Basic Japanese Grammar: Asking and Giving Permission with てもいい

Basic Japanese Grammar: Asking and Giving Permission with てもいい

One of the most important grammar points is asking and giving permission. The way to do that is by using the phrase “te mo ii” (てもいい).

If you ask me how often I use it, I’d say pretty often. If it’s not me using it, it’s me hearing it being used. In both statement and question form, this grammar language can save you a few minutes of language barrier and miscommunication. Sure, a “daijoubu” (大丈夫) can cover most situations, but aren’t we all here to up our nihongo game? 

The information in this article can also be found on our Nihongo Master Podcast, Season 4 Episode 11. While you can get most of the information in this article, we have roleplaying scenarios on the podcast. Check that out!

Image Credit: Max Pixel

Grammar Point

If you read online, some pages would say that this grammar language is about granting permission or asking permission. That’s the formal way to put it. It’s kind of like saying “You may do this” or “May I do this?” Reminds me of when I was in elementary school and had to ask permission to go to the toilet. 

But this is not that kind of permission. It’s more like asking casually “Can I do this” or “Is this act permitted to do”. The best example when you want to try something on when you’re in a clothes shop but are unsure if it’s okay to do that. So you ask, “can I try this on?”

Quick Recap of the Te-Form

The first part of the grammar point is to understand the te-form. We covered that in Season 4 Episode 13 of the podcast, but keep an eye out for the article on the blog! 

Anyway, ru-verbs have the ending ru (る) changed to te (て), while u-verb ending with u (う) have a few different conjugations. Here’s a quick breakdown: 

  • Those ending with ru (る), tsu (つ) or u (う) have their final syllable replaced with tte (って). For example, noru (乗る) becomes notte (乗って)
  • Those ending with ku (く) have their final syllable replaced with ite (いて). For example, kaku (書く) becomes kaite (書いて)
  • But if it ends with gu (ぐ), like oyogu (泳ぐ, which means to swim), then the gu (ぐ) is replaced with ide (いで) to make oyoide (泳いで).
  • Those ending with nu (ぬ), bu (ぶ) and mu (む) have their final syllable replaced with nde (んで). Shinu (死ぬ) becomes shinde (死んで)
  • Those ending with su (す) have their final syllable replaced with shite (して). For example, hanasu (話す) becomes hanashite (話して).

Asking for permission using てもいい 

Now onto the format of this grammar point. After getting the te form, we add mo ii to the verb. The format is:

Verb (て form) + もいい

As for our example of “can we try this on?”, we first get the verb, which in this case is shichaku suru (試着する) to mean “to try something on”. We change it to its te-form, which means instead of ending in the u sound, it ends with te instead. 

In our case, we have suru — this is an irregular verb which changes from suru (する) to shite (して). And you get shichaku shite (試着して). We then add the grammar point which is “mo ii”, to get: shichaku shitemo ii? (試着してもいい?) The polite form of the question is: shichaku shitemo ii desu ka? (試着してもいいですか?)

We usually add “ka” (か) to ask if something is okay or permitted to do: temo ii desu ka? (てもいいですか) You can also omit the “ka” if it’s in casual form, or even add “no” (の) to make “temo ii no” (てもいいの).

Giving perrmission using てもいい

If you remove the ka (か) at the end, you basically get the sentence version instead of a question. 

Let’s have another example: let’s say you want to tell someone, “it’s okay to eat the cake.” 

The verb to eat is taberu (食べる), but make sure to change it to its te-form which is tabete (食べて). Cake is kēki (ケーキ); now put them together with the grammar point and you get: kēki wo tabetemo ii (ケーキを食べてもいい).

You can also say that it’s okay to not do something as well, and the grammar point is “nakutemo ii” (なくてもいい). All you have to do is get the verb in its negative form and then change it to its te-form.  

The format is:

Verb (negative て form) + もいい

Don’t panic just yet, it’s not that hard at all. We’ll use the cake example. If you want to say “it’s okay to not eat the cake”, we change taberu (食べる) to tabenai (食べない), then change it to tabenakute (食べなくて). Then just add the grammar language. All together you get: kēki wo tabenakutemo ii (ケーキを食べなくてもいい).

Vocab Recap

In the episode, we introduced a few new Japanese words. Here’s a list of them for your reference:

Shichaku suru (試着する) — to try something on

Taberu (食べる) — to eat

Kēki (ケーキ) — cake

Wanpisu (ワンピス) — dress

Meccha (めっちゃ) — very

Ao (青) — blue

Aka (赤) — red

Shichaku shitsu (書着室) — fitting room

Chigau (違う) — to differ or to vary

Ookisugiru (大きすぎる) — to be too big

Saizu (サイズ) — size

Esu (エス) — S (for size)

Iro (色) — colour

Reji (レジ) — cash register

Kādo (カード) — card, short for credit card

Genkin (現金) — cash

ijou (以上) — more than

Tsukau (使う) — to use

Kau (買う) — to buy

Hoshii (欲しい) — want

Suwaru (座る) — to seat

Mada (まだ) — not yet

Kimeru (決める) — to decide

Chikaku (近く) — nearby

Miru (見る) — to see

Oishii (美味しい) — delicious

Nanika (何か) — something

Isshoni (一緒に) — together

Fuku (服) — clothes

Takusan (たくさん) — a lot

Surippa (スリッパ) — slippers

Bīchī (ビーチー) — beach

Hayai (早い) — fast or early

Kutsu (靴) — shoes

Haku (吐く) — to wear (for items like pants, skirts, footwear), if it’s shirts you use “kiru” (着る) instead

Benri (便利) — convenient

Ask and Give Permission in Japanese!

Isn’t granting and asking permission a breeze? Whether it’s for shopping or just everyday situations, it’s without a doubt a useful grammar language you want to have up your sleeve. I mean, it can even be used in business situations — but that’s a whole other episode on its own!

Check out our other blog articles for similar basic Japanese grammar points, as well as our Nihongo Master Podcast’s Study Saturday language series!

Try These 4 Unique Eateries in Japan!

Try These 4 Unique Eateries in Japan!

We all love food, don’t we? I bet a lot of us are huge Japanese food lovers, as well! I assume we’re all also experts on the types of Japanese food out there, so that’s why this article isn’t about that at all. We’re actually here to look at the various types of Japanese eateries you should definitely give a try. Other than your standard ramen-ya (ラメン屋, ramen shop) and kaitenzushi (回転寿司, conveyor belt sushi), there are actually loads of other types of eateries. . 

In our Season 4 Episode 3 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we guided you through 4 unique types of Japanese eateries you can find in Japan. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered in this blog post as well. 

Take note, and keep in mind to pop by these places when you’re travelling to Japan! 

Izakaya, The Japanese-style Pub

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The first on our list is the izakaya (居酒屋). These are traditional Japanese-style pubs that are the best place to go to if you’re looking for cheap drinks and snacks. They are essentially Japanese taverns and you can find one just about anywhere. Even the neighbourhood districts have a handful of their own local izakaya.

The name literally translates to “stay alcohol shop”, so traditionally, this was a place where you could just sit around and drink. Unlike some other places where they try to “turn tables” by rushing customers out, in an izakaya, they won’t ever do that. It’s literally in their name and the basic Japanese etiquette. You’re allowed to just chill and have a couple of beers. 

The most common type of food that you usually get at an izakaya is yakitori (焼き鳥), which are meat skewers. And if I must say so myself, they go great with a beer or cocktail. But if you don’t fancy that, there are other side dishes like chips and a small portion of noodles.

Ryotei & Kappo

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This next type of Japanese eatery is a lot more traditional than the previous: the ryotei (料亭) and kappo (割烹). 

A ryotei (料亭) is typically a high-end restaurant where guests can savour washoku (和食, Japanese cuisine) in private tatami rooms. Some ryotei date back to the early 17th century! Every little detail in the room is taken into account, from architecture to the decoration. Back in the day, this type of restaurant was used for feudal lords to meet with trusted subordinates in private. Even now, businessmen and politicians would have banquets and hold meetings behind the ryotei’s closed doors.

Kappo (割烹) literally translates to “cutting and cooking”. At a kappo restaurant, you usually sit at a bar counter and can observe the chef’s preparation. You can make special requests for what dishes you want or go for the “omakase” (お任せ), which means you leave it up to the chef to decide.

There’s a level of exclusivity for some ryotei and kappo restaurants. Sometimes, you can’t walk in or make reservations. You have to be invited by someone who’s already an existing guest.

Cook-It-Yourself Eateries

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This next category is the cook-it-yourself type of restaurant. You can already guess what you do at this restaurant. Yup, you cook the food yourself. Some might not like the idea of it, because if they want to cook, they’ll do it at home. If they dine out, they want it served to them. But trust me on this when I say you would want to try this type of eatery when in Japan. Don’t you want to experience Japanese culture? 

There are a few ones you should try. The first one is a yakiniku (焼肉) restaurant. Yakiniku is translated to “grilled meat”. Originally, it referred to western barbecue food. Later on, it moved on to refer to Korean food. Today, yakiniku refers to a style of cooking bite-sized meat and vegetables on griddles over a flame of wood charcoal. It’s now known as Japanese barbecue.

Another restaurant in the cook-it-yourself category is nabe (鍋), which means hot pot. It’s a broad category that consists of all types of hot pot dishes. Usually, nabemono is served during the colder seasons, but there are some chain restaurants offering it all year round. People sit around a table with a pot usually filled with soup and throw in whatever they like. Most of the time it’s meat, veggies and noodles. When it’s cooked, they scoop it out into their bowl.

There are so many types of nabemono (鍋物), but my favourite is shabu shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ). This is thinly sliced meat and vegetables are boiled in a pot of soup, and then afterwards dipped in a dipping sauce before eating. It’s a must-try when you travel to Japan!

Family Restaurants

Image Credit: WIkipedia Commons

Last but not least on our list, we have family restaurants. These are just casual dining restaurants which cater to people of all ages, but specifically families with children, hence the name. The big-name ones include Japan are Gusto, Johnathans and Denny’s.

Family restaurants are usually inexpensive — a meal can range from 500 yen (USD5) to 2,000 yen (USD20). I have never spent more than 2,000 yen at a family restaurant in my years of living in Japan.

One of the best things about this type of eatery is that they’re pretty convenient to dine in, especially for foreigners since everything on the menu has pictures to accompany it or an English menu. You have everything from the typical Japanese dishes like curry rice and donburi (丼物, rice bowls) to Western dishes like pasta and hamburgers.

My favourite part of a family restaurant is the drink bar. Unfortunately, it’s not an alcoholic drink bar. They’re all non-alcoholic beverages including soft drinks, juices, coffee and tea. There is a range of alcoholic drinks, though. Some outlets have happy hour deals where beers go as cheap as 200 yen!

Vocab Recap

Here’s a recap of the new vocabulary words we used in the podcast episode:

Yakitori (焼き鳥) — meat skewers 

Osusume (おすすめ) — recommendation 

Kanpai (乾杯) — Cheers!

Washoku (和食) — Japanese cuisine 

Omakase (お任せ) — I leave it up to the chef

Yakiniku (焼き肉) — grilled meat

Nabe or nabemono (鍋・鍋物) — hot pot dishes 

Shabu shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ) — a type of hotpot dish

Youshoku (養食) — Western cuisine 

dorinku bā (ドリンクバー) — drink bar

Eat Your Heart Away!

One of the best things about travelling is trying new things. Japanese culture has lots to offer, and eateries are part of them! I highly recommend trying them out when you find yourself in Japan soon! Check out the full episode on the Nihongo Master Podcast, as well as other similar topics, if you’re interested to know more about Japanese culture and language!

Top 4 Activities On Your Japan Travel Bucket List!

Top 4 Activities On Your Japan Travel Bucket List!

As the world slowly opens up again, we’re hoping Japan is going to open up its borders, too. In fact, there are rumours that we might be able to travel for leisure to the Land of the Rising Sun as soon as the end of the year! 

So to get yourself prepared for your adventure to Japan, why not create a Japan travel bucket list? 

I’m sure you’ve read tons of articles online about this. There’s the standard “visit these specific places” and “eat local food”, and the list goes on to more than 50 things to do! Boy, we don’t all have the time in the world to read or do that! So that’s not what we’re going to do in this article.

Instead, our Japan travel basic bucket list has only 4 activities! It’s the most basic of lists, but a really good one, if I do say so myself. 

#1: Balance City & Nature  

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The first on your Japan bucket list is balancing city and nature. Most of us think of the bright lights and neon signs of Tokyo when thinking about travelling to Japan. But keep in mind that this island nation is huge! There’s literally so much more to Japan than the Shibuya Scramble and Asakusa’s Sensoji.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t visit Tokyo. In fact, Tokyo is lovely and a city that will always have a place in my heart. But you should definitely spread out your time across the mainland rather than just one city. 

Venture out to the rural areas and you’ll discover a whole other side of the country. You don’t even have to go so far. Even just a quick one to two-hour drive out of Tokyo to Yamanashi. You’d be surprised at the world of difference these two areas have. 

If going from one end of the stick to another is too extreme for you, then pick the middle ground: a suburban area, like Kawasaki and Chiba. Alternatively, you could kill two birds with one stone and pop by the mountainous town of Hakone. This is just an hour’s train ride from Tokyo. You can not only venture out of the city zone but also experience local hot springs and the beautiful nature all year round.

2: Drown in Spirituality

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The next thing on the bucket list you need to do in Japan is drowning yourself in spirituality. Scattered around the country are shrines and temples. Even with a walk down the street your accommodation is at, you can come across a few local ones.

During your time here, never stop visiting these holy grounds. If you’re visiting various cities, visit a few of them in each one. There are some uphills, making you work for the view. There are others with hidden caves where you can pray for a deep desire. There was one shrine that I went to in Fukuoka called Dazaifu Tenman-gu Shrine. It had a small cave but I had to really find it, though. It’s believed that if you make a wish in that cave, it’ll definitely come true. A friend of a friend wished to be married and the year after she went there, she actually did!

If you’re not sure whether the holy grounds you’re at is a temple or a shrine, look out for torii. This is a traditional Japanese gate that’s usually red. It marks the transition of mundane to sacred ground. If you see one before entering the grounds, then it’s a shrine.

3: Immerse in Culture

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The third on our Japan travel bucket list is to immerse yourself in culture. Every city that you go to will be sure to have a museum. The Land of the Rising Sun has quite a story to tell, even about the times when it wasn’t known as Nippon. While you can read about them online, these museums have information that you can’t find anywhere else. There are also artefacts that you can see with your own very eyes. 

There’s a variety of indoor and outdoor museums for you to discover. Some even have cafes for a short break in between your learning journey. If you go to outdoor ones, they might even have a foot bath!

I understand that not everyone’s interested in walking around staring at figures. If you’re not such a huge fan of history, then go to an art gallery instead. Japan is rich in art, from paintings to fashion. Take your pick of permanent and temporary exhibitions, featuring legendary local and international artists and designers.

4: Drink Your Hearts Out!

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And last but definitely not least on our bucket list: drink your hearts out! While there are lots of local delicacies, not many talk about the drinking culture. Get your fill of all the alcoholic drinks this country has to offer. Different cities have local breweries as well, so you can go on a beer tasting trip around the nation!

If you’re short on time and can’t afford to hop from city to city, don’t worry, your local bar by the accommodation has you covered. There’s everything from the standard draft beer to cocktails. In fact, some places have nomihodai (飲み放題), an all-you-can-drink deal. This is where you can… drink all you want! For a certain amount of time, of course, and for a bargain price!

Vocab Recap

In our Season 4 Episode 1 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we have more fun facts and details of a Japan travel bucket list. In that episode, we introduced new vocabulary words. Here’s a list of them for your reference:

Toshi (都市) — city

Inaka (田舎) — countryside or rural

Kougai (郊外) — suburban

Shizen (自然) — nature

Jinja (神社) — shrine. Another way to call a shrine is jingu (神宮)

Otera (お寺) — temple

Taisha (退社) — grand shrine

Torii (鳥居) — the red gate

Omikuji (おみくじ) — fortune slip

Hakubutsukan (博物館) — museum

Bijutsukan (美術館) — art gallery

Sake (酒) — alcoholic drinks

Nihonshu (日本酒) — Japanese rice wine

Nama bēru (生ビール) — draft beer

Kokuteru (コクテール) — cocktail 

Nomikai (飲み会) — drinking party

Nomihōdai (飲み放祭) — all-you-can-drink

Create Your Japan Travel Bucket List Now!

What did I tell ya? Our bucket list might be basic, but it’s still extensive. It’s going to get you doing the things you can only do in Japan. What are you excited to do first? Let us know!

Also, tune in to the Nihongo Master Podcast for more content like this, as well as fun and quick Japanese grammar lessons.

Basic Japanese Grammar: Step-By-Step Guide to the て-Form!

Basic Japanese Grammar: Step-By-Step Guide to the て-Form!

One of the most important conjugations in the Japanese language is the te (て) form. You need it for a lot of other conjugations. So if you don’t master the te form, you can’t really get into a lot of other grammar points.

In our Season 4 Episode 13 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we decided to break down the basics of the te-form. When I was studying Japanese on my own, I remember this being one of the most difficult points to wrap my head around. But hey, my past struggle is now for your benefit, because I’ll break it down nice and easy for you! 

The way this recap article, as well as the original podcast episode, is structured is exactly like Nihongo Master’s online learning system – grammar point explanation and breakdown, a few example situations (only on the podcast), and ending it off with a very handy list of all the vocabulary words we used. So if you like our breakdowns on the blog and podcast, sign up for our program now!

Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Grammar Point

Oh, the te-form, my old friend. This is without a doubt one of the most important conjugations in Japanese grammar. Without the te-form, you won’t be able to really grasp some of the other Japanese grammar. It’s kind of like a level up token. As soon as you master this, you go from speaking short simple sentences to flawlessly and fluidly expressing your thoughts in clauses. 

Let’s first take a look at how to conjugate the te form.

Te Form Format

The te form has a different format for different types of words. We’ll take a look at verbs first.

Ru Verbs

For ru (る) verbs, they’re pretty simple. You first remove the ending ru (る) and then add te (て). The format is:

Ru verb (minus る) + て

Let’s use “taberu” (食べる) which is a ru verb. All you have to do is switch the ending ru with te:

食べる = 食べ = 食べて

U Verbs

How about u () verb conjugations then? U verbs can be a little confusing, so we’ll take it slow here. I’ll make the breakdown simple:

U-verb that ends with ru (る), tsu (つ) and u (う), you take the ending letter with the sound of u (う) and add tte (って). The format is:

U verb (minus ending う sound) + って

Examples: 

乗る (noru) = 乗 (no) = 乗って (notte)

待つ (matsu) = 待 (mat) = 待って (matte)

会う (au) = 会 (a) = 会って (atte)

U-verb that ends with nu (ぬ), bu (ぶ) and mu (む), you take the ending letter with the sound of u (う) and add tte (んで). The format is:

U verb (minus ending う sound) + んで

Examples:

死ぬ (shinu) = 死 (shi) = 死んで (shinde)

遊ぶ (asobu) = 遊 (aso) = 遊んで (asonde)

飲む (nomu) = 飲 (no) = 飲んで (nonde)

U-verb that ends with ku (く),  you take the ending letter with the sound of u (う) and add tte (いて). The format is:

U verb (minus ending う sound) + いて

Example:

書く (kaku) = 書 (ka) = 書いて (kaite)

U-verb that ends with gu (ぐ),  you take the ending letter with the sound of u (う) and add tte (いで). The format is:

U verb (minus ending う sound) + いで

Example:

泳ぐ (oyogu) = 泳 (oyo) = 泳いで (oyoide)

U-verb that ends with su (す), you take the ending letter with the sound of u (う) and add tte (して). The format is:

U verb (minus ending う sound) + して

Example:

話す (hanasu) = 話 (hana) = 話して (hanashite)

There are exceptions known as irregular verbs: 

To do: する(suru) =して (shite)

To come: くる(kuru) = きて (kite)

To go: 行く (iku) = 行って (itte)

い Adjectives

Conjugating i-adjectives to its te-form is simple. You take the ending i (い) and add kute (くて). The format is:

I-adjective (minus い) + くて

美味しい (oishii) = 美味し (oishi) = 美味しくて (oishikute)

Nouns & な Adjectives

Getting the te form for nouns and na-adjectives are the same. You just add de () after the word. The format is:

Noun + で

Na-adjective (without な) + で

日本人 (nihonjin) = 日本人で (nihonjin de)

簡単な (kantanna) = 簡単 (kantan) = 簡単で (kantan de)

Ways of using the te form

So what exactly does the te-form do? There are five ways:

Permission

The first way is to ask and give permission with te mo ii (てもいい). It’s like saying “is it okay to…?” Check out our recap article or Season 4 Episode 11 of the podcast to learn more. In short, the format is:

Verb te form + もいい

Connect sentences

The next way of using the te form is by using it as a simple conjunction. Instead of saying “I did A. I did B”, you’ll be able to say “I did A and B” with the te-form. 

Let’s have an easy example: “I ate pizza and drank coffee.”

You can say it as “ピザを食べた。コーヒーを飲んだ。” (piza wo tabeta. Kōhī wo nonda.) But this translates to “I ate pizza. I drank coffee. To have the “and” in the middle, you use the te-form to get: ピザを食べてコーヒを飲んだ。(piza wo tabete kōhī wo nonda.)

Command

The third way to use the te-form is by using it as a simple command. If you want to politely command someone to sit, like “hey, sit down”, just conjugate the word for “to sit” (座る) into its te-form: 座って (suwatte).

But a command to not do something gets tricky: you first have to change the word to its negation and then add a “de”. The format is:

Negative verb (without い) + で

To say “don’t sit down”, you say it as 座らないで (suwaranaide)

It’s different from the negative form of the te-form, which can’t be used as a command. For the negated te-form, whether it’s verbs or adjectives, all you have to do is negate the word first, then change the ending nai (ない) to nakute (なくて). 

Negative verb (minus い) + くて

Example:

食べる (taberu) = 食べない (tabenai) = 食べなくて (tabenakute) 

Express reason or a means

The fourth way to use the te form is to express a reason or a means. It’s like saying “so” or “because”. While you can use the particle kara (から) for “because”, this is another way to say it. 

Let’s have this example: “I saw some really cheap shoes, so I bought them.”

You could use “kara”, like 靴が安いから買った。(kutsu ga yasui kara katta). But you could also conjugate the i-adjective: 靴が安くて買った。(kutsu ga yasukute katta).

Present Participle

Our final way of using te-form is by combining it with iru (いる) to make te iru(ている) , the present participle. 

Verb (て form) + いる

To say “I’m watching TV”, you say it as “テレビを見ている。”(terebi wo miteiru)

Vocab Recap

In the podcast episode, we have roleplaying scenarios that exemplify this grammar point. Since we used a lot of new words, here’s a list for your reference:

Noru (乗る) – to ride

matsu (待つ) – to wait

au (会う) – to meet

kaku (書く) – to write

oyogu (泳ぐ) – to swim

hanasu (話す) – to speak

kutsu (靴) – shoes

yasui (安い) – cheap

yu-mei (有名) – famous 

miru(見る)  – to see

hima (暇) – free time

eigakan (映画館) – cinema. eiga (映画) is movie, kan (館) is building

kaimono (買い物) – shopping

mise (店) – shop

Nanji (何時) – what time

Ame ga furu (雨が降る) – to rain

Kasa (傘) – umbrella

Motsu (持つ) – to bring 

tatsu (立つ) – to stand up

suwaru (座る) – to sit

sugu (すぐ) – immediately

shigoto (仕事) – work

taihen (大変) – difficult

hirugohan (昼ごはん) – lunch

isogashii (忙しい) – busy

nomisugiru (飲みすぎる) – to drink a lot

ochitsuku (落ち着く) – to calm down

yameru (止める) – to stop

hanasu (話す) – to speak

shuumatsu (週末) – weekend

Conjugate the Te Form Like A Pro!

Okay, that’s pretty loaded. So, can we all agree that the te-form is one of the most useful grammars in Japanese? Let’s have a short recap to conclude what was discussed in the article and podcast episode:

Te form is used in 5 ways:

  • to give and ask permission by adding もいい to make てもいいi
  • As a simple conjunction
  • As a simple command (for the positive te-form only)
  • To express a reason
  • To form present participle by adding いる to make ている

To conjugate verbs into te-form, figure out if its a ru or u verb.

With る-verbs, the ending る is replaced with て.

With u-verbs,

Those ending with る, つ or う have their final syllable replaced with って.

Those ending with ぬ, ぶ and む have their final syllable replaced with んで.

Those ending with く have their final syllable replaced with いて. 

Those ending with ぐ have their final syllable replaced with いで.

Those ending with す have their final syllable replaced with して. 

To conjugate adjectives, i-adjectives just have the い change to くて, and な-adjectives have the な changed to で.

To conjugate nouns, add で.

The negated te-form is achieved just by negating the word (both verb and adjective) and then having the ない changed to なくて.

Phew. What’s the toughest part of this conjugation for you? If you need a bit more practice, check out the full podcast episode on the Nihongo Master Podcast! Or even better, get a subscription with us and you can practice the te form as much as you want! 

Sanja Matsuri: What Is It and How to Celebrate?

Sanja Matsuri: What Is It and How to Celebrate?

Summer is one of the most anticipated seasons worldwide. In Japan, as well, many look forward to the warmer weather. Summer in Japan is one of the most exciting times of the year.

One festival that kicks off the start of the summer season in Japan is the Sanja Matsuri, taking place in May. This takes place at the capital city Tokyo over a three-day period. Both locals and tourists alike clear up their schedule to attend this big occasion. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at what exactly Sanja Matsuri is, how it came about and how you can celebrate it like a local!

What is Sanja Matsuri?

One of the biggest festivals in all of Japan takes place in Tokyo at the start of May. This festival is called the Sanja Festival (三社祭, Sanja Matsuri). This annual festival can be found in the Asakusa district and almost two million visit the neighborhood over the three days this festival is held. 

The Sanja Matsuri is held to celebrate the three founders of Sensoji Temple, one of the oldest temples in the country. About a hundred portable shrines known as the mikoshi (神輿) are paraded around the 44 districts of the neighbourhood by participants that carry them on their shoulders. These shrines are believed to have Shinto deities placed in them and they’re brought around to spread luck and fortune to people and businesses. Out of the hundreds of shrines, there are three big ones, which belong to the Asakusa Shrine next to Sensoji. 

The paraded mikoshi will be bounced up and down and thrown side to side. This motion is known as tamafuri (球ふり) and has been done for centuries. If it’s done at a festival, the locals believe they will be blessed in terms of great harvests and improved health.

Other than the parade of shrines, food and drinks stalls as well as entertainment stalls are set up on the streets. Music of Japanese drums and flutes are also performed to accompany this parade of shrines.

What the participants of the event wear

One of the highlights of this festival is the cool things that the participants wear. There are a few different mikoshi teams, and each team wears a different hanten (反転) coat. This is a short traditional coat that is thicker than a normal one. That’s because the participants have to carry the shrine on their shoulders. 

Underneath the coat, they wear the fundoshi (褌). This is a traditional Japanese undergarment that adds support and comfort.

The outfit is topped off with a traditional tabi (たび). This is a special kind of boot. Put on a hachimaki (鉢巻) headband and they’re good to go. 

When is Sanja Matsuri? 

The Sanja Matsuri is usually held in the third weekend of the month for three days (Friday to Sunday).

In 2022, the Sanja Matsuri was held from May 21st to May 22nd. However, because of the pandemic, it was on a reduced scale with only the three mikoshi paraded around. Instead of three days, it was only two days this year.

History of Sanja Matsuri 

Image Credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons

The Sanja Matsuri is one of three great Shinto festivals in Tokyo. Some believe the festival started taking place in 1649. This was when the Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu ordered the construction of Asakusa Shrine. Some others believe the celebration has been going on since 1312, but it was only every other year until 1649.

The shrine is dedicated to brothers Takenari and Hamanari Hinokuma, as well as their friend, Matsuchi Hajino. These three people, known as “Sanja-sama”, established the Sensoji Temple in 628. 

How to Celebrate Sanja Matsuri 

Image Credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons

It’s okay if you missed the Sanja Matsuri in 2022, since the borders have yet to open fully. Not to fret, it’s the best time to prepare for the festival in 2023. So let’s take a look at what exactly goes down in the three days so we can learn how to celebrate the festival like a local!

Friday – Day 1 

On Friday, the first day of the festival, the head priest of Asakusa Shrine performs a ritual to invite spirits of the Sanja-samba into the three big mikoshi. At 1PM, temple priests, city officials, geishas, musicians and dancers wear traditional costumes and walk through the streets of Asakusa.

Afterwards they head to the shrine for a brief Shinto ceremony. They pray and dancers perform the binzasaramai (びんざさらまい) dance that’s accompanied by traditional Japanese percussion instruments (びんざさら, binzasara).

Then, in the late afternoon, the giant mikoshi are paraded through the streets. This is the best time to get up close and personal with the mikoshi as the crowd won’t be as big on this day. 

Saturday – Day 2

The second day of the festival kicks off at noon with about a hundred small mikoshi carried throughout the neighbourhood. These are neighbourhood mikoshi. Each mikoshi has their own team of about 60 people carrying it and cheering in unison to each other. People shout “wasshoi! Wasshoi!” to encourage the crowd and each other.

These mikoshi include small ones for children. Kids of all ages and sizes can participate in this. Even toddlers can play with the taiko drums that are mounted on a cart! If you’re going to the festival with kids, this can be an enjoyable and interactive experience for your family.

At the end of this day, the teams gather at Asakusa Shrine and end their day with drinks.

Sunday – Day 3

The last day starts in the morning at 6AM. At the shrine, the teams from the previous day gather and some get to carry the big three mikoshi. It’s very competitive among the teams for who gets to carry the mikoshi. Because of that, visitors aren’t allowed to observe this.

By 8AM, they depart the shrine and travel around Asakusa in separate routes and return back to the shrine in the evening at 6 or 7PM. Sometimes the remaining small mikoshi of the teams from the previous day will parade around as well. 

Celebrate with food 

One of the main highlights of this festival for many people is the food. This is available at stalls on the streets of the neighbourhood. You get your typical yakisoba (焼きそば, fried noodles) and yakitori (焼き鳥, meat skewers). 

But you definitely can’t miss out on Asakusa-exclusive delicacies like kibi-dango Azuma (吉備団子あずま), known to date back over two centuries ago. This is made out of millet powder and sweet rice, then coated with soybean flour. 

Let’s celebrate this Shinto event!

Doesn’t this festival sound like so much fun? Why don’t you plan your Japan trip next year to include attending this event? 

If you like this kind of content, check out the Nihongo Master Podcast. We discuss fun and exciting facts about Japanese culture, as well as offer bite-sized grammar points! 

Basic Japanese Grammar: Expressing Superlatives with 一番, もっとも and 最〜

Basic Japanese Grammar: Expressing Superlatives with 一番, もっとも and 最〜

This article will cover a grammar point that is super easy, ridiculously quick to learn and basically the best for a laid-back study sesh. Can you guess by the hints I’m dropping?

In our Season 4 Episode 15 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we take a look at expressing superlatives in Japanese as part of our Study Saturday language series. We cover all the ways to say “the best”, “very”, “super”, “extremely” and everything else in between. If you don’t already know, the Study Saturday language series is formatted just like the Nihongo Master online learning system. Give the podcast a listen, and if you love it, you’d love our program!

Anyway, even though this article is recapping what we covered in the podcast episode, it also has enough information to get you to grasp the basics of Japanese superlatives!

Image Credit: Freesvg

Grammar Point 

The superlative in English is made with ending most words in “-est” or start them with “the most”. Fast becomes fastest. Convenient becomes the most convenient. But we’re not here to learn English, we’re here to learn Japanese. 

Ichiban (一番)

And in Japanese, the most common way to express superlative is by using the word “ichiban” (一番). This means “number one”. The format goes:

一番 + adjective

Let’s take a look at a few examples. “Fast” is hayai (早い) in Japanese. To say “fastest”, we just add that word after the word “ichiban”: 一番早い. It literally translates to “number one fast” but it’s basically saying “fastest”. 

“Convenient” is “benri” (便利) in Japanese. To say “the most convenient”, using the format above, we get: 一番便利

Mottomo (もっとも)

The formal version of that is “mottomo” (もっとも). So instead of using “ichiban”, you switch it out for “mottomo”. The format is exactly the same: 

もっとも + adjective

Ichiban hayai (一番早い) becomes mottomo hayai (もっとも早い). Ichiban benri (一番便利) becomes mottomo benri (もっとも便利).

Sai~ (最〜)

Another common way to express superlatives is with the prefix “sai” (最), which can be translated to “most”. Words in this category are mostly Sino-Japanese, which means that it’s of Chinese origin or makes use of morphemes of Chinese origin. There are a few exceptions to this, but we won’t go into detail, of course. 

Some common words that use the “sai” prefix that I hear often are: saitei 最低 or saiaku 最悪 (to mean the worst ) and saikou 最高 (to mean the best).

Expressing them in a scope

In any of the ways, you can express them within a scope. All you have to do is have the region after the subject, connect it with “no naka de” or just “de” to mean “in” or “among”, and then add whichever superlative form you want (ichiban, mottomo or sai prefix). The format is:

Subject + Scope (using の中で or で) + Superlative (一番 or もっとも or 最〜) + Adjective + Noun

For example, if you want to say, “Tokyo Sky Tree is the tallest building in Japan”, where the scope is “in Japan”, you can say it as: Toukyou sukaitsurii ha nihon no naka de ichiban takai tatemono. (東京スカイツリは日本の中で一番高い建物。)

Don’t be confused just yet. Let’s have another example. We all know Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world. How do we say that in Japanese? Following the format, we get: eberesuto ha sekai de ichiban takai yama. (エベレストは世界で一番高い山。)

Asking a superlative question

Now how do we ask a superlative question? Easy. Simply add the question words (like dare, doko, itsu, Nani and dore), then the ga () particle, then the superlative form of the adjective and then the noun. The format is:

Question word (だれ or どこ or いつ or なに or どれ) +が + Superlative (一番 or もっとも or 最〜) + Adjective + Noun

So if you want to ask your classmate who they think is the coolest in class, you say it as:

kurasu no naka de, dare ga ichiban kakkoii to omou? (クラスの中で、誰が一番かっこいいと思う?)

Vocab Recap

In the podcast episode, we used a few new Japanese words. Here’s a list of them for your reference:

hayai (早い) – fast

Benri (便利) – convenient

Saitei (最低) or saiaku (最悪) – the worst

Saikou (最高) – the best

No naka de (の中で) – in or among

Sekai (世界) – world

Takai (高い) – tall, it can also be used to mean expensive 

Yama (山) – mountain

Kakkoii (かっこいい) – cool

Onaka ga tsuku (お腹がつく) – to be hungry

Chou (超) – very

Iroirona (色々な) – various

Isshoni (一緒に) – together

Sugu (すぐ) – immediately

Douyatte (どうやって) – how

Meccha (めっちゃ) – the informal way of totemo (とても)

Saisoku (催促) – fastest

Houhou (方法) – way

Dekoreeshon (デコレーション) – decoration

Saishin (最新) – latest

Shokuji (食事) – food. Tabemono (食べ物) is also another way to say food 

Tokubestu (特別) – special

Chuumon suru (注文する) – to order

Muzukashii (難しい) – difficult

Dame (だめ) – impossible

Conclusion

So, do you think this article is the best at explaining superlatives? I think it’s the simplest and easiest way of explaining superlatives in Japanese!

Now, I have a question for you: ニホンゴマスタポッドキャストの一番いいことは何ですか?

Speaking of the podcast, tune in to our latest seasons! We have an exclusive podcast promo code that is 50% off your entire subscription of the Nihongo Master program! 

Stay tuned for a blog-exclusive promo code! 

14 Fun Facts About Anime

14 Fun Facts About Anime

Now, don’t lie. We are all big fans of anime, am I right? I personally can’t resist one episode after the next after the next. And when I’m done with the series, I start a new one. I bet a lot of you guys are the same.

And the numbers don’t lie: Anime films and shows make up about 60% of animation-based media entertainment in the world! So it just goes to show that its popularity is more than just in Japan. It’s worldwide!

In this article, we have about 14 interesting and fun facts about anime that you might not know, but will definitely enjoy!

1. ‘Kimi no Na Wa’ (Your Name) is the third highest-grossing anime film of all time!

Image Credit: Wikipedia

If you don’t already know, Kimi no Na Wa (the English title is Your Name) is a Japanese animated romantic fantasy film released in 2016. The story is about a high school boy in Tokyo who swapped bodies mysteriously with a high school girl in the countryside. 

The movie was screened in major cinemas worldwide and was a huge success. In fact, it was one of the biggest successes of the anime industry. The film made over $355 million, breaking over numerous box office records. It comes in third after Spirited Away (2001) and Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train (2020). 

2. The longest-running anime has more than 7,500 episodes

Image Credit: Wikipedia

The longest-running anime ever is Sazae-san. It is about a mother named Sazae-san (big surprise) and her family. The series showcases everyday problems of everyday people, which is a little surprising that this is the genre for the longest-running anime.

This animated TV series has over 7,500 episodes that are 6 minutes each, with the first episode airing in October 1969. and holds a Guinness World Record for the longest-running animated TV series! 

3. ‘Spirited Away’ is the first anime film to be nominated for an Academy Award, and won!

Image Credit: Wikipedia

The 2001 Japanese animated film called Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi in Japanese) is one that all of us should already know. It’s a true legend. This film is about a ten year old girl who moved to a new neighbourhood. While doing so, she entered the world of the spirits. When her parents turned into pigs, she took a job at the neighbourhood’s bath house so she could free herself and her parents of the spirit world.

We can all agree that it’s a unique and interesting storyline. Even the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, which doesn’t often stray away from Pixar and Disney movies. In 2003, this Japanese animated film won the 75th Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature.

A small fun fact: the director, Hayao Miyazaki, didn’t attend the ceremony because of his opposition to the Iraq war.

4. Characters in ‘Spirited Away’ have meaningful names

A lot of thought was put into the anime film Spirited Away. It was no wonder the anime won the award. One of the details that was very obviously thought about a lot were the names of the characters. A lot of them had symbolic meanings.

For example, the name ‘Kamaji’ means ‘old boiler man’. ‘Boh’ means ‘little boy’ or ‘son’. Zenobia means ‘money witch’. Even ‘Yubaba’ means ‘bathhouse witch’. 

My favourite of them all is Chihiro, the main character, which has the meaning of ‘a thousand searches’.

5. Death Note is banned in China

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Yes, you read the title right. One of the most popular anime, Death Note, is banned in China! China is not new to banning media for its citizens, and Death Note apparently falls under the category of anime with inappropriate material. 

Death Note isn’t the only or first anime to be banned in China. Others include Highschool of the Dead, Attack on Titan and Psycho-Pass.

6.  The ramen shop ‘Ichiraku’ in Naruto exists

Image Credit: Wikipedia 

Naruto is without a doubt one of the most popular anime in the world! If you’re a dedicated fan of this anime, you would know of Naruto’s favourite ramen shop called ‘Ichiraku’.

I’m here to tell you that this ramen shop exists! It’s real, guys. You can actually find it in Kyushu under the same name. It is located near the university Masashi Kishimoto, the author of the series, went to. Masashi was so in love with the ramen shop that he just had to include it in the series!

If you find yourself in Kyushu, be sure to drop by this ramen shop!

7. Naruto was supposed to be a chef!

When the creator Masashi Kishimoto was writing about Naruto, the character and not the series, he originally was training to be a chef. But he then scrapped the idea and just kept the name. He changed Naruto to be who we now know and love, a boy who can transform into a fox. 

8. There’s a very good reason to the naming of the ‘Bleach’ anime

Image Credit: Wikipedia

One of the top anime series ever is Bleach. Even those who don’t watch it know what it is and what it is about. But do we know exactly why the name of the anime is so? 

The creator of Bleach, Tite Kubo, gave two reasons behind the naming of the series. The first reason is because bleach is used to remove stains on clothes and to whiten them. This is similar to how the soul reapers in the series cleanse or bleach their souls.

 The second reason, which is the important one, is because it’s the name of a Nirvana album and it’s one of Kubos’ favourites. 

9. 50 new colours were created for ‘Akira’

Image Credit: Wikipedia

The 1988 anime film ‘Akira’ is one that goes down in the history books. The film is a huge technical accomplishment for the Japanese anime industry. For one, it has 2,212 shots and 160,000 single pictures, which is twice or thrice more than the average anime.

Another thing is that most of the scenes of the film were set for nighttime. Most animators avoid that and prefer day scenes because night scenes require high usages of colour. Even with that, it requires high precision for it to look pleasing. But Akira went against the conventional ways and used 327 colours in the movie. Out of them, 50 were exclusively created for the film! 

10. The name ‘Pokemon’ comes from the English language

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Did you know that the ever-famous ‘Pokemon’ franchise is named after an English word? In fact, it came from two English words: ‘pocket’ and ‘monster’.

Just a short fun fact for you.

11. Pokemon characters were named after fighters

Some of the Pokemon characters were named after fighters! In particular, they are Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Hiroyuki Ebihara and Tadashi Sawamura.

The characters Hitmonchan and Hitmonlee were inspired by Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee respectively. Even we can see that. On top of that, Hitmonchan’s alternate name, Ebiwalar, came from Ebihara. Hitmonlee’s name, Sawamular, obviously came from the world’s first kick-boxer Sawamura. 

12. ‘Haikyuu’ was made to make volleyball popular

Image Credit: Wikipedia

I’m not big on sports, but when I started watching Haikyuu, I picked up volleyball. I guess the anime did its job. Because that was what it first set out to do.

The creator, Haruichi Furudate, stated in an interview in 2014 that his goal was to make volleyball seem fun and cool. After the release of Haikyuu, there was an increase in enrolments of high school students in volleyball clubs!

13. Bakugo was supposed to be a good character

Image Credit: Wikipedia

We love all the characters of My Hero Academia. Both the good and bad. But what if Katsuki Bakugo was a good character instead? 

Originally, creator Kohei Horikoshi wanted the character to be a kind, gentle hero. However, he scrapped the idea and made the character the Bakugo we now know and love: arrogant and a little bit of a nightmare. 

Which fun fact was the most interesting? 

Did you enjoy these anime fun facts? Which ones were the most interesting for you? And which ones surprised you the most? I know when I was reading up on them, I was a little surprised at them all! Anyway, we’d love to hear from you! Commen down in the section below or hit us up on our social media platforms!

Basic Japanese Grammar: Expressing Hope with ばいい, たらいい, といい, ならいい

Basic Japanese Grammar: Expressing Hope with ばいい, たらいい, といい, ならいい

All of us have hopes and dreams, and don’t we want to express them? In our Season 4 Episode 8 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we looked at how to say “I hope…” or “it’ll be good if…” in Japanese.

When I first started learning Japanese, I realised that this is one of the ways to level up my language skills fast and easy. So I thought it would be good to share it with all of you. This article is a recap of what we covered in the podcast episode. But don’t worry, you will get the full information you need here, too. 

The only thing you’ll be missing is the roleplaying scenarios. You would have to tune in to the podcast for that! 

Image Credit: Picpedia

Grammar Point 

The thing to note about this grammar point is that half of it has already been covered in Season 3 Episode 13. This covers the conditional form “if”. There are a lot of ways to express conditional. There are a total of four, and today, we’re going to use all four of them. Check the full episode out, or our recap article here. To summarise:

The first way is using とto express constant results and actual conditions: 

Verb (plain) / i-adjective +と 

Noun / na-adjective + だと

The second way is using ば to express a hypothetical condition, and is one of the more general forms:

Verb (with the last う sound changed toえ) + ば

i-adjective (the い sound changes toえ) + ば

noun / na-adjective + あれば

The Third way is たら. It is similar to “ba” as it’s also the other general conditional form, but it’s more for one-time results:

Past tense of any word + たら

Last but not least, the fourth way is なら, and it is for contextual conditions:

Plain form of any word + なら

Conditional + いい

Once you know how to conjugate to the conditional form, it becomes easy after that. To express hope using “i hope” or “it’ll be good if”, you add いい to the conditional form:

Conditional と + いい

Conditional ば + いい

Conditional たら + いい

Conditional なら + いい

From what I know, the differences between them are very slight, and very much based on the context. I’d say it’s similar to how you’d use the conditional forms. I always stick to tara ii and ba ii as I hear them being used the most.

Let’s have an example sentence: “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow.” The first step is getting the conditional sentence first, which gets you “ashita ha ame ga furanai to” (明日は雨が降らないと). This is using the first type of conditional. Then add the “ii” afterwards to make the sentence: “ashita ha ame ga furanai to ii” (明日は雨が降らないといい). This translates more better to “If it doesn’t rain tomorrow, it’ll be good”.

To say “it’ll be good if it rains”, you can say it as: ame ga fureba ii (雨が降ればいい). I personally have no problem saying it as “ame ga futtara ii” (雨が降ったらいい) either. So to me, they all are more or less interchangeable.

Using it as a question

If you want to use it as a question, like “is it good if I…”, or in other words, “should I…”, I don’t think all conditional forms work. I would suggest sticking with tara ii and ba ii. 

The best example is: “what should I do?” You can change “dou suru” (どうする) which means “what to do” to either of the two conditional forms and have the same meaning: “dou sureba ii?” (どうすればいい?) or “dou shitara ii?” (どうしたらいい?)

Vocab Recap

In the podcast episode, we use a lot of new vocabulary words. Here’s a list for you to refer back to: 

Ame ga furu (雨が降る) — to rain

Jikan (時間) — time

Hontoni (本当に) — really

Hareru (晴れる) — to clear up

Warui (悪い) — bad

Asatte (明後日) — the day after tomorrow 

Mirareru (見られる) — to be able to see 

Kawari ni (代わりに) — instead

Ryouhou (両方) — both

Tonikaku (とにかく) — anyway

Konya (今夜) — tonight

Kaimono (買い物) — shopping

Komu (混む) — to be crowded 

Nipponshoku (日本食品) — Japanese food 

Takai () — expensive or high 

Onaka tsuita (お腹ついた) — to be hungry

Shinpai (心肺) — worry

Tenki yohou (天気予報) — weather report 

Tanoshimi ni (楽しみに) — looking forward to

What are you hoping for?

So, what are you hoping for? It can be as small as hoping for a sunny day to hoping for a holiday to Japan. I’ll let you figure that one out, now that you’re a pro at expressing hope in Japanese. Check out the full episode to have more examples of this grammar point in our roleplaying scenarios, as well as other everyday grammar points. 

Better yet, sign up with us for unlimited access to our online learning materials to level up your Japanese game! 

What is Japanese Idol Culture?

What is Japanese Idol Culture?

Idol culture in Japan is a topic to discuss. In Season 3 Episode 12 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we dove into that. So what are idols? They’re like celebrities but on a whole other spectrum. 

It’s no denying that Japan’s music scene has been dominated by the likes of J-pop, Japanese popular music — everywhere you go in the country, you’ll see a banner promoting a girl group’s latest album or a boy group advert for a brand’s newest product. There’s literally no escaping this idol culture.

But what exactly is idol culture and how is it different from the rest of the world? Is it similar to K-pop and their synchronised dancing groups or is it more like the West where the musical and vocal aspects are put forth? And why are there some disagreements about this celebrity culture in Japan?

Idol Group History 

First and foremost, what are idols? The word aidoru (アイドル) is written in katakana and is a gairaigo (外来語, foreign loan word). You can already guess what language it borrowed the word from: the English word “idol”. While in English, the word has been used since the 1920s to refer to popular people. In Japan, the word only came into popularity in the 1960s. Initially, the term is used to refer to female performers manufactured into groups, but has now expanded to include male performers.

For comparison, the western parallel of Japanese idols are like Backstreet Boys or Spice Girls, but even then, it doesn’t fully comprehend the essence.

The most popular type of idol group consists of girls, but don’t underestimate the boy groups — in fact, the first ever idol group recruitment agency, Johnny & Associates which opened in 1962, is known for pumping out boy band after boy band, every single one of them extremely successful.

It was only in the 70s that idol culture took off; variety TV shows as well as magazines began advertising singing competitions — kind of like American Idol or X Factor. Tons of idols started their career this way, although those signed with recruitment agencies like Johnny’s had an edge over the rest — even till today.

And in the 80s, known as the Golden Age of Idols, numerous idol groups made their debut. Baradoru (バラドル, variety show idols) were increasing rapidly as these singing competitions became a mainstay on prime time TV. Idol groups rose and fell, but the whole industry gradually built up — in the 90s, 2000s, and up till now as we speak.

So to say that the idol concept is popular is quite the understatement — you won’t believe the number of Japanese idol groups there is in total. Even though Johnny’s Kinki Kids and Arashi debuted in the 90’s, they are still two of the most popular ones in the industry to this day. And if you don’t already know the most famous girl group in Japan just from the unlimited ads and posters on local streets, it’s AKB48.

So the concept of manufactured celebrity groups has been around for decades now, and it has taken quite a chunk of the Japanese music scene.

The Job of An Idol

If you’ve seen videos of these Japanese idols, you’ll know that their basic job is to sing and dance on stage. Technically, you’re right — that’s the general idea, but there’s more to it than just that. If they’re a chika aidoru (地下アイドル, underground idol), they’re going to have to put in way more work than the mainstream ones.

Basically, once they’re signed with an idol recruitment company, they don’t start singing and dancing straight away. They’re technically not even an idol yet. There’s a lot of training to do before debuting — like classes on how to behave and ways of replying, as well as lessons for singing and dancing. A couple of these newly signed talents get grouped together, which can be a hit or a miss. If you’ve ever had a group project with people you don’t like, you just suck it up for the next couple of weeks or so till the project’s over, right? Imagine having to suck it up for the rest of your career if there’s someone that you absolutely despise.

When they debut, not only do they have to sing and dance during performances but there’s also the job of marketing their new content. This can come in a few ways — the most common ones are making an appearance on reality TV shows and akushukai (握手会, handshake events).

During the event, no pictures, no hanging out, just a handshake. It’s like a meet- and-greet, only with about 10 to 15 seconds of greeting and then out you go. This kind of event pulls in the sales — usually buying one CD will give you a chance at a ticket for the event. Otaku, (オタク, which translates to geek or nerd but in this case refers to a particular level of devoted fans) would go all out just to raise their chances at meeting their favourite idols.

I’d say those are the easier aspects of the job — the hardest one is obeying dozens and dozens of rules. I think the exact rules vary for different recruitment companies, but one that’s mutual throughout is their strict policy on privacy. An idol’s image is the perfectly imperfect person — because they’re not prince charming or cinderella, the concept of normality makes them much more desirable for their fans. To protect this image, idols aren’t allowed to be seen publicly with a significant other or any similar types of scandals.

Problems & Future of Idol Groups

Even though the idol culture is continuously rising, there have been recurring problems in the idol culture. The biggest one is the case of assault and harassment — especially when it comes to female idols. It seems like it’s every other weekend that there’s a new news report about a female idol being stalked by their obsessed fans.

And that’s not even the worst part — because of this culture of manufacturing female talents and putting them into the public eye, there has been a worrying pattern of fan bases consisting largely of older men. Japan’s already having a tough time with this issue in general, and in my opinion, the idol culture’s not doing any good to resolve that.

Before we get too deep into that topic, the other problem the idol culture’s created is that the younger generation is given this idea that they can get out of school early to pursue an idol career. Apparently, this is a legitimate reason to be granted leave from schools. It’s quite surprising to hear that, especially when Japan’s quite known to value education pretty highly.

So, we’re here wondering, what is the future of idol groups? Will they be the same going forward, or will there be a change in the system to combat these rising problems? I hope for the sake and safety of the idols, something’s going to be done.

Vocab Recap

In the episode, we used some new Japanese words. Here’s a list for reference:

Aidoru (アイドル) — idol

Gairaigo (外来語) — foreign loan word 

Baraeti (バラエティ) — variety

Baradoru (バラドル) — variety idol 

Chika aidoru (地下アイドル) — underground idol. Chika (地下) means under or below, so subway is “chikatetsu”  (地下鉄)

Otaku (オタク) — geek or nerd

Akushukai (握手会) — handshake event

Gakkou (学校) — school

Mirai (未来) — Future

What do you think of Japanese idol culture?

So there’s a brief glimpse into the Japanese idol culture — from flashy stage outfits and extensive training to unique marketing events, this part of the media culture in Japan is pretty far from dying out.

What are your thoughts of this idol culture, and how can it be improved or should it remain the same? Let us know on our social media platforms. Also, tune in to the full episode on the Nihongo Master Podcast!

Basic Japanese: Too Much & Not Enough (すぎる・足りない・十分〜ない)

Basic Japanese: Too Much & Not Enough (すぎる・足りない・十分〜ない)

In our Season 4 Episode 4 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we looked at the ways to say “too much” and “not enough” in Japanese as part of our Study Saturday Language Series.

I remembered the times I went somewhere in Japan and needed to express something that’s too much or not enough — let alone having to request for something more or less because of it. My beginner Japanese textbooks did not teach me these. 

So I thought, hey, I can take my past struggles and make it into something someone else can learn from.And here I am — guiding you through all the language you need to navigate through the excessive and insufficient!

The Study Saturday language series on the podcast is formatted just like the Nihongo Master online learning system, so for a sneak peek at what our program has to offer, tune in to our podcast!

Too Much using すぎる

Maybe you ate too much for dinner? Or over the weekend you were in bed practically the whole day because the night before you drank too much beer! 

The phrase to use to say “too much” is “sugiru” (すぎる). So to say “too much”. We attach this to the end of adjectives and verbs

With Adjectives

For adjectives, we take off the i (い) from i-adjectives and na (な) from na-adjectives, then attach the phrase at the end. The format is:

I-adjective (without い) + すぎる

Na adjective (without な) + すぎる

Let’s say you want to say “it’s too old” in Japanese. The world for “old” is “furui” (古い). First we take い out of furui to get furu (古),  then add the phrase. You get: “furusugiru” (古すぎる). 

That’s an example for i-adjective. Here’s an example for na-adjective: “It’s too easy.” The word for “easy” is na-adjective “kantanna” (簡単). First you take out the な from kantanna to make kantan (簡単) Then you add the phrase to get: kantansugiru (簡単すぎる).

With Verbs

For the verbs, it’s pretty similar to adjectives. Take out ru (る) from ru-verbs, and change u (う) from u-verbs to i (い). The format is:

U-verb (without う) + い + すぎる

Ru-verbs (without る) + すぎる

Here’s an example for u-verb in a sentence: “I drank too much beer”. “Beer” is easy: bīru (ビール). To drink is nomu (飲む), then and because it’s an u-verb, you change the ending う to い, and you get nomi (飲み) Using the format, you get: “bīru wo nomisugita.”(ビールを飲みすぎた。)

すぎる conjugates like a ru-verb, so its past tense is sugita.

Here’s an example for a ru-verb in a sentence: “I ate too much for dinner.” “Dinner” is yūshoku (夕食). “To eat” is taberu (食べる), which becomes tabe (食べ). The sentence you get using the format is: “yūshoku ni tabesugita. (夕食に食べすぎた。) 

Now, to say something’s not enough, there are two ways — the first is using the word tarinai, the negation of tariru which means “to be enough”. So if you want to say “I don’t have enough money”, we say it as “okane ga tarinai”. Oh, aren’t we all short on cash… But anyway, this phrase is more often attached to nouns as it translates more closely to “there isn’t enough….”

Another way is using juubun (it literally translates to ten parts but in Japanese it refers to being 100%). If you want to say you haven’t eaten enough, you say it as “juubun ni tabetenai”. You have to negate the verb in the sentence when you use juubun.

Not Enough 足りない and 十分〜ない

What about… if you don’t have enough money! Or what if for dinner, instead of eating too much, you didn’t eat enough?

To say something’s not enough, there are two ways: the first is using the word tarinai足りない, the negation of tariru足りる which means “to be enough”. This phrase is more often attached to nouns as it translates more closely to “there isn’t enough….” You add ga after the noun. The format is:

Noun + が + 足りない

Here’s an example sentence: “I don’t have enough money”. “Money” is “okane” (お金). Then using the format we get this sentence: “okane ga tarinai.” (お金が足りない。)

Another way is using “juubun” (十分). It literally translates to ten parts but in Japanese it refers to being 100%. This phrase can be used with verbs. First, you add the phrase then add ni (に). Then, you have to negate the verb in the sentence. The format is:

十分 + に + Verb (ない form)

Noun + 十分 + じゃない

十分 + な + Noun + がない

Let’s translate this sentence using the verb format: “I haven’t eaten enough”. Following the format, you get: “juubun ni tabenai.” (十分に食べない。)

BONUS: Requesting using 多めで and 少なめ

When you get something too much or not enough, you might find yourself requesting to fix it. You might want to make requests to add more of something because it’s not enough or add less of something because it’s too much. This was something I had to figure out the hard way, but not for you guys!

If you want more of something, you use the phrase “omori de” (おもりで) or oome de” (多めで) after the noun. The format is:

Noun + おもりで / 多めで

Say you want a larger portion of rice or pasta at a restaurant. You’d want to say something like this: “a large portion of rice, please”. “Rice” is gohan (ご飯). Then add the phrase to get: “gohan omori de onegaishimasu”. (ご飯おもりでお願いします)

Let’s have an example with the other phrase. Say you want more pickles in your dish, for whatever reason, just say “pikurusu oome de onegaishimasu”. (ピクルス多めでお願いします。)

What about the opposite? What if you want less of something? 

Something that’s extremely fresh in my memory is when I went to Starbucks and wanted to ask for less syrup in my coffee — I don’t know why, but Starbucks coffee is always extremely sweet! So I found out that all you have to do is say “sukuname” (少なめ) to mean less than usual.

Noun + 少なめ

So in my case, using the format we get: “shiroppu sukuname onegaishimasu!” (シロップ少なめお願いします。)

Vocab Recap

We used a lot of new words in the episode, so let’s have a list for reference:

Furui (古い) — old

Kantan (簡単) — easy

Tariru (足りる) — to be enough

Okane (お金) — money

Karai (辛い) — spicy

Chuumon (注文) — order. The verb is chuumon suru (注文する)

Kirai (嫌い) — hate

Sushi ya (寿司屋) — sushi shop. Ya (屋) can be attached to anything to mean shop, like ramen ya  (ラメン屋) is Ramen shop

Itsumo (いつも) — always

Aji (味) — flavour or taste

Nemu (眠む) — to rest or sleep. Nemuru (眠る) is also another way to say to sleep 

Enki (延期) — postponement

Tanoshimi suru (楽しみする) — to look forward to something

Tomodachi (友達) — friend

Shoukai suru (紹介する) — to introduce

Nomikai (飲み会) — drinking party

Too Much or Not Enough?

So you see, the grammar language introduced here is useful for both travel and everyday conversations. What is something that is too much or not enough for you recently?

If you’re interested in similar bite-sized grammar pointers, head over to the Nihongo Master Podcast for more. On the blog, we have recap posts of our podcast episodes — not only is there a brief summary of what we discussed in each episode but also the full vocab list for you to refer back to.