instead.

For example, か is described as the combination of “k” consonant and “a” vowel, but in the Japanese language, it’s just “ka”.

There are also special characters like ち where it’s a combination of two consonants “c” and “h” with the vowel “i” to make one Japanese syllable “chi”.

Basically, there’s no separation between consonants and vowels in the Japanese language. Japanese uses syllables to make the same sounds but using fewer symbols instead of breaking it down to its smallest forms. You might think it’s a bit unusual but it keeps the varying pronunciations to a minimum. 

The Difficult Sounds in Japanese

We’ve covered the easy bit of Japanese pronunciations, which is practically all of them — except for a few exceptions. There are two Japanese syllables that are harder to pronounce than others, but I’ll give you a few tips on how to master them.

1. Tsu (つ)

The first one is つ. This one can get quite difficult. The romaji (ロマ字) form is “tsu” as in from the word “tsunami”. Only, when we say “tsunami”, the “t” consonant is silent in English. In Japanese, every romaji symbol is pronounced: the “t”, the “s” and the “u”.

The hard part is pronouncing the “t” aspect of the Japanese syllable. The trick is to sneak a short “t” sound right before saying the “s”. It should be as long as the “t” in “psst”. Try saying “psst” backward and you’ll probably get the “ts” pronunciation part down.

2. N (ん)

This lone ranger is a unique one. It’s actually the only consonant in the Japanese language. ん looks like the letter N — good news, it sounds exactly like N, too!

Well, most of the time. There are very unique situations where the character is pronounced as the letter M instead of N. For example, the word “senpai” is spelled as せんぱい in Japanese hiragana. However, it’s pronounced as “sempai” instead, especially when people talk really fast and it’s easier to just say it as an M instead of N — but everyone will know it’s still spelled with the ん character.

Tips To Sound Natural When Speaking Japanese

If you’ve reached this far, you’re basically at 99% when it comes to proper Japanese pronunciation! But, of course, I won’t be done until you’re at 100%. Here are some tips to sound even more natural when speaking Japanese — you’ll sound like a native in no time!

Pausing and dragging appropriately

In the Japanese language, there are times where you get the small tsu (っ). That’s your queue to pause for a bit. For example, in the word “kitto” (きっと, which means certainly) you ought to pronounce it as “kit-toh” with a slight pause in between the two syllables. If you say it as “kito”, it’ll mean a totally different thing — きと means plan or project in Japanese.

There’s also the opposite, which is dragging the pronunciation out. This happens when there are two of the same vowels together: ああ, ええ, いい, うう, and even similar combination ones like おう.

An example is りょうこう to mean good or fine and りょこう to mean travel. If the first word is not pronounced as “ryouh-kouh” but instead “ryo-kouh” then you’re mentioning “travel” instead of “good”.

Get rid of the U

Level up your Japanese by cutting out your “u” pronunciations at the end of a word whenever necessary. The easiest examples are です and ます. Instead of “des-u”, try saying it as “dess” and instead of “mas-u” try saying it as “mas”.

R to L

Even though there are some Japanese syllables that are pronounced as R like ら, れ, り, ろ and る, change the pronunciation of the R to L.

It’s actually not even that simple. The correct pronunciation is an in-between of R and L. You have to barely touch the tip of your tongue against the gums behind your front teeth and not push your tongue against the back of your front teeth. 

Confusing, I know. But with practice, you’ll master it.

Fu to Hu

There’s this unique Japanese syllable that is ふ, and while the romaji is “fu”, it’s not pronounced with the F letter. The “f” pronunciation doesn’t exist in Japanese, just like how the “r” doesn’t. 

Rather than saying “fu” when pronouncing the syllable, switch to pronouncing “h”. Your lower lip and teeth shouldn’t meet but ever so slightly touching each other like they’re teasing.

Similar to the previous one, you just have to practice it till you make it!

Conclusion

That’s as brief as I can make a rundown of Japanese pronunciations to be, and it did cover all of them without elaborating too much till I bore you to death. Now that you know what to look out for — like the つ and ん — and what to change — like R to L and Fu to Hu — you’re on your way to sounding like a native. So step up your game and use this as a guide to getting your 95% to 100%!

How Grocery Shopping Can Improve Your Japanese Ability!

How Grocery Shopping Can Improve Your Japanese Ability!

Introduction

When people ask about culture shock when I move to Japan, I talk about grocery shopping. I don’t know about you but I’m a very committed grocery shopper. I take my grocery shopping very seriously. I have very specific products or brands that I want to use for my cooking or baking. If there are a few different options for one type of product, I’ll make sure to do my research before deciding on one.

I can’t speak for all of you but I bet there are some out there who are the same as me. And when you move to another country — especially one that speaks a foreign language like Japan — your whole routine falls apart. How does one even get the appropriate ingredients when your Japanese language ability is not even up there?

Well, why not use it as an opportunity to improve it? It might sound insane but it is actually possible if you do it the right way. Find out how grocery shopping can improve your Japanese ability — tried and tested myself!

Is It Difficult To Grocery Shop in Japan?

From my personal experience, it wasn’t that easy adjusting from my home country to Japan when it comes to grocery shopping. The language barrier was the initial problem — every sign, sticker and label is in Japanese! For someone who, at that point in time, was only at a beginner level, my grocery shopping experiences weren’t all that smooth sailing.

Another key problem that I faced was that a lot of the time, especially in local supermarkets, you won’t really find international brands. Even if you do, they cost two or three times more than a locally branded one. I initially forked out a couple of extra yen just to get the exact brand that I want, but in the end, I caved into buying the Japanese branded ones because of the price. True, the flavours may be different, but at least I saved a few yen, right?

Long story short, you do get used to the changes in grocery shopping in Japan. I wouldn’t say it’s the most difficult thing in the world, but it wasn’t the easiest. If I knew the challenges I faced, I would’ve done some stuff differently. One thing’s for sure though: grocery shopping did and is still helping me improve my Japanese ability!

How Can Grocery Shopping Improve My Japanese?

You might think that it’s silly how a normal activity such as grocery shopping can improve Japanese language ability, but it’s not at all! It’s because of the very fact that it’s a common routine you have to go through once every few days that help it. You’ll be facing the ultimate key to learning a new language: repetition.

Let’s take a look at the other ways grocery shopping can help improve your Japanese language ability!

Kanji Recognition

As I’ve mentioned before, everything in a local Japanese supermarket is in Japanese. You’ll be lucky to see any sign, label, or sticker in English. Because you’re kind of forced into reading the Japanese language, you will likely be picking up the kanji characters that you see around all the time.

It doesn’t even matter if you look up the kanji or not. After being faced with the same kanji over and over again, and based on context, you’ll end up recognising the kanji and linking it to the product or pick up the meaning. 

Till this day, I’ll always forget the pronunciation of the Japanese word for “protein” (タンパク質), but I can recognise the combination of characters all too well to figure out how much protein one product has.

Bump Up In Vocabulary 

Because of all the repetition of the same products that you are buying — onion, garlic, milk, juice, etc — you’re more likely to remember the words for them in Japanese.  

The other situation is where you’ll end up having to search up a couple of words, especially when looking at the list of ingredients in a certain product. You’ll come across a few new words as well as ones that are already familiar to you. Even though you’re not consciously aware that you’re drilling the words in your brain, you actually are — meaning and pronunciation both. That’s the beauty of having only the Japanese language at supermarkets.

Confidence Boost

This one is entirely up to the individual when it comes to progress. At the start of my time here in Japan, I would never dare to go up to a Japanese staff and ask them anything in Japanese — I was too afraid and insecure about my language ability that I didn’t even bother trying.

After a couple of setbacks finding products that I want and wasting time walking around the supermarket countless of times, I picked up the courage to go up and enquire about what I wanted to ask. This could be anything from “where is this product?” or “do you have this?”

Even though I was using basic Japanese phrases, it did build up my confidence when the staff could understand me and that I could understand what they were saying back to me. I bet your experience will be the same — if not better — as mine when it comes to grocery shopping being a confidence booster.

Key Words And Phrases To Get You By Grocery Shopping

Of course, what’s an article about grocery shopping and improving Japanese without a brief list of words and phrases to help you get started with your grocery shopping adventures in Japan? Here are the common words you’ll likely to need while grocery shopping:

Beef  — gyuuniku 牛肉

Chicken — toriniku 鳥肉

Fish — sakana

Pork — butaniku 豚肉

Dairy products — nyuuseihin 乳製品

Milk — gyuunyuu 牛乳

Egg — tamago

Gluten — fushitsu 麩質

Oil — abura

Onion — tamanegi 玉葱

Garlic — ninniku にんにく

Vinegar — su

Sugar — satou 砂糖

Salt — shio

Soy sauce — shoyu 醤油

Wheat — komugi 小麦

Here are some Japanese phrases that will definitely cut some time down your hunt down the aisles of the Japanese supermarkets:

Where is _____?

______どこですか? ( _____ doko desuka?)

Do you have _____?

______ありますか? ( _____ arimasuka?

Conclusion

Don’t knock it until you try it — grocery shopping can definitely help with your Japanese ability! If not, at least you’ll memorise the words that are sufficient to keep you going steadily during your grocery shopping adventures. Whichever the case, you’re bound to learn some new Japanese words or phrases!

Various Ways To Say Thank You in Japanese

Various Ways To Say Thank You in Japanese

Introduction

Similarly to learning how to say hello, how to thank someone is one of the top phrases one would learn when picking up a new language. In English, there are various ways of thanking someone. It also depends on where one is from; someone from the UK may use “cheers!” as a thank you as well as a kanpai (カンパイ).

It’s no different in Japanese. There are also a few different ways to thank someone. In fact, saying “thank you” in Japanese is not as straightforward as you might think. There are a few things you need to consider before picking the most appropriate phrase for a thank you — all within a second or two. 

One of the most important aspects is social status — it’s pretty significant in Japanese culture. Depending on the social status you’re in, you have a different response and way of speaking to others. There are phrases that you can use only with friends, and others that are better off using in an office setting. 

A lot to take in? Don’t worry, I’ve done the job of compiling the top 10 ways to say “thank you” in Japanese that covers a wide range of situations.

1. Arigatou (ありがとう)

The first and foremost on the list is definitely “arigatou” (ありがとう). If you have picked up even the slightest bit of Japanese — or have travelled to Japan — you would already know this phrase. It’s the most basic and simplest way of saying thank you. You’ll quite often hear this, anywhere from the streets and among groups of people to Japanese shows and anime.

“Arigatou” is used more casually, similar to “thanks” in English. Most of the time, you can use this with family members, partner, friends and people who are the same age or younger than you. You can also use it to thank strangers like restaurant and hotel staff.

That doesn’t mean it eliminates the phrase from using it with higher-ups. This phrase is quite flexible. You can also use “arigatou” to express your thanks to people older than you — you just have to make a few small changes. Switch it to the polite form: arigatou gozaimasu (ありがとうございます).

A step higher is “domo arigatou gozaimasu” (どもありがとうございます) to express your deepest appreciation. It generally translates to “thank you very much”.

2. Doumo (どうも)

If you think that “arigatou” is a bit too much, cut the expression short and use this form of thanks: “doumo” (どうも). It will do just the trick. If you haven’t noticed already, this way of thank you actually derived from the previous phrase “domo arigatou gozaimasu” — but only taking the “domo” part and binning the rest.

This phrase is even more casual than “arigatou”. It has an extreme light tone and is often used with people who are of the same social status level as you as well as lower, like your friends or younger siblings. Saying it to strangers like restaurant and cashier staff are okay, too.

A fair warning: do not — I repeat, do not — use this with your boss or people of higher social status than you. It’s considered extremely rude because the other party may get offended because you didn’t take the time to thank them in the proper way.

3. Sumimasen (すみません)

If you have a little bit of Japanese knowledge already, you might be wondering why is “sumimasen” (すみません) — a form of apology — is considered a way to say thank you. Actually, this phrase is used quite often to express gratitude. Even though it’s usually used as an apology or “excuse me”, it can be used to say sorry and thank you.

Confused? Don’t be. In Japanese culture, it’s common to apologise to the person you’re grateful to instead of thanking them as it acknowledges the fact that the person has gone through the trouble just for you. This is deeply rooted in their custom culture of politeness.

A perfect example is when you drop something and a kind soul behind you picks it up and catched up with you just to hand it back to you. You can use “sumimasen” to both apologise and thank them for the trouble and help.

4. Sankyu (サンキュー)

I hope it already sounds familiar to you even before the explanation. Sankyu (サンキュー) is the Japanified version of the English “thank you”. Sound it out — almost the same, right? Since it’s a borrowed phrase, the writing is in katakana (カタカナ) and not hiragana (ひらがな) or kanji (漢字).

This phrase for thank you tops any of the rest I’ve already mentioned previously in terms of casualness. I personally would use this phrase with my friends and people that I’m already familiar with. It’s best to avoid using this to your higher-ups, and even people you’re not so close with.

5. Kurete arigatou (〜くれてありがとう)

You probably recognised half of the phrase — the “arigatou” part. “Kurete arigatou” (〜くれてありがとう) is just an extensive version of the casual phrase “arigatou”, but with a little bit more expression of gratitude. You don’t use it on it’s own; it has to be connected to another word — particularly a verb.

For example, your friend did you a solid by helping you finish up an assignment or project. To convey your deepest appreciation for their assistance, you can say “tasukete kurete arigatou (助けてくれてありがとう) which translates to “thank you so much for helping me”.

Remember how we can change “arigatou” to the polite form to use for higher-ups? Similarly, “kurete arigatou” can be changed into “kurete arigatou gozaimasu” (くれてありがとうございます) for an extra formal tone.

6. Kansha shimasu (感謝します)

This new phrase, “kansha shimasu” (感謝します) has quite a polite tone to it. Unlike the other phrases before, this way of thanking someone is more often used for writing rather than saying it. You’ll usually see it in a business setting like sending emails or letters.

A lot of them can start off with “itsumo sapotto shiteitadaki, kansha shimasu” (いつもさーポッとしていただき、感謝します). The sentence translates to “thank you for your continued support”. So next time when you send a work email, you can consider using this phrase for a touch of politeness. 

7. Osoreirimasu (恐れ入ります)

Another phrase in the formal mix of the thank you phrases in Japanese is “osoreirimasu” (恐れ入ります). You don’t really hear this a lot — not every day casually, not even every day in the office. In fact, out of all the thank you phrases on this list, this would have to be the most formal one of them all. 

This form of thank you pops up in the most formal situations like meetings. It’s quite comparable to “sumimasen”, but with a few level-ups. “Sumimasen” can be used to apologise but “osoreirimasu” cannot — it’s only used to acknowledge the trouble someone has gone through for you. 

Best not say it to your friends or family — reserve it for your customers and bosses. Use it sparingly, I’d say, so you can impress them when the time comes.

8. Azasu (あざす)

In the other category of thank you phrases, we have the slang ones. “Azasu” (あざす) is definitely classified as that. Try saying “arigatou gozaimasu” fast enough and you’ll get this slang phrase. 

Just like any of the other slang phrases, keep it among your friends and family. It has quite a casual and light tone — I’d say it’s the most casual. Younger crowds use it more often. Definitely avoid using this with your boss or colleagues, even — maybe if you’re close with them and of the same social status, then it’s probably fine.

9. Sumanai (すまない)

The previous phrase is the slang version of “arigatou gozaimasu”. Of course, we need to have a slang version of “sumimasen” — and that’s “sumanai” (すまない). More often than not, guys are the ones using this phrase to express their thanks. It’s not really a gendered phrase, but usually, if a girl uses it, they’re perceived to have a slightly harsher tone.

10. Otsukaresama (お疲れ様)

Last but definitely not the least is “otsukaresama” (お疲れ様). This phrase doesn’t have just one meaning — it’s extremely flexible. One of the ways people use this phrase is to thank someone, especially to thank them for all the hard work they have done. This phrase is great because you can use it with anyone — friends, family, superiors and co-workers.

It’s usually said at the end of a long day of hard work, kind of like a subtle pick-me-up for the other party. Sometimes this can be used as a greeting by acknowledging their hard work before starting a conversation.

Conclusion

And there you have it — the top 10 ways to say thank you, covering all sorts of situations from the casual to the formal. Who knew the Japanese have various phrases for different settings. So next time when your first reaction is to say “arigatou”, quickly run through this list of Japanese phrases and pick the one that’s best for the situation — and impress everyone!

Ways To Say Hello in Japanese

Ways To Say Hello in Japanese

Introduction

One of the first few phrases anyone learns when picking up a new language is how to say hello. It’s the simplest greeting, or aisatsu (挨拶) in Japanese, and also sort of mandatory to know — or at least people assume you would know. 

I believe that there are more ways than one to greet someone — like in English, “hello” comes in various forms. Similarly in Japanese, you get to take your pick on which greeting you want to use. The only difference is that, while most of English greetings are flexible and can be used for almost any situation, Japanese greetings can be more specific to the setting.

It’s also best to note the significance of social status even in greeting forms. In Japanese culture, where you rank on the social status scale can affect how you speak to another. 

Let’s take a look at the top ways to say hello!

1. Konnichiwa (こんにちは)

Source: Flickr

The most basic form of greeting in Japanese is “konnichiwa” (こんにちは). Anyone who has ever picked up a Japanese textbook, or have roamed the streets of Japan, would be familiar with this phrase. It’s probably the first few phrases in Japanese a lot of people pick up. 

“Konnichiwa” can be both formal and informal. You’ll hear street vendors and salespeople greeting passersby to get their attention by calling out “konnichiwa”. This greeting can also be used when you first meet someone. 

Some people say “konnichiwa” can’t be used casually, but in my opinion, there is no wrong to that. You can definitely use this greeting to say hello to your friends and family — but it can be considered unusual since this phrase is perceived as somewhat semi-formal, so speaking to your family or friends in that tone might be odd. 

“Konnichiwa” can also mean “good afternoon”, so when you pass by a colleague at the office, a simple greeting like this with a nod is appropriate. 

2. Hisashiburi (久しぶり) 

The second greeting phrase is “hisashiburi” (久しぶり). This is quite different from “konnichiwa” — while you can use konnichiwa to greet someone at any time, “hisashiburi” is used to greet someone you have not seen in a long time. 

A long time can be subjective, though. Some can feel like a few months is long, while others may think a week is long as well. To me, it depends on who the person is — do I usually see them more than once or twice a week, or is it normal to see them once every few months?

Anyway, if you, personally, feel like it’s been quite some time since you saw your good friend, greet them with “hisashiburi!” to mean “it’s been a while!” It’s kind of like saying, “long time no see!”

You can use it casually and also politely — with the latter, there has to be a few adjustments. The polite form is “ohisashiburidesu” (お久しぶりです). This form of the phrase can be said to someone of higher status or people you are not so familiar with. 

3. Ya-ho (ヤッホー)

If you want to take it super casual when greeting someone, use this: “ya-ho” (ヤッホー). Some people say that it’s a feminine greeting, but I have friends — both guys and girls — greeting me using this. I feel like it has a more playful tone than anything, on top of a sense of familiarity. 

It’s quite similar to saying “yoohoo!” to grab someone’s attention. “Ya-ho” is a great greeting for someone you’re close with — say, your best friends or classmates. I would avoid using this anywhere in a formal setting like at work and the office.

4. Ya- (やあ)

Another casual hello to use to greet your friends is “ya-” (やあ). It’s kind of like the “hey!” in Japanese. It’s a simple and effective way to grab someone’s attention. It’s usually followed by the name of the person you’re greeting.

For example, your friend Haru is walking ahead of you and you want him to turn around and say hi. Call out, “やあ、はるちゃん!” (Ya-, Haru-chan!)

Alternatively, you can even omit the “ya-” completely and just greet them by calling out just their names. 

5. Osu (おす)

Here’s one for the guys: “osu” (おす). This is a slang greeting for guys to greet other guys. Usually, when they pass by each other or approaching one another, they’ll have a hand raised up or a nod to accompany the greeting.

Girls don’t usually say this, but I have a couple of friends who use it to greet their guy friends. Guys wouldn’t say it to girls, and girls wouldn’t say it to other girls either. I guess as long as the receiving end is a guy, it’s probably a safe bet.

Unlike “ya-” and “ya-ho”, “osu” is used when you already have someone’s attention rather than getting it. You don’t usually have their names followed after the greeting — you can if you want to.

6. Yo- (よー)

There’s nothing complicated about this greeting. “Yo-” (よー) is simply “yo!” in Japanese. Say it to your friends or schoolmates, but I don’t recommend using it to anyone older than you — especially your boss. Maybe colleagues would be fine, but only if you’re familiar with them and not total strangers. 

“Yo-” does have a bit of masculine tone to it, but that doesn’t mean girls can’t and don’t use it, too — just like how “yo” in English is used. I’d like to think that “yo” has a cooler vibe to it; maybe it’s the same in Japanese.

Some guys switch it out for “o-i” (おーい) for more of an exclamation and grabbing one’s attention. It can be considered rude, so use it only with people you’re comfortable with so as to not offend anyone accidentally.

7. Moshi moshi (もしもし)

In English, we usually say “hello” when we pick up a call on the phone. In Japanese, while it is somewhat okay to say “konnichiwa” when picking up the phone, it’s way more common to go with the phonecall hello, and that is “moshi moshi” (もしもし). This phrase comes from the verb mousu (申す) to mean “to say”.

This way of saying hello is usually only for phonecalls from friends and family. In any business situation — for example, if your client or boss calls you — don’t use “moshi moshi”. Instead, say “hai” (はい) which translates to “yes?”, like how we sometimes answer in English for phonecalls as well.

8. Genki? (元気?)

Last but not least, this way of saying hello is more of a “how are you”. “Genki?” (元気?) quite literally is asking someone if they are healthy or not, as the word “genki” mean “health”. You don’t say it every time you see someone — if you saw the person you’re going to see today, you won’t ask them “how are you”. It’s, in a way, similar to “hisashiburi” since you’ll only use this form of greeting after a period of time.

If it’s been quite a while, changing it to the past tense is better: “genki datta?” (元気だった?) It translates to, “have you been well?” or “how have you been?”

In the casual form, you can use it to friends, family and colleagues of the same social status, but if you want to greet someone of a higher social status, switch it to the polite form that is, “o genki desu ka?” (お元気ですか?)

Another way of asking someone how they have been is by using this phrase: “ikagadesuka?” (いかがですか?) It has a more formal tone — even more than the polite form of “genki?”. Usually, you use this to greet the higher-ups and asking how something specific is going rather than their general condition.

An example is asking your university pal how his new job is going: “shigoto wa ikaga desu ka?” (仕事はいかがですか?) This translates to, “how’s work going?”

Conclusion 

There are way more ways of greeting someone in Japanese, but these are the best ways to start you off depending on the various situations and familiarity level. Learning simple phrases for greetings is a great way to get yourself comfortable with the language while expanding your vocabulary! So, switch up your “konnichiwa” to a “ya-ho” the next time you see your good pal!

5 Best Animes to Help With Japanese Learning

5 Best Animes to Help With Japanese Learning

Introduction

Learning a new language, especially the Japanese language, doesn’t have to be all work and no play. It doesn’t have to be boring and dry at all! Professionals everywhere agreed that using other forms of media like animation and graphic novels improves motivation for the learner to study the language. What’s more, it adds the cultural and artistic aspects of language learning.

Japan is full of popular culture entertainment that is taking over the world by storm — one of the biggest ones being anime. This Japanese animated media has reached whole new levels of heights in terms of entertainment as well as education. Why not make use of it yourself? 

Don’t believe you can use such a fun and leisurely activity for learning Japanese? Well, read on to be convinced — everything from the ways you can use anime for language learning as well as the best ones to get you on your merry way.

How To Use Anime To Learn Japanese? 

It’s actually not that hard to use anime to learn Japanese — it’s quite similar to using Netflix for language learning! 

The first and foremost tip is to not be too hard on yourself. It’s completely normal to have things you wouldn’t know in the shows. After all, you are still learning the language — it’s only natural to have some gaps in your knowledge and understanding. Take these gaps as learning opportunities instead; rewind and figure out what part was getting you off your game, then look it up.

It’s also good to know that some animes can have quite an unusual language. The way the characters speak in anime might not be like how native Japanese people do. So, if you’re having trouble understanding, chances are it’s not your fault — it’s just the anime and you probably won’t need to know it for conversation, anyway.

Another tip is to have your subtitles on. It’s best to have it on in Japanese so you’re able to test your kanji comprehension ability as well. Don’t worry if you need to switch to English subtitles once in a while — especially when the audio and subtitle doesn’t make sense to you. At least with the English subtitles, you have a chance at deciphering them.

Have a notebook with you, too! Take notes as you watch — whether it is new words or grammar points. You’ll be surprised at how many new things you have at the end of each episode! Be sure to look them up and revise them; if you don’t, it’s pretty pointless.

Last but definitely not least, pick a genre of anime that you enjoy. What’s the point of using an anime to improve your Japanese when the anime doesn’t even interest you? The anime should be a motivator for you, not bore you to death and stress you out even more.

Now that you’ve got the tips on how to use anime to learn Japanese, let’s take a look at the top 5 animes that are best at helping with Japanese learning!

1. Shirokuma Cafe (しろくまカフェ)

At the top of the list is Shirokuma Cafe! This is, without a doubt, one of the most popular anime series to learn Japanese! This anime, made into animation from a manga, is about a few different animals living peacefully with normal humans in the society — they have jobs, use public transportation, wear clothes and makeup, and have their own houses.

Shirokuma Cafe is great for Japanese language learners because the language used in the anime is designed for a younger audience and also has language that is used in everyday conversations in Japan. There are so many learning opportunities in this anime — the characters are really fond of puns and gags that will always have visual accompaniments; the anime has different settings like at work or at home and introduces vocabulary and phrases related to that. 

If you’re not convinced by the learning aspects, wouldn’t cutely drawn animals living day-to-day lives be reason enough to binge-watch this show? 

2. Tsuritama (つり球)

Tsuritama is an anime with a great mix of action, drama, sports and slice of life — even with a tad bit of sci-fi. What’s not to like about it? The main theme of the anime is about fishing, which brought about four extremely different young guys together. Throughout the series, you’ll follow the adventures of this group of guys conquering bigger problems like moving to a new town, making friends and even saving the fate of the world! 

What makes Tsuritama a great anime to learn Japanese is because of its use of simple Japanese language. There’s an introduction to the different levels of politeness, usage of everyday grammar as well as slang and irregular terms. You’ll pick up more than what you can from a Japanese learning textbook! Even though the scenes are wrapped around the fishing theme, situations are explained straightforwardly and relatable for all.

If you’re not sure what genre of anime you like, give Tsuritama a try — it has a mix of different genres in one!

3. Pokemon (ポケモン)

If it didn’t occur to you to try watching Pokemon to help with your Japanese learning, then you ought to get right into it! Most people forget that Pokemon is actually a Japanese production and the original Japanese anime is an amazing series to use to learn Japanese! What’s more, for some of us, we are already familiar with the setting of the Pokemon world — and loved it!

There’s a perfect balance of work, adventure and play in this anime. On top of learning more than three hundred names of the Japanese Pokemon, you’ll also be able to easily comprehend most of what’s being said as the language used in this anime is designed for the youngins — so no big words (maybe stuff like “laboratory” but once you have that drilled in your head, it won’t be any problem).

Who can say no to Pokemon? It’s everyone’s all-time favourite! Be productive while binge-watching the series by using it for your language learning.

4. Detective Conan (名探偵コナン) 

Go on mysterious adventures and thrilling quests with the most famous detective in Japan, all while improving your Japanese language ability. One of the most popular and well-loved anime in Japan is Detective Conan. This anime is based on the famous Sherlock Holmes, with one difference: the main character is a high school sleuth. 

This anime is great for Japanese-learning beginners as there is quite a focus on vocabulary with repetition, so you’ll be able to remember the new words you heard by the end of the episode. Detective Conan has a mix of formal and informal language, giving you opportunities to practice both levels of conversation. 

Don’t worry about running out of material to learn from — there are over 900 episodes to this day, with movies as well as live-action TV shows if you’re really into it.

5. Death Note (デスノート)

Last on the list, but don’t for a second it’s any less than the rest, is Death Note. This is a classic anime in general, language learning or not. This anime follows the story of a teenage genius who stumbles upon a dark notebook that has the power to eliminate anyone who has their name written in it. The teenager uses the notebook for good to change the world and rid it of dangerous and evil people.

Death Note is an anime that is best for intermediate to upper-level Japanese learners as there are bigger vocabulary words including those related to law enforcement and police work. It’s great for those who are looking to learn new kanji as well — just switch on the subtitles!

If you love the storyline, Death Note has a few live-action adaptations — they’re great for language learning too, packed with action scenes and amazing graphics!

Where To Watch Anime? 

Now the question is: where can you watch the anime? There are a few websites out there but I would personally recommend Crunchy Roll and Kiss Anime. These two sites are reliable when it comes to anime streaming, especially being up-to-date with the newest anime episodes! 

You can even create your own account and save the anime listing in your favourites section so you won’t forget about the other animes you’d like to watch. I have dozens of them already lined up in mine!

Conclusion                               

Put down your textbooks and exercise books — choose an anime from this list instead to improve your Japanese. It’s without a doubt one of the more effective ways to go about learning Japanese. Put it to the test and try it for yourself!

 

Complimenting in Japanese

Complimenting in Japanese

Introduction

The road to flattery is basically customary in Japan. In every aspect — from friendship to business — it is especially important to give compliments here and there, whenever and wherever you can. The Japanese are known for their politeness; if anything, the compliments are just part and parcel of their nature.

When travelling or living a foreign country, especially one as unique and special like Japan, the best thing one can do is dive straight into getting a hang of the local ropes. Why not start off on the right foot with nailing down the complimenting culture in Japan?

Complimenting in Japanese Culture

The Japanese word to praising someone or giving compliments is homeru (褒める). Compliments can come in all shapes, sizes and forms — everything from praising the act to the person itself. For some of us who come from cultures where compliments are taken as a romantic gesture or someone with an ulterior motive, we might be surprised that the Japanese give them out generously. Well, that’s the Japanese for you: generous.

For the Japanese, it’s pretty simple; you don’t have to give compliments at all, but it doesn’t hurt to give them either. They are not tools to build good relationships with people — whether it is for business or personal — even though it can help. The Japanese give compliments genuinely and without malicious intent; they’re all pure-heartedly given.

Everyone loves being praised and getting compliments. If you think someone’s shoes are pretty or they have done something nice to you, why only say “thank you” when it takes less than five seconds to attach a compliment after? It makes your day better, it gives the air a gash of positivity and it sheds a good light on the person giving the compliment — win-win-win! 

Let’s take a look at the various ways you can give compliments and the best phrases that you can use for such situations.

 

Complimenting People

Complimenting people is probably the most common compliment category — and the most important, in my opinion. You meet people on a regular and daily basis. They are the easiest kinds of compliments to give; these are the ones that can just come out of your mouth without thinking!

For the Japanese, complimenting one another is mutually understood. Some of them can burst out compliments without thinking they wanted to; they come so naturally to them! Let’s take a look at the best compliments to give to people in Japanese.

かわいい !(Kawaii!)

The most popular, well-known and common compliment to give to people is, of course, “kawaii” (かわいい). This translates to “cute” but it’s used for almost everything — things, actions and people. Most of the time, this compliment is used for anything that has some sort of lovable charm. 

Some of us have the idea that cute is the image of someone that is feminine, adorable and endearing — we use the English word “cute” that way. In Japan, the cute word “kawaii” is not limited to that. It’s such a generic word that it can be used like “pretty” or “beautiful”. 

Isn’t the flexibility of the usage of the word great?

かっこいい!(Kakkoii!)

While you can compliment a boy or man “kawaii”, it does have a feminine note to the word. If you’re looking to praise a guy’s looks because he is handsome or attractive, the best compliment you can give them is “kakkoii” (かっこいい) which means “cool”. But you don’t really use it the way the English word “cool” is used. While in some situations you can, kakkoii is usually used to compliment someone’s form or looks. 

If someone looks like they’re well put-together, polished and refined, go up to them and compliment them with a “kakkoii”. It can also be used to mean “handsome” — more or less, it has the same nuance. 

If you watch anime, Japanese shows or movies, you would definitely have heard this compliment one way or the other. The most common one would definitely be a group of girls squealing “kakkoii” when talking about an attractive and cool guy.

優しい (Yasashi)

The first two compliments are more about what’s on the outside; this one is more about what’s on the inside. When someone is generally a compassionate and considerate person, say to them “yasashi” (優しい) which means “kind”. 

This compliment has the same nuance as the English compliment “you’re so nice”, but with ten times the genuine factor. Some people don’t like being called the “nice guy” or “nice girl” because of the saying, “nice guys finish last”. Well, it’s completely different from “yasashi” guys and girls; the English saying doesn’t apply.

似合ってる!(Niatteru)

This compliment is my personal favourite; nothing beats a compliment that says something perfectly matches me. “Niatteru” (似合ってる) comes from the word “niau” (似合う) which is used to express harmony, so by complimenting someone with “niatteru”, you’re saying that whatever that person has on them extremely suits them, so much that it’s practically made for them!

This compliment is often used for things like clothes and hairstyles. If your friend comes with a new haircut or a fresh new suit and it looks extremely good on them, give them a “niatteru” compliment — it’ll definitely make their day!

Complimenting Acts & Works

On to the next section on complimenting, and that’s how to compliment someone’s actions and works. It can be any type of action — whether it is to you directly or just in general, it doesn’t matter. 

If you have done a great job on something like a presentation at your job or a sports match, it will feel even better if you got praised for them. Why not be the one that gives these praises? Who knows, you might get some in return the next time! After all, what goes around comes around.

上手!(Jouzu!)

This is the best compliment you can give to anyone when it comes to their work or actions. “Jouzu” (上手) has the meaning of “skillful”. If you’re a foreigner and speak to a Japanese person in Japanese language, there’s almost a 100% probability of them complimenting you with “Nihongo wa jouzu desu!” (日本語は上手です!), which means that your Japanese is very good.

Other times you can use this compliment is whenever a technique or action showed is presented perfectly or excellently. It can also be used to describe a person directly as well.

頑張ってるね (Ganbatterune)

After a long day of working so hard that you’re on the brink of exhaustion, what better way to get your spirits back up than a compliment that recognised your efforts?

If you’re meeting some friends after work or at the office with some colleagues, why not praise them with a “ganbatterune” (頑張ってるね) which translates to “you sure are working hard”. This compliment acknowledges the fact that the person is doing their very best despite the setbacks and problems. 

Compliment Phrases That Can Be Used For Anything & Everything!

Here’s a tip: there are a handful of compliment phrases that are so flexible, you can use them for almost anything! I personally use them all the time — every day, in fact. They’re extremely convenient and easy-to-give compliments that are great practice to get you on the complimenting culture in Japan. Let’s take a look at the top two.

いいね!(Iine!)

I have to say, this is the one compliment you’ll hear every day. “Iine” (いいね) translates to “that’s good” and is a simple yet powerful compliment. It can be used for anything from people themselves to their actions. It’s like the Instagram and Facebook “like” button!

If someone is describing a situation or experience and you think that is something that exceeded the standards of good, you can reply with “iine” — in that case, it’ll translate more to “that’s nice”.

すごい!(Sugoi!)

A level up from “iine” is “sugoi” (すごい) which means “amazing”. Similar to the previous one, you can use it to compliment people and actions — basically anything and everything. It’s like a super like button if there is one.

, it’s used to describe anything that’s extravagant and surprising. When someone told you a superb story or a situation where it’s positively unimaginable, you can go “sugoi!” — it’s like saying “that’s so amazing!” 

Returning Compliments

Now here’s the tricky part — what about the other end of the stick? If you got a compliment, what do you do? Simple: return the compliment. Receive compliments make you feel good, but returning them makes them also feel as good as you, so why not?

But how?

There are a few ways to reciprocate a compliment. It goes without saying that a thank you “arigato” (ありがとう) and maybe a small bow is the ultimate response, but you can definitely add a little extra. 

Be humble about it. A response like “sonna koto nai desu” (そんなことないです) is a good one; this translates to “that’s not true” or “I don’t think so”. 

Express your happiness for getting the flattery. “Ureshii desu” (嬉しいです) has the same meaning as “that made me happy”. It’s quite a normal response to compliments; sometimes even combined with the phrase for being humble (sonna koto nai desu). 

Of course, you can definitely compliment them back. If you received a “kawaii” or “kakkoii” compliment, respond with “anata koso!” (あなたこそ) or “anata mo!” (あなたも!)which has the connotation of “you too!” in English. 

Conclusion

By this point, you’re a complimenting master! It takes zero yen to be nice to someone — what better way to do that than giving out compliments wholeheartedly? It spread such a positive vibe from you, and everyone loves a vibrant and yasashii person. So go out there and spread the love — and compliments!

The Ultimate Guide to Japanese Business Etiquette

The Ultimate Guide to Japanese Business Etiquette

Introduction

If you think the business world is a whole other language, the world of Japanese business is a completely different universe. There’s this big jump from casual, everyday Japan to the formal work culture here; it’s a complete 180º.

If you’re planning to work in Japan, it’s not going to be anything like your holiday trip to The Land of the Rising Sun. In fact, it’s not even going to be like the business culture back in your home country. There is a strict Japanese business etiquette that is mutually understood by everyone in the industry, but no one is ever taught them — they just know.

By this point, you must be reconsidering entering the business world of Japan because you think it’s impossible to get the ropes of it all. Fear not, we have everything you need to know laid out right in front of you! Here’s your ultimate guide to Japanese business etiquette — the only one you’ll ever need to get your foot through the door of Japanese business.

The Japanese Business Etiquette: How It is A “Make It Or Break It”

As a newcomer to any business industry in the rest of the world, you might be given a free pass for a while as you get the hang of how everything runs. Although you still get that in Japan, there are just some things that strictly cannot be overlooked — newcomer or not. Because of that approach, the Japanese business etiquette is the basis of any business activities. It’s a “make it or break it”.

You can have top grades on your certificates with a shining resume, but if you break one of the business etiquette rules in Japan, you remain stagnant at your current career point. If you don’t abide by certain customs in the Japanese business world, no matter how impressive your work is, there’s no moving forward. It can sound scary but that’s basically how the Japanese do business. They are extremely strict and professional — an ideal balance of good and bad. 

The Unspoken Essential Rules of Japanese Business Etiquette

As mentioned before, the ins and outs of Japanese business etiquette aren’t taught in class. They’re something you should already know or pick up. If no one talks about these unspoken essential rules, one should be on the ball with observation and be on high alert at all times.

I’m here to lift that world of burden off your shoulders. From personal experience and extensive research, I’ve accumulated a list of these unspoken essential rules of the Japanese business etiquette for anyone and everyone who needs it. Let’s take a look at what they are.

It’s all about first impressions (and every other impression)

Just like anything else, the first impression matters. In fact, in Japanese business etiquette, it’s not only the first impression — it’s also every other impression. Your introduction is as strong as what you’re offering in the business exchange, so always come off perfect during your greetings.

The question is: handshake or bow? The answer is, either way is okay but just not at the same time. Traditionally, the Japanese would bow at a 45º angle as a common courtesy and respect for the other party, but in recent years, they have gotten accustomed to the Western ways of greeting, which is the handshake. A swift and simple handshake with only one hand is sufficient — avoid long ones and those using two hands that cups the other person’s hand.

Be aware of the hierarchy and seniority of the business partners you are meeting as it’s one of the most important elements in Japanese business etiquette. Greet the seniors and higher-ups first and direct your attention to them, all the while keeping in mind to interact with the others too.

The unofficial official dress code

I say “unofficial” because it’s not really a given — it’s what became the norm and now everyone just follows it. Of course, to any business meeting or event, there has to be formal attire as the official dress code; you don’t show up ina t-shirt and jeans. But the Japanese take a step up — the keyword here is “conservative”.

It’s pretty standard for the men — it’s usually business suits regardless of the season. The women, however, have a stricter dress code. Jewelry is kept at a minimum, including footwear — high heels aren’t recommended so as to not tower over their Japanese male counterparts. Women are encouraged to wear a suit as well, but both trousers and skirts are allowed. If you’re wearing a skirt, make sure it’s below knee level. Remember: conservative!

For both men and women, briefcases are the way to go. It adds the extra touch of professionalism and makes you look put-together and serious. Hair must be properly groomed or styled — long hairstyles for men can be perceived as untidy and messy; the women have it less strict, but many keep their hair pulled back in a ponytail for tidiness.

Business cards are talismans

Your business card is an extension of yourself, therefore it’s treated with the highest respect. Always have a business card — double-sided ones are the best. Business cards are taken extremely seriously in Japan, and exchanging them when meeting a new industry partner is essential and protocol. 

Expect to hand out quite a few cards during a business meeting. One thing to remember is to give a business card to the senior person first and go down the hierarchy line. It’s normal for us to hand our business cards with one hand, but in Japan, remember to hand it with both hands with the writing facing the person receiving it. 

Taking a business card from another is the same — receive it with both hands. It’s important to give it a proper read as soon as you receive it out of respect. It’s also a great opportunity to ask about name pronunciations and any other clarification you may need. Keep the business card out in front of you throughout the meeting; it’s considered rude to jam someone else’s business card into a back pocket or wallet in front of them. After all, it is an extension of them.

Prepare anything and everything in advance

If you have a meeting or presentation, take a chunk of time to prepare basically everything under the sun. Even if you’re presenting on a screen for everyone to see, have physical copies printed out for every person in the meeting — Japan is a paper-based culture and they appreciate having any document in its physical form. Sending the document in advance via e-mail is also recommended so they are able to review it in advance — especially if there’s anything to sign.

Don’t miss out on any detail during your presentation. Even if you don’t mention it, make sure it’s in the documents. The Japanese want every information, even if it seems unimportant to you. To bring their attention to certain things, highlight it or make it bigger in the documents to grab their attention.

If you’re presenting in English, it would be best to have a translated version in Japanese. Even if the people in the meeting can understand English well, it shows your efforts to accommodate them.

Be early to be on time

This is one essential rule to never break. Be on time — but in the Japanese business culture, to be on time is to be early. Being on time is being late. Always be at least fifteen minutes early to any meeting. Make sure you plan your route and transportation well in advance. Japan trains and crowds can get quite bad in the morning.

Formality in speech

In English, levels of speech is a clear cut between casual and formal. In Japanese, there are quite a few levels of formality to comprehend. However, the Japanese will understand if a foreigner is not so accustomed to them. But it will impress them if you learn a few formal suffixes and use them during your meeting.

The easiest is the -san (ーさん) suffix. This is the safest one to use. Attach it to the end of someone’s name — for example, if the person you’re meeting is called Yamamoto, refer to him as Yamamoto-san.

, remember to call a Japanese by their last name instead of their first unless they have explicitly asked you otherwise. It’s a straight-up no-no to refer to them by their first name.

Teamwork makes the dream work

The Japanese are strong on group-oriented culture. They value group solidarity over individualism and it’s best to take note of that when going into any business activities. There’s even a Japanese saying that goes, “a single arrow is easily broken but not ten in a bundle.” 

Demonstrate humility and give compliments to your team as a whole. Even though recognising individual contributions is important in other parts of the world, in Japan, it’s the opposite. Don’t single out any teammate as it would bring more embarrassment to the individual than any good.

The after-work is the actual work

The last but definitely not the least unspoken essential rule is definitely the after-work. Your work doesn’t end when the clock strikes 5 pm. In fact, it’s when it actually starts. A meeting can go from the tense and formal setting of a meeting room to the relaxed and casual atmosphere with the company of food and alcohol. 

Accept any invitation for a drink — it’s usually used as a way to connect to the person as a person rather than a business partner. It sets a lighter mood, but don’t forget to follow some business etiquette and respect. If you’re a light drinker, moderate your intake. You definitely do not want your potential business partner to see you passed out!

The Wrap-Up

Phew! That is a lot to digest, but every single one of them is definitely worth remembering. After all, these are just the essential rules — there are tons more in the book of Japanese business etiquette. They’re less common and more flexible, so as long as you abide by the ones mentioned above, you’re good to go!

Your Guide To Ordering Ramen Like A Local!

Your Guide To Ordering Ramen Like A Local!

Introduction

What’s more Japanese than ramen (ラーメン)? It’s the ultimate essential in the Japanese culture and the most basic of all the Japanese cuisine. Having a bowl of piping hot ramen when you’re in Japan — regardless if it’s for a holiday or living here — is a rite of passage to your Japan experience.

Ramen shops are on every street in every corner; you can never have too many ramen shops in a neighbourhood. Even though they may look similar on the outside, the ramen they serve in each ramen shop is completely different from the next. Every one of them is unique to their own ramen cuisine.

As soon as you walk into one, you’ll realise that you’re faced with one of the two ways to order ramen — the convenient ramen vending machine or (sometimes a menu-less) ordering directly to the chef. Either way, you’ll be stuck and stumbling for at least a minute or two.

Don’t fret — we got you covered. Below is all you ever need to know about ordering ramen. Read on for your ultimate guide to float through the ordering process like a local!

The Ramen Culture in Japan

The ramen culture in Japan is ginormous. What can they say — the Japanese love their ramen! For them, it can be an any-meal kind of food. The different parts of a ramen bowl are just as important as the coherence of them with each other. Ramen chefs are so dedicated to their craft that they can spend years perfecting each ramen bowl section.

Generally, a ramen bowl consists of these things: the broth, noodles, meat and other toppings. Expert ramen chefs have their own in-store recipe for the various parts that can even be considered top-secret — it is their edge over the rest, after all. Preparation for a ramen bowl can begin from even the night before; that’s top dedication.

Some say that the noodles and broth are the parts that bring the ramen to exquisite taste but don’t underestimate the power of additional toppings. The main topping ingredient is the char siu (チャーシュ) , which is roasted pork. It can also be referred to as yaki buta (焼き豚). While it’s called roasted pork, some ramen shops use boiled pork instead. Menma (めんま) is also a topping that is essential in a ramen bowl. They are fermented bamboo shoots and are often seen on soy sauce-based ramen, but not limited to.

Other common toppings include aji-tama (味玉) which are flavoured half-boiled eggs, nori (のり, seaweed) and aonegi (青ネギ) which are green spring onions.

Now that you got the fundamentals of ramen down, let’s take a look at the ways to mastering the ordering of ramen!

Ramen Ordering Machine

The method you will see more often than the other is the ramen ordering machine. This is a food ticket system that has been taking over the ramen shops in recent years. The ramen ordering machine takes the form of a vending machine — what can be more Japanese than this? — and is usually at the entrance of the ramen shop.

These vending machines will have the names of the various ramen bowls offered at the ramen shop. Don’t expect photos — most of the time, there aren’t any of them on the machine. Only the more touristy ones will. It’s best to check the signboard or menu first if they have one. There is only one machine in each ramen shop, so it’s best to only go to the machine after you’ve made a decision. If not, you’ll find a long queue behind you very quickly. 

The ordering machines can be rather old-fashioned in some local, miniature shops. They have either buttons or touch panels; the former is more common. The latter is more common in larger fast-food chains and they even offer the ordering service in other languages. 

Let’s go through step-by-step instructions on how to order at these kinds of ramen shops.

1. Insert money

First and foremost, look for the coins and bills slots. The location of these can be different depending on the machines, but you’re definitely going to be able to spot them. Insert your money first and the machine will recognise how much you have put in and the dishes that are available to purchase will light up.

2. Choose your ramen

After that, pick the ramen of your choosing. As mentioned before, not all of them will have photos on the machine itself; it’s even less likely to have an English menu on it. If you can’t recognise anything, the best thing to do is to go for the top-left option. That’s because a lot of shops take advantage of the “Z-pattern” — this is the habit of people looking at the corners of something. Therefore, the main menu option is always the top left.

Another alternative to making your decision when you don’t know what the machine says is to ask the staff “osusume wa nandesuka?” (オススメはなんですか?), which translates to “what is your recommended dish?” If you’re lucky, there will even be stickers or writings that say “osusume” (オススメ) so you can just click that.

These ordering machines also offer quite a few choices of toppings on top of a normal ramen topping portion. You can get everything from boiled eggs to even side gyoza (御座) dumplings; maybe even a pint of beer to wash down the ramen? 

3. Take your ticket and change

Once you’ve pressed your ramen choice button, a food ticket(s) will fall into a small tray. Similar to the money slots, this tray’s position will vary depending on the machine. Some machines will give your change automatically, but others might require you to pull down a lever or press a button to get your change back.

4. Pass ticket to the chef

Your final step is simple: pass the food ticket to the chef or staff. Grab a seat and wait patiently for your delicious bowl of ramen!

In some ramen shops, you won’t get your ticket back, but depending on where you go, there might be another kind of receipt system. It’s hard to say as ramen shops can operate drastically different from each other.

Order Directly To The Chef

The next way of ordering is to basically order directly to the chef. This is usually for smaller ramen shops or niche ones. It gets the customers talking to the staff — just like a counter at the bar. If there’s a menu, take a look at them first before making your order. You can also ask for their osusume ramen! 

Payment is usually made after you’ve completed your meal. If you want any additional side dishes or toppings, you order them straight to the chef as well. Simple, right? Well, it might require some Japanese words — which I’ll introduce the basic ones in the next section!

Basic Words To Ordering Ramen

It’s less likely that you’ll need to use Japanese with the first ordering method — even though there are times where you would still need to communicate your preference — but you definitely have to with the second method.

Ramen shops are mostly all about crafting each bowl to suit each personal preference. There’s a high chance you’ll be asked about at least one of the following: type of soup, type of noodles, oiliness and serving size. Let’s take a look at the options you have for each.

Types of soup

In Japanese ramen, you’ll be surprised at the various types of broth used. The flavourings can come in a few choices — the main ones include shoyu (醤油, soy sauce), miso (みそ, fermented soy beans), shio (, salt) and tonkotsu (豚骨, Hakata pork bone)

That’s not all; there are also the various thicknesses of the soup, known as the aji no kosa (味の濃さ). You can have it futsuu (普通, normal), asssari (あっさり, light) or kotteri (こってり, thick). Some ramen shops offer the various thicknesses but if you don’t specify, the chef might automatically assume you’re going for the normal thickness.

Types of noodles

Noodles are also extremely important in a bowl of ramen. You will most definitely be asked about your preference of noodles when ordering your ramen — both with the ramen ordering machine and direct order methods. There are two parts of noodle types: hardness and thickness.

Noodle hardness, also known as men no katasa (麺の硬さ) has also three levels — futsuu (普通, normal), katame (かため, katame) and yawarakame (軟らかめ, soft).

The most common question you’ll be asked is about the thickness of the noodles. Choose between two — hosomen (細麺, thin) or futomen (太麺, thick).

Oil

If you’re picky with the abura no ryou (脂の量, oiliness) of your ramen, there’s also the option of requesting for more or less according to your preference! Request futsuu (普通) for a normal amount, oome (多め) for more oil and sukuname (少なめ) for less oil.

Serving size

The best part about ramen shops is that you can even choose your portion size. I personally love this as I don’t eat a big portion — and ramen can come in gigantic portions! If you’re the opposite of me and want a bigger portion, request oomori (大盛り) for a large one or tokudai (特大) for an extra large one. A normal portion is nami mori (並盛り).

A lot of the time, these upsizes are free of charge — so you wouldn’t have to pay extra for a bigger portion.

Conclusion

And there you have it — all the fundamentals you’ll ever need to have to order ramen like a local! With the basic words to get you a headstart at customising your bowl of ramen, you’re going to be able to find your perfect levels of each aspect in no time. Now go out and use your ramen terminologies during your next ramen meal!