17 Different Ways To Say “Bye” in Japanese

17 Different Ways To Say “Bye” in Japanese

Just like how you learn how to say hello when picking up a new language, you also learn how to say bye. If you haven’t checked it out already, we have an article about ways to say hello, too. 

In English, we have a few different phrases that we use interchangeably when bidding farewell to someone — “see you”, “catch you later” and the standard “bye” are just to name a few. Would it be so surprising to say that it’s similar in Japanese?

There are tons of ways to say bye — some are more general while others are used in specific settings. Some are better to use with people you’re familiar with; others are more appropriately used in the formal setting.

We’ve compiled a total of 17 ways in this list — shall we take a look at what they are?

1. Sayonara (さようなら)

The first one is the one that we learn first when picking up Japanese: sayonara (さようなら). This is the direct Japanese equivalent of goodbye. There is one major difference, though: you can use “goodbye” in a casual setting without it holding any heavier connotations, whereas “sayonara” has a strong sense of finality — if you say it to someone, it’s like as if you expect to not see that person any time soon. 

A lot of Japanese people don’t really use this as compared to the rest on this list.

2. Jaa ne (じゃあね)

This next one is one you hear quite often in anime (アニメ) and J-drama — “jaa ne” (じゃあね) is used in casual situations to say bye. This is kind of like saying “see ya” to your friend after school when parting ways. 

You’ll hear this phrase often among friends and people who are familiar with each other, like relatives.

3. Mata ne (またね)

This phrase is similar to the previosu one. “Mata ne” (またね) has the word “mata” (また) in it which means “again”, so this phrase somehow means “see you again”. “Mata ne” is most often used among casual friends.

If you’ve listened to any episode of our Nihongo Master podcast, we end it off with “mata ne” every time!

4. Mata ashita (また明日)

“Mata ashita” combines two words: “mata” and “ashita” (明日), which means “tomorrow”. This phrase can translate to “see you tomorrow”. Just like the previous one, you use this with friends and family casually, but with one slight difference: you use this if you’re meeting them the next day. 

You can change the word for “tomorrow” for something else — if you want to say “see you next week”, you can say it as “mata raishuu” (また来週). 

5. Mata kondo (また今度)

Another “mata” phrase to say bye is “mata kondo” (また今度). The word “kondo” means “next time”, so this phrase is like saying “see you again next time”! Compared to the other two, this casual phrase is used when you haven’t really planned a date to meet next, but implying you’d want to — or at least, I do it that way. 

6. Mata aou (また会おう)

Similarly, “mata aou” (また会おう), which has the meaning of “let’s meet again” is a casual way to say bye and somehow implying that you want to meet again. The polite version of this phrase is “mata aimashou” (また会いましょう).

7. Kyou arigatou (今日ありがとう)

Moving on from the “mata” bye phrases, we have “kyou arigatou” (今日ありがとう). This combines two words: kyou (今日) to mean “today” and arigatou (ありがとう) to mean “thank you”. Together, it holds the meaning of “thanks for today”. It’s used pretty similar to the English translation.

8. Otsukaresama (お疲れ様)

This next one is a pretty common one: otsukarsama (お疲れ様) means “thanks for your hard work”. While it’s said for the usage of its actual meaning, most of the time, it’s used to say bye. You’ll hear this quite often — when you’re finished with work and parting ways with your coworkers at the end of the day or after club practice at school.

The more formal version is “otsukaresama deshita” (お疲れ様でした), but you can even be super casual by dropping the “sama” and “deshita” to make “otsukare”.

9. Ki wo tsukete (気をつけて)

This phrase is used just like the English phrase “take care”. That’s actually the exact translation for ki wo tsukete (気をつけて). When you’re parting ways with someone, you can combine this with any of the other phrases above to say bye — or even on its own.

10. Genki de (元気で)

While you can say the previous phrase as a way to say bye to someone who’s going on a long trip or moving to a different city or country, it’s more appropriate to say “genki de” (元気で) to mean “take care of yourself” or “all the best”. Genki (元気) actually means “healthy” or “lively”, but in this case, it’s like a wish for someone who’s going away.

11. Itte kimasu (行ってきます)

No more chat about going away for a long time — this one is used when you’re off for a while and will return. Say, you’re leaving for work or school in the morning, you say “itte kimasu” (行ってきます) to your family members before heading out the door.

If you hear the phrase and you’re the one not leaving, you can say this phrase back: “itterasshai” (行ってらっしゃい), which means “go and come back”. 

12. Bai bai (バイバイ)

I bet you can guess what this phrase means — “bai bai” (バイバイ) is the katakana (カタカナ) version of “bye-bye” in English. You use this casually, of course, and most of the time, girls are the ones using it. Guys can say it as well, but it does have a slight feminine tone to it.

13. Tanoshinde ne (楽しんでね)

While there’s another way to say “have a good day” in Japanese, it’s not as common as saying “tanoshinde ne” (楽しんでね). It translates to “have fun”, but people use it as a way to wish someone a good day as they say bye.

14. Osaki ni shitsureishimasu (お先に失礼します)

We have tons of casual ones, here’s a formal one: osaki ni shitsureishimasu (お先に失礼します). This is one that you use in the office to your senpais (先輩) or higher-ups like your boss and supervisor. If you’re leaving before them, you should use this phrase as it means “excuse me for leaving work before you.”

You can say this to your colleagues as an “apology” for leaving work to anyone that is still there working. Even if there is no work left, you can still say this.

15. Odaiji ni (お大事に)

If you’re not feeling well and go to the doctor’s in Japan, the doctor will say this to you when you’re leaving: “odaiji ni” (お大事に). This phrase means, “get well soon” or “feel better soon”. You can use it when you’re visiting friends or relatives who are sick, and instead of saying bye, you can use this phrase instead. 

Even if it’s just a phone call, you can still use it!

16. Ojama shimashita (お邪魔しました)

In Japan, when you go to someone’s home, it’s polite to greet with “ojama shimasu” (お邪魔します). This means “I’m intruding” or “I’m bothering you”. I think it’s because it’s someone else’s private space and you’re in it. Regardless of whether you’re invited over or dropping by impromptu, you still should say this phrase.

It’s the same for when you leave — you have to change the phrase to its past tense: ojama shimashita (お邪魔しました). This literally means “I’ve bothered you” but it can translate to “thanks for having me over” in nuance.

17. Osewa ni narimashita (お世話になりました)

Last but not least, another business one: osewa ni narimashita (お世話になりました). When you’re talking to someone who has helped you at work or a client, it’s best to say this phrase when saying goodbye. It literally translates to “thanks for everything” but it means, “thanks for taking care of me and supporting me”. 

You can use this when you’re ending a phone call with a client or to thank your coworker for helping you out big time. 

Which one of these ways to say bye will you use next time? Are there any ones that you have already been using and new ones that you’ll start using from now on? I hope you have these 17 “bye” phrases prepared for when you’re saying bye to a friend or a business client!

8 Japanese Culture Facts You Have to Know!

8 Japanese Culture Facts You Have to Know!

Japan is a country rich in culture and history. There’s no denying that. The Japanese people pride themselves in their cultural heritage. Everything from food and clothing to customs and manners, there’s a seamless blend of old and new in Japan’s culture.

 A lot of Japanese cultural aspects are worlds apart for most of us. Whether you’re planning to just travel to Japan or settling down here, you might be curious about some Japanese culture facts before your trip. Here are 8 Japanese culture facts you have to know! 

1. Bowing is the Japanese way of handshake

Senior Caucasian Businessman and Young Japanese Entrepreneur Bowing, Kyoto, Japan

For most Western countries, the handshake is the most common way to greet someone. Regardless of whether or not you are close to the person, a handshake is the most ideal. In Japan, however, the handshake is replaced with a bow. Bowing is basically the Japanese way of greeting.

There are various types of bow and with various customs attached to them. It can range from a slight nod to a full 90º bow. It depends on the situation what kind of bow to use. Arms are usually at the side of the body, but sometimes you can bow with your hands behind your back or on your chest. 

When in doubt, a standard 45º bow with hands by your side is a safe bet.

2. Baseball is very popular 

Just like how football is extremely popular in America and soccer is popular in the UK, Japan has baseball. Baseball is the most popular sport in Japan, even though sumo is the country’s national sport. While sumo is the sport people often associate the country with, baseball is the sport most locals watch and play. 

Introduced during the Meiji Period and became popular after World War II, Japan has two professional baseball leagues. Because it’s popular among school students, there are dozens of high school and university teams, too. Just like how American fans are with football matches and British fans at soccer matches, Japanese fans go crazy with chants and singing during baseball games. 

3. Drinking and eating while walking is rude

This next one is something I’m guilty of doing all the time. It’s pretty common to see someone munching on a bag of chips or sipping coffee on the way to work in a lot of country’s. In Japan, drinking and eating while walking around is rude. When buying food or beverage at a convenience store, you’ll see people standing outside the store and finishing their purchase before walking away.

Nowadays, it’s becoming less rude as compared to the olden days, but it’s still considered low-class behaviour and looked down upon. Some also think that it’s because eating and drinking while walking can make the streets dirty. Whatever the reason is, let’s avoid doing this as much as we can when in Japan.

4. Omiyage aren’t just souvenirs 

When we start learning Japanese, we learn the word “omigaye” (お土産). It usually translates to “souvenir”. The word actually has more meaning to it. It’s not like what we would refer to as souvenirs, like magnets and keychains. Omiyage refers to gifts you bring back for family, friends and co-workers after a trip, usually specialty food from various regions. 

Omiyage is often expected in Japanese culture. It’s not like Western countries where it’s more of a special gesture. It’s best to get ones in boxes with each item individually wrapped. This makes it easier to share with a big group of people. 

5. No tipping culture

Some countries require tipping in restaurants and cafes. It can be hard to adjust when in another country. In Japan, you don’t have to adjust too much, because tipping is not part of the culture here. If you were to leave extra change at the register, chances are you’ll have someone call you back because they thought you forgot your change. 

6. No slamming taxi doors

When you’re in Japan, remember not to slam the taxi doors here. That’s because the taxis here are all automatic. You don’t even have to touch the door handle to get in or get out of the taxi. The driver will open and close the door for you. 

Because Japanese taxi drivers are used to that, they’re not used to having the doors slammed. So keep in mind not to do that. It might give them a tiny scare from the sound of the slam!

7. Chopstick etiquette is crucial

If you’d been to Japan before, you would know that the most common utensil served at restaurants is the chopstick. You rarely see a fork in sight. Chopsticks are no casual matter in Japan. You’ve got to respect the chopstick etiquette. 

There’s actually a long list of things you can and cannot do with chopsticks in Japanese culture. One of the biggest no-no’s is to stick them upright in rice. This image is associated with funeral traditions.

It’s also inappropriate to pass food from one pair of chopsticks to another. The reason behind this is for hygiene purposes. 

8. Business cards are an extension of yourself

If you’re in Japan for business, bring a lot of business cards. In Japanese, this is known as ‘meishi’ (名詞). A business card is considered as an extension of oneself. Because of that, you ought to handle them with care. For both receiving and giving, be sure to do them with both hands. 

When you receive a business card, be sure to read it carefully and place it in front of you until the meeting or encounter ends. Do not shove it in your bag or back pocket of your trousers. This is considered extremely rude. Put it away in your wallet or a file. Similarly, when you give your business card to another person, they would treat it with utmost care.

Which is the most important Japanese culture fact?

There are dozens, if not hundreds, more of Japanese culture facts. But these 8 are important for you to know, especially before going to Japan. Which one of these are the most important in your opinion? 

20 Most Helpful Japanese Words

20 Most Helpful Japanese Words

Are you planning a trip to Japan soon and know zero Japanese? Or are you just getting started with the Japanese language? Either way, it’s important to get off on the right foot when dipping your toes into a new language. There are a handful of Japanese words that are more helpful than others. It’ll help those of you who are travelling to Japan survive day-to-day interactions, and ease into the language for those who are committed to studying Japanese.

Here we have a list of 20 of the most helpful Japanese words and phrases that you should have in memory before anything else. 

1. Konnichiwa (こんにちは)

Nothing is more essential than a hello. Konnichiwa (こんにちは) is the Japanese equivalent. It’s used in both formal and informal situations. You can use this at any time of the day. It’s such a broad greeting that you can use it in a lot of situations. It’s also a way of saying “good afternoon”.

2. Konbanwa (こんばんは)

While konnichiwa is the general greeting, there’s one for just the evening. That’s konbanha (こんばんは). This translates to “good evening”. Similar to konnichiwa, you can use konbanwa informally and formally. Just like how we use “good evening” only after the sun sets, we use konbanwa when it’s nighttime. 

3. Ohayou (おはよう)

So we have a general greeting which duals as an afternoon greeting, and an evening greeting. Now for the morning greeting: ohayou (おはよう). This greeting is slightly different from the first two where they can be used in both formal and informal situations. Ohayou is used mostly in informal situations. You have to add on “gozaimasu” (ございます) to make it formal: ohayou gozaimasu (おはようございます)

4. Arigatou Gozaimasu (ありがとうございます)

To show your gratitude, you thank them. In Japanese, you say “arigatou gozaimasu” (ありがとうございます). It has a similar ending as the formal morning greeting, making this version of “thank you” a formal one. Sometimes, this can be accompanied with a bow.

To make it informal, you can leave out the “gozaimasu”. “Arigatou” (ありがおう) can be used when you’re thanking someone casually. 

5. Onegaishimasu (お願いします)

Whether it’s a cashier offering a plastic bag to pack your goods or you’re ordering a dish on the menu, you ought to respond with “please”. You can use this Japanese word: onegaishimasu (お願いします). This has a more polite and honorific tone to it. Whenever you’re making a request, add this word at the end of your sentence. 

6. Yoroshiku (よろしく)

You can use yoroshiku (よろしく) like how you would use “please” as well. The word can loosely translate to “please take care of me” or “please treat me favourably”. You also use this to make a request as well as thank a person 

It’s also usually used when you just met someone new. Like how you’d say “nice to meet you”, you’d say “yoroshiku”.

To make it more formal, add the previous word to make “yoroshiku onegaishimasu” (よろしくお願いします).

7. Kudasai (ください)

Remember the two words we used to make requests, onegaishimasu and yoroshiku? There’s also a third one: kudasai (ください). In comparison to “onegaishimasu”, kudasai is a more familiar way to make requests. It’s more common to say “onegaishimasu” on its own while with “kudasai”, it’s more common to attach a verb or noun before it. I’ve heard it being said on its own as well, though.

8. Sumimasen (すみません)

You might find yourself in a situation where you need to apologise or excuse yourself. For example, you’re crammed into a train and need to go through the crowd to make your way out. To say “excuse me”, you use this Japanese word: sumimasen (すみません). It works in a similar way to get your waiter’s attention at the restaurant. Just like how you’d call out “excuse me”, you can call out “sumimasen”.

This word can also be used to apologise formally.

9. Gomennasai (ごめんなさい)

While “sumimasen” can be used to apologise, a more useful Japanese word to say sorry is “gomennnasai” (ごめんなさい). You use this word just like how you use “sorry”. You can cut the word short to “gomen” (ごめん) for the casual way of apologising to friends. 

Credit: Parker Ulry on Unsplash

10. Itadakimasu (いただきます)

So far, the Japanese words were responses. This next one is more of an exclamation or remark. “Itadakimasu” (いただきます) can be translated to “thank you for the food”, but it’s used just like how you’d use “bon appetit”. You say it before you start eating your meal. At the end of it, you can say “gochisousama” (ごちそうさま) which can translate to “thank you for the food” or “the food was delicious”.

11. Omakase (おまかせ)

Omakase (おまかせ) is a very useful word when you don’t know what to order. When you request “omakase” at a restaurant, you’re leaving your dish up to the chef or the restaurant. You’re basically going to be surprised by the shop. This culture of “omakase” is regularly used in sushi restaurants and a big part of kaiseki (懐石), a type of Japanese traditional cuisine.

12. Osusume (おすすめ)

While omakase leaves it up to the chef, osusume (おすすめ) is just the recommendation. The chef or restaurant is not making the decision for you, but rather recommending you their best options. This can not only be used at restaurants but also in other places like retail shops.

13. Ii (いい)

This next word is pretty simple. “Ii” (いい) translates to “yes”. You can also say “hai” (はい), but “ii desu” (いいです) has a nicer tone to it. You can use this to agree with something, or also to brush something away. For example, if you want to say “it’s okay” or “it’s fine”, you can say “Ii desu yo” (いいですよ), “Daijoubu” also works in that case.

14. Iie (いいえ)

To say no, you can use the word “iie” (いいえ). This is a formal way of saying no or rejecting an offer. You can add the word “kekkou” (結構) to emphasise on the “no”. “Iie, kekkou desu” (いいえ、結構です) is like saying “no, thank you, I’ve had enough”.

15. Daijoubu (大丈夫)

“Daijoubu” (大丈夫) is a flexible and extremely helpful Japanese word. It can be used to say “it’s okay” or “never mind”. It can also be used to agree by saying “yes, that’s fine”. It’s a one-word answer for quite a lot of questions that can sometimes cause miscommunication (in a good way).

16. Iranai (いらない)

To reject a request, you can use “iie”. To reject an object, you can also use “iranai” (いらない). This helpful Japanese word translates to “I don’t need it”. If a cashier asks you if you need a plastic bag, you can respond with this word. The same goes for declining a copy of a receipt or straw.

17. Douzo (どうぞ)

When you’re giving way to someone or letting them know they can go ahead of you, use this helpful Japanese word: douzo (どうぞ). In that situation, it can be translated to “after you”. You can also use this word when you’re signalling someone that they can start something. Say you’re letting someone know they can start presenting during a meeting, you can say to them “hai, douzo” (はい、どうぞ), which translates to “please, go ahead and start”.

Credit: Fraser Cottrell on Unsplash

18. ~ wa doko desu ka? (〜はどこですか?)

When travelling to a new country, you can quite easily get lost. I use this phrase on a daily basis to ask where the toilet is. It’s always best to know how to do that in Japanese. The phrase is “doko desu ka?” (どこですか?). All you have to do is add the location you’re asking about before the phrase. In my case, “where’s the toilet” is “toire ha doko desu ka?” (トイレはどこですか?).

19. ~ arimasuka? (〜ありますか?)

Whether you’re shopping or asking if there’s a toilet nearby (this seems to be an essential stop for everyone), you’re going to want to ask “do you have…?” or “is there…?” For both questions, you can use this Japanese word: “arimasuka?” (ありますか?) Similar to the previous phrase, you just add the item or location you want to ask about before the word. If you want to ask if there’s an S size, say it like this: “esu saizu ga arimasuka?” (エスサイズがありますか?)

20. ~ ikura desu ka? (〜いくらですか?)

Another useful phrase is asking about the price. Almost everything in the world is about money, so we can’t leave this helpful Japanese phrase out: ikura desu ka? (いくらですか?) You can use this phrase on its own and just gesturing to the item you’re asking about, or you can add the word before the phrase: “kono kaban ha ikura desu ka?” (このカバンはいくらですか?) translates to “how much is this bag?” 

Be sure to memorise your numbers in Japanese first!

Memorise them all!

While there are dozens more helpful Japanese words to add on, these 20 are a good starting point to building your Japanese language skills. Whether you’re using it for travel or daily conversations, it’s best to cover the essentials. Start memorising them all now if you haven’t! 

Want to Learn Basic Japanese Language Fast? Here’s How!

Want to Learn Basic Japanese Language Fast? Here’s How!

The question that everyone wants to know the answer to when they’re interested in picking up Japanese language is: “how long does it take to learn beginner Japanese?” Whether your reason for wanting to learn the language is because of your upcoming trip to Tokyo or you want to watch anime without subtitles, it’s still a question that pops in your mind.

There’s no one straight answer to this question. There are a lot of factors that play a part in the duration of one’s learning journey. Read our other article to find what these factors are!

We’ll have a look at a general timeline of learning beginner Japanese in this article. This is provided that you work with a tutor and regularly practice. 

Learning writing systems: 2-4 weeks

The Japanese writing systems are important. There are three: hiragana (ひらがな), katakana (カタカナ) and kanji (漢字). Some might prefer to learn Japanese with romaji (ロマじ) but I definitely don’t recommend. You should learn the writing systems alongside learning basic grammar and phrases.

Learning the first two writing systems can take 2 to 4 weeks to ace. The key is to be exposed to the writing systems every day, whether you have a practice sheet to write them down or flash cards. 

Kanji, on the other hand, is a long, long process. Pick up a few characters as you go along on your learning journey. I’d recommend learning from the JLPT lists from the easiest up, as they cover more basic and everyday kanji in JLPT N5.

Building vocabulary: 2-3 months

Of course, you’ve got to build up your Japanese vocabulary. Similarly, this is best learnt alongside learning basic grammar, but you’ll have to learn more than 200 words to reach a basic comprehension level. This includes greetings and numbers. Similar to learning kanji characters, learning the vocabulary words from JLPT N5 lists is the best way to start building your vocabulary. 

You’ll soon begin to recognise these words used in conversation among locals and start to understand based on context clues. When you reach this stage, start taking down the words you hear that you don’t know and search it up after. This greatly helps you to know more conversational words.

Learning phrases & beginner grammar: 2-4 months

Once you know a few Japanese words, it’ll be easier to practice beginner grammar points. Even if you know some Japanese grammar and phrases, it would be difficult to put it into practice when you don’t know the Japanese words for certain things.

Beginner Japanese grammar gets easier the more you learn. At the start, it can be difficult to adjust to the sentence structure, especially if your native language is like English where the sentence structure is the opposite way. But the more you learn and practice, the more natural it becomes.

My advice is to not be too hung up on particular details. Don’t worry about which particle to use. If your aim is to be able to communicate at the basic level when you travel to Japan, then it wouldn’t matter as much. If you aim to take a proficiency test in the future, you should pay attention, just not obsessively. 

Tips to learning more efficiently

Learning a new language can be a challenge. Rather than a challenge of understanding, it’s a challenge of effort and motivation. When our motivation is down, it affects our progress in the learning journey. We’ll give you 3 tips to learn Japanese more efficiently.

1. Consistently practice

Practice is the key here, and you have to do it consistently. The ideal situation is to set aside a couple of minutes each day to memorise the writing systems and new vocabulary words, and a couple of days a week to study the grammar points. It’s not too hard to set aside this time to study Japanese if you are really motivated to be able to speak it.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

From my personal experience, I get too self conscious about being wrong. It affected my potential to improve. So I advise you to be more daring than me and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t worry if you get something wrong. You’re just learning, anyway. The Japanese locals are always more than happy to help those who have interest in their language. 

3. Make studying fun

Some people might think that studying is a chore. But the thing is, it doesn’t have to be. Studying can be fun if you make it to be. If you think earning alone is boring, find study buddies to study together. If you don’t like writing, get flash cards to act as visual aids. There are so many ways to study. You just have to find the style that suits you and keeps you motivated to study Japanese!

6 Months For Basic Comprehension… Challenge Accepted?

A rough estimate to learn basic Japanese is 6 months. I’ve known friends who’ve done it in 3, and some others took longer. At the end of the day, it really depends on each individual. So what do you say, do you accept the challenge to learn basic Japanese in 6 months? Check out Nihongo Master for a fun and easy way to go from absolute beginner to fluent! Good luck! 

Top 10 Most Popular Japanese Words! Thanks, Google!

Top 10 Most Popular Japanese Words! Thanks, Google!

The Japanese language isn’t new to most people – they’ve at least heard of it. But while not a lot of foreigners know how to speak it fluently, there are a few Japanese words that are more popular than others. We have Google to thank for that. They’re used in English conversations – heck, they might even be used in other languages’ conversations, too.

So, what are the most popular Japanese words? We’ve shortlisted the top 10 for you in this article. If you can get all 10 of them right before reading, you’re a tensai (天才)!

1. Anime (アニメ)

Who is surprised that the first Japanese word on this list is “anime” (アニメ)? It’s, without a doubt, one of the most popular Japanese words. Anime refers to Japanese animation or cartoons that originated from Japan. This genre of animation has become so popular that the Japanese word for it also caught on. I don’t think I know anyone that doesn’t know the meaning of this word as soon as they hear it instantly. I wouldn’t be surprised if the word “anime” becomes an official word in the English dictionary! 

2. Otaku (オタク)

The next popular Japanese word is “otaku” (オタク). It’s considerably less popular than the word “anime”, but those who are an actual otaku would know what it means. “Otaku” is a Japanese term to refer to those who have obsessive interests, particularly in Japanese culture, anime or manga (漫画), Japanese comics. Usually, this word is regarded as offensive and has a negative connotation. However, in recent years, it’s becoming a more neutral term.

3. Karaoke (カラオケ)

Who doesn’t like singing their hearts out? Karaoke (カラオケ) is not only popular in Japan but also abroad, too. Karaoke places are everywhere in Japan. You can find a karaoke box on almost every street, fully equipped with state-of-the-art karaoke systems, comfy sofas and an extensive food and drinks menu. 

Karaoke in Japan might be different from karaoke elsewhere, but it’s a word popularly used to refer to any type of singing openly or with a group of friends. 

4. Ramen (ラーメン)

It would be unbelievable if this word isn’t on the list. Ramen (ラーメン) is undoubtedly one of the most popular Japanese words. This noodle dish has become a signature dish of Japanese cuisine around the world. Even those who’ve never been to Japan would consider ramen as one of their favourite dishes. 

5. Teriyaki (照り焼き)

Another food-related Japanese word that’s one of the most popular words is “teriyaki” (照り焼き). This word refers to the style of cooking in the Japanese cuisine where the meat is grilled or cooked glazed in soy sauce. Chicken is commonly used in this type of cooking. 

Teriyaki-style dishes are so popular worldwide. I’m convinced that some people wouldn’t even know that teriyaki is a Japanese word!

6. Sushi (寿司)

Who doesn’t like sushi (寿司)? This is also another type of Japanese cuisine. The word “sushi” has become so popular – just as popular as the actual food itself. This rice and seafood combination has stolen the hearts of many all around the world. There are even variations to the original version of the Japanese sushi – a lot can agree that the sushi in America is vastly different from the ones you get in Japan itself.

7. Sudoku (数独)

Anyone who’s into puzzles and a slow burn game would love sudoku (数独). Heck, even those who don’t like it would know about it. This puzzle game is a great way to give your brain a good workout. There are nine boxes of nine boxes in them. Each row and column has to contain numbers from one to nine. Each box also has to have one of each number. It’s not a game for the weak, and definitely if you don’t have the patience. But it’s undeniable that it’s a popular game, and so is the Japanese word.

8. Sakura (桜)

One of Japan’s most iconic look is its spring cherry blossoms known as “sakura” (桜). People all over the world travel to The Land of the Rising Sun during this season to witness the beautiful pink blooms that take over the landscapes of the country. Because cherry blossoms are so popular and closely associated with Japan, the Japanese word for it also becomes extremely popular!

9. Kawaii (かわいい)

Whether or not you watch anime, Japanese dramas or movies, you probably have heard the Japanese word for “cute”, and that is “kawaii” (かわいい). It really is a cute way to compliment your friend or girlfriend. Just the sound of the word is cute in itself. Maybe that’s the reason why this word is so popular – so many people who don’t even know Japanese know the meaning of this word!

10. Mottainai (もったいない)

Last but not least, one of the most popular Japanese words is “mottainai” (もったいない). This is an adjective that has the meaning of “wasteful”. This word also has a different meaning, to mean “reduce, reuse, recycle”. I guess, in general, this word can be used to describe anything that could go to waste, so why not practice the three R’s? It’s used among a lot of gaijins (外人) to talk about giving away their furniture when they move out – talking from personal experience. 

Which is the most popular Japanese word for you?

There are actually a long list of Japanese words that are popular. I might argue that more than half of them are food-related, but who could argue against Japanese food being amazing? Anyway, the Japanese language has countless words that are underrated in meaning and popularity – what Japanese word do you think should get more attention? And what Japanese word is the most popular, in your opinion? 

Japanese office culture & things you need to know about work in Japan!

Japanese office culture & things you need to know about work in Japan!

Working in Japan is like a dream for a lot of us. Japan has an abundance of jobs for foreigners, and we have a whole article on the best ones you can apply for. However, Japan’s office culture can be quite foreign. Its emphasis on harmony, teamwork and hierarchy isn’t something all of us are familiar with. 

So if you’re planning to move to Japan for work, prepare yourself for some deep roots in traditional values in the working environment. Start off with our list of 8 characteristics of Japanese working culture. Some might come as a surprise to you!

Long working hours

Yes, the rumours are true. Japan’s work culture includes long working hours. In fact, the country has one of the world’s longest working hours! There’s a concept that’s actively practised in Japanese offices: the concept of of “gaman” (我慢) and “ganbaru” (頑張る), which is the passive endurance and active perseverance, 

Overtime work can go unpaid, and employees are often expected to work overtime. The paid leave that is given to employees is also commonly not taken because the Japanese fear of inconveniencing their coworkers if they do it. 

Don’t let this scare you from working in Japan. Not all companies are like this. Especially in recent years, the country is taking measures to prevent the overworking culture. I’ve never had to work overtime and not get paid! 

The work hierarchy

In Japanese culture, there’s a strong emphasis on hierarchy. This is also present in the office. The relationship between a junior and senior is important. This is known as the nenkou-joretsu (年功序列) system. Seniors are expected to be respected because of their higher position. 

This hierarchy isn’t just title; it affects promotion and salary, among many others. New employees start off at the bottom of the chain. With each new promotion, their title and salary go up. 

With this system, it encourages employees to stay with a company for a longer period of time rather than hopping from one company to another. However, similar to the long hours, Japanese companies are gradually changing to the global merit-based system. 

There’s no “I” in “team”

There’s a strong emphasis on teamwork in Japan offices. The group harmony (or wa 和, in Japanese) is more important than individualism. Rather than voicing out your own personal opinions or interests, you’re expected to work as a team and maintain peace with one another.

It’s a more holistic approach as compared to Western companies, where individuals are encouraged to stand out from the rest. 

While it may be seen as a negative approach, the positive side of this team mentality is that team members take care of each other. When one member struggles, the whole team does. The managers often take up the role of mentors, so workers often get guidance at work. 

Mandatory after-work drinking

If you love to drink, you would love to work in a Japanese company. One of the social etiquettes of Japanese working culture is the after-work drinking. In Japanese, this is known as “nomikai” (飲み会). Japanese companies bring out their employees to drink often to strengthen their relationship with each other and the company. It’s also a way to network in Japan and get the opportunity to climb up the corporate ladder.

Work drinking parties can get out of hand, to the extent of someone passing out! It’s such a common sight in Japan, unfortunately. It’s best to know what your alcohol limit is. But also make use of the free drinks – the boss usually always pays!

An open workspace

To add on to the team mentality in Japanese office culture, the office layout often features an open structure. Known as obeya seido (お部屋制度), desks are grouped together with team members to encourage communication and cohesion. Because of this layout, Japanese offices can get noisier than those with the cubicle layout. For those of us who are more used to a cubicle at the office, this might be quite a change. 

It’s the journey rather than the end-goal

Some companies only care about the results. For Japanese companies, it’s the process that matters. They evaluate based on what work was done and how it was done rather than just what resulted from it. With this type of approach, employees focus more on the actions taken and problem-solving. While results are important, the journey is just as crucial. 

Lonely lunchtime

Even though Japanese work culture involves frequent after-work drinking, lunch breaks are often spent alone. It’s not an uncommon sight to see a salaryman dining alone during his lunch break. In fact, most locals prefer this!

That’s because lunchtime is considered personal time away from work. Most take this time to run personal errands or just peace and quiet by themselves. Since a lot of Japanese people plan their lunch break in advance, it’s best to ask the day before if you want to have lunch together with them the next day. 

No “water cooler breaks”

Chitchat is common in any office. Even in Japanese offices, there’s always chatter among team members. However, taking breaks and chatting is not part of Japanese office culture. Even spending too much time on your phone is frowned upon. Others might have the impression that you’re not taking your job seriously and slacking off. 

If you need a break, take a quick power nap. It’s more acceptable than chatting with others, which might even be taken as disturbing others while they are working!

Work-culture shock?

The office culture in Japan is definitely different from a lot of other countries’ work culture. It’s an environment that might need getting used to, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, it’s just as fun! Do you think you’ll be work-culture shocked on your first day on the job in Japan? 

10 super cool Japanese slang words you need to know!

10 super cool Japanese slang words you need to know!

Regardless of what level of proficiency you’re at in Japanese, there is just some stuff that they won’t teach you in textbooks. In any language, people use slang words. Most of the time, they’re the younger crowd. But slang words are what make your conversational skills more natural.

We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 cool Japanese words that the kids are saying today. By the end of the article, you’ll be chatting like one of the cool kids!

1. Osu! (おっす!)

The first of the list of Japanese words is osu (おっす). This is used as a greeting among friends. Back in the day, this type of greeting was a military greeting. It was considered very formal. Nowadays, it’s as casual as it can get. So don’t go greeting your bosses with this!

Osu is used in the same way we use “what’s up?” in English. I’ve heard a lot of my friends using it, but it’s mostly guys that say this to each other. It’s definitely fine if a girl says it, but it does have a more masculine ring to it.

2. Chō (超)

This next Japanese word is pretty common. Chō (超) is translated to “super” or “very”. Instead of using “totemo” (とても), you can use this Japanese word in its place. For example, if you want to say something is very fast, you can say it as “chō hayai” (超早い).

It’s said that it’s more commonly used in Eastern Japan, but I hear it all the time. I even use it myself. Japanese people use it on a daily basis. Alternatively, you can use the Japanese word “meccha” (めっちゃ), which has similar meanings.

3. Hanpa nai (半端ない)

“Hanpa nai” (半端ない) is commonly used among the youngsters. The word “hanpa” has the meaning of something that is incomplete, but when you say it in this phrase, it’s used when describing something is insane, figuratively speaking.

It’s not to talk about someone that’s insane in the head, but for situations. Hanpa nai can be use for good and bad. If it’s raining so heavily and you’re thinking, “the rain is insane!” then you can say it as “ame hanpa nai!” (半端ない)

4. Maji (まじ)

This next Japanese word is one that I like to use often: maji (まじ). This word can have a few different meanings. The first one is when you’re exclaiming like “are you serious?”. You can say that as “maji de?” (まじで?)

The other meaning to it is the same meaning as chō , which means “very”. So if you want to say something is so insane, you can say it as “maji de hanpa nai” (まじで半端ない). 

5. Gachi (ガチ)

One Japanese word that kids nowadays like to use is “gachi” (ガチ). This word translates to “seriously”. It’s kind of similar to “maji” in that sense. However, “maji” can be used on its own but “gachi” can’t. It has to be attached to something.

For example, if you want to say that something is seriously funny, you can say it as “gachi de omoshiroi” (ガチで面白い). Impress your Japanese friends by saying that sentence next time!

6. Ukeru (ウケる)

“Ukeru” (ウケる) literally translates to “to take”, but the kids these days have been using it as a slang. It’s used as a reaction to something that’s funny. Although it’s classified as a verb, it can be used as a verb as well as an interjection.

If your friend said something so hilarious, you can laugh at him and then add “ウケる” at the end. It’s like saying “haha, you’re hilarious!”

7. Bimyō (微妙)

Our next Japanese word doesn’t have a direct translation to English. “Bimyō” (微妙) can be translated to as “questionable” or “doubtful”, but the kids today are using it as slang for something that’s neither good nor bad. Most of the time, it’s closer to being bad than google

Say you’re trying on some clothes and asking your friend what she thinks about it. If she responses with “bimyō”, it means she doesn’t really think it’s that great…but not super bad either. 

8. Dasai (ダサい)

You might have heard of this one in anime or Japanese drama. They do use this word in real life, too! “Dasai” (ダサい) can refer to both looks and action, and it’s a way of expressing that someone or something is ugly. 

If someone is doing something bad or inconsiderate, you can respond to their action with “dasai”. Similarly, if you see someone on the street wearing rugged clothing and it looks awful, you can say that it’s “dasai”.

9. Uzai (うざい)

If you’re feeling a bit annoyed by something or someone, use this word: uzai (うざい). Say you’re pointing to a person and wants to say that they’re annoying, you can say it this way: “ano hito, uzai!” (あの人、うざい).

Another way of saying something or someone is annoying is by using the word “mukatsuku” (ムカつく). The word has more of a meaning of “irritating”. This one can be used in a sentence or on its own, too. 

10. Yabai (やばい)

Last but not least, the Japanese word you should have at the top of your Japanese vocabulary list is “yabai” (やばい). This word translates to “terrible” or “awful”, but in slang term, it doesn’t necessarily mean bad. It can also be used to refer to positive things.

You can use “yabai” to describe just about anything, good or bad, person or thing. It’s like a reaction phrase. If you see something incredible happening in front of you, you can react with a “yabai!” If your food tastes bad, you can also describe it as “yabai”.

It’s an all-rounder word that’s used by many young people in Japan. I’ve met older Japanese people who don’t understand why the kids today are using the word in that context. But hey, we’re out here trying to sound cool.

While we only list 10 cool Japanese words, there are so many more that’s used as slang. When you’re travelling to Japan, hang out with some of the locals and listen in. You may hear a word or two that you never knew about!

10 English Words That Are Really Japanese Words

10 English Words That Are Really Japanese Words

We know that the Japanese language has borrowed more than a few words from the English language. But what about the other way round? Are there any English words that are actually of Japanese origin? 

There are, actually. In fact, there are quite a few words that we use often. Of course, the usual suspects “ramen” and “sushi” are obviously from the Japanese language, along with “samurai” and “kimono”. But there are a handful of words that aren’t as known and obvious.

We’ve compiled a short but interesting list of 10 English words that are actually really Japanese. Keep scrolling to find out what they are!

1. Origami

The paper-folding craft, known to us as “origami”, is actually of Japanese origin! The word is made up of two Japanese words: “ori” (おり) to mean “fold” and “kami” (紙) to mean “paper”. When put together, it means “folded paper”. In Japanese, though, “origami” refers to a folded official document like a certificate.

Originally, the names for this paper folding craft include “orimono”, “orikata” and “orisue”. The change to “origami” is still unclear to this day, but it’s believed to start around the 20th century. Some say it was easier for Japanese kids to spell during Japan’s kindergarten movement in the late 19th century. Others say it might be because the English translation for the word makes more sense to use it.

Will we ever know the real reason?

2. Typhoon

If you don’t know it yet, a typhoon is a rotating giant storm of wind and rain. It’s similar to a hurricane as both are kinds of tropical cyclones. This word actually comes from a Japanese word for the same thing: taifu (台風). The kanji used “風” actually means “wind”. 

3. Emoji

Did you know that word for the small symbols you type in messages is actually Japanese? “Emoji” is used to express your emotional attitude on electronic devices like smartphones and laptops, and often gives a more playful tone. 

The word comes from the Japanese word “moji” (文字) which means “character” or “letter” and “e” (絵) which means “picture” or “drawing”. When put together, the meaning is like putting a picture in a letter. And now we have our beloved smiley faces.

4. Rickshaw

Rickshaws are light vehicles that often have two wheels and are pulled by a person. Usually, the person is either pulling it while on foot or on a bicycle. You often see this in Asia, and first used in Japan in the late 1800s. 

Originally, the word “rickshaw” (which is also spelled as “ricksha”) had another syllable in front of it. The original word was “jinricksha”, sometimes spelled as “jinrikisha”. This word comes from the Japanese language. It’s a combination of three words: “jin” (人) to mean “man”, “riki” (力) to mean “strength” and “sha” (車) to mean “carriage”. When you put it together, it means “strong man carriage”.

5. Sudoku

If you like puzzles, then you probably have played sudoku before. This 9×9 grid of squares contains 3×3 boxes. Each box has the numbers 1 to 9, and every row of the grid also has to contain the numbers 1 to 9.

The word “sudoku” is actually the short form of the Japanese phrase “sūji wa dokushin ni kagiru”. This means “the numerals must remain single” — it’s saying that the digits can only appear once. The word “sudoku” itself only made it into English publications early this century.

6. Skosh

Maybe not all of you know this word — heck, I didn’t — but “skosh” means “a small amount”. This word was introduced by the US soldiers who were stationed in Japan after World War II. They learned the word from the Japanese word “sukoshi” (少し). This Japanese word, when spoken, is pronounced “skoh-shee”.

7. Honcho

Is your boss at work a hotshot? Then he’s a “honcho”. This word refers to the person in charge of other people. It was introduced by the Americans who were imprisoned in Japan during the Second World War. 

“Honcho” comes from the Japanese word “hanchō” (班長) to mean “squad leader”. “Han” refers to “squad” and “chō” refers to “head” or “chief”. 

8. Futon

That cotton-filled mattress on your bed, couch or chair is known as a “futon”. This is a word we all commonly use, but did you know it’s actually a Japanese word? Futon, spelled and pronounced the same in Japanese as 布団, is a staple of small apartments and dorms. 

In English, futon is something that you sleep on, but in Japanese, it can refer to a thick comforter. 

9. Tycoon

Don’t mistake this word for the tropical cyclone. A tycoon is someone who is a top leader, usually in politics, or a very wealthy businessperson. This word is often used in the latter meaning. 

How the word came to be associated with the meaning of a political leader is interesting. The first time an American consul came to Japan after the country opened up its borders, the shogun (the military deputy) was assumed to be a secular emperor. The American thought the shogun’s title was “taikun”, like the Chinese characters “dà” to mean “great” and “jūn” to mean “prince.” The spelling “tycoon” became popular in America to refer to political leaders, but began to fade in usage.

It was revived in the 1920s in journalism to refer to wealthy businessmen.

10. Hunky-dory

Our last word is something you wouldn’t quite expect to be of Japanese origin. To be honest, the origin of this term is still a mystery to this day.  “Hunky-dory”, as we all know, means “fine” or “satisfactory”. 

The term “hunky” came from the Dutch “honk” to mean “home”. In the 19th century, this became an adjective to mean “all right” or “safe and sound”. A theory of how “dory” came about is when American sailors were stationed in Japan. There was a thoroughfare that the sailors often used and described it as “hunky”. The Japanese word for “road” is “tori” or “dori” (取). It could be said that the sailors might’ve combined the two words to refer to that as a “satisfactory street”.

Which word surprises you the most?

As we said earlier, there are more English words that are derived from the Japanese language, but I think that these 10 are the most unique ones. Out of them all, which ones did you not expect to be of Japanese origin? 

Kūki wo Yomu: How to “read the room” in Japanese

Kūki wo Yomu: How to “read the room” in Japanese

When you’ve spent quite a bit of time in Japan, you soon realise that it’s easier to say no in Japan than in most Western countries. But here’s the catch: it’s much more difficult to ask for an explanation or reason. 

If someone asks you out for a drink in Japan, an indirect “I have something else to do today” is taken as a decline to the invitation and no reasoning is asked for, whereas in Western countries, people feel compelled to have a justifiable reason for declining. 

This is all linked to what sociologists call high context and low context culture — Japan is considered to be under the category of a high context culture, so a lot of the time, you don’t need to explain much because there’s an unspoken understanding between people. It all balls down to a unique Japanese custom called “Kūki wo yomu (空気を読む)”.

What exactly is it, why is it so important, and how do we begin practicing it? All these answers and more are just a scroll down away!

Kūki o Yomu: Reading the Air

Kūki wo yomu (空気を読む) translates to “reading the air”. It can be likened to the English phrase “reading between the lines”. You ought to be situationally aware and attentive to not only your own thoughts and feelings but also of the people around you — all without the need of expressing them aloud. It’s one of the most significant and fundamental aspects of Japan’s communication culture.

This Japanese custom is not only about social relations — it applies to business contexts as well. You’re expected to predict the consequences of actions and words when you’re interacting with other people, as well as realising your own social status. 

This ability to read the air is not a genetic predisposition or something taught in Japanese schools or by parents — it’s a social trait. You pick it up spontaneously as you go along in life, socialise with others, communicate and most importantly, observe. It’s in the nature of Japanese people to observe their elders and people around them, then mimicking what they see.

It’s an important skill to have in Japanese society — it’s easier for you to make friends, get into a university and get a job. You’ll be more well-liked and fit into the local community easier. 

Someone who’s not able to catch the real meaning of other people’s words is often called KY, an abbreviation of “kūki yomenai” to mean “one who can’t read the air”. If you’re unable to understand the environment you’re in, it can cost you — whether it’s ruining a relationship or blowing a huge business deal. 

Kūki o yomu” forces you to pay attention to signals people are putting out, more than usual, and to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. 

Indirectness in Japanese Communication

Reading the air is also present in other cultures, like “reading the room” or “knowing your audience”, but Japanese people are far more sensitive to this custom. 

There was a tweet that went viral in Japan back in 2019 about a businessman in Kyoto who met a potential client. The client complimented his watch, so the businessman started explaining the watch’s features. It took him a while to realise that the client didn’t care much about the watch, but more of the time it showed — he wanted the businessman to look at his watch to see the time and wrap up the conversation. 

That one situation can sum up the indirectness factor in Japanese communication.

There’s no such thing as a direct answer in Japan, or at least in my experience. You don’t really get a straight-up “no” from anyone, whether it’s a casual or business setting — the politeness within the culture forbids them to. A “maybe” or “it’s possible” is used instead. 

I’ll give you an example: I once asked someone if he could direct me to the nearest station, and his answer was “sore wa chotto…” (それはちょっと。。。) This directly translates to “that’s a bit…” but it actually holds the meaning of “that’s inconvenient for me” or “that’s a bit difficult for me to answer.” Basically, he was indirectly telling me no. The sentence was left hanging, but that’s the phrase often used in Japan — people assume you’re able to determine the rest of the sentence and read the situation.  

There’s a collectivist culture in Japan that is probably one of the reasons for this ambiguity. The society prefers conformity over individualism — to directly communicate is like going against this status quo. So they avoid unpleasant interactions and situations to maintain social harmony, and to do that, everyone has to acquire the skill of reading the air. 

Tatemae vs Honne

Tatemae (建前) is what one expresses in public and honne (本音) is what one truly feels. It links together with how Japanese communication is epitomised by implicitness and indirectness. People are socially obligated to respond according to tatemae, defined by social expectations and opinion, regardless if it contradicts their own honne.

That’s because importance is placed on demonstrating respect and saving face. If you deny a request directly by saying “no”, Japanese people believe that that’ll cause embarrassment and both the invitee and inviter will lose face. A “maybe” or “I’ll consider it” is the Japanese way of saying “no” — their indication of their honne.

“Hear One, Know Ten”

Something that’s linked closely to “kūki o yomu” is a concept called ichi ieba jū wo shiru” (一言えば十を知る). This translates to “hear one, know ten”. Subtlety is pretty key when it comes to Japanese communication, so sometimes, social cues like facial expressions and body language aren’t as physically evident.

Japanese people believe that people should be so in tune with each other that the verbal words make up only 10% while the non-verbal ones communicate the remaining 90% — hear one, know ten. Whether it’s a twitch of the mouth or a discreet raise of the eyebrow can be telltale signs of disapproval or reproach. 

If you decided to work in a Japanese company, be prepared to get as little guidelines as possible and barely any guidance or feedback — they expect you to already know by “reading the air”. And anyway, take brief communication as positive communication in the office. 

What about you, can you read the air? Is your skill as extensive as the Japanese people? Whether it’s by observing people around you or educating yourself with the media, Japan’s high context culture does give you some plus points, especially if you’re planning to live in Japan.

9 Essential Japanese Phrases with 気 (Ki)

9 Essential Japanese Phrases with 気 (Ki)

The word “ki” (気) is pretty strong in the Japanese language — it refers to the spirit, mind, nature, air, or all of the above. Regardless of what language we’re speaking in, our inner being, our soul, brings up a lot of opportunities for conversation. 

Expressing our deepest darkest desires can become a difficult task — impossible for some. That’s where “ki” comes to save the day. It’s used to convey difficult thoughts and emotions in the Japanese language. So you don’t need to always pour your heart out every single time you need to express something — just use one of these key “ki” phrases!

Here are the top 9 essential key phrases using “ki” (気)!

The Significance of 気

What exactly is “ki”? It holds many meanings and emotions, so isn’t it best for any Japanese language learner to get acquainted with it? One word, tons of usage. “Ki” can refer to a variety of things: air, atmosphere, mind, spirit, heart, flavour, feelings, humour, intention, mind, will, etc.

In the Japanese culture: the kikessui (気血水) concept, making up of three elements: ki (気), ketsu (血, blood) and sui (水, water). Kikessui translates to life force, and in the Japanese culture, it’s believed that the three elements of kikessui are what our bodies are made up of. 

The word “ki” becomes ten times more powerful when it’s combined with another kanji or word.

They’re in tons of newbie Japanese words like genki (元気, happy or energetic), tenki (天気, weather), kimochi (気持ち, feelings) and byouki (病気, illness). If you noticed, all of these words encompass concepts of inexpressible feelings that the little package of “ki” can do the job of describing for you. 

Let’s now look at the 9 essential key phrases using “ki”!

1. Ki ni iru (気に入る)

The first one is ki ni iru (気に入る). If you literally translate it, this phrase means “to go into one’s ki”. The actual meaning is that you’ve taken a liking to something or you’re showing interest in something. You can compare it to “suki” (好き, like) but the difference is that “suki” implies you’ve already liked it for a while and is an ongoing feeling, whereas “ki ni iru” implies that you’ve grown to like it after hearing about it. 

For example, if you say “kono sētā ha ki ni iru” (このセーターは気に入る), you’re saying that you’ve grown to like this sweater. It also subtly implies that you previously didn’t like it. However, if you say “kono sētā ha ki ni iranai” (このセーターは気に入らない), you’re saying that you’ve grown to not like this sweater, which means you used to like it but not anymore.

2. Ki ni naru (気になる)

The second phrase is ki ni naru (気になる). While it literally means to become someone’s ki, it actually holds the meaning of being bothered by or concerned about something.

A simple example is to say that you’re worried about weight: taijuu no koto ga ki ni natteiru (体重のことが気になっている). In that sentence, you switch it to its te iru form, implying that it’s an ongoing concern. 

You can also use it in its negative form: watashi ha ima taberu no ha ki ni naranai (私は今食べるのは気にならない). This translates to “I don’t feel like eating now.”

3. Ki ni suru (気にする)

The third “ki” phrase is ki ni suru (気にする). You’ll often hear this in its negative form, ki ni shinai (気にしない) to mean “don’t worry”. Ki ni suru literally means that the “ki” has something done to it, but the actual meaning is that you’re deeply troubled by something. Don’t confuse its meaning with the previous one — ki ni suru is more like giving attention or care about something. 

If you’re worried about gossips and rumours, or what other people think of you, then your best friend would say to you, “hito no itteiru koto wo ki ni shinai hou ga ii” (人の言っているのことを気にしない方がいい). 

4. Ki wo tsukeru (気をつける)

The next one is ki wo tsukeru (気をつける). This means that you’re being cautious and careful when doing something.

If you’ve watched anime or J-drama, you would’ve heard some of the characters saying this sentence at some point: “ki wo tsukete ne!” (気をつけてね!) This means, “take care!” If you’re done for the day at work or school and parting ways with your colleagues or schoolmates, you can usually say this phrase while parting.

It could also be used for other situations, like crossing the roads. You can say “ki wo tsukete douro wo wataru” (気をつけて道路を渡る). This translates to mean “be careful crossing the roads.”

5. Ki wo tsukau (気を使う)

Now we’ll look at the fifth one which is ki wo tsukau (気を使う). This phrase means to be considerate to someone’s feelings or to pay attention to someone else’s situation.

The global pandemic is the perfect example. We’re all in this unusual new normal where masks is a mandatory piece of accessory as soon as we step out of the house. Of course, it’s for the safety of others and ourselves — it’s being socially responsible. If you see someone who’s not wearing a mask, you can tell them to be more sensitive by saying “ki wo tsukainasai!” (気を使いなさい!)

On the contrary, if you’re too polite or attentive, someone might tell you to “ki wo tsukawanai de kudasai”(気を使わないでください ). This translates to, “please don’t worry about me so much.” 

6. Ki wo waruku suru (気を悪くする)

Let’s take a look at ki wo waruku suru (気を悪くする). This phrase means that you feel hurt by something. You’re taking offence at something said or something you saw.

If you accidentally said something offensive to someone but didn’t mean it, apologise and then say, “ki wo waruku shinai de” (気を悪くしないで).

7. Ki ga tsuku (気がつく)

Next we have ki ga tsuku (気がつく). The phrase, a pretty common one, means to realise something or notice something. How many times have you realised you forgot something after heading out the door, or noticed something different about a friend you haven’t met in ages? 

If you’ve been playing games for hours on end and lost track of the time, you might say something like, “zutto gēmu wo shiteite ki ga tsuitara juu jikan tatteita. Shimatta!” (ずっとゲームをしていて気がついたら10時間経っていた!しまった!) This sentence means, “I kept playing the game and when I realised, 10 hours have passed, oh no!” Anyone else can relate?

8. Ki ga kawaru (気が変わる)

The next one is ki ga kawaru (気が変わる). Kawaru (変わる) means to change — so this phrase translates to mean to change one’s mind.

I’m a fickle-minded person, so I change my mind more often than I’d like. I would want to take a walk one minute and as soon as I get up from bed, I decided not to. So I can say that as, “sanpo ni ikou to omou kedo ki ga kawatta” (散歩に行こうと思うけど気が変わった).

9. Ki ga suru (気がする)

Our final phrase is ki ga suru (気がする). This is a pretty common everyday ki phrase which literally translates to mean the ki is doing something.The actual meaning of this phrase is to have a feeling, kind of like a gut feeling.

You know when you kind of know that something’s going to happen — like, it’s going to rain today. “ame ga furu ki ga suru” (雨が降る気がする).

So there you have it — 9 essential key “ki” phrases that you can use every day to express your feelings. Why not give one of them a go the next time you practice your nihongo?