10 Cultural Facts About Japanese Food

10 Cultural Facts About Japanese Food

Who doesn’t like Japanese food? Known as washoku (和食) in Japanese, it’s one of the most popular traditional cuisines in the world! There’s no doubt you’ll see a Japanese restaurant in a city near you, if not in your city. Isn’t that proof enough that Japanese cuisine is the bomb?

But what is it that makes Japanese food so delicious and popular? There are actually a few cultural facts about Japanese cuisine that might have something to do with it. In this article, we list out 10 cultural facts about Japanese food. One or two of them might be the main reason why washoku is so delicious! The only way you can find out is if you keep reading!

1. Japanese cuisine prioritises simplicity

The best thing, in my opinion, about Japanese food is that the cuisine is often simple because of the cultural fact of prioritising simplicity. This factor applies to all parts of Japanese life, and that includes its cuisine. 

A lot of their high-end courses include small items of fresh ingredients, made with simple flavours. That’s one of the top priorities of chefs: finding the best quality ingredients so that they can do as little work to the food itself as possible. This, in their perspective, brings out the flavours and umami (うまみ) of the ingredients the best. Umami is an extremely important factor when it comes to Japanese cuisine: it’s the rich flavour profile characteristics of Japanese cuisine.

Because of this perspective, the way food is cooked includes searing, boiling, minimal seasoning and even eating the ingredients raw. That’s why they have sushi! Oftentimes you find that the umami is enhanced with bonito flakes, soy sauce, miso, seaweed and bonito broth. Seasonings include pickles, citrus and wasabi.

2. Seasonality is also key

One of the most important cultural facts about Japanese cuisine is that they take seasonality very seriously, and it’s incorporated in the dishes. The four seasons bring out a ton of opportunities for Japanese chefs to select ingredients and curate the perfect seasonal dish. 

For example, strawberry is often associated with spring because of the sakura (桜) season; eel is popular in summer because it’s in-season for it; sweet potatoes and chestnuts are for fall; apples and radishes are big in winter. These are just a few ingredients in a long list of them for each season.

But the ingredients aren’t the only thing important in seasonality. Seasonal dishes created are made to suit the occasion of the season. As we mentioned before, strawberries are popular because people celebrate cherry blossoms during this time. Because locals are enthusiastic about seasonal changes, the foods have to suit these celebrations too. 

3. Japanese cuisine is one of the three national food traditions that is recognised by the UN

Some of us may not know this, but traditional Japanese cuisine is one of the three national food traditions that’s recognised by the United Nation. UNESCO added washoku into its Intangible Cultural Heritage list, to bring significance that the preservation of the way of eating is crucial to the survival of the traditional culture. 

4. Matching dishware to food

Some may not put much thought into the kind of dishware when eating at a restaurant. Heck, sometimes we don’t put in much thought when we cook at home either. But the Japanese are extremely particular about their dishware. They would match the dishes based on colours, patterns and shapes. Seasonality is also an important factor.

If you go to a more formal restaurant, they often use antique ceramics and lacquerware. Don’t be surprised if the server tells you about the food as well as the dishware. You never know if the bowl you’re eating your ramen from is a handmade, hand-painted ceramic from centuries ago!

5. Japanese food has a lot of vegetables, but is not fully vegetarian

One Japanese cultural fact about food that most people often get confused with is that washoku is not fully vegetation. Sure, there are a lot of vegetables in Japanese cuisine. In fact, Japanese cuisine has a much higher ratio of plant-based foods than in the US, but that’s not the point.

A lot of the time, Japanese food is cooked in fish broth or served with bonito flakes sprinkled on them. I once tried to ask a Mexican restaurant in Japan if their shrimp tacos were okay for pescatarians, but they said that the oil they used was not suitable as it contains meat fat. So those with strict diets, this is quite important to take note of.

6. There are a lot of rules and etiquette to Japanese cuisine

A super important cultural fact of Japan that is closely related to their food is etiquette. There are a lot of rules and etiquette when it comes to eating Japanese cuisine. To list out all of them would require a whole other article, but we actually touched base on them in our Season 1 Episode 11 episode “Picture of Politeness”: click here to listen! Alternatively, you can read our recap article on the episode. 

To name a few important ones, chopsticks have certain rules – you can’t play around with them or stick them up in your rice bowl; slurping is considered polite instead of rude; you can’t walk while eating on the streets in Japan.

7. Local ingredients are massively featured in Japan’s various cities 

On top of seasonal ingredients, Japanese people pride themselves on local, regional ingredients to create their dishes. Depending on the city or prefecture you’re in, you’re going to get a lot of the same ingredients that they provide. For example, Miyagi prefecture is proud of edamame (枝豆), which are immature soybeans, and you’ll get them in everything from appetisers to desserts.

8. Tea is a form of art in Japan

If you don’t know what a Japanese tea ceremony is, read our article on it first! This practice is one of the highest forms of art in Japan. Yes, tea is considered a form of art in the country! There are even schools that teach you the right ways of preparing tea, and everything that comes with it. Our article has a more in-depth explanation and insight into this art form.

9. There’s a way to pour sake

This is a cultural fact that I didn’t know until I experienced it myself: there’s a way to pour sake! It’s said that restaurants will pour sake until it overflows into the saucer as a way to welcome their guests. This symbolises gratitude and abundance. To prepare you for this cultural act, here’s a video that you can watch that does exactly that:

10. Raw foods is common

This last one isn’t an uncommon Japanese food cultural fact: raw foods are so common in Japan. As we mentioned before, this has to do with the simplistic nature of Japanese culture, as well as the umami concept. So brace yourselves for a whole lot of sushi and the like!

What’s the best Japanese food fact? 

So, which one out of the ten Japanese food cultural facts is the best, in your opinion? Which one are you surprised by the most? Japanese food, just like the culture it’s from, has abundant to give, and both of them are things you have to experience yourself to grasp the uniqueness fully!

Basic Japanese Grammar: I Try… (みたい)

Basic Japanese Grammar: I Try… (みたい)

As the new year comes around, some of us have the habit of making New Year’s resolutions. Who’s with me? What is your New Year’s resolution? Are there any new things you want to try? It’s the best time of the year to come up with a list of new things you want to try – whether it’s new and exciting activities or the ones you missed out on completely in 2020. Why not have that list written down in Japanese as well? 

In our Season 3 Episode 2 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we broke down step-by-step the grammar of how to say “to try” in Japanese. And this article is a recap of what we discussed in that episode. But don’t worry, you get just enough information to fully grasp the grammar. Of course, if you want to be more comfortable with its usage, our episode has a few roleplaying scenarios exemplifying this new grammar.

Grammar Point

I thought the best way to understand this grammar point is by relating it to myself. So let’s say, my New Year’s resolution is to try a new sport. I also want to try cooking Japanese food.

To try…

If you want to say that you’re going to try something out, the Japanese grammar for it is extremely simple and clear cut: it’s basically the te-form of any verb, and add “~miru” (みる) to it at the end. And you’re done. Super simple, right?

Sentence ending with verb (in its te-form) + みる

Let’s take a look at an example: “My New Year’s resolution is to try a new sport.” The word for resolution in Japanese is houfu (豊富), New Year’s, is shinnen (新年), new is atarashii (新しい), and sports as a verb is spōtsu wo suru (スポーツをする). Then add “miru”. Now that we have all the words, let’s put it together: 私の新年の抱負は新しいスポーツをしてみる(watashi no shinnen no houfu ha atarashii supōtsu wo shite miru). 

Let’s change this sentence into Japanese:  “I will try to eat other country’s cuisine.” Here are the pieces: other is hoka (他), country is kuni (国), cuisine is ryōri (料理) and eat is taberu (食べる). Let’s put it all together: 他の国の料理を食べてみる (Hoka no kuni no ryōri wo tabete miru).

Want to try…

I’m going to throw in another grammar language that I pretty much use all the time. I like to try new things, so I would always say “I want to try…” 

We basically want to combine our newly learnt grammar point with the way to say “want to”, and that’s to add ~tai (たい). You can learn how to do that in our Season 2 Episode 10, or its article recap. “Miru” (みる) is a ru-verb, so its stem form is just “mi” (み). When we combine them both, we get mitai (みたい). 

Sentence ending with verb (in its te-form) + みたい

So to say “I want to try cooking Japanese food”, we have to put together the words: Japanese food is nihonshoku (日本食) or washoku (和食), cooking, in this context, is tsukuru (作る), and our new grammar: 日本食を作ってみたい (Nihonshoku wo tsukutte mitai).

Vocab Recap

We always have a vocab recap in our episodes. So here’s a list of the new words we used in that episode: 

Houfu (豊富) — resolution or ambition

Shinnen (新年) — new year

Atarashii (新しい) — new

spōtsu (スポーツ) — sports

Ryōri (料理) — cuisine

Hoka (他) — other

Kuni (国) — country

Taberu (食べる) — to eat

Nihonshoku (日本食) or washoku (和食) — Japanese food

Tsukuru (作る) — to make, but we can also use it as in the context of cooking 

Kotoshi (今年) — this year

Takusan (たくさん) — a lot 

Yasai (野菜) — vegetables

Rikujoubu (陸上部) — track and field 

saisho (最初) — first

Kenkou (健康) — healthy

Zenbu (全部) — all

Gōkaku suru (合格する) — to pass a test 

Nibanme (二番目) — second

Shumi (趣味) — hobby

Egaku (描く) — to paint

Muzukashii (難しい) — difficult 

Tanoshii (楽しい) — fun

Houkago (放課後) — after school 

Kaimono (買い物) — shopping 

Itsumo (いつも) — always

Onaji (同じ) — same

Chigau (違う) — to be wrong, but also can mean different 

Betsu (別) — other

Oishii (美味しい) — delicious

Chikaku (近く) — near

Osusume (おすすめ) — recommendation 

Takusan (たくさん) — a lot

Iro iro (色々) — various

Maa maa (まあまあ) — not good, not bad 

Omoshiroi (面白い) — interesting

What do you want to try?

Now you can go off and write that New Year’s resolution list in Japanese, too! Or just to express trying out new things, which is something I definitely recommend — new year or not. Be sure to check out the original episode for the full version of this content.

Our Study Saturday language series of the podcast is formatted just like our online learning system, so give that series a listen, and if you like it, subscribe to our program! I promise you won’t regret it!

The Top 4 Contemporary Artists in Japan! (NM Recap! S2EP11)

The Top 4 Contemporary Artists in Japan! (NM Recap! S2EP11)

In our Season 2 Episode 11 of the Nihongo Master Podcast, we got artistic…without the brushes and paint. Instead, we drew inspiration from some of the top Japanese artists of today!

The Land of the Rising Sun is constantly brewing creativity — if you’ve seen the famous Great Wave print by Hokusai, you somewhat know that Japanese artists have been around and creating revolutionary works since centuries ago. But the new wave of contemporary artists go beyond traditional woodblock printing and the likes, bringing a new generation of the country’s rich artistry. From paintings and sculptures to visual media and perspective photography, these four Japanese artists of today transform Japan’s art scene on a global scale.

In the episode, we touched on Takashi Murakami’s anime-style crafts, Yayoi Kusama’s polka dots, Tatsuo Miyajima’s illuminating creations and Hiroshi Sugamoto’s refreshing captures. This article is a recap of what we covered in detail in the podcast.

1: Takashi Murakami

Image: Photo by RK (IG :@rkrkrk) ©︎ 2019 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. ©︎ Fujiko-pro

Takashi Murakami is undoubtedly the country’s most successful Japanese contemporary artist to this day. He wouldn’t be called the “Warhol of Japan” if that wasn’t the case. This revolutionary artist saw similarities between traditional Japanese painting and Japanese anime and manga. He created the now-world famous artistic movement, “Superflat”, which refers to the flat, two-dimensional imagery using flat planes of colour. Combine that with popping colour combinations as well as his intriguing play on compositions, and you get Murakami’s iconic aesthetic. Murakami brings Japanese traditional art into the world of popular culture.

Despite his extremely modern creations, Murakami has his artistic inspirations rooted in cultural theories that are based on Japanese subcultures. He takes elements that are considered “low” and repackage them as “high”. His collaborations — particularly with Louis Vuitton to produce fashion accessories — and other activities like the auction of a fiberglass sculpture called Miss Ko2 for USD567,500 (the highest price for a Japanese artist) has earned him celebrity status.

And to top it all off, Murakami proves himself to be quite the influence in the art scene when he opens up his own art production company called KaiKai KiKi Co., Litd. This company provides a platform for up-and-coming artists to gain international exposure through exhibitions, selling merchandise and art festivals in both Japan and in the US.

If that’s not proof enough that Takashi Murakami is a ground-breaking force in the art world, I don’t know what is. 

2: Yayoi Kusama

When you hear the name Yayoi Kusama, you automatically think of the polka dot print. That’s when you know, she’s the real deal. In the span of seven decades, Kusama has explored multiple mediums including (but not limited to) painting, sculpture, installation, film and fashion. From Dots Obsessions paintings to walk-in installations of rooms covered entirely with colourful dots and mirrors, it’s safe to say that’s her trademark.

This Matsumoto-born artist described herself as an “obsessional artist”. Her earlier works, Infinity Net, were full of repeated tiny marks on large canvases. While Murakami embraces 2-D, Kusama is all about infinity, and she began venturing into physical and psychological boundaries — one of her adventures led her to paint tiny dots on participants’ bodies near New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Started out minimalist, but eventually moved on towards the full-on pop art and avant-garde.

When Kusama moved back to Japan from New York, she continued exploring various mediums — with her obsessional artistic style, of course. Eventually, she opened up a museum to showcase her works.

3: Tatsuo Miyajima

© ANNA KUCER

If you’ve been to Japan during winter, you’d realise that the country’s huge on illuminations. One of Japan’s foremost sculptor and installation artists, Tatsuo Miyajima literally lights up the Japanese art scene. Unlike the previous two artists who are more of paintings and prints, Miyajima uses materials like electric circuits, videos, computers and other “gadgets” — as he would call it — in his works, bringing technology into the world of traditional art. 

Miyajima’s works aren’t just about lights — there’s a whole concept behind it. He’s inspired by Buddhist teachings and humanist ideas which brought about his core artistic concepts: “Keep Changing”, “Connect with All” and “Goes on Forever”. Miyajima uses LED number counters that flash in cycles from one to nine repeatedly and continuously, skipping the finality of zero. Zero never appears in his work. This signifies the journey from life to death, but never reaching the end, ever — kind of like saying, life and death are constantly repeating. It’s all about connectivity, continuity and eternity. Miyajima’s works have been presented in all kinds of structures — grids and towers, using simple to complex counters.

Since 2017, Miyajima has devoted himself to social participatory projects. One of them, called Revive Time: Kaki Tree Project, involves taking saplings from persimmon trees in Nagasaki that survived the atomic bombings and planting them all over the world. Another one is an ongoing project called “Sea of Time — TOHOKU”, where the end-goal is to install 3,000 LED counters permanently in the Tohoku region of Japan as a tribute to the souls that were lost in the 2011’s Great East Japan Earthquake.

So it’s safe to say that Miyajima’s works are more than just a light show — every single one of them tells a story, and some of them are even movements of their own.

 4: Hiroshi Sugimoto

If a picture speaks a thousand words, Hiroshi Sugimoto’s works scream a billion. Sugimoto dabbles in a few different mediums including architecture and antiques, but he excels in photography and videography. Well versed in everything from politics and history to arts, his works capture the expression of exposed time. The different series of works each have its own distinct theme, and each one is like a capsule of time, encompassing a series of occurrences.

Using long exposures and large format photographs alongside conceptual aspects featured in his works, Sugimoto has caught the attention of many. His first series Dioramas in 1976 captured the displays inside a museum and making the fake look real — “Polar Bear” from this series is also the first work to be in public collection, acquired by New York Museum of Modern Art. The same approach of turning reality into fiction was used for the Portraits series in 1999 where he captured wax figures, all looking like they were basically posing for the camera.

Sugimoto has other tricks up his sleeve, like capturing a reality and making it look surreal through long exposures, like in his 1978 Theatres series.

Vocab Recap

Here’s a quick vocab recap: 

Eikyou (影響) — inspiration or influence 

Kaisha (会社) — company

Matsuri (祭り) — festival

Porukadotto (プロカドット) — polka dot 

Hatsubutsukan (初物館) — museum 

Choukoku (彫刻) — sculpture

Gijutsu (技術) — technology

Seikatsu (生活) — life

Shi (死) — death

Shashin satsuei (さ神撮影) — photography

Shashin (写真) — photo

Genjitsu (現実) — reality. It comes from the word “jitsu” (実) to mean “truth”

Fikushon (フィクション) — fiction

Conclusion

Each one of these contemporary artists of Japan paints beautiful pictures of Japan and Japanese culture. This article  merely scratched the surface of Japan’s contemporary art scene — head over to the Nihongo Master Podcast if you’re interested in similar content to this!

Birth, Life and Death: The Three Ceremonial Stages of Life in Japan (Podcast Recap! S2E9)

Birth, Life and Death: The Three Ceremonial Stages of Life in Japan (Podcast Recap! S2E9)

Japan has a lot of traditions. We delved more into the ceremonial traditions that take place at certain stages of life in the Nihongo Master Podcast Season 2 Episode 9

From my years of living in Japan, I feel like there’s always some sort of ritual or celebration going on every other week in Japan, and that’s in no way a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s splendid that the Japanese commemorate all the various phases of life.

In every culture, we have our own ways of acknowledging parts of life. In Japan, a country so rooted in culture and etiquette, they have quite a unique take on them all. Recapping the podcast episode, there are three ceremonial stages of life in this article: rituals for the youth, the commemoration of the union of two souls, and the service of paying respects to the passing of a life.

1: Rituals for the youth

Why shouldn’t we celebrate life? Life is great. Life is wonderful. Life is full of opportunities and unlimited possibilities. The Japanese are very well aware of that, and so they have multiple rituals for life — some even before the birth of life itself, others are spread out all the way to when they reach adulthood.

Hatsuzekku

The first celebration one will have right after one is born is the hatsuzekku (初節句), a celebration of the birth and prayers for their healthy and fruitful growth, as well as rituals including ones to ward off bad luck. Depending on whether the newborn is a boy or girl, there are different hatsuzekku dates — baby girls celebrate “momo no sekku” (桃の節句) on the 3rd of March, while baby boys celebrate “tango no sekku”  (端午の節句) on the 5th of May.

These celebrations involve decorating the household with colourful carp streamers on a poll outside the home and ancient Japanese samurai helmet replicas, known as kabuto. The carp streamers came from a legend of a carp that turned into a dragon when it swam up the Ryumon waterfall, and now these streamers are a symbol of hope for success.

There are also other decorations involved depending on the gender. For the boys, decorations also include samurai dolls called gogatsu ningyo — ningyo is the Japanese word for “doll”, and gogatsu is translated to the fifth month. For the girls, instead of samurai dolls, they have Heian period princess dolls, which are believed to protect the children from harm. 

Shichi-Go-San

Give it a couple more years and the children are celebrating again — specifically at the ages of 3, 5 and 7. These autumn celebrations are collectively called Shichi-Go-San, which literally means 7, 5, 3. For the girls, they get to have this celebration at all three ages, while the boys only get to celebrate at the ages of 3 and 5. 

While it’s traditionally observed on the 15th of November, nowadays, families schedule their shrine visits on a weekend around the date, praying for health and growth. Unlike hatsuzekku, there are no decorations, but the children dress up in formal kimono — the girls with hair and makeup done and the boys with a fake katana.

The Similarities 

If you haven’t noticed already, both ritual celebrations are to pray for a child’s healthy growth — and that’s because, back in the day, there was a serious issue with infant mortality. During the time, medicine wasn’t as developed as it is now, so the Japanese people turned to prayers.

Now, thanks to 21st century medicinal technology, we don’t have to worry about that as much. These rituals then become a custom and tradition that Japanese people still religiously practice.

2: Wedding

Almost every girl’s dream is a big wedding. Some of us are at that age where we’re getting invites to our friends’ wedding ceremony or reception. For the Japanese, it’s not just the bride and groom becoming one, but also the two families. While nowadays it’s becoming more common for Japanese couples to have a modern wedding in a chapel, traditional Japanese weddings usually take place in a shrine and follow the customs of Shinto religion.

Traditional weddings are usually extremely private, with only family members and a select few guests present. And as usual, the bride and groom get extremely busy on their wedding day — not only are there a few outfit changes, but there are a couple of rituals to go through before they officially tie the knot. 

One of the ceremony rituals (other than the purification, oaths and prayers), the couple has to share nuptial cups — three sizes of sake cups, all filled with sake — and sip each cup three times. Then their parents do the same. This ritual is known as the san-san-kudo — each three sets of sips represents something: the first set represents the three couples, the second set represents hatred, passion and ignorance, and the final set represents the freedom from the three flaws.

Wedding Outfits

The bride’s first outfit usually consists of a white kimono to symbolise her submission into the new family, with a headdress consisting of a hood called wataboshi and a wig called tsunokakushi. All in all, the outfit can weigh up to 20kg! For the traditional ceremonial rituals, the bride and groom are to be in the traditional wear for them.

While the bride changes into a few other types of kimono, the groom is only in one outfit throughout: a montsuki haori hakama, a kimono set with his family crest on them. Both of them then usually change into a more modern white dress and suit for the reception.

3: Funeral

The first two are celebrations of life — this one’s a little bit different. Some may say it is a celebration of one’s life, but when they have passed. Every culture has their own rituals for burial services — and in Japan, unlike weddings which are usually Shinto, funerals follow Buddhist customs.

If you’re invited to a Japanese funeral, it probably goes without saying but be sure to dress in full black. Bring with you Buddhist prayer beads and condolence money (known as kōden) for the family of the deceased. There’s an unspoken rule that the closer you are to the deceased, the more money you should give. Give odd numbers, and definitely avoid the number 4, as the word in Japanese is “shi”, which also means “death”.

On the day before the actual funeral ceremony, there’ll usually be a ceremonial wake called otsuya (お通夜), where family and friends gather to say their farewells to the dearly departed. A Buddhist priest would be present to chant a sutra while the bereaved offer incense. Nowadays, those who can’t make it to the funeral go to the wake. 

There’s also the okiyome (お清め), where guests eat and drink and talk about the good ol’ times — wait till you hear the “kenpai” toast from the deceased’s household before downing your drink!

The ososhiki follows a similar procedure to the wake, but with a few extra ceremonies: the biggest one is the cremation ceremony, a significant part of the Buddhist faith. This is usually conducted with family only, and after the body has been cremated, family members use tools similar to chopsticks to pick bones out of the ashes and pass it to the person next to them before placing them in a burial urn.

So if you’ve heard not to pass food from chopstick to chopstick, it’s because the act mimics this funerary ritual.

Vocab Recap

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

Koinobori (鯉の😂ぼり) — carp streamers 

Gogatsu (五月) — fifth month, or May 

Ningyou (人形) — doll

Ohinasama (お雛様) — princess

Shichi-go-san (七五三)  — a name of a celebration for children ages 7, 5, 3, but the name comes from the actual words for 7, 5 and 3 in Japanese

Katana (刀) — a Japanese sword 

Kekkon shiki (結婚式) — wedding ceremony

Kekkon hiroen (結婚ひろ園) — wedding reception

kekkon suru (結婚する) — to marry

Shiromuku (白無垢) — white kimono for the bride

Montsuki haori hakama (紋付き羽織袴) — kimono set with the family emblem for the groom

Sakazuki (盃) — sake cups

Kokubetsu shiki (告別式) / Ososhiki (お組織) — funeral service

Otsuya (お通夜) — ceremonial wake, it literally means “to pass the night” 

Okiyome (お清め) — the meal where friends and family talk about the good times 

Kenpai (兼杯) — the funeral version of kanpai (乾杯), which is like “cheers”

Juzu (数珠) — Buddhist beads

Kōden (香典) — condolence money

The Three Ceremonial Stages of Life!

And that’s our quick run through life in the form of Japanese ceremonies — the rituals of praying for a healthy growth for when you’re a kid, to a celebration when you find “the one”, and the last goodbye to a loved one at their final stage of life. I personally love the fact that the Japanese celebrate everything. Life’s too short not to! What does your culture celebrate that’s similar to these ceremonies?

Basic Japanese: Adjectives

Basic Japanese: Adjectives

Adjectives are important in language learning. They are used to describe things and express how you feel about something. It’s like saxing “the shoes are beautiful” or “the meal was expensive”

In Japanese, adjectives are classified into two categories: i-adjectives and na-adjectives. How they’re classified is based on the ending of the adjective. Depending on the type of adjective it is, you conjugate it differently. Conjugation is a huge part of Japanese language and grammar.

But don’t worry, all adjectives fall in either one of these two categories. We’ll look at conjugating into negative, past and past negative tenses. Once you have gotten the hang of these conjugations, you’ll be a pro in Japanese adjectives. 

I-Adjectives

I-adjectives refer to adjectives that end with the い hiragana. Here are some examples of the i-adjective:

Good – いい (ii)

Cheap –安い (yasui)

Big – 大きい (ookii)

New – 新しい (atarashii)

Fun –  楽しい (tanoshii)

Interesting – 面白い (omoshiroi)

If you notice, they all end with the same hiragana い. Almost all i-adjectives conjugate the same, except for one: いい (good) changes its first syllable to よい to other tenses.

One thing to note is that i-adjectives cannot have the auxiliary verb added. For example, you cannot say it as “これは大きい”, but instead say it as “これは大きい”. 

Past Tense

Changing an i-adjective to its past tense is pretty simple. All you have to do is change the ending い to かった. 

(I-adjective without い) + かった

Here are some examples of the conjugation:

Is Expensive – 高い (takai) 

Was expensive – 高かった (takakatta)

Is cheap – 安い (yasui)

Was cheap – 安かった (yasukatta)

Is big – 大きい (ookii) 

Was big – 大きかった (ookikatta)

Interesting – 面白い (omoshiroi) 

Was interesting – 面白かった (omoshirokatta)

The only exception is いい (ii) , which changes to よかった (yokatta).

Negation

To make an i-adjective its negation, you have to change the ending い to く. Then, you add nai (ない), which is the negation of the word “aru” (ある, to exist). 

(I-adjective without い) + く + ない

For example, let’s use the word “expensive (高い)” and change it to its negation.

Not expensive =  高 + く + ない = 高くない

Here are some other conjugations to the negative form of an adjective:

Cheap – 安い (yasui) 

Not cheap – 安くない (yasukunai)

Big – 大きい (ookii) 

Not big – 大きくない (ookinunai)

Interesting – 面白い (omoshiroi) 

Not interesting – 面白くない (omoshirokunai)

Negative Past Tense

If you want a negative past tense, you first negate the word, then change it to its past tense. The formats is:

Negative i-adjective (without い) + かった

For example, let’s change “expensive” to its past negative.

Was not expensive = 高 + く + な (ない without the い) + かった = 高くなかった

Here are some other examples:

Cheap – 安い (yasui) 

Was not cheap – 安くなかった (yasukunakatta)

Big – 大きい (ookii) 

Was not big – 大きくなかった (ookinunakatta)

Interesting – 面白い (omoshiroi) 

Was not interesting – 面白くなかった (omoshirokunakatta)

Polite Conjugation

To make the adjective polite, you add desu (です) after the i-adjective, regardless of tense.

I-adjective + です

Here’s an example in various tenses:

Present: Cheap – 安いです (yasui desu) 

Past: Was cheap – 安かったです (yasukatta desu)

Negative: Not cheap – 安くないです (yasukunai desu)

Past Negative: Was not cheap – 安くなかったです (yasukunakatta desu)

Alternatively, you can change the negative form and past negative form into a different way of polite form. 

ないです = ありません

なかったです = ありませんでした

Here are some examples: 

Negative: 

Not cheap – 安くないです (yasukunai desu) = 安くありません (yasuku arimasen)

Past Negative: 

Was not cheap – 安くなかったです (yasukunakatta desu) = 安くありませんでした (yasuku arimasen deshita)

Na-Adjectives

Na-adjectives are adjectives that end with な. It’s easier to look at it as those that don’t end with い. Here are some examples of na-adjectives:

Quiet – 静か (shizuka)

Like  – 好き (suki)

Convenient – 便利 (benri)

Good at – 上手 (jouzu)

However, there are some exceptions to the rule. For example, the word “beautiful’ (綺麗, きれい), “hate” (嫌い, きらい) and “grateful” (幸い, さいわい) all end with い, but they are actually na-adjectives.

Unlike i-adjectives, the auxiliary verb is supposed to be added to na-adjectives, but casually can be omitted. For example, to say “it’s quiet”, you say it with a “da” at the end: “静か” (shizuka da).

Past Tense & Polite Past Tense

Because na-adjectives take on the auxiliary verb, it’s easier for the conjugation. This is similar to noun conjugations where you just add “datta” (だった) or “deshita” (でした) for its past tense.

Na-adjective + だった (informal) / でした (formal)

Here are some examples:

Is quiet – 静か (shizuka)

Was quiet – 静かだった (shizuka datta) / 静かでした (shizuka deshita)

Like  – 好き (suki)

Liked – 好きだった (suki datta) / 好きでした (suki deshita)

Convenient – 便利 (benri)

Was convenient – 便利だった (benri datta) / 便利でした (benri deshita)

Is good at – 上手 (jouzu)

Was good at – 上手だった (jouzu datta) / 上手でした (jouzu deshita)

Negation & Polite Negation

Similarly to the past tense, it’s pretty simple to conjugate to its negation, past negation, and polite negation. They conjugat similarly to nouns.

Let’s look at negation first. You add “de ha nai” (ではない) or “de ha arimasen” )ではありません: 

Na-adjective + ではない (informal) / ではありません (formal)

Here’s an example:

Quiet – 静か (shizuka)

Not quiet – 静かではない (shizuka de ha nai) / 静かではありません (shizuka de ha arimasen)

Past Negation & Polite Past Negation

For the past negation, you add “de ha na katta” (ではなかった) or “de ha arimasen deshita” (ではありませんでした) to the adjective:

Na-adjective + ではなかった (informal) / ではありませんでした (formal)

Here’s an example: 

Quiet – 静か (shizuka)

Not quiet – 静かではなかった (shizuka de ha na katta) / 静かではありませんでした (shizuka de ha arimasen deshita)

Conjugate Adjectives Like A Pro!

And that’s a comprehensive guide to basic adjectives and it’s conjugations into various tenses! If you like this kind of article, you should check out our Nihongo Master Podcast as we have a language series, Study Saturday, where we break down Japanese grammar similar to this one! 

Basic Japanese Grammar: I Think… (と思う)

Basic Japanese Grammar: I Think… (と思う)

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! 

Grammar Point

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).

Negation

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).

Vocab Recap

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

Conclusion

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! 

Basic Japanese Grammar!

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

Basic Structure

In both Japanese and English, the basic sentence structure is: subject – object.

“This is a pen.”

Kore ha pen.

これはペン。

Action Sentences

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.

Describing Existence

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).

Japanese Particles

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

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!

Verb Tenses

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:

る-verbs

う-verbs

Irregular verbs

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!

Seijin no Hi: The Japanese Celebration of Becoming An Adult

Seijin no Hi: The Japanese Celebration of Becoming An Adult

A new year is like a new beginning. Other than the big oshougatsu (お正月) celebrations, the Japanese has another festivity that celebrates the beginning of adulthood: Seijin no Hi (成人の日). This translates to Coming of Age Day. 

This special day welcomes youths who turn 20 years old into the adult world – it may not sound as appealing for those of us who have had a taste of what adult life has to offer, but let’s also agree that there are tons of other doors of opportunities that adulthood opens.

Seijin no Hi didn’t just pop up recently – this centuries-old celebration has its roots deep in Japanese tradition. This article is all you need to know about this celebration – a more in-depth look into it, check out our Nihongo Master Podcast Season 3 Episode 1, which is what this article is a recap of!

Origin & Significance

What is Seijin no Hi? It is a celebration where youths are formally regarded as adults. This life-changing ceremony is held every second Monday of January, making it the first celebration of the new year (after New Year’s Day itself, of course). Right after the long-lasting Christmas festivities plus the Japanese New Year celebrations, the country has another holiday to look forward to so soon! 

Based on Japan’s age structure, the annual calendar is from April 2nd the previous year to April 1st of the current year. So those who turn 20 for that year go through this rite of passage into adulthood. In Japan, 20 is the age of maturity. You’re legally allowed to drink, smoke, drive and gamble as soon as you leave your teenage years behind.

Seijin no Hi has been celebrated as far back as the early 8th century. During that time, a young prince would don fresh, new robes and have his hair in a special style to signify this transition into adulthood. This practice inspired other youths to show their maturity to the public, too. During the Edo period, teenage boys would start carrying swords openly as a way to do that. Young girls, primarily married ones, would dye their teeth black during the late 19th century – this is not only an expression of maturity but also of freedom.

It wasn’t until 1946 that Japan made this occasion a formal holiday on January 15th every year. Then, in 2000, the date changed to every second Monday of January. This is thanks to Japan’s “Happy Monday System”, established in 1998 and 2001, where some Japanese holidays are moved to a Monday to make a three-day weekend for the people.

What They Wear

Every sort of celebration needs an elaborate outfit to go with it. Seijin no Hi is no different. In fact, this holiday is quite the visual spectacle of elegant and elaborate clothing, makeup and hairstyles. Expect photographers, both professionals and relatives alike, capturing the rainbow of colours and extravagance of the scene.

Men and women dress differently on this special day. The most common ceremonial dressing young women opt for is the furisode (振袖) – a type of kimono with long sleeves that’s reserved for unmarried women. However, it’s more common to rent one from kimono rental shops than buying one as it costs quite a bit. On top of that, the ladies would also book their hair and makeup styling well in advance to make sure their photo op is picture-perfect.

While the ladies have the only option of a traditional look, the gents can choose between a Western-style suit or a hakama (袴) paired with a kimono (着物). A hakama is a pair of traditional skirt-like wide-legged trousers that used to be a standard piece of clothing before Western fashion came to Japan. Most of the time, guys opt for the suit rather than the traditional wear, but it’s not at all uncommon for one to choose the other option.

The Celebration

So how is Seijin no Hi actually celebrated? The governments all over Japan host ceremonies on this special day. One of the most significant events to be held on this day is the Omato Taikai in Kyoto, where young women are given the opportunity to showcase their mastery in Japanese archery. 

Everyone who’s celebrating their entrance into adulthood receives a formal invitation to their ceremony. Without this invitation, you’re not allowed to enter, other than invited friends and family.

Most of the time, the ceremony starts at noon, giving the youths enough time to prepare in the morning. It starts off with the city mayor giving a speech to congratulate the youths, followed by a few performances including traditional dances and musical shows like a taiko drum performance. There might even be key figures giving a series of lectures – I would expect a whole guidebook on what to do and what not to do as an adult.

Afterwards, these new adults roam around to take pictures with each other, family and friends. Many do visit shrines and temples after to pray for their wellbeing. Some have a big feast or go shopping with family or friends. But the celebration is far from over – after all the formality, these fresh adults celebrate their newly gained freedoms by the best way we can think of: drinking. From bar-hopping to chilling in a local izakaya (居酒屋) for hours, it’s kind of like the informal rite of passage into adulthood.

Vocab Recap

Seijin (成人) – adults

Otona (大人) –a more common way to say adults

nenrei (年齢) – age 

Nansai (何歳) – how old are you 

Kyuujitsu (休日) –holiday. You can also say “oyasumi” (お休み) when you want to refer to a day off

kimono (着物) –Japanese traditional garment with wide sleeves. It actually translates to “thing to wear”, as it was the basic piece of clothing during the olden times of Japan

furisode (振袖) –a type of kimono worn by unmarried ladies 

Hakama (袴) – skirt-like, baggy trousers featuring pleats 

seijinshiki (成人式) – Coming of Age Day ceremony 

Kyuudou (弓道) – Japanese archery

Izakaya (居酒屋) – Japanese pubs

Conclusion

Know anyone that turned twenty in the past few months, or turning twenty in the next couple of months? Just like how some of us had sweet 16s or sweet 18s, the Japanese culture has sweet 20 – same ol’ partying and drinking tradition, just with a different take

How to Learn Japanese the Fast & Easy Way!

How to Learn Japanese the Fast & Easy Way!

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!

Where to Buy Kigurumi

Where to Buy Kigurumi

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!