Our Nihongo Master Podcast has a language series called Study Saturday, where a Japanese grammar point is introduced in a fun, easy, and bite-sized way. In Season 2 Episode 8, we looked at how to express our opinions with the phrase “I think”.
This grammar point is part of basic Japanese and is used pretty frequently in everyday conversation. It makes your sentence a bit less serious as well. The best part about this grammar point is that it’s so easy to learn! There’s only one phrase in Japanese that is used to express your opinion.
In the podcast episode, not only did we discuss a bit about the grammar point, but we also had a few roleplaying scenarios using the new grammar to get listeners accustomed to it. The roleplaying scenarios are not in this recap, so you’ve got to tune in to listen!
Expressing opinions is crucial in any language. In Japanese, it’s also used to make the tone of the sentence lighter. The grammar to use to say this is pretty simple: you basically just add “to omou” (と思う) or “to omoimasu” (と思います) for the polite form, to the end of any sentence. And viola, that’s it!
Quick and easy, right?
と思う for i-adjectives and verbs
Let’s have an example. Say you saw someone and thought he was cool: “I thought he was cool”. “Cool” in Japanese is kakkoii (かっこいい). We could say “kakkoii to omou” (かっこいいと思う), but that translates to “I think he is cool”. To make it so it means “I thought he was cool”, we have to change the grammar point we just learned to the past tense. “to omou” ends with an u, so it conjugates to “to omotta” (と思った) for the casual form. For the polite form, simply change the “masu” (ます) to past tense to get “to omoimashita” (と思いました).
Now put it all together and we get: “kare ha kakkoii to omotta”(彼はかっこいいと思った). For the polite form, it’s “kare ha kakkoii to omoimashita” (彼はかっこいいと思いました).
Kakkoii is an i-adjective, so there’s no change whatsoever when attaching the grammar phrase at the end. It’s the same when the word that comes before the phrase is a verb, like the sentence “I think we went to a cafe”. “Went” in Japanese is “itta” (行った), the past tense of the word “iku” (行く). All you have to do is have all the pieces and just add the grammar at the end: “kafe ni itta to omou” (カフェに行ったと思う). For the polite form, it’s “kafe ni itta to omoimasu” (カフェに行ったと思います).
だと思う for na-adjectives and nouns
The time you do need to add something on is when the word before is either a noun or a na- adjective. In the sentence “He thought I was beautiful”, the word that comes right before the grammar phrase is “beautiful”, and that’s the na-adjective “kireina” (綺麗な) in Japanese. We can’t say “kireina to omou”, but instead we take the na out and switch it to da, the casual form of desu: “kare ha watashi ga kirei da to omotta” (彼は私が綺麗だと思った). For the polite form, it’s “kare ha watashi ga kirei da to omoimashita” (彼は私が綺麗だと思いました). Remember, that sentence was in the past tense.
Let’s have an example for a noun. Since there is no “na” to switch out, we just add da in between the noun and “to omou”. For example, if you want to say “I think he’s Japanese”, you can say it as “kare ha nihonjin da to omou” (彼は日本人だと思う). The polite form of the sentence is “kare ha nihonjin da to omoimasu” (彼は日本人だと思います).
In the case where you want to have a na-adjective or a noun in the negative form, like “I think he’s not Japanese” or “I think she’s not beautiful”, their negative form “janai” (じゃない) then acts like an i- adjective, so you don’t need to have a “da” in between: “nihonjin janai to omou” (日本人じゃないと思う), “kirei janai to omou” (綺麗じゃないと思う).
One last thing: if you want to say “i don’t think”, all you have to do is say the negation of “to omou”, which is “to omowanai” (と思わない) or “to omoimasen” (と思いません). So let’s switch “I think he’s not Japanese” to “I don’t think he’s Japanese” — we take the noun as it is and add the negation of the grammar to make, “nihonjin da to omowanai” (日本人だと思わない), or the polite form “nihonjin da to omoimasen” (日本人だと思いません).
As always, let’s have a quick vocab recap to wrap it up:
Kakkoii (かっこいい) — cool
Kireina (綺麗な) — beautiful or pretty
Isha (医者) — doctor
Shokugyō (職業) — occupation
Gaka (画家) — painter
Machigainai (間違いない) — undoubtedly or no doubt
Ginkõ (銀行) — bank
Hataraiteiru (働いている) — to be working
Kaku (書く) — to write or draw
Shou ga nai (しょうがない) — it can’t be helped
Muzukashii (難しい) — difficult
Mirai (未来) — future
Hiraku (開く) — to open
Sasuga (さすが) — as expected
Hazukashii (恥ずかしい) — shy
Shinyū (親友) — best friend
Kareshi (彼氏) — boyfriend
Urayamashii (羨ましい) — jealous
Zettai (絶対) — definitely
And that’s the recap of this episode of Study Saturday, and that means you might already be an expert at expressing your opinions in Japanese. I, for one, have a lot of opinions on a lot of things, so rest assured I’ve been using this every day — if not every hour. Since this article is a recap, head over to the original episode to listen to the full thing now!
If you’re interested in similar bite-sized grammar pointers, head over to the Nihongo Master Podcast for more. The Study Saturday language series comes out every Saturday with a new grammar point with examples and role playing scenarios. Click here for your fill of basic Japanese grammar!
Learning a new language can be tough, especially if you don’t know where to start. One of the key things to any language is the grammar. For the Japanese language, grammar is crucial. For those of us who are learning it in English, like me, it can be a bit confusing at the start since Japanese sentence structure is the complete opposite of the English language’s!
What’s more, in Japanese language, it’s different when it comes to formality. There’s not really any rules for that in English, whereas in Japanese, it’s very strict! The conjugations play a part in the formality rules too!
Now I’m not trying to scare you off from learning Japanese. In fact, I’m trying to do the opposite. Before you dive headfirst into the scary world of Japanese grammar, let’s try to make it not as scary by having a rundown of the basics of Japanese grammar with this article!
Japanese Sentence Structure
In both Japanese and English, the basic sentence structure is: subject – object.
“This is a pen.”
Kore ha pen.
The most important thing about basic Japanese grammar is the sentence structure. In English, we usually have our sentences structured like this: subject – verb – object. For example: I eat cake. “I” is the subject, “eat” is the verb” and “cake” is the object or noun.
In Japanese, the verb goes at the end! So the sentence structure goes: subject – object – verb.
So the same sentence is said like this in Japanese: watashi ha kēki wo taberu. (私はケーキを食べる。) “Watashi” is the subject, “kēki” Is the object and “taberu” is the verb. You must have noticed the particles – we’ll get into that later.
It might get confusing when you add more parts to the sentence, but it’s actually quite flexible. When you want to add the time, location or preposition, they can basically go anywhere in the sentence. The most important thing is the particles which indicate what is what.
Oh, and usually, you can omit the subject. Sometimes, it’s more natural to do so.
The handy thing is, every other part of the Japanese sentence is flexible. If you add a location, a time, a preposition, etc., they can go anywhere in the sentence. As long as you mark them with the correct particle and the verb goes at the end, you’re good to go. So, the key to remember here is: the verb always goes at the end.
You can also omit the subject usually, and it sounds more natural to do so.
Let’s look at another simple grammar pattern, which is describing existence, like saying “there is a cat”.
In Japanese, the format includes “ga iru” (がいる) or “ga aru” (がある). The former describes living things and the latter describes non living things. The structure is: subject – “ga iru/aru”.
If you want to say “there is a cat” in Japanese, it’s “neko ga iru” (猫がいる).
If you want to say “there is a pen” in Japanese, it’s “pen ga aru” (ペンがある).
If you want to say there isn’t something, instead of “ga iru” or “ga aru”, you change it to “ga inai” (がいない) or “ga nai” (がない). This is the negative form of the above phrases.
If you want to say “there isn’t a cat” in Japanese, it’s “neko ga iru” (猫がいない).
If you want to say “there isn’t a pen” in Japanese, it’s “pen ga aru” (ペンがない).
Formal & Informal Speech
As mentioned earlier, the Japanese language has formal and informal speeches. This affects the grammar. To make it simple, it’s the ending of a sentence that varies whether it’s formal or informal.
For example, “neko ga iru” (猫がいる) is informal as it ends with “iru”, the dictionary and plain form of the verb. To make this sentence formal, you have to change “iru” to “imasen” (いません). This is the polite version of the verb.
That’s for verbs, but there’s also for other sentences that end with nouns or adjectives. The simplest way to make a sentence more polite is to add “desu” (です).
For example, to say “this is a pen” in the polite form, you have to add “desu”: kore ha pen desu (これはペンです).
The same goes for adjectives: “this is pretty” is “kore ha kirei desu” (これは綺麗です).
As mentioned earlier, particles are extremely important in Japanese grammar. They indicate intonation, connectors like “and”, provide possessive forms and provide the means to ask questions.
We have a very in-depth article on Japanese particles here. But here’s a quick summary of the various types of common Japanese particles:
は (wa/ha) – follows the topic of the sentence, making this particle the topic marking particle
が (ga) – to emphasise something or to distinguish it from the rest. It’s also used when you’re first introducing the subject
を (wo) – used to signal the object of the sentence. Most of the time, it follows a noun or a noun phrase
に (ni) – indicates a place or the direction something is moving towards. The particle often follows a moving verb only. It can also be used when you’re talking about the direction of something, like receiving something from others. In that case, it means “from”
で (de) – emphasises location rather than direction
と (to) – “and”
の (no) – indicates possession
か (ka) – question indicator
Japanese verbs can be quite confusing in the beginning, as the tenses and conjugation are very different from other languages. Let’s take a look at the basic tenses and conjugation of Japanese verbs!
Tenses in English can be confusing – there are past, present and future tenses, but there are also continuous, perfect, etc. Don’t worry, in Japanese, it’s pretty simple. There are only the past and present tenses
In English, there are three basic verb tenses: past, present, and future. But in Japanese, there’s only present tense and past tense. And they don’t change based on who is performing the action unlike some languages. They stay the same.
The present tense of a verb is the dictionary form. For example: taberu (食べる).
The past tense of a verb involves a bit of conjugation. For example: taberu becomes tabeta (食べた).
BONUS: If you want to talk about the future tense, you usually add a time to the sentence. For example: “I’ll eat now” is said as “ima taberu” (今食べる).
Basic Verb Conjugations
Here comes the tricky part. But don’t worry, we’ll make it painless. Japanese verbs split into three types of verbs and they have their conjugations:
Depending on the category, the conjugation is different. Here are some common verbs in each category, and how to conjugate them:
る-verbs – drop the “る” and add “ます”
食べる becomes 食べます, 寝る becomes 寝ます, 見る becomes 見ます
う-verbs – drop the ending “う” sound and add “います”
言う becomes 言います, 飲む becomes 飲みます, 聞く becomes 聞きます
Irregular verbs – they’re irregular so their conjugation has no formula
するbecomes します, 来る becomes 来ます
From there, to make the negation, it’s simple. ます then becomes ません. For example, 食べます becomes 食べません and 言います becomes 言いません.
Stay tuned for a more in-depth article on Japanese verb conjugations!
Ace that Japanese grammar!
Of course, there is more to Japanese grammar than what is listed in this article, but hopefully, this gives you a brief idea of what to expect when learning Japanese grammar. It’s not at all difficult once you get the hang of it. Us at Nihongo Master believe you can do it!
If you want to learn Japanese, you’ve come to the right place! We at Nihongo Master are dedicated to providing you with the best Japanese language learning content on all our various media platforms. Learning a new language is tough, and most of us would want to find ways to do it quickly.
While I personally feel like there are no shortcuts to learning a new language, there are tips and tricks that can help you to learn faster and easier. Of course, these all depend on the individual and what one’s study method is. But generally, if you stick to these 7 tips, you might be able to skip a bit of time out of your language learning journey.
1. Don’t skip the writing systems
The first one I think is the most important tip of all is: do not skip the writing systems. In Japanese, there are three writing systems: hiragana, katakana and kanji. Each of them are used for their own purposes and knowing all three of them is essential if you want to reach a good level of fluency.
Hiragana and katakana are pretty easy to pick up. You can master them casually in a week. They are the Japanese alphabet that represents a syllable.
As for kanji, they are Chinese characters that are used in Japanese writing. I’d say there are around 2,000 essential kanji characters that you would need to take time to learn. One way to learn kanji is through vocabulary. When you learn new words, look at what the kanji characters for them are. Most conversational words use essential kanji characters. Have yourself be exposed to kanji characters on a daily basis. The more you see them, the more you’re able to recognise them.
Skip the stroke order for now. I would recommend foregoing this unless you’re doing it for school. If you’re here for the fast fluency, you can afford to not know the order of the strokes.
2. Use language learning hacks
As I mentioned earlier, different people have different styles of learning. Depending on your style, pick up language learning hacks to help you learn Japanese faster and easier.
One of the most popular methods of learning Japanese fast is using a spaced repetition system (SRS). This is often the use of flash cards. There’s a 80/30 rule that says you get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. So you focus on 20% of the language you use most to yield 80% of your speaking abilities.
Another way is by using mnemonics. A lot of people find this language learning hack pretty useful. When you have mnemonic devices linked to Japanese language learning, you’ll be able to retain them in your brain faster and easier.
And while some people often binge study, it may not help all. Some people actually study and retain knowledge better when studying in small chunks of time. This helps you to focus and not push yourself too much. Whatever you learn in that 15 minutes a day, be sure to repeat them and lock them in memory. This will definitely help you to learn Japanese faster.
And last but not least, consistency is key. You’ve got to be a bit responsible for your language learning journey. Stay committed, keep studying regularly, and you’ll be able to reach your language goals as early as 90 days!
3. Think and explain in Japanese
One of the most important ways to improve your Japanese language skills is by training your brain to think in that foreign language. For this one, you would have to really put in the effort to do this, especially if you’re not already bilingual.
By doing this technique, you’re going to be able to lock those new words and grammar into your brain even faster. Reading the meaning to a word or an explanation to a grammar point won’t guarantee that you can recall it when you need it. When you actively use these words and grammar, you’ll be able to store them in your brain easier!
The easiest way to start doing this is by reacting in Japanese. If you see a cute dog coming your way, you might start to think in English “it’s cute”. Try to think in Japanese: “あの犬は可愛い” (“that dog is cute”).
You can also practice this technique by describing your surroundings. You don’t have to do that all the time. You can even do it on your way home from school or work. Describe the area around you. What do you see? What are the people doing? What’s the weather like?
This last way of practicing this technique is one that I often do, and that’s translating my own conversations. After having a conversation with someone, try to translate that conversation into Japanese at your own pace. Say you ordered something in a restaurant. How would you do that in Japanese?
4. Find language exchange partners early
The best part about the previous technique is that you don’t have to be afraid of making mistakes with someone else. However, that doesn’t give you the opportunity to learn from your mistakes. On top of that, you will also start to fear speaking in Japanese. Trust me, I was at that stage once too.
So, to do that, you should definitely find a language exchange partner early on so you can start using your language skills ASAP.
There are so many ways you can find one. Sometimes, in your city or country, there’s a community of Japanese language learners like yourself. This is the best way to find one. Otherwise, go online and on apps like italki or HelloTalk. These are also great platforms to learn from others just like you!
5. Immerse yourself in Japanese
A lot of people say immersion is key. It’s pretty true, but you don’t have to be in Japan to be fully immersed. You can also just surround yourself with the language, through various means that you can control. One of the easiest ways is to constantly play Japanese media like games, TV shows, movies and anime (in Japanese language, of course).
I personally used to listen to Japanese podcasts as well to expose myself to the Japanese language. This method is also a way of passive learning, which kids use to learn when they’re younger and developing.
If you have a Japanese town in your city, that’s perfect! You can find Japanese speakers around you to practice with in real life too! All these exposure will definitely help you to learn Japanese faster and easier!
6. Practice your Japanese speaking skills
I cannot emphasise this enough, but definitely work on your speaking skills from early on. Learning a language from a textbook and actually using the skill in real life is so so different. You realise there are so many other challenges that you face when you start speaking. You might not be able to recall what you learned, you realise you have a fear of speaking to overcome. Anything can happen.
Whether it’s practicing in front of the mirror or with a language exchange partner or friend, start early! As soon as you learn your first grammar point, I suggest going straight into practicing your speaking skills!
7. Don’t be afraid to fail
And last but not least, don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, if you don’t fail at some point, you’re not human! All of us are learning. Even natives have things they need to learn. Failing is actually part of your Japanese language learning journey, so don’t avoid it. Instead, embrace it!
Learn Japanese Fast & Easy!
I hope that with these 7 techniques, you’ll be able to learn Japanese fast and easy! One of the best ways you can learn Japanese grammar points and new useful vocabulary words is by tuning in to our Nihongo Master Podcast! We have a language series in the podcast that breaks down grammar points just like our online learning system, and have roleplaying scenarios using the new grammar point. Hey, that’s the 8th technique to learning Japanese fast and easy!
Kigurumi is big in Japan. It has always been big. Now it’s big all over the world! Started as a trend back in the ‘90s, who would’ve thought that it would be here to stay? But it did, and we’re all for it!
Now we’re not here to talk about what kigurumi is and how it came about. To know more about kigurumi, we have a whole article on it here! This article is a quick guide on where to buy it. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you first: it’s not hard at all to get your hands on a pair or two. Because it’s so popular now, kigurumi is easily accessible worldwide!
We’ve listed a few places where you can get yourself a kigurumi, both in and outside of Japan. Keep on reading!
What is “kigurumi”?
Okay, I know I said we wouldn’t cover what kigurumi is in the intro, but we kind of have to… The word “kigurumi” (着ぐるみ) actually is a combination of two words – kiru (着る) which translates to “to wear” and nuigurumi (ぬいぐるみ) which translates to “stuffed toy”. So when you have them together, it refers to costumed characters. Kind of like mascots. Some say that kigurumi can also be a part of cosplay.
Back in the day, you would get an oversized head along with your animal onesie. Often times this head is in the “chibi” (チビ) style, which is like an anime drawing style. Now, you just get a onesie with a hood. If you’re lucky, you get ears along with it.
While kigurumi was originally used to promote businesses and companies as well as donned by cosplayers, nowadays it’s just for fun. It’s on the streets, in trains, in shops…at least in Japan anyway.
Buying kigurumi in Japan
I was quite surprised that I couldn’t find a guide online for buying kigurumi in Japan itself. I guess it’s because it’s everywhere. For those of you who have never been to Japan and are planning to get one when you’re here, I’ve got you covered.
Don Quijote is the ultimate place to go for all your costume needs. This is a chain discount superstore that you can find in almost every city and big neighbourhood. There’s always a section in the store that’s all for costumes, and I bet some even have their own sections for kigurumi. If you go to the ones in Shibuya and Shinjuku in Tokyo, I’ve seen them with their own kigurumi section! You can have your pick there. Oh, and it’s sold all year round – not just during Halloween season.
There are also other stores that sell kigurumi, too. While not all outlets have them, Tokyu Hands often has a section for costumes. You’re better off trying in bigger neighbourhoods like Shinjuku and Shibuya, too.
Dollar shops like Daiso, Seria and Can Do often have their own costume areas, too. Of course, when it’s Halloween season, the section expands even bigger, but I’ve noticed that there are a fair share of outlets that sell them all year round too.
I’ve also noticed that Amazon Japan has quite a few certified sellers for kigurumi. Though you shouldn’t hold me to my word, I would recommend browsing through Amazon Japan and getting expedited shipping while you’re here. You could do that in your own country, but shipping can get expensive. And sometimes, they don’t ship outside of Japan. This might be a shout!
Buying kigurumi outside of Japan
For those of us who are outside of Japan and would like to get our hands on a pair of kigurumi, you’re in luck. There are a lot of online shops that sell them! I told you it’s popular.
The best place to look for kigurumi is Kigurumi Shopi. They are the OG when it comes to creating the best quality and design of kigurumi for overseas. This company is an exclusive North American distributor for SAZAC as well, which is Japan’s most respectable and successful manufacturer of kigurumi. You can’t match their quality, design, attention to detail, textile and service.
SAZAC also has retail shops all around the world in Asia, Europe and the Americas. So wherever you are in the world, you’re going to be able to get your hands on a kigurumi from here – if not offline, then online.
For UK kigurumi lovers out there, Kigu is a SAZAC-partnered company where you can get your high-quality kigurumi, too!
While that’s the place to go to for your highest quality kigurumi, nowadays, since kigurumi is so popular, you can get animal onesies just about anywhere online. Amazon, Etsy, EBay, AliExpress and all the online platforms have their version of animal onesies. Bear in mind that they might not be the best of qualities, but if you’re looking to grab one quickly for a party or event, they might just be the place to go to.
Get your kigurumi today!
From the best of my knowledge, experience and research, I have come up with this quick yet detailed guide of where you can get kigurumi, both inside and outside of Japan! So if you’re excited to get one on your trip in Japan, or just for a party in your hometown, we’ve got you covered. Go get your kigurumi today!
Christmas is just around the corner. Aren’t we all excited for this festive season? I know I am! In Japan, they too celebrate Christmas. Over the years, the country has adopted many foreign customs and traditions, and that included this Western holiday.
However, just like everything else, Japan adds their own twist to this tradition and makes it their own. Of course, you’ll still hear jingle bells and Christmas tunes all throughout the country, but there are just a few celebrations that are unique to Japan only. In this article, we’ll take a look at the top 5 ways Japan celebrates Christmas differently from the usual.
1. A Holiday for Lovers
Generally, Christmas is known as a Christian holiday. Most of the Western world goes all out for this time of the year. Well, so do the Japanese. However, it’s treated more like a secular celebration regardless of religion. In fact, there are only a few percent of Japanese people that consider themselves as Christian, and mostly consider themselves as Buddhist or Shinto.
On top of that, Christmas is usually celebrated as a family. Members of the family come together and gather regardless of where they are in the world to be together during this time of the year. However, in Japan, it’s more of a celebration for lovers. It’s quite rare that you celebrate this as a family, unless you have young kids and make a practice of celebrating it the Western way.
Usually, couples would plan romantic dates for the Christmas period, like a dinner at a fancy restaurant or strolling around festive areas in town with Christmas lights.
2. KFC Chicken Feast!
Yes, the rumours are true. During Christmas time, the Japanese go crazy for KFC fried chicken! Rather than feasting on glazed ham and roasted turkey, the most popular choice for Christmas lunch or dinner is a good ol ‘bucket of fried chicken from the fast food chain KFC!
In fact, the popularity is so ridiculous that some outlets take preorders months in advance and the dates get sold out so quickly! Last year, I had friends who made orders as early as October! It’s no joke here for the fight for KFC chicken. It’s the real deal!
But hey, if you’re not fast enough to snag a bucket of KFC fried chicken, there are tons of other stores and convenience stores that offer them during this time of the year. They’re not the same, but they’re close enough, I reckon.
3. Christmas Illuminations & Markets
Japan goes all out for this time of the year. I love being in Japan during this season. Everything’s so colourful and lively. And that’s all thanks to winter illuminations that start up as soon as Halloween is over. Japanese cities are lit up with twinkling eco-friendly LED lights. Tokyo is probably the most festive city in Japan during this season. You see trees decorated with these lights, all down the street.
Attraction sites have their own winter special illumination events, too. Flower parks and amusement parks have special decorations just for this season. Even shopping malls turn an ordinary trip to the mall into a magical fantasy experience.
Speaking of decorations, shopping for Christmas decorations and decorating the house is also a thing here. And where else can you get them other than Christmas markets? Of course, local supermarkets and convenience stores offer them too, but you get unique, authentic ones at these Christmas markets.
From the beginning of December, a lot of them pop up, especially in Tokyo. The most popular one is the German Christmas Market in Roppongi that always brings in thousands of visitors every year! Other parts of Japan have Christmas markets too, including the northern city Sapporo.
4. Special Christmas Cakes!
When we think of Christmas desserts, we think of gingerbread men, other types of cookies and also pie. Japan is number one when it comes to dessert, so you would think they would have them all.
Close. They have Christmas cakes! Cakes aren’t only enjoyed during your birthday. During Christmas, getting a special Christmas cake is a big tradition practiced here! They’re not the usual fruitcake that you would usually eat in European and American countries. Instead, the most popular kind of cake for this season is the sponge cake-based strawberry shortcake!
This love affair Japan has with cakes date back to 1922, when the confectionery manufacturer Fujiya started marketing cream-covered cakes with the tagline “kurisumasu ni keeki wo tabemashou!” (クリスマスにケーキを食べましょう) to mean “let’s eat cake on Christmas!”
Although, while the most popular choice of cake is the strawberry shortcake, I have heard from my Japanese friends that they also opt for chocolate cake nowadays. Maybe the trends have changed now, and any type of cake, as long as it’s marketed as a Christmas cake, will do?
5. Japanese Version of Santa
We’re all waiting for the main question: what about presents? Not to fret everyone, the concept of Santa Claus and practice gift-giving is still alive and well in Japan. Kids in Japan look forward to a visit from Santa and opening presents under the tree on Christmas morning. Couples also exchange gifts, and usually done on Christmas Eve instead.
Here’s a fun unique twist: Western tradition has Santa climbing down chimneys. This is pretty difficult to do in Japan when a lot of people don’t have one in their homes. So instead, Santa is seen as some kind of magical ghost with exciting treats!
However, as compared to Western countries, gift giving isn’t that significant. It plays a much smaller role. It may be because that Japan has their own gift-giving day known as “Oseibo” (お歳暮) at the end of the year. .
Have a Merry Japanese Christmas!
If you abide by these five fun facts of Japanese Christmas, you’re going to have one hell of a unique holiday! Whether or not you live in Japan, if you’d like to spice up your holiday, why not celebrate Christmas the Japanese way? Have a merry Japanese Christmas, everyone!
Holidays are just around the corner. Who’s excited? I know I am! But the holidays shouldn’t stop us from keeping up with our Japanese language learning journey. So instead, we should incorporate some holiday into it!
Do you know any Japanese words and phrases for the holiday celebrations? If not, you’ve come to the right place! Just like in English, there are certain words and phrases we use to wish people for the holidays and to describe the holiday season. It may not always be in the first few chapters of your Japanese textbook, but we’ve compiled the top 10 words and phrases you can use for this upcoming festive season!
Keep reading to find out!
1. Omedetou (おめでとう)
The first one has definitely got to be omedetou (おめでとう). You can say this for a lot of different things. It’s so versatile. This word actually translates to “congratulations”, but it’s also used in the Japanese way to say “happy new year”, and that’s “akemashite omedetou” (あけましておめでとう). It actually comes from the word “akeru” (開ける) to mean “to open”, so you’re kind of welcoming the opening of the new year.
You can also say “akeome” (あけおめ) with your friends. This is a casual and slangy way to say it.
You can also attach “omedetou” to other types of holidays like Hanukkah: Hanu-ka omedetou” (ハヌーカおめでとう). Or even Kwanzaa: “Kuwanza omedetou” (クワンザおめでとう).
2. Yoi Otoshi Wo (良いお年を)
One of my favourite phrases to say when the New Year approaches is “yoi otoshi wo” (良いお年を). This translates to “have a happy New Year” and it’s a very common phrase used by Japanese people.
Bear in mind that this phrase is used before the clock strikes midnight on January 1st. When you want to wish someone a happy new year after that, use the phrase before this.
3. Yasumi (休み)
The next basic Japanese word great for the holidays is yasumi (休み). That’s because this word translates to “holiday” or “off day”. You can say to someone to enjoy their holidays by saying “yasumi tanoshinde” (楽しんで). Although it’s perfect for the holiday celebrations, this word can also be used all year round to talk about days you’re not working or school holidays, too.
4. Mata rainen (また来年)
I find this next phrase pretty cute, because it’s a bit quirky and pretty similar to English. Usually, you’d say to someone “see you later”, but when it’s the new year period, I like to say “see you next year” as a quirky saying. I bet a lot of people do, too.
In Japanese, that’s “mata rainen” (また来年). “Mata” (また) actually means “again” but in colloquial Japanese, you can also just say “mata” to mean “later” or “see you”. “Mata ashita” (また明日) means “see you tomorrow”.
5. Kyuuka (休暇)
While we already have the word for holiday before, this is another basic Japanese word for “holiday”: “kyuuka” (休暇). This is a more formal version than “yasumi” but it’s often combined with other words like “Christmas holidays” or “summer holidays”.
“Christmas holidays” is “kurisumasu kyuuka” (クリスマス休暇) and “summer holiday” is “kaki kyuuka” (夏季休暇).
6. Tanoshinde (楽しんで)
This next basic Japanese phrase for the holidays is “tanoshinde” (楽しんで), which means “have fun”. You can attach this to another word to make sentences like “have a fun Christmas party”, or you can just say it on its own.
“Have a fun Christmas party” is “kurisumasu pa-ti wo tanoshinde!” (クリスマスパーティを楽しんで！) .
7. Oshougatsu (お正月)
The next basic Japanese word you should know for the holidays is “oshougatsu”, which translates to “Japanese New Year”. This is a more common word to describe the first of January, but there’s also another word: ganjitsu (元日). While both are acceptable to use, the first one is more popular.
8. Purezento (プレゼント)
If you’ve mastered your katakana, you already know what this word means: presents! Purezento (プレゼント) is the katakana form of the English word “present”, and what’s the holidays without a gift or two, am I right?
9. Meri Kurisumasu (メリークリスマス)
We have a few ways to talk about the holidays and New Years, but not so much on how to say “Merry Christmas”. It’s pretty simple, which is why I saved it for the last few. “Merry Christmas” is just the katakana form: meri kurisumasu (メリークリスマス).
10. Shinnen ga yoi toshi de arimasu you ni (新年が良い年でありますように)
This is a pretty long one, but also a good basic Japanese phrase to learn for the holidays. You’re wishing someone the best wishes for the next year. Kind of like the shorter phrase above “yoi otoshi wo”. However, this is a more formal and genuine wish.
You can also use parts of this phrase to say other things like “I hope you have a good day”. Just use the “de arimasu you ni” and attach it to another wish like “a good day”, which is “yoi hi” (良い日): “yoi hi de arimasu you ni” (良い日でありますように). Just attach this phrase to any good wish you want to give!
Have a happy holiday season!
And that wraps up the top 10 basic Japanese words and phrases for the holiday celebrations. I hope you learn them just in time for the festive season. They’re super easy and super useful. Try it out with your family and friends! Have a wonderful holiday season, everyone! よいお年を！
In our current day and age, marrying someone of a different race is totally normal. However, because cultures are so different, it can lead to a few culture shocks. One of the more commonly known culture shocks when it comes to Japan is when it comes to marriage.
There are some things about Japanese marriage that are not common in other cultures. So, to shed some light on the matter, especially for those who are keen on getting into one, we’re going to look at the top 10 Japanese marriage culture facts!
1. Arranged marriages still exists
Even though Japan is very modernised, the custom of arranged marriages still happens. Sometimes, the first day you meet someone is also when they become your legally wedded husband or wife. Your parents can pick a wife for you, even though you can definitely pick one for yourself.
During the wedding ceremony, there’s an event called the san-san-kedo. This is where the pair show their sign of fidelity to each other by sipping sake three times from three different cups. It’s believed that when they take their first sip, they officially become spouses.
3. Hiring actors to be family is normal
It might sound strange, but it’s completely okay to hire actors to play as family members at the ceremony. Image is so crucial in Japanese culture, so it might look bad if your side doesn’t have that many people. There’s a special service for this actually. These actors will cheer for you, greet your other guests, and greet you just like your own family.
4. Guests get gifts
In Japan, sometimes guests get gifts during the wedding. The bride and groom will give back to the wedding guests whether it’s in the form of a physical gift or money. It’s believed that a gift is given as a way to share happiness on top of giving back.
5. There are horns on the bride’s outfit
Wedding outfits are important in Japanese weddings. The groom is usually in all black, wearing the traditional kimono and pleated hakama trousers. This is topped off with a family haori jacket.
The bride is in a white kimono and accessories. The most eye-catching of the outfit is the elaborate headgear that’s voluminous. Sometimes, it can be a wig, sometimes it can be a big hat. Regardless of what it is, it’s often decorated with horns that are very well hidden by a white veil. This represents jealousy and hiding it shows that she will not be jealous.
6. You can marry a virtual program in Japan
You read the title right. In Japan, you can marry a virtual program. You can marry your anime pillow, a stuffed animal, or even a hologram. A guy recently married a hologram of Hatsune Miku, who is a worldwide famous singer. He had a proper wedding and all, with his family, friends and colleagues.
7. Japanese weddings are expensive…for everyone
This is the one I hear most often. Japanese weddings are expensive not only for the couple but for everyone. Guests are expected to bring wedding gifts in terms of cash, and depending on where they are in the country, the amount differs. It can be up to 50,000 yen for relatives! There’s a phrase commonly used for this type of thing: “poor from celebrating”.
It is very different from European and American weddings where wedding gifts come in the form of housewarming items.
8. The wedding day is not the anniversary date
Usually, a wedding is celebrated during the registration of a marriage. So your wedding day is your anniversary day. This is pretty common worldwide. In Japan, it’s not always the case. You can register one day, and celebrate your marriage a year after! It’s common in Japan to have the wedding ceremony after the registration of the union. However, the anniversary date is then the registration date and not the wedding day.
9. Japanese law states that married couples must have the same surname
In some countries, like in Europe and America, surnames can be double barrelled. For example, if Mary Johnes married Bob William, she could be Mary William-Johnes, or Mary Johnes-William.
In Japan, there is a law and incredible social pressure for women to take their husband’s last names. Family lineage is extremely important in Japan, and record keeping is very strict. As everywhere, a woman must completely change her name on all legal documents and with all government institutions, which is a laborious task that new generations are fighting to change. 70% of Japanese people want the ability to keep their own names, but it keeps getting voted down in the government. In rare instances, a man will be the one to take the women’s name, this usually includes the man being officially “adopted” into that other family and losing all ties to his own legally. This is done typically when the woman’s family has a higher standing or more money.
10. Common-law marriage is not a norm
In many countries, common law marriages are the norm. You don’t have to get married but you can still come under the same laws as a traditional marriage for situations like taxes and housing.
In Japan, there’s no such thing. You’re not accepted as a marriage unless you have the whole shabang of a traditional wedding. You can’t get the same rights as a traditional marriage if not. For example, you won’t be able to sign off on any medical related issues because it’s difficult to prove the family relationship as a spouse.
Which cultural fact surprised you the most?
Japan still follows traditional customs when it comes to marriage, as you can tell, even though the country is pretty modernised in other parts. These are just a few things you have to take note when dealing with a Japanese marriage, whether you’re going into one yourself or attending a ceremony. Regardless, which Japanese marriage cultural fact is the most important surprising to you
One of the things Japan is famous for is its fashion scene. Japanese fashion designers conquer runways all over the world. In our Season 2 Episode 7 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we looked at theJapanese fashion triumvirate: Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo.
These three Japanese fashion designers are not only experts at seamlessly fusing traditional and modern, but they have unexpectedly made quite an impact on the Western fashion industry. You can’t really sum up Western fashion of the late 20th century without acknowledging the contributions by this Japanese avant garde trio.
This trio was repeatedly mentioned during my fashion school classes, highlighted for their unapologetic fusion of Japanese ideals in modern fashion. “Made in Japan” now carries a newfound prestige, and we have these fashion designers to thank for.
Here’s a recap of what we talked about Japan’s avant garde power trio!
The first fashion designer of the Japanese avant garde trio to reinvent Western technical and aesthetic values who we looked at is none other than Yohji Yamamoto. This pioneer of the 1980s Japanese New Wave didn’t, either. In fact, he studied law in university!
Now one of the most distinguished fashion designers of the industry, Yohji Yamamoto is known for his excessive usage of the colour black and the free-spirited concept portrayed in his crafty tailoring and androgynous silhouettes with a notion of concealing rather than revealing the body.
Yamamoto has his reasons behind the intentional usage of black, other than his perspective that black is a combination of colours. Black is modest and arrogant at the same time, black is easy and lazy but also mysterious. What’s better than black?
Yamamoto’s designs are made to be timeless, and instead of putting the garment on the body, he puts the body on the garment. A typical Japanese approach that is used religiously by Yamamoto is to start a design with fabric, rather than silhouette.
Apart from the dark, androgynous image he sets, Yohji Yamamoto is also especially famous for collaborations. Some might say he’s one of the first few designers who celebrates collab culture and gives access of high fashion to the masses. Y-3, anyone? This Adidas-Yohji Yamamoto collaboration that began in 2003 is one of the most successful collabs to this day, altering the perspective of menswear fashion and giving the male market an opportunity to play around with shape and movement just like the ladies.
Our next fashion designer is the one that has ruled the pleats trend for decades now. Issey Miyake was the first out of the three to showcase in France. Not only that, he was the first to restructure sartorial conventions, blinding in contrast to the conventional ways of Western designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Coco Chanel and Chistian Dior. Instead of obliging to the Western concept for women’s clothing of fitted silhouette and exposure of body contours, Miyake proudly introduced loose and baggy designs, free of traditional construction.
And just like his compatriot, Miyake has roots deep in traditional Japanese design philosophy, which is evident in all of his creations, and converting them into fashion-forward, modern Western pieces. Miyake didn’t think of his lack of western heritage in the world of Western fashion as a disadvantage, but an advantage. He introduced a new definition of aesthetics, and not by creating aesthetics itself, but by crafting it into a way of life (iki kata in Japanese) — the garment flows where the body moves.
And to this day, Issey Miyake’s brand — even though the mastermind himself has retired — continues on the legacy of approaching garment construction in original ways, prioritising the user first. If you think about it, that way of doing things is more of a product designer’s approach — and it obviously works out. He did once say, “I make tools. People buy my clothes and then they become tools for their creativity.”
Oh, and remember when I mentioned at the start that Issey Miyake is the pleat master? He’s Einstein when it comes to original fabrics, and the whole pleat thing came from his most commercially successful collection to this date, 1993’s Pleats Please. Instead of going for the traditional method of permanently pressing pleats before cutting out a garment, Miyake did the opposite — he cut the garment out twice the size, put it together and then started pleating.
And that’s only one of his creations. Another one worth mentioning is A-POC, or “A Piece of Cloth”, which is a concept by Miyake and his team, involving a long tube of knitted jersey which one can cut without wasting any material. Now that’s fashion of the future.
The last of the three avant garde designers, but most certainly not the least, is Rei Kawakubo — also known as the founder of Comme des Garçons. She once said she never intended to start a revolution, but she did — and we all have no regrets. If I could sum up Kawakubo’s aesthetics into three words, it would be: monochromatic, asymmetrical and voluminous.
With that said, Kawakubo is similar to Issey Miyake — in a sense of focusing on perfectly imperfect cuts and asymmetrical lines in her designs — and also to Yohji Yamamoto — with the dramatic usage of black. I guess you could say that she ties the trio all together, making the Japanese avant garde aesthetics coherent, but still very much a broad category.
As Kawakubo studied art in university, her collections for Comme des Garçons weren’t based on trends, but rather artistic concepts which create designs of unorthodox silhouettes that use exaggerated amounts of fabric. These all play a part in offering women to look “like some boys”…
This is about providing comfort and mobility. But most of all, Kawakubo’s designs scream to the girls who don’t want to succumb to the wants of men, seduction, approval and all. Unlike Yamamoto and Miyake, Kawakubo’s designs play around with exposing the body without them being sexy.
And then we have Dover Street Market. Kawakubo and her CEO (who is also her husband) created the multi-brand retail store that was originally in London on…Dover Street. Now with stores all around the world, the idea of it is to bring people from everywhere into one beautiful chaotic space. They succeeded — established and up-and-coming designers are free to display and sell their works as they please. Kawakubo still remembers her Japanese roots though — Dover Street Market goes through tachiagari. While in Japanese it means “start” or “beginning”, for these multi-brand retail stores, it’s the revamping of the space and basically giving it a fresh start.
We used a few fashion-related Japanese words in the episode. Here’s a list of them:
Abanga-do (アバンガード) — avant-garde, a French term to refer to works that are unorthodox and experimental
Sekushi (セクシー) — sexy
Kuro (黒) — black
Koraborēshon (コラボレーション) — Collaboration
Puritsu (プリツ) — pleats
Iki kata (生き方) — way of life
Ifuku no kōzō (衣服の構造) — garment construction, ifuku translates to “clothes” and kōzō kinda means framework
Otokoppoi / otokomitai (男っぽい・男みたい) — to look like a boy, which is basically Kawakubo’s brand name
Feminizimu (フェミニジム) — feminism
Tachiagari (立ち上がり) — start or beginning
And that’s an intro to the ultimate Japanese fashion designer trio: the dark, androgynous and still sexy approach of Yohji Yamamoto; Issey Miyake’s revolutionary fashion concepts and construction; and Rei Kawakubo’s inspiring feminism in fashion.
I’ve only just scraped the surface of fashion in Japan, but if you want to know more about these three designers, give the full episode a listen, over at the Nihongo Master Podcast page!
I don’t know about you, but shopping is time consuming for me. That includes souvenir shopping. When travelling, we’re trying to explore the country and city that we’re in. Shopping should take up the least of our time.
But when in Japan, souvenir shopping can be overwhelming and time consuming, because there are so many things to consider when buying souvenirs for friends and family back home. Not to fret, we’ve come up with a list of the 15 most unique Japanese souvenirs to buy in Japan!
These items can range from very cheap to a more exclusive price, so there’s a bit of everything for everyone! Keep on reading to find out more!
One of the best souvenirs you can get from Japan is definitely the traditional wear! There are two general types: a kimono and a yukata. A kimono is the standard one you see everywhere, but it can cost quite a bit to get an authentic one. A yukata is a summer version of the kimono, so for those of you who live in tropical countries, this is perfect. I think yukatas are definitely cheaper, but you’ll never know! Some thrift shops offer both for a bargain!
2. Geta and Zori Sandals
Why not complete the kimono or yukata with a geta or zori? These are traditional sandals and definitely unique to Japan. The best part about these sandals is that they make a very unique clip-clop noise when you walk.
It can be a thoughtful gift for your friends or family. You can also get one for yourself as a way to remember Japan! Oh, take note: these shoes can be a little tricky to walk at first, but you’ll get used to it, for sure.
3. Ukiyo-e Woodblock Prints
One of the most unique souvenirs you can get from Japan is a ukiyo-e artwork. Ukiyo-e is a kind of Japanese artwork popular during the Edo period. This style of art uses woodblocks to make the prints. It’s said to be the world’s oldest form of colour copying!
You can get all sorts of pictures in the ukiyo-e form, everything from kabuki actors to the scenic landscape of Mount Fuji.
4. Calligraphy Sets
If you have an artsy friend, get them a Japanese calligraphy set. One of Japan’s art forms is calligraphy, drawing kanji characters in cursive handwriting. Not only is this a perfect souvenir but it also adds a personal thought into the gift when presenting it to your artsy companion.
If your friend or family member has a green thumb instead, get them a bonsai tree. Or at least, a bonsai planting kit. This can range anywhere from 10 bucks to 100 bucks, but I personally have seen souvenir, travel-friendly kits sold at sightseeing spots. Bonsai is becoming a popular choice of souvenir!
If you’re on a bit of a budget for souvenirs, try getting sensu, which is a kind of Japanese fan. This is sold everywhere, from small local shops to 100-yen shops nationwide! It’s often carried around and tucked into kimonos and yukatas, making a perfect traditional souvenir for a bargain price!
If you’re on even more of a budget, get some origami paper. Japanese origami is so popular and it’s so light and cheap, it’s perfect for a souvenir. You can find them in most stationery shops and souvenir shops, and their price range can vary.
Want to bring a bit of Japan back home to your house? Get a chochin, which is a paper lantern. You see them outside of Japanese local food shops, emitting red light. It’s not common to have it in the house, but hey, it makes a perfect decoration for back home.
Get a customised souvenir for your loved ones by getting an inkan. These are stamps that the Japanese use instead of signatures. You can pre-make your inkan at shops like Don Quijote! It’s not as cheap, as it can cost about 30 bucks. But it’s definitely worth the money!
10. Omamori Charms
A convenient souvenir to get is omamori, which is known as good luck charms. You can find them at any temple or shrine. There are various types of omamori, ranging from wishes for health and longevity to relationships and love.
11. Furoshiki Cloth
Get a furoshiki as a souvenir for your friends! They’re cheap, convenient and light to bring back home. This is a large cloth to wrap around items so you can carry them around. Oftentimes it’s used to wrap bento boxes. I used mine as a nice tabletop for my side table back home, and it got so many compliments!
12. Noren Curtains
Whether it’s for yourself or for others, noren curtains make the perfect souvenir! This is a curtain-like fabric that splits into two and is hung in front of entrances of stores. You can use it in your home as room dividers, at your home entrance, or even as curtains if you wish!
13. Bento Box
If you know a friend who likes to bring home cooked lunches to school or work, why not get them a bento box as a souvenir? This is perfect, because bento boxes can vary in prices too. You can definitely get affordable ones even at 100 yen shops, or you can go to bento craft shops where they are handmade from exceptional materials.
Get some toys for souvenirs! The best one to get is the kendama, which is played using a ball that’s attached to a stick with a rope. You have to catch the ball in cups before spearing it with the point of the stick!
Another game you can get as a souvenir is a beigoma, which is just 3cm in diameter. It’s played by spinning, done by wrapping a 60cm cord around it then releasing the cord to spin on the surface. The aim of the game is to knock off another beigoma! So you’ve got to get two!
Get your perfect souvenir!
I bet, with this list, you’re never going to be unsure about what to get as a souvenir from Japan ever again! There are so many to choose from for various types of people, so go get shopping!
Japan is known for a lot of things. Sightseeing, nature, and neon lights are among them. But those who have been here for quite some time would also know Japan for its high context culture. If you don’t know what that is, read our blog post about it.
Anyway, an aspect of the Japanese’s high context culture is body language and facial gestures. Aside from the language barrier, you’d have to be able to decipher body language and facial expressions too. This can be quite a challenge, especially if you have no idea what to look out for in the first place.
So, if you’re looking to know how to grasp the concept of Japanese body language, you’ve come to the right place! We’re zooming into facial gestures that are part of Japanese body language in this article. Head over to this other article where we look at the top 8 body gestures to know in Japan!
Japanese Facial Gestures
There’s no doubt that communication can be like a jigsaw puzzle sometimes. You get the pieces but you have to put them together. It’s all part and parcel of the high context culture! Japanese facial gestures take up quite a chunk of the Japanese high context culture. Sometimes, no expression is a gesture in itself!
So while it can be straightforward, it’s best to not roll the dice on it. There are a few things to take note of when it comes to the Japanese way of communication. They sometimes communicate with their facial expressions rather than saying it out loud.
We’re going to highlight the top three facial gestures (感情表現 in Japanese) that give you an insight into what they’re trying to say: the one eyebrow raise, eye contact and the head tilt.
1. One Eyebrow Raise
This first one is the one eyebrow raise. Normally, if someone is doing that to me, I would be thinking that they’re waiting for an answer or reply. Sometimes, it also signals that they don’t understand.
In Japan, it’s almost the same. When you get a one eyebrow raise, they’re telling you that they don’t understand. But not only that, they’re also asking you to repeat it. I guess that’s the difference – in Japan, no words are needed to ask someone to repeat.
Sometimes, you can get scrunched up brows instead, but they both mean the same thing.
The best thing to do in cases like this is to repeat. If you were speaking in English, try repeating it slower and with easier phrases. I’ve gotten this a couple of times and in my case, they were just hesitant to ask me to repeat myself.
2. Eye Contact
Another facial gesture to note in Japan is eye contact. To be more specific, the lack of eye contact. I’m used to making eye contact with people. It’s normal to me. In fact, I prefer talking to someone while making eye contact rather than not.
In Japan, it’s not always the case. Some people aren’t comfortable with eye contact. If that happens to you, don’t be offended. They’re not uninterested or bored. It’s just part of their body language. Prolonged eye contact is something they’re not used to or comfortable with.
In cases like this, try to glance around to break eye contact. You’ll notice them doing the same. Try your best to be natural and not awkward about it!
3. The Head Tilt
Last but not least, the head tilt is a common facial gesture I get so often. This is often paired with the one eyebrow raise. This facial gesture is similar in meaning to the first one as it often tells you that the other person didn’t quite catch what you said.
However, this one, from my experience, is more of confusion rather than not understanding.
Regardless of the difference, you’re also requested to repeat yourself. Similarly, rephrase your sentences so you’re not getting the head tilt again!
Are You Raising Your Brow Or Tilting Your Head?
Body language can be quite difficult to grasp in general, regardless of which country. It’s a skill we constantly need to keep on learning. In Japan, it’s good that there’s a consistent set of gestures that can be easily decoded! You’re one step closer to mastering the high context culture here!