What’s your favourite Japanese food?

What’s your favourite Japanese food poll.

Would you like to know what the most popular Japanese food is?

Then please take part in this fun poll.

Here’s what to do:

  1. In the poll below, select your number one favourite Japanese food.
  2. Click “vote” to submit.
  3. If your favourite food is not included, please leave a comment below with your best dish and that will be counted.

You can only choose one so choose well! Also, you can choose “View results” to see what other people voted for.

What's your favorite Japanese food?

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Blog Podcasts

Podcast 16: What to do when you lose your wallet in Japan

In this podcast Ami and I talk about what to do if you lose your wallet or other personal items when in Japan. The good news is that Japanese people are generally very law abiding and honest. Therefore, if someone finds your lost item, there is a good chance they will hand it in to the police and you will get it back.

If you do lose something, the best idea is to ring the place you think you left it and ask if it has been found. If you lose something on the train it’s best to go to the station master’s office and ask there. If you drop something in the street then you should go to a Koban or police box.

This lesson focuses on how to call the last place you were at to ask the staff if they found you things. Study the vocabulary list and dialogs below to learn how to do it.

Main Podcast

Japanese Dialogues

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Download: Main Podcast | Japanese Dialogues | PDF Lesson Notes

Get the app: iTunes App | Android App

Subscribe: iTunes | Android | Spotify | Stitcher | Youtube

Tell a friend: Twitter

Vocabulary featured in the podcast

もしもし Moshi moshi Hello (On the phone)
一番寿司でございます Ichibanzushi de gozaimasu This is Ichiban Sushi
すみません Sumimasen Excuse me
昨日 Kinō Yesterday
そちら Sochira There (Polite)
財布 Saifu Wallet
カバン Kaban Bag
携帯電話 Keitai denwa Mobile phone
忘れた Wasureta Forgot
何色 Nani iro What colour
少々お待ちください Shōshō omachi kudasai One moment please
届いてますよ Todoitemasu yo It is here (Someone found it)
ありがとうございます Arigtō gozaimasu Thank you

Dialog 01

A: もしもし幕張メッセでございます。 Moshi moshi, Makuhari Messe de gozaimasu. Hello, this is Makuhari Messe.
B: すみません、昨日そちらで財布を忘れたのですが。 Sumimasen, Kinō sochira de saifu o wasureta no desu ga. Excuse me, I left a wallet there yesterday.
A: 何色のお財布ですか。 Nani iro no osaifu desu ka What colour is the wallet?
B: 黒い革の財布です。 Kuroi kawa no saifu desu It is a black leather wallet.
A: 少々お待ちください。届いていますよ。 Shōshō omachi kudasai. Todoite imasu yo. One moment please. We have it.
B: ありがとうございます。 Arigatō gozaimasu. Thank you very much.

Dialog 02

A: もしもし一番寿司でございます。 Moshi moshi, Ichibanzushi de gozaimasu. Hello, this is Ichiban Sushi.
B: すみません、昨日そちらでカバンを忘れたのですが。 Sumimasen, Kinō sochira de kaban o wasureta no desu ga. Excuse me, I left a bag there yesterday.
A: 何色のおカバンですか。 Nani iro no okaban desu ka What colour is the bag?
B: 赤い革のカバンです。 Akai kawa no kaban desu It is a red leather bag.
A: 少々お待ちください。届いていますよ。 Shōshō omachi kudasai. Todoite imasu yo. One moment please. We have it.
B: ありがとうございます。 Arigatō gozaimasu. Thank you very much.

Dialog 03

A: もしもし六本木ヒルズでございます。 Moshi moshi, Roppongi Hiruzu de gozaimasu. Hello, this is Roppongi Hills.
B: すみません、昨日そちらで携帯電話を忘れたのですが。 Sumimasen, Kinō sochira de keitaidenwa o wasureta no desu ga. Excuse me, I left a mobile phone there yesterday.
A: 携帯電話の機種はなんですか。 Keitaidenwa no kishu wa nan desu ka. What type of phone is it?
B: iPhone8です。 iPhone hachi desu. It’s an iPhone 8.
A: 少々お待ちください。届いていますよ。 Shōshō omachi kudasai. Todoite imasu yo. One moment please. We have it.
B: ありがとうございます。 Arigatō gozaimasu. Thank you very much.

Extra Phrases

Let’s study some other phrases related to lost items:

1) 申し訳ありませんが財布は届いてないようです。

Mōshi wake arimasen ga saifu wa todoite inai yō desu.

I’m very sorry but it seems your wallet hasn’t been handed in.

2) 連絡先を教えていただけたら見つかり次第ご連絡します。

Renrakusaki o oshiete itadaketara mitsukari shidai gorenraku shimasu.

If you give me your contact details we’ll contact you the moment it is found.

3) 忘れ物


Lost items

4) 紛失届け

Fun shitsu todoke

A form to fill out at the police station for lost items

Cultural Points

  1. The Japanese are generally quite law abiding and honest. Most times, if found, your lost items  will be returned.
  2. If you lose something on the train go to the nearest 駅長室 Eki Chō shitsu – Station master’s office and tell them what you lost and on which train it was on. They’ll ring ahead to the next station or terminal station to see if they can locate your items.
  3. You can also go to any 交番 Koban police box to report lost or stolen items. For lost items you would write out a form called a 紛失届け Fun shitsu todoke

Random Phrase Of The Week


Atama ga masshiro

When you mind goes completely blank or you are lost for words.


Rusuban denwa o nokosu toki ni atama ga masshiro

When I leave a message on an answering machine my mind goes completely blank

Blog Podcasts

Fun Friday 04: Our Favorite Japanese Bands

In our latest Fun Friday Podcast, Ami and I talked about our favourite Japanese bands and other recent news that has been happening in our lives.

Podcast Download | iTunes Subscribe | Android Subscribe

Welcome to Learn Japanese Pod and the Fun Friday episode where we temporarily put down our Japanese textbooks and talk about Japanese culture and anything else to do with Japan that floats into our heads. In this episode, Ami sensei and I talked about our favorite Japanese bands. I kinda showed my age with some of my selection with some old classic Japanese bands most older people know. But Ami Sensei also likes some of those old classics too so we have a lot of music in common that we like.

So here is a break down of some of the music we talked about.

1. Utada Hikaru – Fantome

If you don’t know who Utada Hikaru is, you must have been living in a cave. She is a diva megastar of Japanese pop and has a long career spanning all the way back to the late 90s. Her latest album is Fantome and features quite an eclectic range of styles on the album. It’s definitely worth a listen and for me Utada is one of those go-to classic J-Pop stars you should have in your Japanese music collection.

2. Kick The Can Crew – Super original

I hadn’t heard of Kick the Can Crew until Ami introduced them to me on the podcast. And on the first listen I really liked them. Japanese are masters of importing foreign culture and recreating it with their own unique interpretation. And rap is no exception. Japanese rap has come into its own and is considered to be a unique and innovative genre. If you like Kick the Can Crew and want to check out more great Japanese rap bands then you won’t go wrong with Rip Slyme and Dragon Ash.

3. Super Fly – Ai O Komete Hanataba O

Super Fly is often called the Janis Joplin of J-Pop. She sings a mix of J-pop and rock and has a wide range and present vocal stle which is a refreshing break from your typical female Japanese singer. She has some pretty solid albums and songs out there and one of my favorites is 愛をこめて花束を Ai o komete hanataba – a song that really showcases some great song writing and powerful singing. That’ll definitely get your toes tapping.

4. Wednesday Campanella – Diablo

Wednesday Campanella is a Japanese pop group headed by the super talented KOM_I, a singer and rapper with an hilarious sense of humour and a very original and creative style. In terms of genre it mixes rap, hop hop, electronic music and J-pop. Their videos are also pretty funny and worth a listen.

5. Okuda Tamio – Marshmallow

Okuda Tamio is a singer song writer, guitarist and producer. He was formerly in a band called Unicorn which was pretty famous in Japan. He later quit to follow his own career. If you ask most Japanese people they will have heard of him and is also known for producing the hit band Puffy. The reason I like him is simple. In a word: guitar. As a nerdy guitarist I love the way he produces rock and gets an incredibly fat guitar sounds. Worth a listen!

6. Dry and Heavy – New Creation

Back in the 90s, reggae hit Japan in a big way and the Japanese reggae scene was born. Today you have some really big reggae music events in Japan including the Reggae Sun Splash festival. One really solid Japanese reggae band I love is “Dry and heavy” which has an incredibly well produced and tight sound. One thing I have found is their albums age really well so they are always a good go to band of summer parties and something to listen to on the beach.

7. Urufuruzu – Osaka Strut

ウルフルズ Urufuruzu are a rock band from Osaka and “Osaka Strut” is one of their big hits. The band is headed by the charismatic Tortoise Matsumoto who has also tried his hand at acting. They enjoyed their biggest initial success with the song “Guts Da Ze”,  a song you should attempt only when you have achieved your black belt in Karaoke.

8. Southern All stars

Southern All Stars are perhaps one of the most, if not, the most famous band in Japan. They have a long career stretching back to the late 70s and are still active now performing live and having their music featured in adverts and on TV. They have over 15 number one hits and, in short, are a legendary band. Go check them out, there’s a lot of music to choose from!

9. Begin

Begin are one of my favorite bands for their great song writing and singing. Their music is influenced by the culture and history of Okinawa. You can hear the traditional San Shin in a lot of their music. It’s a 3 stringed guitar unique to Okinawa. Their most well known songs are “San shin no hana” and “Shimanchu nu takara”.

10. Mr Children

Mr. Children (ミスターチルドレン Misutā Chirudoren)is rock group from Japan who are another mega group with a career going back to the early 90s. Known more commonly as “Misu-Chiru” (ミスチル), they are a band just about everyone has heard of in Japan. They have a large discography and an impressive share of number one hits. All I can say is, do a google search and see where that takes you as they have a fair bit of music out there.


Premium Travel Japanese Course Progress Report

Travel To Japan

New Premium Travel Japanese Course

If you are interested in studying Japanese and traveling to Japan, then I have just the thing for you. It’s my new Audio Travel Japanese Course which will teach you all the vocabulary, phrases, listening skills and speaking fluency you need to navigate your trip to Japan. I wanted to make this because I keep getting emails from members asking about phrases related to travel, directions, shopping and generally navigating Japan.

Travel Course Contents

The course focuses on teaching you essential vocabulary, phrases and grammar for things such as asking directions, ordering sushi, shopping and even how to have a bath at an onsen (hot spring). It will also include:

    • Over 30 audio mp3 lessons on travel topics for Japan
    • Japanese vocabulary lists, dialogs in PDF format
    • Extra drill audio files to practice listening and speaking fluency
    • Anki files for each lesson to drill vocabulary
    • Lessons on culture and recommendations on places to visit
    • A comment section where you can ask me questions or talk to the other students

Also all the content is downloadable so you can study it anywhere and any time you like at your own pace.

Travel Japanese Course Sample

Here’s a screen shot showing you what it will look like when you log in:

travel Japanese Course

Travel Course Opening Schedule

Here’s the thing, it’s not quite ready yet. So in order to show you how fast I am progressing in getting this course finished for you I made this progress graph. The thick red line shows what I have done and the think red one shows the predicted ETA of the project. I also posted this to publicly embarrass myself into finishing it earlier.

Latest Travel Course News

Please visit regularly to see news updates as well as how far I have progressed on the graph. If you would like to sign up early to get in on this course then please go to and sign up for a free account. If you sign up there you can get access to the other free courses to test drive the other free online courses. I will send you an email when the premium course is ready. You have no obligation to buy and can unsubscribe at any time.


19th March 2017 – Hoorah! We have a three day weekend in Japan so I will be mixing more episodes for the new premium course.

Blog Podcasts

Fun Friday 02: Drinking Etiquette in Japan

In this podcast, Yoshiko and I (Alex) talk about etiquette for eating out and drinking with friends at an Izakaya, Hanami party or similar events. If you listen to this podcast you will learn some insider cultural knowledge which will help you to give you your black belt in partying with your Japanese friends.

Listen to the Podcast

Blog Videos

What are your Japanese study goals?

What are your Japanese Study Goals?

YOSH! It’s 2017. Let’s do this people!

What are you Japanese study goals for 2017? Do you want to learn the basics of Japanese? Would you like to learn phrases for traveling in Japan? Would you like to learn how to read manga or understand Anime? Perhaps you want to learn something specific like Japanese for getting an IT job or gaming.

Whatever it is I would love to hear what YOUR Japanese study goals are. Now here’s what I want you to do. Write a comment below with the following 3 points:

  1. What is your Japanese study goal?
  2. What steps will you take to achieve it?
  3. What is your deadline to achieve it?

That’s it! If you write that down below, we can start a discussion on how to achieve it in more detail.

Good luck and I look forward to getting your comments.


Blog Podcasts

Fun Friday 01: Review of 2016

Fun Friday is back, Hoorah! And if you don’t know what Fun Friday is, it is a podcast where we temporarily put down our textbooks and talk about life, the universe and everything related to life in Japan. In this episode, Yoshiko joined me to review 2016. We talked about our experiences and the major news events of the last year in Japan. I added links to the topics we covered in the podcast. Enjoy!


Why are you interested in studying Japanese?

Hi, this is Alex from learn Japanese and I would like your help in filling out this survey. I want to know why you want to study Japan which will help me to improve the site and podcasts I am making. Just take the survey below and when you are finished you can see what other people selected.

Then, please leave a comment below and I will mention it on the podcast. That’s it!

So, why are you interested in learning Japanese? Are you studying it in college? Do you like traveling? Manga? Anime? Do you want to be a ninja?

(You can click  as many boxes as you like)

Why do you want to study Japanese?

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Please leave a comment below and I will mention it on my next podcast.

Blog Podcasts

Podcast 07 How to ask for help in Japanese

In this podcast, you will learn how to ask for help in natural, fluent Japanese. Check out the audio dialogues and audio lesson to learn how to get assistance in Japanese. Enjoy!

Main Podcast

Japanese Dialogues

Main Dialogue

A: ちょっといい? Chotto ii?

Can I bother you for a minute?

B: うん。どうした? Un. Dō shita

Sure, what’s up?

A: このパソコンを全部会議室 へ運びたいんだけど手を貸
してくれる? Kono pasokon o zenbu kaigishitsu e hakobitain dakedo te o kashite kureru?

I want to take all these PCs to the meeting room. Could you lend me a hand?

Alex: うん、いいよ。 Un, ii yo.


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Download: Main Podcast | Japanese Dialogues | PDF Lesson Notes

Get the app: iTunes App | Android App

Subscribe: iTunes | Android | Spotify | Stitcher | Youtube

Tell a friend: Twitter

LJP Videos Videos Vlog

Free Kanji Course PDF Download

PDF DOWNLOAD: Kanji for daily life for foreigners 外国人のための生活漢字

Hoorah! It’s my 2nd vlog and I’ve got a fantastic free resource for you if you are starting to study kanji and not sure where to start.

It’s a free downloadable PDF entitled 外国人のための生活漢字 / Kanji for daily life for foreigners  It contains 82 pages of examples and quizzes that teach you the very basic kanji for everyday life in Japan. There are 13 chapters that cover basic kanji for topics such as going to the doctor, shopping, travel, disasters and emergencies and more.

It also contains pictures, sentence examples, exercises and review quizzes to teach and consolidate your kanji knowledge. Therefore, it’s a great free self contained Japanese course perfect for beginnings in kanji. In terms of level, it’s probably good for students who are studying the N4 or N3 level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. However, there’s no reason why complete beginners couldn’t use it. You will have to be able to read Hiragana to understand the basic readings of the kanji as there is no romaji pronunciation in the PDF.

I would recommend downloading and then printing it on double sided A4 paper and then binding it into a booklet for easy storage and portability. You could also use it with your Japanese teacher at school as a beginner’s kanji course.

The other thing I like about this text is the high frequency and practical nature of the kanji. That means you are definitely going to encounter the kanji in real life on a recurring basis. That makes it more useful and easier to remember.

So, try download it and see what you think. If you do download it, let me know what you think by leaving a comment below or sending an email.


Blog Podcasts

Podcast 06 Useful Classroom Japanese Phrases

In this podcast, Asuka and I teach you some useful classroom Japanese phrases so you can interact with your teacher and understand more. We teach you how to ask questions about vocabulary and sentences. In fact, I wish I had known all this when I started to study Japanese in Tokyo all those years ago. It would have helped me learn vocabulary a lot more quickly. We also teach you how to speak in a respectful way to your Sensei. And of course you can catch up with the rest of our random banter about what’s been going on with Asuka and I recently. Check out the podcast!

Main Podcast

Japanese Dialogues


Japanese Pronunciation English
先生 Sensei Teacher
ちょっと Chotto A little
質問 Shitsumon Question
どうぞ Dōzo Please go ahead
…てどういう意味ですか …te dō iu imi desu ka What does … mean?
…という意味です。 …to iu imi desu It means…
…でどんな文章が作るんですか? …de donna bunshō ga tsukurun desu ka What kind of sentence can you make with…
食事 Shokuji Food
残す Nokosu To leave something
彼女 Kanojo Girlfriend
振る Furu To shake / to dump someone
使える Tsukaeru To be able to use something
Kimi You (casual)
指輪 Yubiwa Ring

Main Dialog 1 (Japanese)

Student: 先生、ちょっと質問があります。 Sensei, chotto shitsumon ga arimasu.
Teacher: はい、どうぞ。 Hai dōzo.
Student: 「もったいない」ってどういう意味ですか? Mottainai tte dō iu imi desu ka.
Teacher: それはtoo good to wasteという意味です。 Sore wa too good to waste to iu imi desu.
Student: 「もったいない」で、どんな文章が作れるんですか? Mottainai de donna bunshō ga tsukurun desu ka.
Teacher: 食事を残すなんてもったいない。 Shokuji o nokosu nante mottainai.
Student: そのように使うんですね。わかりました。ありがとうございます。 Sono yō ni tsukaun desu ne. Wakarimashita. Arigatō gozaimasu.

Main Dialog (English)

Student: (Teacher) Could I just ask a question?
Teacher: Yes, go ahead.
Student: What does “Mottainai” mean?
Teacher: “Mottainai” means too good to waste.
Student: How do you use “Mottainai” in a sentence?
Teacher: Leaving food is a waste (mottainai).
Student: That’s how you use it! I understand. Thank you.

Random Phrase – Mottainai – It’s a waste

Here are some extra examples of this week’s random phrase which is “Mottainai” which means it’s such a waste.

1) 彼女を振ったなんてもったいない!

Kanojo futta nante mottainai

It was such a shame (waste) that you dumped your girlfriend!

2) もう新しいパソコン買うの?もったいないな、まだ使えるのに。

mō atarashii pasokon kau no. mottainai na, mada tsukaeru noni.

You’re buying a new PC already? That’s a waste, you can still use the old one.

3) 君にその指輪はもったいないよ。

Kimi ni sono yubiwa mottainai yo

That ring is wasted on you.

Download, Get the App, Subscribe, Tell a friend

✓Download: Main Podcast | Japanese Dialogues | PDF Lesson Notes

✓ Get the app: iTunes App | Android App

✓ Subscribe: iTunes | Android | Spotify | Stitcher | Youtube

✓ Tell a friend: Twitter

Blog Videos

Pokemon Go released in Japan

So, after some delays, Pokemon Go has finally come to Japan. And…


Being completely out of it and knowing next to nothing about Pokemon Go, my suspicions were first aroused when walking into Yoyogi park. There, congregating under a tree was a crowd of mostly young guys with backpacks, staring at their phones, the kind of guys you could tell hadn’t been outside or in a park in a long time.

Slightly confused as to what they were doing, I decided to think nothing of it and head to the main fountain area in the middle of the park. But there was no escape. There they were, a huge army of backpacking, nerdy t-shirt wearing Japanese Pokemon hunters. I counted at least 100 but I wouldn’t be surprised if over the course of the day more than 1000 people turned up.

In all my years living in Japan, I have never seen anything like it before. The only time I have seen crowds like this were at festivals or large outdoor gigs.

Is this a new digital-social phenomenon, or just a tamagochi flash in the pan? It will be interesting to see.

Check out my video to see the madness.

Blog LJP Videos Useful Japanese Phrases Videos

Japanese Internet Slang

In this video, Tomoe will teach you some useful slang related to the internet, email and texting. These phrases are actually used by Japanese people in real life so they are definitely worth learning. Check out the list below to see what they mean and don’t forget to watch the video.


Japanese Pronunciation English
メールしてね meeru shite ne Email me
リンク送ってね rinku okutte ne Send me the link
ググってみて gugutte mite Google it
自分でググってよ jibun de gugutte yo  Google it yourself
ネットで買った netto de katta I bought it online
ネットで落としてよ netto de otoshita yo I downloaded it off the net
ブログ炎上してるよ burogu enjō shiteru yo Your bog’s getting flamed
Blog LJP Videos Videos

Useful phrases for studying Japanese in a classroom

Are you planning to study Japanese in a classroom environment? Perhaps you are taking a class at college. Maybe you have enrolled in night school or your Japanese friends are going to teach you. If so, you’ll need some basic phrases to help you when studying with a Japanese teacher.

When I studied Japanese at university in Japan, the following phrase below and in the video were absolutely essential to me. This was partly because the other students in my school didn’t speak English well and my Japanese teacher enforced a Japanese only speaking environment.

So, I created this video to help you when you get stuck and you don’t understand what’s going on in your Japanese class. My advice would be to listen to and repeat the phrases in this video as many times as you can so you can say them without thinking. Learn these phrases well young Japanese student Jedi, they will serve you well and they definitely helped me when I was studying in university.

Useful Classroom Japanese Phrases

1: すみません ちょっと わかりません

sumimasen chotto wakarimasen

Excuse me I don’t understand

2: もう 一度 言って ください

mō ichido itte kudasai

Please say it again

3: もう 少し ゆっくり 話して いただけますか

mō sukoshi yukkuri hanashite itadakemasu ka

Could you speak a little more slowly please?

4: 茶道 は どういう意味 ですか

sadō wa dōiu imi desu ka

What does “sadō” mean?

5: それは tea ceremony という意味 です

sore wa tea ceremony toiu imi desu

That means tea ceremony


Blog LJP Videos Videos

Street Japanese #07 – Shuuden – The Last Train

In this video Yoshiko and Alex talk about what they did the night before which included Alex missing the last train and Yoshiko going on a date. Find out how to talk about all of this in natural Japanese in the transcript below with English translations.

Watch the other Street Japanese Videos 01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 | 06 | 07

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A: 昨日はおそかったの?
B: そうそう。終電なかったからタクシーで帰ったよ。
A: え、もったいない。
B: わかってる。よしこは?
A: 私は、この間のイケメンとデートしてたよ。

A: kinō wa osokatta no
B: sō sō. shuuden nakkata kara takushii de kaetta yo
A: e, mottainai
B: wakatteru. yoshiko wa
A: watashi wa kono aida no ikemen to deeto shiteta yo

A: Were you up late last night?
B:  Yeah, I missed the last train so I took a taxi back.
A: Eh? What a waste!
B: I know. How about you Yoshiko?
A: I went on a date with that hot guy (we talked about before)

終電 shuuden – The last train
When in Tokyo and other cities in Japan, be careful not to miss the last train or 終電 shuuden
as it is called. Generally speaking the only transport that runs 24 hours a day is taxis.

Blog LJP Videos Videos

Street Japanese – 06 Nidone

In this video Alex oversleeps and is late for an appointment with Yoshiko. Yoshiko forgives him, almost and they decide to go to go get some coffee together. This is the 6th in the series of Street Japanese videos which teach you natural Japanese as it is really spoken in Japan. All the videos connect together in order to create a longer conversation so watch them all!

Watch the other Street Japanese Videos 01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 | 06

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A: アレックス遅い!
B: ごめん。二度寝しちゃった!
A: しょうがないなあ。
B: とりあえずスタバ行こう。

A: arekkusu osoi
B: gomen, nidone shichatta
A: shō ga nai naa
B: toriaezu sutaba ikō

A: Alex, you’re late!
B: Sorry. I overslept.
A: Oh well, it can’t be helped I guess
B: So for now, let’s go to Starbucks.

二度寝 – nidone – to oversleep / fall asleep again
Ni do ne literally means 2 times sleep. It refers to when you wake up but then fall asleep again. In this case, Alex woke up, fell asleep which is why he was late for the appointment. To say you overslept in Japanese you can say 寝坊する nebō suru

ちゃった – chatta – verb ending to show regret
…chatta means you did something with a slight feeling of regret. For example, 日本語のテキストを忘れちゃった nihongo no tekisuto wo wasurechatta – I completely forgot my Japanese textbook. In the case of this dialog 二度寝しちゃった nidone shichatta – I completely overslept

とりあえず – toriaezu – for the mean time let’s…
The great thing about Japanese are these one word phrases that have so much meaning embedded within them and toriaezu is one on them. It’s a non-committal suggestion to try and do something. Use tend to use toriaezu when deciding to order food and drinks like this:

とりあえずコーヒーで – toriaezu koohii de
For now I’ll have a coffee

とりあえず生 – toriaezu nama
For now, I’ll have a (draft) beer

Minimal use of words to convey meaning based on context
Another fantastic thing about Japanese is the minimal amount of words you can use to convey meaning. However this is based on the context of the conversation. And this is demonstrated nicely when Yoshiko says to Alex:
アレックス遅い – arekkusu osoi

This literally means “Alex, late”. On the face of it, that doesn’t make so much sense. However, if we take into account the context, Alex just rushed up to Yoshiko looking apologetic and she shouts at Alex, you can be pretty sure she is saying “Alex YOU ARE late”.

Yoshiko could have also said:
アレックス遅い, 怒ってるよ! Arekkusu osoi. okotteru yo.
This literally means Alex late, really angry. So that’s quite minimal but you can be pretty sure it means “Alex YOU ARE late. I AM really angry.”

So there you have it, you can use less words to say more in Japanese. The only thing you have to be careful about is the confusing vagueness of the language. So make sure you understand the situation so you can understand the conversation.

Blog LJP Videos Videos

Street Japanese 05 – Yatta!

This is video number 5 in our series of street Japanese videos which teach you natural daily conversation, phrases and slang. In this video, Alex and Yoshiko talk about dating and hunting for boyfriends and girlfriends.

Watch the other Street Japanese Videos 01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05

In this video, Alex and Yoshiko talk about dating in Japan

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Blog LJP Videos Videos

Street Japanese 04 – Sasuga

This is the 4th in the series of Street Japanese videos which are designed to teach you natural
everyday Japanese as it is spoken by real Japanese people. In today’s lesson Yoshiko and Alex
teach you the phrase “sasuga”. Check out the dialog below to see how it used in natural Japanese

Watch the other Street Japanese Videos 01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05


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A: 最近、いいことあった?
B: デートの約束したんだ。
A: さすが!どこ行くの?
B: まだ考えちゅう
A: ふーん。また教えてね。
B: どうしようかな?

A: saikin ii koto atta
B: deeto no yakusoku shitan da
A: sasuga. doku ni iku no
B: mada kangaechuu
A: fuun. mata oshiete ne
B: dō shiyō kana

A: Anything good happen recently?
B: I’m going on a date
A: Way to go! Where are you going?
B: I’m still thinking.
A: Tell me later
B: I wonder if I will…

さすが sasuga is an interesting word with many uses. However, in the case of this dialog, it is
used in response to what someone has. It’s an encouraging response that means something like
“That’s great”, “That’s wonderful” or perhaps “Way to go”. Use it when someone tells you about
something great they did.

no – is a particle that sometimes goes at the end of sentences to make a question during
casual conversation – どこに行くの doko ni iku no? Where are you going?

かな kana – goes at the end of sentences to make them more uncertain in tone. Example: 行くよ
iku yo – I’m (definitely) going. 行くかな iku kana – I might go / Not sure if I’ll go

Blog LJP Videos Useful Japanese Phrases Videos

Street Japanese 03 – Ikemen

In this video, Yoshiko and Alex will teach you what the slang “Ikemen” means and how to use it naturally in daily Japanese conversation.

Watch the other Street Japanese Videos 01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05

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This is the 3rd in the series of Street Japanese videos. In this one Yoshiko talks about a hot new guy she met using the slang term イケメン ikemen.

Check out the dialog below to see how it used in natural Japanese conversation.

A: そういえば、言ったっけ?
B: ん?何?
A: この間、イケメンと友達になった!
B: やるね!それで??
A: LINE交換したよ。

A: sō  ieba ittakke?
B: n, nani
A: kono aida ikemen to tomodachi ni natta
B: yaru ne, sore de?
A: rain kō kan shita yo

A: By the way, did I tell you?
B: Huh? What?
A: I met (made friends with) a hot guy
B: Way to go! Then what happened?
A: We exchanged Line contact addresses.

Did you know…
イケメン ikemen – is constructed from “ike” which comes from iketeru which means cool, good looking or stylish. “Men” comes from possibly the kanji 面 men – which means face or more likely from the English word “men”.


Blog LJP Videos Videos

Street Japanese 02 – Shoganai

Watch this video to find out what “Shoganai” means.

Watch the other Street Japanese Videos 01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05

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In last week’s video we learned the phrase “dotakyan“. In this week’s Street Japanese video Yoshiko and I teach you what shoganai means and how it is used naturally in daily conversation.

Shoganai means something like, “that’s life” or “it can’t be helped” or even “Oh well then…”


A: この間はごめんね!何かごちそうするから、ゆるして。
B: しょうがないなあ。
A: ありがとう!何がいい?
B: じゃあ、スタバのコーヒー
A: 了解!

A: kono aida wa gomen ne. nanika gochisō suru kara yurushite
B: shō ga nai naa
A: arigatō. nani ga ii
B: jaa sutaba no koohii
A: ryōkai

A: Sorry about the other day. I’ll treat you so please forgive me!
B: Oh well, it can’t be helped
A: Thanks. What do you want?
B: A Starbucks coffee
A: Got it!

Blog LJP Videos Useful Japanese Phrases Videos

Street Japanese 01- Dotakyan

Hey there you good-looking Learn Japanese Podders and welcome to my Street Japanese series of videos. I made these videos to teach natural Japanese as it is really spoken on the streets in Japan. Each video in the series links to the next one in order to create a long conversation so be sure to watch all the videos. You can also download PDF shownotes, an mp3 of the video and read about the grammar and culture featured in the videos.

Be sure to check back every Wednesday when we put up a new video. Enjoy!

Watch the other Street Japanese Videos 01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05

Listen to just the audio

[button link=”″ color=”green”]Download MP3[/button]  [button link=”” color=”aqua”]Download PDF[/button]

In this video we look at the phrase ドタキャン dotakyan which means to suddenly cancel going to a meeting. Here’s the dialog as we did it in the video.
A) ヨシコ、ひどいよー
B) え?なんで?どうしたの?
A) この間、ドタキャンしたじゃない?
B) あ、ごめん。これからは絶対しないから
A) 本当に?!

A) yoshiko, hidoi yo
B) e? nande?
A) kono aida dotakyan shita ja nai?
A) a, gomen. kore kara zetai shinai kara
B) hontō ni?

A) You’re terrible Yoshiko
B) Eh? Why? What’s the matter?
A) The other day you cancelled on me at the last minute!
B) Ah, sorry. I’ll absolutely never do that again!
A) Really?

Now here’s a little history for you…

Dotakyan comes from 土壇場キャンセル dotanba kyanseru – Last moment cancel. Japanese love to shorten long phrases so “dotanba kyanseru” changes to dotakyan.

But, where does 土壇場 come from?

During the Edo period, executions were carried out by stretching out the guilty horizontally on a small mound of earth. Then they would be decapitated by sword. That mound of earth was a 土壇場 dotanba. 土 do is earth, 壇 tan means a mound and 場 ba means place. During the Edo period 土壇場 came to mean “the place of execution”.

In modern use, 土壇場 dotanba means at the last moment, or at 11th hour. This probably comes from the idea that an execution is the very last minute of life.

There, I bet you didn’t know that AND it’s used all the time. So, try that out on your Japanese friends to amaze and amuse them.

Blog LJP Videos Videos

Learning Japanese with Niko from Nihongo Shark

In this video, I caught up with my buddy Niko, the creator of Nihongo Shark, an awesome website for those interested in learning Japanese.We mostly talked about how he built systems to study Japanese by himself. He also talked about how he overcame various barriers to speaking fluent Japanese and living in Japan.

This video will give you some ideas on how to study Japanese and how to overcome any difficulties you will inevitable encounter on your own path to mastering Japanese.

Nihongo Shark’s free course – How to learn Japanese in a year

Hacking Japanese Super Course

Anki – Flash card learning system

Please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this post or email me at if you have any questions or comments.

Blog LJP Videos

Japanese Rice Ball Kanji List

Download PDF Kanji list

In this video, I go over the names and the readings of some of the most common rice balls you’ll find in your average convenience store in Japan. Although, English is being used more and more on things such as station names and menus, convenience store rice balls seem to still exclusively use hiragana and kanji on the packaging.

So this video helps you to read the kanji on rice ball packaging so you don’t have to play onigiri roulette when buying a snack in Japan.

 Japanese Pronunciation Meaning
 おにぎり  onigiri  Rice ball
 梅  ume  Salted Japanese plum
 紅鮭  beni shake  Salmon
 おかか  okaka  Dried bonito flakes and soy sauce
 たらこ  tarako  Cod roe
 明太子  mentaiko  Seasoned cod roe
 筋子  sujiko  Salted salmon roe
 ツナマヨネーズ  tsuna mayoneezu  Tuna mayonnaise
 焼豚  yaki buta  Grilled / BBQ’ed pork
 五目ご飯  gomokugohan  (5 ingredients) Rice
 焼きおにぎり  yaki onigiri  Grilled rice ball


Extra flavours
Here are a few other flavours not mentioned in the video that you might find in Japan

昆布 konbu Seaweed
いくら ikura Salmon caviar marinated in soy sauce


Blog Podcasts

Podcast 05: Top 10 tips for studying Japanese

One of the most common questions I get is “I want to study Japanese but where should I start?”. The next most common question is “I’ve hit a wall with my Japanese and don’t seem to be improving, what should I do?”.

So, if you are a beginner, or have already started studying Japanese but got stuck, this podcast is for YOU! Asuka and I put our heads together and came up with our top 10 tips for studying Japanese more quickly and effectively. I also wanted to make this podcast to point out that, there aren’t any magical shortcuts or secret techniques for learning to speak perfect Japanese in only a few months. A lot of websites out there would have you believe otherwise!

Rather, it is more about discovering your “why” or motivation for studying Japanese. Then, you want to focus on a specific goal. In that way, you won’t waste your time studying non-essential topics and save a lot of time.

So listen to the podcast to hear about this in more detail below:

Main Podcast

Japanese Dialogues

Podcast Dialog

Japanese Pronunciation English
Asuka: おはようございます ohayō gozaimasu Good morning
Alex: おはようございます ohayō gozaimasu Good morning
Asuka: 昨日のパーティー楽しかったですね kinō no paatii tanoshikatta desu ne Yesterday’s party was fun
Alex: 楽しかったですね tanoshikatta desu ne It was fun wasn’t it?
Asuka: またやりましょう mata yarimashō Let’s do it again
Alex: ぜひ! zehi Absolutely!

Top 10 Tips for Studying Japanese

Tip # 1 – Set a clear goal

Hanging out at a matsuri
Me hanging out with some Matsuri goers

This one is pretty obvious. Before you start anything, you should set a clear goal, preferably with a deadline. This will help to really focus your studies. If you’re not sure what your goal is, simply ask yourself “why do I want to study Japanese?”

Do you want to visit Japan on holiday? Do you want to be able to read your favorite manga? Or perhaps you want to become a ninja. Depending on that answer, you can focus more effectively on a study plan.

That might be obvious to you but it is worth saying. And there is one more reason to have a clear goal that people sometimes forget about.

And that is, setting a goal avoids wasting time studying stuff you don’t need to know. If your goal is to visit Japan for a week on holiday, then you should just be studying simple phrases for booking tickets, asking directions and perhaps shopping. You don’t need waste your time studying 2500 kanji from a dusty textbook for that.

So, why do you want to study Japanese? Think about it and leave a comment below.

On to the next tip.

Tip # 2 – Know your everyday expressions

Enoshima Japan
Enoshima, Japan

For those of you who want to visit Japan, work here and be able to hold a conversation in Japanese, learning high frequency everyday expressions is a great place to start. You should know greetings for different times of day, asking how people are and how to say please and thank you.

For example:

おはようございます – ohayō gozaimasu – Good morning

こんにちは – Konnichi wa – Hello (Used around midday)

こんばんは– Konban wa – Good evening

お元気ですか – ogenki desu ka – How are you?

元気です – I’m fine

お願いします – onegai shimasu – Please (Could you do something for me?)

ありがとうございます – arigatō gozaimasu – Thank you

どういたしまして – dō itashi mashite – You’re welcome

Tip # 3 – Learn expressions that don’t translate easily into English

Traditional Japanese tea
Traditional Japanese tea house

After learning some basic daily expressions you should learn phrases that don’t easily translate into English. In other words, learn phrases that give you a deeper insight into Japanese culture. This also helps you to stop translating words from your own language into Japanese which wastes time and makes you sound unnatural. Here are some examples:

お先に失礼します – osaki ni shitsurei shimasu

This means something like, “I’m sorry for leaving before you”. You say this when you are the first person leaving work or some engagement with a group of people.

お疲れ様です – otsukare sama

This literally means, “you must be tired”. It is used in various situations but means something like good job, or well done. You use it to express your appreciation for someone after they have exerted a lot of effort for something. It can also be used when someone finishes work and goes home for the day.

You often hear the last two phrases together like this.

A: お先に失礼します – Right, I’m off (Excuse me for leaving first)

B: お疲れ様です – Bye (Good job)

これからよろしくお願いします – kore kara yoroshiku onegaishimasu

The word “yoroshiku” means something like good or please treat me well. So this phrase is could be used to mean “I look forward to working with you” or ” I look forward to doing something with you in the future”. It’s used a lot at the end of a self introduction.

いただきます – itadakimasu

The closest phrase I could think of would be “bon apetite”. You say it before eating, usually at home when someone has cooked for you. Itadakimasu literally means “I receive”. It’s not only used for food but 9 times out of 10 you’ll hear it before people eat.

ごちそうさまです – gochisō sama desu

This basically means “That was delicious”. You use it after you’ve eaten to show your appreciation for having received the food and that it was delicious.

All of these phrase teach you the deeper cultural values of the Japanese and give you a glimpse into the way they interact with each other. This isn’t a complete list but it’s a good place to start.

Learn these phrases well young Jedi.

Tip # 4 – Drill common speech patterns

Cat temple in Tokyo Japan
Gotokuji “Cat” Temple in Tokyo

If you only learn one thing this from this lesson, learn this: Drill, drill and drill again common speech patterns. This is perhaps the single most effective method I used to develop my own fluency in Japanese. It’s not rocket science or anything new, but it does work. You just have to do it.

It’s super simple. Just choose a phrase, say it over and over again and just change one word every time. In that way, you practice the pattern until you can say it without thinking and you also expand your vocabulary at the same time.

For example, let’s learn how to say “where is…” so and so in Japanese which is… “…はどこですか” ( …wa doko desu ka)

Now, let’s drill and change one word every time.

銀行はどこですか? – ginkō wa doko desu ka – Where is the bank?

郵便局はどこですか?- yūbinkyoku wa doko desu ka – Where is the post office?

はどこですか?eki wa doko desu ka – Where is the station?

コンビニはどこですか?konbini wa doko desu ka – Where is the convenience store?

ガンダムはどこですか?gandamu wa doko desu ka – Where is Gundam?

That’s it. You just gotta do it! You can drill phrases from whatever textbooks you are studying from, manga or even Learn Japanese Pod lesson notes which you can find on our podcast pages.

Tip # 5 – Know your Japanese adjectives

Tradition Japanese Festival
Kakegawa Festival in Shizuoka, Japan

One really good way to start having conversations quickly in Japanese is learning adjectives. Why? Japanese usually omits the subject of a sentence. So although you could say 今日は暑いですね Today is hot. You could just say, 暑いですね it is hot. Or even just 暑い! So you can simply say “hot” and it will make sense in Japanese. So by learning adjectives you are going to be able to say more with less.

This is because Japanese is what’s called a high context language. If you compare it with English, a low context language, you rely on the words in the sentence to convey all the meaning.

However with Japanese, you have to take into account the situation in which the word is being spoken. So, if you are standing outside in the park, sweating and fanning yourself and you just say 暑い atsui – hot, the person listening will fill in the blanks and understand that you are saying that you are hot now.

That means, on the plus side, Japanese can be extremely minimal and efficient in conveying what you want to say. On the minus side, it can sometimes lead to infuriatingly vague and confusing conversations. So when in Japan, it’s not what you say, it’s where, when and by whom it is being said by.

Here are some examples:

暑い – atsui – hot

寒い – Samui – cold

冷たい – Tsumetai – cold, used for things like liquids or solids

高い – takai – high or expensive

安い – yasui – cheap

楽しい – tanoshii – fun

Also, adjectives conjugate. For example, if you wanted to say, it was fun, you say:

楽しかった – tanoshikatta – it was fun

Tip # 6 – Know your basic Japanese verb conjugation

Carrying an omikoshi shrine in Japan
Festival in Jiyugaoka, Tokyo

Just like adjectives, you can use verbs to express more with less. Also, basic verb conjugation in Japanese is pretty simple. Just like adjectives, you can use single verbs on their own without a subject and sometime without an object. Check out this basic pattern:

行きます – ikimasu – to go (present)

行きません – ikimasen – not go (negative present)

行きました – ikimashita – went (past)

行きませんでした – ikimasen deshita – didn’t go(negative past)

Depending on the situation you could simply say 行きませんでした which could mean “I didn’t go” or if you raised your voice “Didn’t you go?”. It’s all pretty useful stuff so make sure to learn some basic verbs.

Tip # 7 – Supercharge your Japanese with sentence enders

Izakaya - Traditional Japanese pubs

Although there are many sentence ending particles, you won’t go far wrong if you start by learning “yo” and “ne”.

“ne” means something like “isn’t it” so for example:

楽しかった – tanoshikatta ne – it was fun wasn’t it

いい – ii ne – That’s good isn’t it (This is also used on facebook for the “like” button)

“yo” emphasizes the point you want to make. So you could say:

楽しかった – tanoshikatta yo – It really was fun

いい – ii yo – That’s fine. (That’s totally OK)

Using sentence enders like these make you sound a lot more natural so learn them!

Tip # 8 – Listen to Japanese language learning podcasts

Japanese Maple leaves in Autumn

OK, shameless self promotion here but you can listen to my Japanese language learning podcasts here.

You want to get as much listening practice as you can and these days there is a lot on line you can download and listen to. It’s important to find something that you find interesting and can engage in to increase the chances you will keep listening to it. You don’t have to limit yourself to podcasts. Check out Youtube videos, listen to the weather forecast on NHK news or perhaps watch anime online.

When I started studying Japanese a million years ago, I just bought a simple Japanese conversation textbook with a CD and listened to that religiously. It wasn’t the best textbook out there but it really helped with my listening and prepared me well for studying Japanese conversation.

Whatever you listen to, the point is to just listen, even if you don’t understand everything. The goal is to get used to the sounds, pace and intonation of Japanese. Trust me, it will really help with listening and building the base to develop your conversational skills. You can also listen to a repeat audio out loud which is called “shadowing”. It’s another great way to drill common sentence patterns as I talked about in point #4.

Tip # 9 – Learn Hiragana and Katakana and don’t use Romaji

Japanese temple

Just a quick tip here but try to learn Hiragana and Katakana as quickly as you can. Try to get away from using “romaji” to learn Japanese. This is because it’s somewhat confusing to read Japanese in romaji script. Also, being able to read Hiragana and Katakana helps a little with pronunciation as it forces you to speak using the basic sounds of Japanese.

And don’t be shy to start learning Kanji right from the start. But that’s another article for later…

Tip # 10 – Get out there and practice your Japanese

Okonomiyaki festival stall food in Japan

I was having a conversation with a well traveled multi-lingual friend of mine who said something very interesting. He said “if you can engage with the culture, you won’t need any language classes”.

In other words, if you can take part in something you enjoy with other people who speak the language you want to learn, then you’ll learn a lot faster. Of course, taking lessons is essential. However, it can be all too easy to get stuck learning kanji lists and grammar points and not get out there and actually practice speaking with Japanese people.

If you can create the opportunity to interact with Japanese people in real life situations outside of the classroom, that’s when you start to really internalise the language and really start communicating.

My own Japanese speaking skills really improved when I studied in Japan and lived in a dormitory of Japanese students who didn’t speak English very well. I was forced to used Japanese on a daily basis which really helped me improve. I also studied Aikido for a while which also really boosted my speaking and listening skills.

Also, just hanging out with my Japanese buddies and drinking with them in Izakayas was a great experience and a really fun was to consolidate everything I had learned in the classroom.

Even if you don’t live in Japan, you can create opportunities to speak with Japanese people. For example, joining a club, taking Japanese lessons or even speaking to people online.

Download, Get the App, Subscribe, Tell a friend

✓Download: Main Podcast | Japanese Dialogues | PDF Lesson Notes

✓ Get the app: iTunes App | Android App

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✓ Tell a friend: Twitter

Blog Vocabulary

Top 10 Japanese phrases for dating


In our last lesson, we looked at 10 useful phrases for going to a Japanese Izakaya. In this lesson we’ll be looking at the top 10 most useful Japanese phrases for dating in Japan.

However, right off the bat, I should clarify this is not a “how-to-pick-up-hot-chicks” or dudes in Japan type article. I’m not really qualified for that. I could write books about being slapped in the face by Japanese women but that’s another story…

However, if you do happen to find yourself romantically entangled with someone from Japan, you might find my top 10 phrases for dating in Japanese useful. I created this list from watching too many cheesy Japanese TV dramas, listening to J-pop songs and of course real life conversations with people here in Japan. I also interviewed a few Japanese friends who were kind enough to tell me which phrases were more natural and commonly used. Interestingly, I also learned which phrases were a little old fashioned or not used at all anymore.

I highly doubt these phrases will guarantee you romantic success with the opposite sex directly. However, you’ll probably inspire a few chuckles from your Japanese friends who might say 変な外人 hen na gaijin (weird foreigner). But they say humour is sexy so who knows…

So for all you rose-in-mouth Romeos and Juliet sans, here are my top 10 Japanese phrases for dating in Japanese.

Dating in Japan is like this sometimes
“You forgot our anniversary?!”
1. Asking someone out for dinner in Japanese
A: 今度の土曜日一緒に食事でもどう?

B: いいね、是非行きましょう。

A: kondo no doyōbi ishho ni shokuji demo dō?

B: ii ne, zehi ikimashō

A: Would you like to go out for lunch/dinner with me?

B: Yes, I’d love to. (Yes, by all means)

Note: When agreeing to someone’s invitation you can say いいね ii ne which literally means “it’s good”. Incidentally, いいね is what’s written on the “Like” button on Facebook in Japan. 是非 zehi is commonly used to accept an invitation. It means someone like “by all means” or in this case simply “Yes”. One last point is 食事 shokuji means food and depending on the context, it could refer to lunch or dinner.

Eating out in Japan
How about some sushi and beer?
2. Asking someone to have tea with you in Japanese
A: 帰りにお茶でもどう?
B: うん、大丈夫だよ
 A: Un, daijōbu da yo
B: Yes, sure
A: kaeri ni ocha demo dō?
B: Would you like to get some tea (on the way back home?)

Note: You can use the phrase …でもどう demo dō to mean “How about doing …” as a way to ask someone out. Just say the activity you’d like to do at the beginning of this phrase. For example:

食事でもどう? shokuji demo dō? – How about getting some food?
夕食でもどう? yuushoku demo dō? – How about getting dinner?
映画でもどう? eiga demo dō? – How about watching a movie?
買い物でもどう? kaimono demo dō? – How about some shopping?

According to my Japanese friends, another classic phrase that is often taught to ask someone out is お茶しませんか ocha shimasen ka – Won’t you have tea with me? After a rather long debate with friends and one too many glasses of sake we came to this conclusion: It’s a phrase that usually implies you are asking someone out on a date. However, it depends on the context of the situation and it might not be used so much by young people in their teens or twenties any more.

Traditional Japanese tea
Would you like some Japanese tea…Are you asking me out on a date?!
3. Asking someone to hangout in Japanese
A: 今度の日曜日空いてる?どこか遊びにいかない?
B: そうだね、一緒にどこかへ行こうか。
A: kondo no doyōbi aiteru? dokoka asobi ni ikanai?
B: sou da ne, issho ni dokoka e ikou ka
A: Are you free this Saturday. Do want to hang out somewhere?
B: Yes, let’s go somewhere. / Sure, why not?

Note: 遊びにいかない asobi ni ikanai literally means “Won’t you come out and play?” and is a very natural way to ask someone to hang out in Japanese. It’s used a lot in daily conversation and not just in a romantic setting.

4. Saying you are busy in Japanese
 gomen ne, chotto yotei ga haitterun da
 Sorry, I’ve got something scheduled then

Note: Again this is a useful phrase to say you are busy to turn down an invitation or appointment in various social situations. You can also use it when you think the person asking you out on a date is a ghastly horror of a human being but you don’t want to be rude.

Japanese Takoyaki
So, I was thinking, maybe if you were free we could go get some octopus tenticals…
5. Giving a someone compliment about their clothes in Japanese
 kyō no fuku sugoku niatteru. sugoku ii
 Your outfit really suits you today. It’s really good.

Note: I asked my female Japanese friends about a compliment that would genuinely make them happy. They came up with the phrase above. I tend to believe them as Japanese women and even men take great pride in their appearance. If you say this to a Japanese girl and you get slapped in the face it might mean you aren’t saying it in the right way…or I need new friends…or both. You have been warned.

6. Giving someone a compliment about their smile in Japanese
 waratta kao ga honto ni kawaii yo ne
 You smile is really cute

Note: This is pretty obvious. You can add “kawaii yo ne” after the thing you are complementing. For example: ドレス、かわいいよね – doresu kawaii yo ne – Your dress is cute. 髪型かわいいよね – kamigata kawaii yo ne – Your hairstyle is really cute. This is usually used to complement women rather than men.

7. Confessing your love to someone in Japanese
 suki desu ! yokereba boku to tsukiatte kudasai
 I like you. If it’s OK, let’s date.

Note: OK, I know this translation sounds a little clunky in English but when confessing your love to someone in Japanese it’s common to use the phrase 好き suki which means “like”. It’s possible to say 愛してる ai shiteru which literally means (I) love (you). However, in real life it’s not really used so much between lovers or family members. You’ll hear it sometimes in cheesy TV dramas and a lot in J-pop songs. However, even in romance, the Japanese tend to be less direct and a little vague with their feelings. So 好き can be used in many situations from saying you like a certain type of ice cream to saying you like or love someone enough to want to marry them.

Enoshima is a famous sightseeing area and dating spot for couples
8. Telling someone the feeling is mutual in Japanese
 hontō? watashi mo suki!
 Really? I like you too!

Note: This is the phrase to use if someone has confessed their love to you and the feeling is mutual. And now, a grammar point. The Japanese language often leaves out the subject, object or indirect object of the sentence. So although it’s grammatically correct to say 私もあなたのことが好き watashi mo anata no koto ga suki – “I like you too”, it is more common to simply say 私も好き – watashi mo suki which literally means “I also like”. Like who? Well, in this case, it’s understood from the context. If someone is looking at you with starry eyes and shoving roses in your direction and you hear the word “suki”, you can bet they’re talking about you. YOU are the context of the sentence, if that makes sense.

Yes, romance is difficult in Japanese too…

9. Telling someone you are seeing someone else in Japanese
 jitsu wa tsuki atteru hito ga irun da
 To be honest, I’m seeing someone now.

Note: Use this phrase to deal with an unwanted romantic advance. Or you could punch them in the face which happened to me once. But she was drunk and I didn’t actually ask her out and…it’s a long story.

10. Telling someone you want to break up in Japanese
 shibaraku kyori okokka
 Let’s take a break from this relationship / I need some space

Note: Although it’s possible to use the verb 別れる wakareru to talk about breaking up, しばらく距離おこっか – shibaraku kyori okokka is one of the most natural ways Japanese use to talk about taking a break from a romantic relationship.

It’s common to see dating couples dressed in traditional summer Yukatas attending festivals


Here is some extra essential vocabulary related to dating and romance in Japan.

なんぱ nanpa – to hit on someone

付き合う tsuki au – to date
ano futari, tsukiatteru mitai
It looks like those two are dating

初デートhatsu deeto – the first date
hatsu deeto wa kaiwa ga inochi
On the first date, conversation is everything

デートに誘う deeto ni sasou – to ask someone out on a date
nande itumo hen na yatsu kara deeto ni sasowarerun da rō
Why am I always being asked out by weirdos?

彼氏 kareshi – boyfriend
kareshi ga dekitan da
I’ve got a new boyfriend

彼女 kanojō – girlfriend
itsu kanojō ga dekirun da rō
I wonder if I will ever get a girlfriend

恋人 koibito – lover
ano futari koibito dōshi mitai
Those two look like their lovers

愛人 aijin – Secret lover / mistress
kare wa aijin ga iru rashii
It seems he has a mistress

遠距離恋愛 enkyori renai – Long distance relationship
dō yattara enkyori renai ga nagatsuzuki dekiru ka na
I wonder how you can continue a long distance relationship

浮気 uwaki – to cheat on someone
uwaki saretara zettai wakareru
If I got cheated on, I’d absolutely break up

一目惚れ – Hitomebore – Love at first sight
kare to hajimete atte, hitomebore shita
When I met him for the first time, it was love at first sight

Cheers! And good luck with your dating adventures from Learn Japanese Pod!
Blog Vocabulary

Top 10 Izakaya Japanese phrases

Japanese Izakaya

Top 10 Japanese Izakaya Phrases

(How to get your black belt in Izakaya-ology)

Japanese sake

So, you want to visit Japan and try your Japanese out on the locals right? The perfect place to do that is an Izakaya which is a Japanese style pub. If you’ve never been to one, imagine a lively restaurant with groups of people sat around tables, sometimes tatami mats, celebrating the end of the working day.  These popular watering holes are usually located in drinking areas near train stations in the main business areas. They are busiest on Friday nights when overworked salarymen and women come to drink a couple of beers or bottles of sake to unwind and forget work.

Izakayas have an incredibly large and varied assortment of food and drink which make them one of the best ways to sample the incredible selection of delicious Japanese cuisine on offer. It’s also a good way to meet other people and learn about food culture. You’ll learn things such as where to sit, who pours the beer and where to place your chopsticks. But don’t worry about getting overwhelmed. You’ll find that once the sake starts flowing, Japanese people tend to lower their guard a little and fro then on the main goal of the evening is to have fun.

So, to aid you on your cultural and culinary quest, here are some really useful common phrases which will help you to navigate an Izakaya, order food, have fun and make you sound more natural in Japanese.

1. “Who’s having beer?” in Japanese

ビール飲む人? biiru nomu hito

IzakayaAfter you are shown to your table, it’s common to order drinks first  before tackling the menu.

The most common drink to order is ビール biiru (beer) or 生 nama (draft beer).  Simply turn to your friends and ask  ビールを飲む人 biiru o nomu hito or “who is drinking beer?” and count the number of raised hands.

You can alter the phrase easily to ask what other drinks people would like to have.

For example:

ワインを飲む人? wain o nomu hito – Who’s drinking wine?

お水を飲む人?omizu o numu hito – Who’s drinking water?

日本酒を飲む人? nihonshu o nomu hito – Who’s drinking Nihonshu (Japanese rice wine / sake)

If you have bottles of sake or beer, it’s custom to pour drinks for other people usually starting with the most senior person in the group.

Another secret black belt level Izakaya phrase you must know is お冷 ohiya which is another polite way to order water.

2. “For now, we’ll have beer” in Japanese

とりあえず生 toriaezu nama

Japanese foodIf you want to know how to sound like a native use this must-know phrase for ordering beer. This is another phrase rarely taught in Japanese textbooks. とりあえず toriaezu means something like  “Well, for now…” and 生 nama means draft beer.

Shout this at the staff at an almost uncomfortable volume and you will be on your way to getting your black belt in Izakaya-ology.

You will also impress your Japanese friends with your natural and fluent Japanese skills.

3. “Cheers!” in Japanese

乾杯! kampai

When your drinks arrive, hold them aloft like brave samurai warriors after a fierce battle and shout “Kampai!” at the top of you lungs.

4. “Can I have the menu please?” in Japanese

メニューお願いします menyu onegaishimasu

Asking for the menu, or anything for that matter, is easy with one of the most useful words in Japanese お願いします onegaishimasu. If you only every learned one phrase in Japanese, onegaishimasu would be the one. It basically means “please” or “Would you do something for me?”. Simply say what you want and then put onegaishimasu at the end.

5. “What do you recommend?” in Japanese

おすすめは? osusume wa

Japanese menuMost menus have pictures so it’s easy to choose what you want. However, if it’s a huge menu or it’s written in difficult kanji and you’re feeling overwhelmed, the best technique is to ask for their recommendation.

This lets you quickly order food with less fuss and you can discover dishes not on the menu or signature dishes the Izakaya is famous for.

This is also a good phrase when ordering sake which can be complicated due to the large variety on offer.

6. “I’ll have this please” in Japanese

これください kore kudasai

As the old joke goes, every Japanese restaurant and Izakaya in Japan serves”kore”. “kore” simply means “this” and kudasai means “please”. In most Izakayas you’ll be able to get your hands on a menu with photos of the food. Then all you have to do is simply point to what you want and say “kore kudasai”. If you point at a dish someone else is eating on another table you could say “sore kudasai” which means “that please”.

On a side note, this phrase is also useful when shopping when you decide what you want to buy. In that case “Kore kudasai” would mean something like “I’ll take this one please”

7. “I’ll have the yakitori platter for now” in Japanese

とりあえず焼き鳥盛り合わせで toriaezu yakitori moriawase de

sushi platterA great way to sample a broad selection of Japanese cuisine is to order an assortment or sampler plate which is called 盛り合わせ moriawase. The most common is 焼き鳥盛り合わせ yakitori moriawase which is an assortment of BBQ chicken on skewers.  You can get various samplers including sushi and sashimi. You can also get samplers with western food including sausage and cheese. My favorite is sashimi as it’s easy to share and it will give you an authentic sample of the best Japanese cuisine. To order sashimi you would say:

I’ll have the sashimi platter for now

とりあえず刺身盛り合わせで toriaezu sashimi moriawase de

8. “Excuse me, where’s the bathroom?” in Japanese

すみません、お手洗いは? sumimasen otearai wa

Of course you’ll need this phrase at some point during the evening. The challenge is to try to understand the directions over the noise of a busy Friday night Izakaya. Just try to walk in the direction the staff points and ask again if you get lost. Well, that’s my technique, and I’m sticking to it!

9. “I’ll have one more glass of this please” in Japanese

 もう一杯同じ物ください mou ippai onaji mono kudasai

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 18.10.03This is a really useful phrase to quickly order another drink. Ippai refers to one glass or cup of something. If you want to order in bigger quantities you’ll need to know the counter for drinks. It goes like this: ippai – one (glass), nihai – two, sambai – three, yonhai – four and gohai – five.

Alternatively, for ordering food and other general dishes you can use the general counter for things:  一つ hitotsu – one,  二つ futatsu – two, 三つ  mitsu – three,  四つ yotsu – four,  五つ itsutsu – five.

Another easy way to say this is simply…

もう一杯同じ物 mou ippai onaji mono

I’ll have one more (glass)

10. “Can I have the bill please?” in Japanese

チェックお願いします chekku onegaishimasu 

Japanese beerAt the end of the night you’ll need to pay the bill. There are various ways you can do this by saying  チェックお願いします chekku onegaishimasu or お会計ください okaikei kudasai.

When paying, the staff might ask you ご一緒ですか goissho desu ka – would you like to pay it together? However it’s common for people to pay their bill separately. In that case you would say 別々 betsu betsu which means we will pay separately. In some Izakayas, they have electronic menus which will break down the cost of the entire bill for each person in your group making it easier to pay. Be careful because although most Izakayas acccept credit cards, some smaller ones in rural areas only take cash. Don’t forget that Japan is still a cash based society!

So, if you can learn those 10 phrases, you should be able to handle a night out at an Izakaya without too much trouble. Please feel free to leave a comment or question below. Feel free to let us know about your Izakaya experiences.

Check out our other vocabulary articles here:

Top 10 Japanese new year’s phrases

How to apologise in Japanese


Top 10 Japanese new year phrases

New Year in Japan - Useful phrases

10 useful Japanese phrases

The New Year is one of the most important events in the Japanese calendar. It’s a chance for people to take a break from the busy year and spend time relaxing with their families.

Here is the top 10 must-know vocabulary list for words, phrases, customs and kanji related to the New Year celebrations in Japan.

If you are in Japan during the new period you will almost definitely hear or need to use the following phrases. Listen to the audio and repeat.

Learn these and you’ll be an expert on the New Year in Japan.

1. お正月 oshōgatsu

This phrase refers to the New Year’s period. For example, a common conversation you hear on the lead up to the new year is:

a: お正月はどうする? – oshōgatsu wa dō suru

b: 実家に帰るよ – jikka ni kaeru yo

a: What are you doing for the New Year?

b: I’m going back to my folk’s place

2. よいお年をお迎えください yoi otoshi o mukai kudasai

“yoi otoshi o omukae kudasai” is a formal way to wish some a happy new year until 31st December. This is more commonly shortened to “yoi otoshi o”. Another related word yo should know is 大晦日 “oomisoka” which refers to December 31st.

3. 明けましておめでとうございます。akemashite omedetō gozaimasu

“akemashite omedetō gozaimasu” mean’s “Happy new year” and is used from 1st January. “kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu” means something along the lines of “I count on your good will for this year”. It’s usually shortened to “akemashite omedetō gozaimasu”. A recent trend among the youth is to say “akeome kotoyoro”.

4. 謹賀新年 kinga shinnen

You’ll see these kanji a lot during the new year period. They are written on new year cards and on decorations placed on the fronts of shops and houses.

5. 門松 kadomatsu

This is a traditional decoration made from pine branches placed in pairs in front of one’s house over the new year period as in the picture above. They are traditionally placed in front of the house to welcome ancestral spirits or the gods of the harvest.

6. お節料理 osechi ryōri

osechi ryoriA traditional New Year in Japan wouldn’t be complete without osechi ryōri, beautifully presented food served in 重箱 juubako similar to bentō boxes.

A lot of the food in osechi ryōri preserves well so you can eat it over a few days with your family when many supermarkets and stores are closed. At least that was the case before 24 hour convenience stores and supermarkets.

The various dishes in each box convey various meanings to celebrate the new year including health, long life and fertility.


7. 初詣 hatsumōde

This is the first visit of the year to a Shinto shrine. All across Japan on January 1st, Shrines are full of people, praying for a good coming year.

8. 除夜の鐘 joya no kane

Temple bells are traditionally struck 108 times to announce the end of the year and the beginning of the new one. In Buddhism, 108 refers to the number of earthly desires human beings have and that the ringing of the bell can dispel.

9. 年越しそば toshikoshi soba

These are long noodles that are eaten during the beginning of the new year. They represent the idea of extending the fortunes of one’s family.

10. 年賀状 nengajō

A new year’s greeting card sent to family, friends and colleagues. They are posted before the new year and are usually delivered on 1st January.

LJP Videos

10. Useful Japanese phrases for eating

In this video, Tomoe will teach you some super useful phrases for eating with people at their homes.


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Blog LJP Videos Useful Japanese Phrases

How to order anything at a shop or restaurant in Japanese

If you would like to know the single most useful phrase when shopping and eating out in Japan, you are in the right place.
The phrase you need to know is…drum roll…


Kore o kudasai

This means “This please” or “I’ll take this one”. This is a super useful phrase and can be used to order food and buy almost anything in shops. In fact the joke goes, every restaurant in Japan serves the dish “kore” (This).

The other thing you need to know is how to order multiple things as in “I’ll take two of these”, “I’ll take three of these” etc. Check the vocabulary list below. maaa


Japanese Pronunciation English
 これをください  kore o kudasai  I’d like this please
 これをひとつください  kore o hitotsu kudasai  I’d like 1 please
これをふたつください  kore o futatsu kudasai  I’d like 2 please
 これをみつください  kore o mitsu kudasai  I’d like 3 please
 これをよつください  kore o yotsu kudasai  I’d like 4 please
 これをいつつください  kore o itsutsu kudasai  I’d like 5 please

One last thing to remember is that in many Japanese restaurants, you can make use of the menu which usually has pictures for the food. In this way, you can simply point and say これをください and you’ll be fine.



Blog Videos

How to order things at a restaurant in Japan


こんにちは、今日 は 何かを 注文 したりお店 に 行って 何か を 買う 時 を 勉強します。 一番 簡単 な やり方 です。まずメニューを見て、これをください、これを一つください、これを二つください、これをみつください、これを五つください。これだけで頼めます。メ ニューが読めなくてもとりあえず何か注文すれば大丈夫じゃないでしょうか。


konnichi wa, kyou wa nanika wo chumon shitari omise ni itte nanika o kau toki wo benkyou shimasu. ichiban kantan na yarikata desu. mazu menyu o mite, kore o kudasai, kore o hitotsu kudasai, kore o futatsu kudasai, kore o mitsu kudasai, kore o yotsu kudasai, kore o itsutsu kudasai. kore dake de tanomemasu. menyu ga yomenakutemo toriaezu nanika wo chumon sureba daijoubu ja nai deshou ka.
Hello, today we’re going to study how to buy and order things in a store or restaurant. And this is the easiest way to do it. First of all, have a look at the menu and say “kore o kudasai” (This please), kore o hitotsu kudasai (I’ll have one please), kore o futatsu kudasai (I’ll have two please), kore o mitsu kudasai (I’ll have three please), kore o yotsu kudasai (I’ll have four please), kore o itsutsu kudasai (I’ll have five please). You can order just with that. Even if you can’t read the menu, just go ahead and order something. You’ll probably be OK, right?


Japanese Pronunciation English
これ kore This
これをください kore o kudasai This please
これを一つください kore o hitotsu kudasai I’ll have one please
二つ futatstsu 2 (object counter)
三つ mitsu 3 (objects)
四つ yotsu 4 (objects)
五つ itsutsu 5 (objects)
注文 する chuumon suru to order
頼めます tanomemasu be able to order something
大丈夫 daijoubu OK / Fine



How difficult is it to learn Japanese?

So, how difficult is it to learn Japanese?

Studying Japanese KanjiSo, how difficult is Japanese to learn? Well, that’s a great question! I’m glad you asked. And it’s a question I get asked a lot, perhaps partly due to the mass of confusing information on the internet on this question.

On the one hand, there are a lot of blogs with similar titles such as “10 reasons Japanese is way easier than you think”. On the other, there are more scholarly research papers that put Japanese up there with Mandarin, Cantonese Arabic and Korean in terms of difficulty.

And then there’s the question of how do you define “difficult”? And who is it difficult for? And…I understand if your head is starting to hurt now.

But fear not my friends, as someone who has lived in Japan for 20 years and uses Japanese on a daily basis, perhaps I can offer some personal anecdotes and experience to help answer this question.

But before that…

What kind of language is Japanese? Is it similar to anything else?

Short Answer: Japanese is sort of unique…ish…

Japanese Toori GateJapanese is an exotic colourful bird out there in the menagerie of world languages. It’s part of the Japanese-Ryukaan linguistic group, Japanese being the only branch in this family and is spoken by 130 million people. It has a similar grammar structure to Korean and adopts Chinese kanji characters into the writing system.

It’s not as widely spoken as English and doesn’t have as many speakers as Mandarin, but 130 million speakers is a fair amount of people.

One of the features of  Japanese is the written language which has 3 main scripts. They are Hiragana, the basic syllabary, Katakana, used for foreign words and kanji, pictographs imported from China. It’s also quite common to see romaji or roman letters used in magazines, posters and books so things can get a little confusing at times for a student new to Japanese.

So with the exception of Chinese kanji and the increasing mass of Katakana words, Japanese isn’t that similar to other languages.

Yes, but is Japanese difficult? First of all we have to ask…

What is a “difficult” language?

Short answer: A language that takes a long time to learn and/or is very different from your mother tongue…with exceptions…

Study Japanese in JapanOne way, but not the only way, to define a “difficult” language is to look at how different it is from your own mother tongue. For example, learning Spanish is supposedly easy for an Italian speakers as both languages are quite similar in grammar and vocabulary. They also have a common Latin root. On the other hand, it would take a French speaker a longer time to get to the same level of proficiency with Cantonese as both languages are almost completely unrelated.

The Foreign Service Institute of the US Department of State has released a list of languages ordered in difficulty for native English speakers. They calculate the estimated number of hours you would have to study to get to an “S3” level which is “general professional proficiency in speaking”. For example, they calculate it takes an English speaker about 500 hours to learn Afrikaans, 750 hours to learn German and 900 hours to learn Swahili to comparable levels of proficiency.

So guess where Japanese falls on the scale? That’s right, 2200 hours right up there with Arabic and Mandarin.


The idea is that because basic Japanese grammar and vocabulary is so unrelated to English, it’s going to take your average English speaker really long time to get their head around it.

It’s interesting that Korean, Chinese and Japanese are grouped together. If you’ve ever been to a Japanese Language Proficiency Test center in Japan, it’s not uncommon to see a lot of Chinese and Korean students beating their Western counterparts hands down on the test.

Korean and Japanese grammar is quite similar and Japanese contains a lot of Chinese kanji characters. So, you can see how our Chinese and Korean friends often get a good head start on learning Japanese.

But here’s where this theory breaks down a little: I personally felt that French was way harder to learn than Japanese. That’s probably because:

a) I didn’t pay attention in French class at school and made my poor teacher’s life hell…excuse moi.

b) I found French confusing because when I didn’t know a word, I’d just use an English word with French pronunciation. This worked most of the time for words like “international” but at other times it left my poor suffering French friends confused, laughing hysterically or sometimes so angry, they wouldn’t give me another slice of pain au chocolat.

c) I’m just a weirdo

So “difficulty” can be a little tricky to define and we haven’t even talked about other factors such as motivation and hours of exposure to the language.

But for now, let’s break Japanese down into it’s component parts and see how hard speaking, grammar, listening and writing are and how they compare to other languages, at least in my experience.

How difficult is speaking Japanese?

Short answer: Pronunciation is straightforward and basic conversation isn’t too challenging.

Japanese cultureLet’s start off with pronunciation. The great thing about Japanese is you can get away with imperfect pronunciation and still make yourself understood to some degree. On the other hand, you have tonal languages such as Thai, Cantonese and Mandarin which are notoriously hard for English speakers to pronounce accurate. A shout out to my Cantonese friends who suffered the indignity of my murdering their beautiful language as they tried to teach me a few simple phrases in vain. But at least they had someone to laugh at so I’m sure it wasn’t all that bad.

Japanese pronunciation requires you to only learn 5 vowel sounds: a, i, u, e o as in the often quoted sentence “Please pass me two egg rolls”. Learn those vowel sounds and you’re done. Although it is never mentioned that this mnemonic works best with an American accent rather than a British one.

As for basic conversation, I would argue it’s pretty simple. This is because in my experience, elementary Japanese grammar is somewhat logical. Also, Japanese is fantastic because there is a list of high frequency daily set phrases that can be used in a lot of situations. Just learn a list of them and you’re well on your way to mastering elementary conversation.

For example:

1) おはようございますohayou gozaimasu – Good morning

2) お疲れさま – otsukaresamaThanks for your hard work / Well done / Nice job

3) よろしくお願いしますPlease do something for me / Nice to meet you

4) いつもお世話になりますThanks for your continued support

This doesn’t translate easily into English but is used a lot at the beginning of a polite business conversations.

5) ありがとうございますarigatou gozaimasu – Thanks

6) すみません – sumimasen – I’m sorry

(Apologizing is one of the most important skills you can learn in Japanese. Read more about how to apologizing in Japanese here. )

Speaking really fluently and sounding like a native is hard, but that is true for any language. So basic conversation, I think, isn’t too difficult.

How difficult is reading and writing Japanese?

Short answer: It’s a tough slog but not necessarily rocket science

Japanese culture - Meneki NekoAs mentioned before, you have 3  scripts in Japanese. Hiragana has 46 basic characters and Katakana a few more than that. However, the main beast to slay is kanji which includes thousands upon thousands of characters.  To read 90% of a newspaper you would need to know around 1000 kanji.


But learning Hiragana, Katakana and kanji has become a little easier with mobile apps, games and websites.

There are a few rules to remember but again, it’s not astrophysics. If you have the motivation, time and a big stack of kanji cards to practice with you can do it. But I won’t lie, it’s a long battle. I used to be a weird kanji nerd all those years ago in college which definitely helped.

Is listening comprehension in Japanese difficult?

Short answer: It depends but understanding basic conversation isn’t too challenging

Omikoshi, Japanese portable shrineIf you can get plenty of listening practice though either listening to Japanese music, news, online videos, or best through conversation, you’ll start to notice that basic Japanese conversation uses repeating patterns of grammar and daily set phrases. Also, as Japanese people can sometimes be a little minimal when speaking so listening comprehension, at least at an elementary level, isn’t too challenging.

If you watch TV, you’ll notice that some things are easier to understand such as the weather forecast and TV dramas as a lot of the language used is repeated on a daily or weekly basis.

Again, compared to tonal languages such as Thai and Cantonese, Japanese is easier to comprehend as tones are much less important.

Of course it’s not all easy especially if you are listening to high level native conversation. Turn over to a Manzai show (stand up comedy)on TV and you’ll be completely lost due to the in-jokes and culturally specific topics they talk about.

How difficult is Japanese grammar?

Short answer: It’s different but somewhat logical

I won’t get too bogged down in grammar here but there are a few things to learn about Japanese grammar.

1) Speak like Yoda: The verb at the end of the sentence you put.

東京に行きました Tokyo ni ikimashita Lit. Tokyo to went

(someone) went to Tokyo.

2) Verb endings follow easy patterns

There are a few exceptions but there are learnable patterns to conjugate verbs. For example:

食べる – Taberu – I eat

食べた – Tabeta – I ate

食べない – Tabenai – I don’t/won’t eat

食べなかった – Tabenakatta – I didn’t eat

You’ll notice the stem of the verb 食べ tabe- doesn’t change unlike other European languages. There are a few exceptions to this but not that many

3) You have to conjugate adjectives BUT they are very similar to verbs

So once you have learned some basic verb conjugations, it’s almost the same rules for adjectives:

美味しい – oishii – delicious (present)

美味しかった – oishikatta – was delicious

美味しくない – oishikunai – isn’t delicious

美味しくなかった – oishikunakatta – wasn’t delicious

As you can see, the pattern is very similar to verb conjugation.

4) There is no future tense

Hooray! That will make you happy!

5) The verb and subject don’t have to agree as in many European languages

Hooray again!

私は東京に行きます– watashi wa Tokyo ni ikimasu

I go to Tokyo

田中さんは東京に行きます– Tanaka san wa Tokyo ni ikimasu

Tanaka san goes to Tokyo.

See? Just use the same verb regardless of the subject! Yeah!

6) You can leave out the subject and even the object of the sentence if the meaning is obvious to the listener

Hooray! Oh wait, boo! That can make things vague and a little unclear.

So, on balance, although Japanese grammar is quite different to English grammar, once you master the rules, it’s really not that hard. Koreans apparently have a really easy time learning Japanese as the grammar is so similar.

What else is difficult about Japanese?

Vagueness in Japanese

Honestly, apart from the writing system, I never really struggled that hard with Japanese. But if there is one thing that leaves me utterly confused, it’s the vagueness.

Japanese people tend not to speak too directly as it can be seen as slightly rude or aggressive. Also, Japanese is a very high context language. That means the basic information you need to understand something is not just contained in the sentence, it should be obvious from the situation. For example you could say:

昨日のパーティーは楽しかったです – kino no paati wa tanoshikata desu

The party yesterday was fun.

But if the topic of conversation is obvious to both parties then you could just shorten it to:

楽しかった – tanoshikatta

(It) was fun

Argh! There’s no subject or even an object. Something, was fun, that’s it. It’s great for quick shorthand communication but if you walk in on a conversation mid-flow or weren’t paying attention you will get lost. Therefore you have to be quite attuned to the situation around you. It’s not even the kanji or the exotic vocabulary that I found most challenging about Japanese. For me, it was trying to understand the vagueness.

Levels of politeness in Japanese

This deserves it’s own blog post, or book, or perhaps an entire library. Suffice it to say, the Japanese language has many levels of politeness that uses distinct vocabulary and grammar. Here’s an example of various ways to ask someone if they want to eat:

ご一緒にお食事に行きませんか goissho ni oshokuji ni ikimasen ka – Would you like to eat with me (very polite)

食べませんか tabemasen ka – Won’t you eat? (polite)

食べる?taberu – You wanna eat? (Casual)

飯食う?meshi kuu – You eating? (Very familiar usually between men)

So, it’s not only hard to learn all this different vocabulary but also know when to use it in the appropriate situation. But don’t give up in despair. You’re not alone, I’m regularly told by Japanese people they find it hard too.

So is Japanese difficult?!

Japanese text booksTo summarise I would say that, speaking elementary Japanese is pretty easy and the grammar, albeit with a few exceptions, is not too challenging. Koreans will find Japanese grammar easy to learn.

Reading and writing are very challenging but not necessarily complex. You’ve just got to put in the time to learn the kanji but apps and online courses can help. Of course Chinese people get a head start on kanji.

Cultural understanding and modes of communication in Japanese including vagueness and levels of politeness are perhaps the most difficult thing to master for the intermediate and advanced student of Japanese.

I also think that the degree to which Japanese is different to other languages may not be such a big factor in how difficult it is to learn because, without being too obvious or trite…

Learning Japanese is all about motivation

There, I said it. I know it’s cheesy but like most things in life, if you love it and want to do it, you will find a way achieve it. Added to that, everyone learns language differently so there is no one single method or single best practice that I could prescribe for learning Japanese. If you are highly motivated to learn, the whole process of studying Japanese becomes more enjoyable. In this way, even though Japanese might be very different from English might not matter anymore.

So although asking if Japanese is hard to learn is a great question, it’s also very helpful to ask yourself things like:

Why do I want to study Japanese?

What goal will I achieve if I study Japanese?


Thanks for reading and please leave your comments and questions below. Are you studying Japanese now? What do YOU find difficult about studying Japanese?


LJP Videos

9. How to read kanji for menus in Japanese

In this video you will learn some of the most common and useful Kanji for reading a menu in Japanese.

Don’t panic when we say Kanji! It’s all going to be OK because Tomoe will teach you.


LJP Videos

8. How to order food from a menu in Japanese

In this video you will learn how to order from a menu in Japanese.

Blog LJP Videos Videos

7. Ordering drinks at a restaurant in Japanese

In this video we learn some useful Japanese phrases for ordering drinks after being shown your table at restaurant in Japan.


Japanese Transcript:




konnichi wa kyō wa resutoran ni haitta ato chuu mon no shikata wo benkyō shimasu. zenkai de resutoran ni haitta toki no seki made no yari kata o benkyō shita no de, sore o mitenai hito wa mite kudasai.

mazu teeburu ni tsuite tennin san ga kimasu. “go chuumon okimari desu ka” toiu fuu ni kikaretara, (eto, maa) nannin ka teeburu ni suwatteru no de hitori ga “biiru nomu hito, nihonshu nomu hito, wain nomu hito” kiite, “biiru ga futastsu, wain ga mitsu, nihonshu ga yotsu, orenji juusu ga hitotsu onegaishimasu”. Kore dake desu.

 English translation

Hello, today we’re going to study how to make an order after arriving at a restaurant. Last time we studied what to say in Japanese before being shown to your seat at a restaurant, so for those of you who haven’t seen it, please watch it.

First of all, when you get to your table the waiter comes. If you are asked “Are you ready to order?” one of the people in your group can say “Who’s drinking beer? Who’s drinking sake? Who’s drinking wine?”. You then say “2 beers, 3 sakes, 4 wines and 1 orange juice please”. That’s it.

Japanese Pronunciation English
ご注文お決まりですか gochuumon okimari desu ka Are you ready to order?
ビール飲む人 biiru nomu hito Who’s drinking beer?
日本酒飲む人 nihonshu nomu hito Who’s drinking sake?
ワイン飲む人 wain nomu hito Who’s drinking wine?
ビールが二つ biiru ga futatsu 2 beers
日本酒が三つ nihonshu ga mitsu 3 sakes
ワインが四つ wain ga yotsu 4 wines
オレンジジュースが一つ orenjijuusu ga hitotsu 1 orange juice
お願いします onegaishimasu please


More Japanese language learning videos

Introduce yourself in Japanese Learn Japanese Pod Video 1: How to introduce yourself in Japanese | In this video, we learn some basic useful greetings in Japanese.
Useful daily Japanese phrases Learn Japanese Pod Video 2: Useful daily phrases you use a lot in Japanese | In this lesson, you will learn some must-know daily phrases in Japanese
Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 19.03.04 Learn Japanese Pod Video 3: Phrases for leaving your house – itte kimasu | “Itte-kimasu” is perhaps one of the most used phrases in Japanese and you should definitely learn it! Check out the video to see what it means.
tadaima Learn Japanese Pod Video 4: Phrases for when you get home – Tadaima – Okaeri nasai | In this video you will learn some great phrases used everyday in Japan when returning home
Apologize in Japanese Learn Japanese Pod Video 5: How to apologize in Japanese | As they say in Japan, if it’s your fault, apologize, and if it isn’t, apologize. Check out how to apologize in Japanese.
Useful Japanese Restaurant Phrases 1 Learn Japanese Pod Video 6: Useful Japanese phrases for restaurants in Japan 1 | In this video you’ll learn how to get seats on your arrival at a restaurant
ordering drinks in Japanese Learn Japanese Pod Video 7: Useful Japanese phrases for restaurants in Japan 2 | In this video you’ll learn how to order drinks in Japanese at a restaurant after being shown to your table


Zen Meditation in Kyoto 1) Interview with a Zen monk on meditation in Kyoto
Blog LJP Videos Videos

6. How to get a seat at a restaurant in Japanese

In this week’s video, we will learn some useful Japanese phrases for getting a seat at a Japanese restaurant.


In this video, Tomoe teaches the most common Japanese phrases you will use when getting a seat at a restaurant in Japan.


konnichi wa resutoran ni haitta toki no seki tsuku made no yarikata wo benkyou shimasu
Hello, we’re going to learn (some phrases) about how to get a seat at a restaurant (in Japanese).


mazu omise ni haittara teninsan ga irasshaimase, nanmei sama desu ka to kiku kara
First of all, when you get to a restaurant, the staff will say “irasshaimase, nanmei sama desu ka” (welcome, how many people are in your party?)


hitori dattara ichimei
If it’s one person (say) “ichi mei (desu)”


futari dattara ni mei desu
If it’s 2 people “ni mei desu”


sannin dattara sanmei desu
If it’s three people “san mei desu”


yonnin dattara yonmei desu
If it’s 4 people “yon mei desu”


gonin dattara gomei desu
If it’s 5 people “gomei desu”

kore dake desu
That’s it.


ato wa otabako wo suwaremasu ka kitsuen desu ka kinnen desu ka to kiku no de
After that, you will be asked if you want a smoking or non smoking seat


Suu toki wa kitsuen desu, suwanai toki wa kinen seki desu, kinen desu toiu fuu ni kotaete kudasai.
If you smoke you say “kitsuen desu”, if you don’t “kinen seki desu” or “kinen desu” which is how to reply.

More Japanese language learning videos

 Introduce yourself in Japanese Learn Japanese Pod Video 1: How to introduce yourself in Japanese | In this video, we learn some basic useful greetings in Japanese.
 Useful daily Japanese phrases Learn Japanese Pod Video 2: Useful daily phrases you use a lot in Japanese | In this lesson, you will learn some must-know daily phrases in Japanese
  Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 19.03.04  Learn Japanese Pod Video 3: Phrases for leaving your house – itte kimasu  | “Itte-kimasu” is perhaps one of the most used phrases in Japanese and you should definitely learn it! Check out the video to see what it means.
 tadaima  Learn Japanese Pod Video 4: Phrases for when you get home – Tadaima – Okaeri nasai | In this video you will learn some great phrases used everyday in Japan when returning home
 Apologize in Japanese  Learn Japanese Pod Video 5: How to apologize in Japanese | As they say in Japan, if it’s your fault, apologize, and if it isn’t, apologize. Check out how to apologize in Japanese.
Useful Japanese Restaurant Phrases 1 Learn Japanese Pod Video 6: Useful Japanese phrases for restaurants in Japan 1 | In this video you’ll learn how to get seats on your arrival at a restaurant
ordering drinks in Japanese Learn Japanese Pod Video 7: Useful Japanese phrases for restaurants in Japan 2 | In this video you’ll learn how to order drinks in Japanese at a restaurant after being shown to your table


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Blog LJP Videos Useful Japanese Phrases Videos

4. Learn Japanese Pod – Tadaima & Okaeri nasai

In this video, Tomoe teaches us two must-know Japanese phrases for when you get home. They are ”ただいま” tadaima – which means “I’m home”. The other phrase ”おかえりなさい” okaeri nasai means something like welcome back and is the answer to tadaima.

This is used everyday in households across Japan so this is a great phrase to know.

More Japanese language learning videos

Introduce yourself in Japanese Learn Japanese Pod Video 1: How to introduce yourself in Japanese | In this video, we learn some basic useful greetings in Japanese.
Useful daily Japanese phrases Learn Japanese Pod Video 2: Useful daily phrases you use a lot in Japanese | In this lesson, you will learn some must-know daily phrases in Japanese
Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 19.03.04 Learn Japanese Pod Video 3: Phrases for leaving your house – itte kimasu | “Itte-kimasu” is perhaps one of the most used phrases in Japanese and you should definitely learn it! Check out the video to see what it means.
tadaima Learn Japanese Pod Video 4: Phrases for when you get home – Tadaima – Okaeri nasai | In this video you will learn some great phrases used everyday in Japan when returning home
Apologize in Japanese Learn Japanese Pod Video 5: How to apologize in Japanese | As they say in Japan, if it’s your fault, apologize, and if it isn’t, apologize. Check out how to apologize in Japanese.
Useful Japanese Restaurant Phrases 1 Learn Japanese Pod Video 6: Useful Japanese phrases for restaurants in Japan 1 | In this video you’ll learn how to get seats on your arrival at a restaurant
ordering drinks in Japanese Learn Japanese Pod Video 7: Useful Japanese phrases for restaurants in Japan 2 | In this video you’ll learn how to order drinks in Japanese at a restaurant after being shown to your table


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Blog LJP Videos Videos

3. Useful Japanese Phrases – Itte kimasu

When learning Japanese for the first time, it’s a great idea to learn high frequency phrases commonly used in daily life in Japan. It’s also good to learn phrases that are uniquely Japanese, that don’t translate well into English but give an insight into the culture. One such phrase is いってきます itte kimasu. It literally means “I’m going and coming”. It is used when leaving the house and means something like “I’m going out now, see you later”. In response to that you would say “いってらっしゃい” which means something like “see you later”.

You’ll hear this a lot when people are leaving a house in the morning for work for example. So commit this to memory and learn it well young Japanese Jedi, it will serve you well!

Oh and you thought the learning was over…WRONG! Here is the transcription to the video so you can learn some really natural Japanese as spoken by Tomoe in this video. HOW COOL IS THAT?!

“What? So you mean this one video is good for both beginner and more advanced students of Japanese, AND I can learn some unscripted natural Japanese at the same time?” I hear you ask.

THAT’S RIGHT my trainee Japanese ninjas. Thank me later…

But I digress…

Now, let’s check out the transcript.

Japanese transcript:



tsugi no bideo wa sogoi kantan nan dakedo itsumo yoku tsukawareteru kotoba desu. ie wo deru toki ni itte kimasu. naka ni ie ni nokotteru hito ga itterasshai, ki o tsukete ne. mo ichido iimasu. itte kimasu, itterasshai. hai, kore dake desu. kantan desu.

English translation:

This next video is really easy but has a commonly used word in it. When you leave the house, you say “itte kimasu”. The person remaining in the house says “itte rasshai”, take care. I’ll say it one more time. Itte kimasu, itte rasshai. Right, that’s it. It’s easy.

More Japanese language learning videos

Introduce yourself in Japanese Learn Japanese Pod Video 1: How to introduce yourself in Japanese | In this video, we learn some basic useful greetings in Japanese.
Useful daily Japanese phrases Learn Japanese Pod Video 2: Useful daily phrases you use a lot in Japanese | In this lesson, you will learn some must-know daily phrases in Japanese
Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 19.03.04 Learn Japanese Pod Video 3: Phrases for leaving your house – itte kimasu | “Itte-kimasu” is perhaps one of the most used phrases in Japanese and you should definitely learn it! Check out the video to see what it means.
tadaima Learn Japanese Pod Video 4: Phrases for when you get home – Tadaima – Okaeri nasai | In this video you will learn some great phrases used everyday in Japan when returning home
Apologize in Japanese Learn Japanese Pod Video 5: How to apologize in Japanese | As they say in Japan, if it’s your fault, apologize, and if it isn’t, apologize. Check out how to apologize in Japanese.
Useful Japanese Restaurant Phrases 1 Learn Japanese Pod Video 6: Useful Japanese phrases for restaurants in Japan 1 | In this video you’ll learn how to get seats on your arrival at a restaurant
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Blog LJP Videos Videos

2. Useful daily Japanese phrases

In this video, you will learn some really useful casual Japanese greetings and phrases for everyday life in Japan.

Here are the phrases used in today’s video:

元気? Genki – How are you?

If you want to say this more formally you could say お元気ですか ogenki desu ka. The reply would be something like 元気です。genki desu – I’m fine. In this video, Tomoe showed us the casual version used between good friends with a simple “genki” with rising intonation to indicate it. Simply answer with a simple “genki”.

まあまあ – maa maa – I’m so so

最近どう? saikin dou – How’ve you been?

最近いい感じ – saikin ii kanji – I’ve been good

あんまりよくない – anmari yokunai – not so good

大丈夫?- daijoubu? – are you OK?

久しぶり – hisashiburi – long time no see

More Japanese language learning videos

 Introduce yourself in Japanese Learn Japanese Pod Video 1: How to introduce yourself in Japanese | In this video, we learn some basic useful greetings in Japanese.
 Useful daily Japanese phrases Learn Japanese Pod Video 2: Useful daily phrases you use a lot in Japanese | In this lesson, you will learn some must-know daily phrases in Japanese
  Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 19.03.04  Learn Japanese Pod Video 3: Phrases for leaving your house – itte kimasu  | “Itte-kimasu” is perhaps one of the most used phrases in Japanese and you should definitely learn it! Check out the video to see what it means.
 tadaima  Learn Japanese Pod Video 4: Phrases for when you get home – Tadaima – Okaeri nasai | In this video you will learn some great phrases used everyday in Japan when returning home
 Apologize in Japanese  Learn Japanese Pod Video 5: How to apologize in Japanese | As they say in Japan, if it’s your fault, apologize, and if it isn’t, apologize. Check out how to apologize in Japanese.
Useful Japanese Restaurant Phrases 1 Learn Japanese Pod Video 6: Useful Japanese phrases for restaurants in Japan 1 | In this video you’ll learn how to get seats on your arrival at a restaurant
ordering drinks in Japanese Learn Japanese Pod Video 7: Useful Japanese phrases for restaurants in Japan 2 | In this video you’ll learn how to order drinks in Japanese at a restaurant after being shown to your table


 Zen Meditation in Kyoto 1) Interview with a Zen monk on meditation in Kyoto


Blog LJP Videos Videos

1. How to introduce yourself in Japanese

In this video, Tomoe teaches you how to introduce yourself in Japanese.


Hello, I’m Tomoe and over the next 6 months let’s study Japanese together. You can do it! So today we’re going to study how to introduce yourself in Japanese.

Hajimemashite means “nice to meet you”.

Tomoe desu means “I am Tomoe”.

Yoroshiku onegaishimasu means something like “please be kind to me” or “nice to meet you”.

We usually use it at the end of a self introduction.

Grammar note:

A more formal way to introduce yourself would be:


Hajimemashite, Alex desu. Dōzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

Nice to meet you, I’m Alex. (Nice to meet you)

So what does all that mean? Firstly, はじめまして hajimemashite comes from the verb hajimeru or to begin and in this context it means “Nice to meet you” when meeting someone for the first time.

Next, アレックスと申します Alex to mōshimasu means I am Alex although this uses the polite form 申す mōsu which means to be called.

Finally we have どうぞよろしくお願いします Dōzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu literally means “please treat me well” or “I count on your good favor” but in this context it is just put at the end of the introduction and has the same meaning as “nice to meet you”.

Dōzo at the beginning makes it more polite.

Finally, if you want a more casual version you could say:


Alex desu. Yoroshiku.

I’m Alex, nice to meet you.

This would be used in a casual encounter between younger people of similar social standing.

More Japanese language learning videos

 Introduce yourself in Japanese Learn Japanese Pod Video 1: How to introduce yourself in Japanese | In this video, we learn some basic useful greetings in Japanese.
 Useful daily Japanese phrases Learn Japanese Pod Video 2: Useful daily phrases you use a lot in Japanese | In this lesson, you will learn some must-know daily phrases in Japanese
  Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 19.03.04  Learn Japanese Pod Video 3: Phrases for leaving your house – itte kimasu  | “Itte-kimasu” is perhaps one of the most used phrases in Japanese and you should definitely learn it! Check out the video to see what it means.
 tadaima  Learn Japanese Pod Video 4: Phrases for when you get home – Tadaima – Okaeri nasai | In this video you will learn some great phrases used everyday in Japan when returning home
 Apologize in Japanese  Learn Japanese Pod Video 5: How to apologize in Japanese | As they say in Japan, if it’s your fault, apologize, and if it isn’t, apologize. Check out how to apologize in Japanese.
Useful Japanese Restaurant Phrases 1 Learn Japanese Pod Video 6: Useful Japanese phrases for restaurants in Japan 1 | In this video you’ll learn how to get seats on your arrival at a restaurant
ordering drinks in Japanese Learn Japanese Pod Video 7: Useful Japanese phrases for restaurants in Japan 2 | In this video you’ll learn how to order drinks in Japanese at a restaurant after being shown to your table


 Zen Meditation in Kyoto 1) Interview with a Zen monk on meditation in Kyoto


Blog Videos

Today’s Kanji: 海老フライ Ebi Furai

Ebi Fry

Today’s Kanji was inspired by this genius TV advertisement which features 海老フライ ebi furai or fried shrimp. I’m not sure if this is actually possible or just clever editing. However, 11 out of 10 for insane entertainment. Well done Japan.

For you real kanji nerds out there, other kanji in the video included:

3秒クッキング san byou kukkingu – 3 second cooking

空気ガス kuuki / gasu – Compressed air / Flammable gas

危険ですので絶対にマネしないでくださいkiken desu no de zettai ni mane shinai de kudasai – As this is dangerous, please don’t copy

You can see where this is going…enjoy!


Today’s Kanji: 祭り matsuri – Festival

Hikawa Shrine, Akasaka, Tokyo, Japan
Hikawa Shrine, Akasaka, Tokyo, Japan

Japanese festival

Hikawa shrine festival

Hikawa shrine festival

Hikawa Shrine Festival

Hikawa Shrine Festival

Hikawa Shrine Festival

 Today’s kanji is 祭り matsuri – Festival.

Autumn is the time for local festivals or matsuri around Japan. If you are lucky, you can accidentally wonder into a shrine or temple and experience the festivities first hand. While wondering through Akasaka in Tokyo, I walked up the steep hill to Hikawa Shrine and found the locals winding down their festival after the 3rd day of celebrations.

In these pictures you can see local participants finish carrying the 御神輿 omikoshi, a portable shrine and saying prayers of purification as they put it away for next year.

Hikawa Shrine holds a matsuri around the second weekend in September with festivities starting on the Friday and running through to Sunday.

Blog Photos

Omoideyokocho, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Omoideyokocho, Shinjuku, Tokyo

This is a picture of 思いで横町 Omoide Yokocho in Shinjuku, Tokyo. It’s a small alley way drinking area that also serves 焼き鳥 yakirori – BBQ skewered chicken amongst other delicious dishes.

Omoide means “memory” and Yokocho means “side-street” or “alley”.







How do you say Rickshaw in Japanese?


人力車 jinrikisha – Rickshaw

Rickshaw comes from the original Japanese 人力車 jinrikisha.

人 jin (also pronounced hito) means person. 力 riki (or chikara) means power and 車 sha means cart or car.

The kanji on the back of that guys’ top is 嵐 arashi which literally means storm and refers to 嵐山 arashiyama in Kyoto where this photo was taken.


What is the kanji for Godzilla?


呉爾羅 ゴジラ Gojira

OK, I know, I know, this isn’t the first kanji you should be learning to survive in Japan. But hey, now you can impress someone at a party with your amazing random kanji knowledge.

呉爾羅 “gojira” is written with “ateji” which are kanji chosen for their phonetic sound rather than meaning. There are a few theories out there as to how our green gigantic green friend got his name. Some say “Godzilla” or “gojira” as it is pronounced in Japanese, is a cross between “gorira” (gorilla) and 鯨 kujira (whale).

You can see this temporary statue of gojira in the garden behind Midtown in Roppongi Tokyo.


Top 10 Japanese etiquette mistakes

bowing geisha

On my travels throughout Japan, I have found Japanese people to be extremely welcoming and helpful to visitors to their country. They are highly appreciative of people who show interest in their culture and language.

Unfortunately, even with the best of intentions, the traveler to Japan can unwittingly, raise a few disapproving eyebrows by committing a social faux pas. The problem is, because the Japanese tend to be modest and polite, they might not tell you directly that you have caused offense.

So here’s a top 10 list of etiquette mistakes to avoid when coming to Japan.

1) Eating on commuter trains

manner200812_picThere are a set of posters on the Tokyo Metro that display in graphic comic detail how you shouldn’t conduct yourself on the train. A lot of these are common sense but perhaps one thing visitors to Japan might not be aware of is eating on commuter trains. Don’t do it. It’s considered a little shabby and not very good manners. This is especially true in a crowded carriage at rush hour.

Also, eating while walking on the street isn’t generally done. Drinking from a can or bottle on the street is usually OK but you don’t see it so much on trains. One exception to this rule is eating and drinking on the Shinkansen. Bentos and snacks are provided which are of course OK to eat.

2) Speaking in a loud voice on a mobile phone on trains and buses

no_cell_phoneThis is of course rude in most countries. However, the Japanese are generally very good about not speaking in a loud irritating voice on mobile phones on trains and buses. From an early age, Japanese people are taught not to disturb or annoy people around them.

迷惑 meiwaku – or causing a nuisance is a social faux pas you don’t want to commit. You will sometimes see the odd salaryman taking an important call but will usually adopt the “hand-cupped-over-the-phone-I-know-I’m-bad” cowering posture. Commuters are often reminded to switch their phones to “manner mode” or vibrate. So, turn off your phone  you noisy gaijin, yeah, I’m talking to you!

3) Not being on time

138016187_japanese-peace-kanji-round-wall-clock-japanese-numbers-There is a phrase in Japanese “申し訳ございません” - “moushi wake gozaimasen” which literally means “I have no excuse”. This is perhaps the most commonly used phrase for being late in formal situations and a clue to how important punctuality is in Japan. This is usually true for private engagements and especially so for business appointments.

If you do turn up late, get ready for some profuse apologizing and a night in the dog house followed by some more grovelling and a large helping of shame. I exaggerate for purposes of comedy but it’s generally true that being late is entirely your fault and excuses are simply excuses. Oh and by the way, you’re fired.

I suppose with advent of smart phones and text messaging, younger people in Japan possibly feel a little more flexibility in turning up almost on time. However, for work and with older people punctuality is important. It’s generally good to turn up about about 10 minutes before an appointment.

4) Talking about yourself and showing off

samurai girlYou’re probably not going to win friends and influence people at a party when you say “well enough about me, what do you think about me?”. In Japan, modesty is a virtue, so cutting down on the me, me, me and the blah, blah, blah is a good idea. Japanese people tend to be a little more reserved when talking about their accomplishments. So try to resist going on and on about how incredibly amazing you think you are.

If you do show off, your Japanese friends will obligingly laugh, clap and compliment you on what a wonderful human being you are. They’ll then go home and immediately complain about what a boorish showoff you are… Also, try to listen more when someone else is speaking. Japanese people tend to interrupt each other much less than we crazy foreigners do.

5) Never apologizing


You can never apologize enough in Japan. Here are the two golden rules:

1) If it’s your fault, apologize.

Example: I’m so sorry I’m late. I’m a worthless, pathetic excuse for a human being. Please slap me in the face. (see point 3)

2) If it’s not your fault, apologize

Example: I’m so sorry for the terrible weather.

OK, I’m only slightly kidding here. However, a sincere apology with a large helping of modesty related to how awful you are goes a long way to repair relations when you mess up. It shows that you are grown up enough to accept responsibility for your transgressions. It’s the social glue that holds relationships together showing modesty and good will between people.

Now, there are times when you mess up big time. I’m talking about one of early afternoons when you wake up in strange hotel room somewhere in Tokyo, with a baby tiger and perhaps a body in the bath. Or perhaps you didn’t apologize enough or a similarly terrible crime. Then you need a letter of apology. That is the nuclear option and in some cases, literally speaking, your get out of jail free card.

Apologizing is an art, so learn it well young Jedi.

At this point, I would like to apologize for the poor quality of this pathetic excuse for an article on Japanese culture. I’m so sorry.

How to apologize in Japanese – Read more…

6) Open displays of affection or hugging ain’t the done thing

huggingAgain, modesty is the keyword here. Japanese people are generally quite reserved when it comes to public displays of affection.  This is especially true for older people who tend to be more modest and conservative. Even a friendly hug has the potential to make people feel uncomfortable.

This is changing a little for the younger generation who feel less constrained by the older social rules however.

Be aware of the social dynamic you find yourself in and when in doubt, do as the locals do. To be on the safe side, keep your hands to yourself…at least till you get to the love hotel.

7) Blowing your nose in public

cold maskThis one depends on who you ask but it’s usually quite rare to see someone blowing their nose in public.
You may hear more sniffling rather than nose blowing in the winter which some westerners might find surprising.

Many Japanese prefer to take preventative measures which is why you see so many people wearing masks during winter and the hay fever season. Oh, and by the way, Japanese people think YOU are weird for not wearing a mask when you have a cold.

8) Not separating your garbage


If there’s one thing that really, really, really raises your neighbors’ blood pressure, it’s not separating your garbage properly. There’s nothing more they hate than seeing…gasp…the wrong type of garbage deposited in the wrong bin on the wrong day.

Depending on what ward or city you live in, there are very clear and detailed instructions on what types of garbage you can throw out and on what day. I myself have awoken to find the garbage I threw out previously, now on my doorstep, with an angry note asking me to separate it properly.

Do not incur the wrath of the garbage police. They will crush and destroy you like a small plastic bottle, which, incidentally, should only be thrown out on the 2nd Wednesday of the month, before 7:30am.

9) Passing food with your chopsticks


It’s really not polite to pass food with your chopsticks to someone else’s chopsticks. This action is reminiscent of a funeral where the cremated bones of the deceased are passed along using ceremonial chopsticks. Some other chopstick rules:

– When not eating, place your chopsticks on the chopstick rest in front of your bowl or plate.

– Don’t fiddle or play with them

– Never stick them vertically in a bowl of rice

10) Pouring your own drink in public.

pouring_sakeThis isn’t a deadly sin but when drinking with friends, it is considered good manners to pour other people’s beer and not your own. So at the beginning of a drinking session someone will usually offer to pour your beer. Hold the glass as they pour and then pour their beer. Someone will usually make sure that everyone is topped up during your meal or drinking session. Do that and you’ll impress your Japanese friends.

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This is not an exhaustive list and I’m sure there are many other ways I have offended our poor suffering Japanese compatriots. Of course, there are exceptions, especially with speaking in a loud voice and disturbing people. That’s how most people speak in Osaka. (Hey, people from Osaka, I love you all, I’m just kidding!)

In conclusion, I would say it’s somewhat of a myth that Japan has a set of esoteric, indecipherable social rules of conduct that barbaric foreigners could never work out. With a bit of common sense, decency and respect towards your fellow human being, you’ll be fine on your travels to Japan. Added to that, the Japanese are highly forgiving, friendly and hospitable people. At least, they’ll be kind enough to not directly tell you that you’re a rude, inconsiderate, barbaric slob.

Please leave comments below and I’d love to hear of your own experiences with Japanese etiquette, exceptions to the rules and social faux pas you may have committed yourselves.

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Japan travel Videos

Zen Meditation in Kyoto

Zen Meditation in Kyoto
Taka Kawakami, vice Abbot of Shunkoin Temple in Kyoto

When traveling to Japan, Kyoto is an absolute must-destination for those wanting to explore the culture and history of the country. Kyoto and its spiritual sister city Nara have a wealth of temples, shrines, gardens and beautiful vistas for the visitor to take in and enjoy. However if you want to explore the spiritual side of the culture in more depth and come away with a really memorable experience then I recommend checking out meditation classes run by local monks.

Shunkoin (春光院) temple is one such temple that provides daily meditation classes run by the Vice-abbot Taka Kawakami. During a trip to Kyoto I stayed at the guest house in Shukoin temple grounds and the next morning took part in a mediation class the following day.

The class itself was 90 minutes long and consisted of two 15 minute meditation sessions followed by a talk about the temple and how to incorporate Zen philosophy into your daily life. The mediation sessions weren’t too strenuous and were just enough for a beginner like myself.

Kawakami sensei was an extremely relaxed, friendly and down-to-earth teacher and quick to dispel popular misconceptions or myths about what Zen meditation is all about. As he said to our class “Zen meditation won’t give you magical or spiritual powers, it’s more like taking a daily supplement, simple conditioning for your peace of mind”.

The most fascinating part of his talk was about how the latest advances in neurology and brain science tie in with traditional meditation. It was a really interesting and educational experience and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to experience Zen philosophy and meditation first hand.

At the end of his class I asked to interview him and he graciously accepted. Here is the interview we did:

Interview with Rev. Taka Kawakami about Zen Meditation

Could you tell me a little about yourself and your temple?

My name is Taka Kawakami and actually I am vice abbot of this Shunkoin Temple in Kyoto. Then, this temple here, we have a history of 420 years.

What is Zen meditation all about?

So, Zen meditation, it’s more like conditioning of your mind, so you can keep your inner peace, you can keep living in the moment. Because living in the moment is the core idea of Zen Buddhism.

What’s a common misconception regarding Zen meditation?

I think a common mistake or misunderstanding about meditation is people try to achieve something during the meditation, people are trying to become something else by doing the meditation too.

But actually the idea is meditation is just the conditioning of your mind right? So it helps you to achieve something when you do your daily activity in real life. It’s not like, you know, you become some spiritual being or anything like that.

Also, you know, people try to empty their minds but it’s not like you have to clear your mind in this case. You try to eliminate your ego. So that’s not the same thing, it’s what’s important.

How should you practice meditation?

So when you do meditation, you don’t need to worry about, do you have to go to class or you know,  a temple, you find your place in the bedroom or bathroom any place you feel comfortable. And not close your eyes or open your eyes, just focus on your breathing. Maybe 5 to 25 minutes, something like that, you know? It’s really casual. You know it’s not like you have to do it in any strict manner.

What’s an important concept behind Zen meditation?

I suppose in Zazen, probably, many people are talking about emptying your mind and Mushin (無心) and that’s probably the key word. But Mushin in this case is not like emptying your mind, no mind, it’s not like that. You have to eliminate your ego, so it’s no ego. So, Mushin means no ego. That’s the idea. It’s very useful for the Zen practice.

Useful Kanji

  • – Zen


  • 春光院 – Shunkoin temple


  • 瞑想 – Meisou – Meditation


  • 無心 – Mushin – Without sparking controversy or starting an epic wikipedia length article on the subject, “Mushin” at least according to Kawakami sensei is more about dissolving your ego rather than clearing your mind or heart. Check the video above.


Zen meditation in Kyoto


If you’d like to try meditation for yourself at 春光院 Shunkoin temple, the first thing to do is check the website for details about times and holidays as they don’t run everyday.

You can also check out their website for details regarding about staying in their guest house which is about 5000 JPY to 6500JPY. The rooms are quite simple but quite comfortable and clean. They have comfy futons and a tatami floor so you can get the real experience.


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Lenzan kudo – Shakuhachi Master Interview


In our new Japanese masters series, we will be interviewing musicians, artists, designers and others involved in traditional and modern arts in Japan.

For our very first interview I caught up with Lenzan Kudo, a master of the shakuhachi which is a type of traditional Japanese flute. I asked him about his music and life as a shakuhachi player.

When did you start playing the shakuhachi?

I started playing the shakuhachi when I was a kid. It all started when I accidentally  found one in the closet at home. I didn’t know anything about it but I knew it was some kind of instrument.  I wanted to play it in my own style but try as I may, I couldn’t get it to produce any sound.

I experimented in various ways trying and mostly failing to get any sound out of it. After about 6 months, although it didn’t sound very good, I finally made a breakthrough and was about to start playing notes. That sense of achievement got me hooked on the shakuhachi.

How would you describe your style of shakuhachi playing?

I think my style is essentially traditionally as I play a lot of classics. However, I also try to incorporate new ideas and ways of playing to make it a little more modern. In other words I’ve got one foot in the past and use that as a base to try new ideas and ways of playing.

What inspires you musically?

Although it’s a different style of shakuhachi to mine, I love the sound of Yamaguchi Goro’s playing. It’s a very gentle flowing kind of style that really moves me. I’m also influenced by musicians and composers such as Ravel, Reich, Sakamoto Ryuichi and also Ravi Shankar.

Do you teach shakuhachi? Do you have foreign students?

Absolutely! And beginners are very welcome. Don’t worry, although it took me 6 months to get a sound out of the Shakuhachi, if you’ll be playing in a very short time. Please feel free to contact me anytime about taking lessons.

Could you teach us one useful Japanese phrase for learning a traditional art with a Japanese teacher?

lenzan kudoSure, when you start a lesson with a teacher you should always say:

Yoroshiku onegaishimasu“.

It’s just a polite way to ask the teacher to start the lesson.

When you finish the lesson say:

Arigatou gozaimashita” which means thank you very much.

Sometimes when we practice sitting in the “seiza” position which is sitting on your ankles, you might say:

Ashi ga shibireta. Yasumasete kudasai – My legs are going numb. May I have a break please?!

When are you performing next?

I’m planning to perform in April 2014, here are the details:

Event name: SARUME

Location: Sonorium

Tokyo to, Suginami ku, Izumi 3-53-16, 168-0063

〒168—0063, 東京都杉並区和泉3−53−16


Date: 17th May

Times: First performance, doors open at 2pm. Performance starts at 2:30pm

Second performance, doors open at 6pm, performance starts at 6:30pm

Tickets: On the door: 4000 yen, pre-booked: 3500 yen (For tickets email: [email protected] )


Call Lenzan’s office to get tickets at 050-3572-1085


For more information and to contact Lenzan, join his facebook page.


Blog Featured

10 Great Japanese Cheat Sheets


Welcome to the Japanese cheat sheet page which includes our own cheat sheets and links to other free resources for learning Japanese.

To be honest there is no way to really cheat your way to the top when it comes to acquiring a new language. However, I have found some very well designed cheat sheets which list some of the most basic and useful elements of Japanese vocabulary and grammar for quick reference and learning. I think these are good for both beginners and more advanced students of Japanese. Beginners can use these to quickly learn the the most common and elementary vocabulary and phrases. If you are more proficient, these are great revision tools for consolidating and retaining what you have learned. So without any further ado, here are 10 great cheat sheets in no particular order.

Nihonshock Cheat Sheet – A nice diverse cheat sheet with Kana, grammar, particles and vocabulary

Tofugu Particle Cheat Sheet – Slay those pesky particles with the Tofugu cheat sheet. Nice work guys.

Japanese for Dummies Cheet Sheets – Basic essential vocabulary and phrases. Great for beginners.

Kimono Kanji Cheat Sheet – For some more thematic higher level kanji based on Kimonos.

The Ultra Handy Japanese Verb Conjugator – It does what it says on the box

The Japanese Page 100 Grammar Points – Nicely laid out and quick reference guide to basic common grammar used in Japanese.

Tae Kim’s Guide to learning Japanese – Not really a cheat sheet but a full grammar text book in PDF format.

Again, if you have any ideas and suggestions for Learn Japanese Pod cheat sheet then please let me know. Enjoy!(Check out our post on my 10 Great Textbooks for studying Japanese here)



10 Great Text Books For Studying Japanese

Japanese language learning materials have been migrating to the web in various forms including online courses, blogs, mobile app and videos to name a few. However, I still have some personal recommendations for great text books I have used to study Japanese in the past on my own and then at university as part of my degree. So, if you want to widen your repertoire of resources for learning Japanese and are tired of starring at a screen, these might be of use. Check out my personal list for the best text books for studying Japanese.

1) A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar.

If you are looking for something that is head and shoulders above the competition in Japanese grammar books, I would go for A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar published by the Japan times. These are thick books crammed with example sentences and well written explanations. If you are a complete beginner to the language and are looking for something to aid your Japanese class or prep for the JLPT, then this dictionary will be good for you. My personal favorite is “A Dictionary of Intermediate Grammar” as I think has best coverage of the language and is good for low intermediate to advanced students. Unfortunately, the Intermediate version seems to be unavailable on the US Amazon site. Why Amazon, why? Get “A Dictionary of Intermediate Japanese Grammar” here on the Japanese Amazon website.

2) Essential Kanji

There are a lot of Kanji learning texts out there including Kodansha”s “Kanji Learner”s Dictionary” and “Kanji Pict-O-Graphix” to name just two. However I prefer Essential Kanji: 2,000 Basic Japanese Characters Systematically Arranged For Learning And Reference by P.G O’Neil mostly because of its simplicity and clear layout. It covers 2000 essential Kanji which roughly mirrors the Joyo Kanji, the standardized Kanji for basic literacy in Japanese. Each Kanji has examples written in both beautiful calligraphy and ballpoint pen including the stroke order.

The slight downside is some of the sentence examples can be a little esoteric and not used in daily life. I have got a few puzzled expressions from some Japanese people I have shown this to. However, most of the sentence patterns are OK, just try to check what is most commonly used and you’ll be fine.

Apart from that minor problem, I would recommend this as a nice, straight forward, compact dictionary for people learning Kanji.

3) 501 Japanese Verbs

501 Japanese Verbs is a great reference guide for useful Japanese verbs and tables on how to conjugate them. Again, there are many good verb references out there in print form and on the internet, however I like it as it is easy to understand and use.

One thing you should be a little careful with is table layouts as  they suggests that the frequency of all verb conjugations is equal. Of course, you won’t use absolutely every single conjugation in this book in, say, everyday natural conversation.

However, this is only a small concern and if you keep that in mind and have an idea of how these verbs are used naturally in conversation and in print, then this is a great book to get.

4) Let’s Learn Hiragana

I have warm and fuzzy memories about using this book during my very first baby steps in learning Japanese. Sentimentality aside, why would I recommend a book for learning Hiragana when there are so many awesome online apps and websites for learning it (including our very own Kana Invaders Game… immodest cough)?

It’s beautifully laid out and well written. It includes practice sheets for you to try writing your own Hiragana which I would argue you can’t do so easily on a tablet device. This would be a wonderful present for complete beginners to Japanese or even kids learning to write for the first time. You can also check out their Let’s Learn Katakana: Second Book of Basic Japanese Writing too which is very good.

5) Japanese for Busy People

If you are beginning in Japanese and don’t know where to start then Japanese for Busy People is a good choice. It’s a classic book used by students of Japanese all over the world and has some nice conversation and grammar examples and explanations.

Avoid the romaji version of this book and go for the Kana version.When starting out in Japanese I believe it is better learn Hiragana and Katakana and drop Romaji as soon as possible as it will just get confusing. Also make sure to get the CD as that will really help you to practice your listening, pronunciation and fluency even if you don’t have a native teacher and are studying on your own.


6) Shin Nihongo No Kiso

In the same league and type of beginners’ Japanese textbooks, I would also recommend Shin Nihongo No Kiso which includes great grammar, dialog and vocabulary examples. Much like “Japanese for Busy People”, this is a classic textbook used in universities and Japanese language schools as a solid material for students of an elementary level and upwards. You should note that there are extra accompanying books and materials such as the English translations and CDs if you need them.


7) Colloquial Kansai Japanese

Learn Japanese Pod started out in Osaka in Kansai so wanted to get a good book to consolidate my knowledge of the Kansai dialect. Colloquial Kansai Japanese is a fun book for learning it although it”s better for consolidating what you already know.   I’ve gotten approval from some native Kansai people including Beb who helps me to record my podcasts. I can also start to decipher her heavy accent with this book.

It covers the basic common sentence patterns, verb endings and slang that you might hear in Kansai. It’s pretty simple, logically written and has a fair coverage of the language. You won’t be sounding like a native resident of Osaka with this book alone. However, as a general guide and reference to visiting Osaka and the greater Kansai region, it’s an interesting book to have.

8) Authentic Japanese: Progressing from Intermediate to Advanced

Once you”ve progressed to an intermediate level of Japanese and want to get your teeth into something a little more substantial then Authentic Japanese: Progressing from Intermediate to Advanced is worth a look. It will mainly help you improve your reading skills but will also boost your general knowledge of Japanese. Arranged in interesting themes it contains various texts with comprehension and grammar exercises, Kanji and vocabulary lists and explanations.

As a text book it’s not too dry and should increase your motivation to continue studying Japanese even for those studying on their own.


9) All About Particles

All About Particles is a great compact book which explains those devilish particles that western students of Japanese find rather challenging to master. I like the examples, the explanations and of course the size. It doesn’t waffle and is to the point with the basic information you need for both spoken or written Japanese. Check it out. Another good book by the same author, Naoko Chino, is A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Sentence Patterns (Kodansha Dictionary) which is worth a look. I should mention two general points about studying particles in Japanese. 1) Remember to not get too bogged down with particles. Along with this book, you should really try to learn particles in larger sentences in natural dialogs. 2) Native speakers often omit some particles from daily speech and colloquial Japanese. So this is a great book to study but don’t get too stuck in grammatical rules concerning particles when you should be practicing daily conversation.


10) Pratical Business Japanese

One can only wonder at how anyone could have dreamed up such a horribly ugly cover for a text book. I mean seriously, look at it. It almost makes my eyes bleed and yet Practical Business Japanese is probably one of the best Japanese text books I have ever used. This is definitely a case of not judging a book by its cover. If you are venturing into the world of Japanese business, and lord help you if you are, then this book is for you. It is crammed full of essential situational office dialogs including levels of politeness, male and female language and a nice light sprinkling of humour. Not only do you have conversations on how to answer the phone but also how to pretend that you are out of the office so you don’t have to. It’s also great to get a handle on learning Keigo or respectful Japanese language.For some reason, I lost this a few years ago but will be buying again as a reference to speaking Japanese in business and other formal situations.

Again, this is not an exhaustive list of all the Japanese text books out there however, I have personally used all the books listed here and thought they were worth their price tag. Also, as I mentioned earlier, although the internet has an increasingly large amount of online apps and websites for studying Japanese, it’s nice to have some dead tree media to pull oneself away from the computer screen. Happy Japanese textbook hunting everyone!

Japanese language learning videos

 Introduce yourself in Japanese Video 1: How to introduce yourself in Japanese | In this video, we learn some basic useful greetings in Japanese.
 Useful daily Japanese phrases Video 2: Useful daily phrases you use a lot in Japanese | In this lesson, you will learn some must-know daily phrases in Japanese
  Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 19.03.04  Video 3: Phrases for leaving your house – itte kimasu  | “Itte-kimasu” is perhaps one of the most used phrases in Japanese and you should definitely learn it! Check out the video to see what it means.
 tadaima  Video 4: Phrases for when you get home – Tadaima – Okaeri nasai | In this video you will learn some great phrases used everyday in Japan when returning home
 Apologize in Japanese  Video 5: How to apologize in Japanese | As they say in Japan, if it’s your fault, apologize, and if it isn’t, apologize. Check out how to apologize in Japanese.
Useful Japanese Restaurant Phrases 1 Video 6: Useful Japanese phrases for restaurants in Japan 1 | In this video you’ll learn how to get seats on your arrival at a restaurant


 Zen Meditation in Kyoto 1) Interview with a Zen monk on meditation in Kyoto

Blog Videos

Furusato Matsuri – Japanese Cultural Event in Tokyo

The other day I received an interesting request to do some narration for Fuji TV. (Yes, if you recognized the voice in the video, that is me.) The event is titled Furusato Matsuri which roughly translates as “home town festival” and showcases the best of regional Japanese culture including festivals and food. It’s held every January in Tokyo Dome and apparently attracts well over 370,000 people.

I obviously need to get out more as I had never heard of this festival before. I’ll definitely check it out next time and it would be great to do a Learn Japanese Pod Get Together there.

This particular video features examples of regional Japanese dishes including 丼 donburi – a popular rice bowl dish with various toppings. Typical toppings include 肉- niku – meat, 魚 – sakana – fish and 天ぷら tempura.

Here is a list of some of the toppings often used in donburi in more detail:

香箱ガニ – Kobako Gani – Kobako Crab or snow crab

白エビ – shiro ebi – White shrimp

うなぎ – unagi – Eel

Some other useful words:

In the video at about 2:50, one guy gives his opinion of the food and says:

“うん、おいしいです” – un, oishii desu – Yes, this is delicious.

Another way to say delicious in Japanese is:

うまい – umai – delicious

And just for fun, here’s how you would say it using Osaka slang:

まじやばいで – maji yabai de – Delicious

I’ll be posting more videos about Furusato Matsuri soon so stay tuned!


Blog Featured

Welcome to Learn Japanese Pod

We’ll be posting new updates here soon! Stay tuned!


What’s your favorite word in Japanese?

One warm Friday night in Osaka, I ventured out with my old tape camera (yes tape!) and videoed some of my friends and asked them what their favorite Japanese word or phrase was. Here are the results in order as they appeared on the video:                                                   

お腹がぺこぺこ – onaka ga peko peko – I’m hungry (usually used by kids)

よく食べて、よく寝て、よく遊ぶ – yoku tabete, yoku nete, yoku asobu – eat well, sleep well and have lots of fun

忍者 – ninja

一所懸命 – isshoukenmei – as much as you can / to your best abilities

なんでやねん?! – nande ya nen – What the hell? (This is Osaka dialect and a very popular word as you will see in the video

どうないやねん – dou nai yanen – What the hell? Similar to nande ya nen and also Osaka dialect

もうええわ – mou ee wa – That’s enough (Osaka dialect)

うまい – umai – delicious / yummy

美味しい – oishii – delicious

かわいい – kawaii – cute

愛してる – aishiteru – I love you

もうほんまに何やってんのよ? – mou honma ni nani yatten no yo – What the hell are you doing?

めんどくさい – mendokusai – a hassle

– samurai

キラキラ – kirakira – sparkly

すごいでしょう – sugoi deshou – that’s awesome isn’t it?

むかつく – mukatsuku – annoying

ありがとう – arigatou – Thank you

So, what’s your favorite Japanese word? Leave your comments below!


What are your biggest concerns about coming to Japan?

So, you are thinking of coming to Japan. Or at least, you are thinking of thinking of coming to Japan.

Do you know what to pack? Where you would like to go? What you would like to do?

Visiting Japan for the first time might seeing a little challenging and you might have a few concerns about coming here. For example, are you concerned about the language barrier? Perhaps you are worried about the food and not being able to find something you can eat? Are you perhaps concerned about the current situation of nuclear safety in Japan?

Take the poll and find out what other people are concerned about regarding their trip to Japan. If you leave a comment, we might be able to help you with your concerns and offer some advice!

You can chose more than one answer!

What are your biggest concerns about visiting Japan?

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Please leave a comment below. Just log into Facebook and tell us what you think!



What do you find most challenging about studying Japanese?

So you’ve been studying Japanese for a while, or perhaps, you’re just a beginner at the language. Was it as difficult as you thought? If you studied another language, how does it compare? And what do you find most challenging about studying Japanese?

Typically, westerners who study Japanese find reading and writing Japanese Kanji to be a problem. However, students from China have a head start on everyone else as the Chinese Kanji are often similar or the same to the ones used in Japanese.

Koreans tend to find the grammar of Japanese extremely easy as it is very similar to Japanese even though the pronunciation and vocabulary are different.

For me, I find the vagueness of the language quite challenging to understand. Although I may understand perfectly every word that is being spoken, I sometimes have trouble getting the gist of the conversation. So much for low context cultures such as mine!

So what is hard for you?

Take the poll below to find out what other people are struggling with when it comes to studying Japanese. Feel free to chose more than one answer:

What do you find difficult when studying Japanese?

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When are you coming to Japan?

When are you planning to come to Japan?

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Kana Invaders

Check out this awesome video made by Jamaipanese on Youtube who was kind enough to check out and play our Kana Invaders game. It’s great to see someone having fun with the game and actually learning some Japanese in the process. You can check out more of his videos here.

Kana Invaders was made by my good friend Ricardo who is also the amazing artist who drew our Learn Japanese Pod Green Monster Logo. You can check out his amazing website at

Kana Invaders is a fun game to help you either learn Hiragana and Katakana from scratch or just brush up on what you already know. If you played the game, why not leave a comment below and tell us how you did!

ひらがなとかたかな頑張ってください!Hiragana to katakana ganbatte kudasai

Good luck with your Hiragana and Katakana


Money Quiz 01

Try your knowledge on this Japanese money quiz. Do you have what it takes to be the next finance minister of Japan? Check out the quiz and then leave your comments below. Tell us your score and if you have a question feel free to ask.

Now try the quiz!

[mtouchquiz 3]


Kanji Quiz – Days of the Week

[mtouchquiz 2]

1) Try your knowledge at this multiple choice quiz for Kanji for days of the week:

Kanji will appear, then see if you can name them correctly.

2) Check the video below to see if you were right

Good luck!








Learn Japanese Pod iPad Travel Apps

If you are interested in traveling to Japan and need a little inspiration for planning your trip then you can discover some pretty amazing places in our set of Learn Japanese Pod Japan iPad travel apps.

We made a photo travelog of places I have visited and also lived in including Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe. Each app features hi-res photography of both modern bustling cities as well as the old traditional temples and landscapes that make Japan so beautiful.

Each app contains easy swipe-able pictures with short blurbs giving you the name of the location. It also has GPS maps so you can use it to find the places in the photos.

It’s fun to locate the places featured in the app using the GPS fucntion and it could inspire and help you to make more out of your visit to Japan. Even if you are not planning to come to Japan soon, then check it out so you can have a virtual tour of some of the most amazing and beautiful places in Japan.

Please click on the links to check out the apps in the iTunes store:

Osaka iPad Travel App

Nara iPad Travel App

Kobe iPad Travel App

Kyoto iPad Travel App

 Osaka Sky Building

Japanese Tea House Nara

Kobe Street Scene

Todaiji Nara

Temple Lanterns Nara

Temple Lanterns Nara

Daibutsu Todaiji

Osaka Udon Shop

Osaka Castle


What is Rakugo?

Try to answer this quiz about the traditional Japanese art of Rakugo. See how you do and then watch the video and read the article to learn more.
[mtouchquiz 1]

Now check out this video which features ダイアン吉日 Diane Kichijitsu, a female British Rakugo performer who is based in Osaka.

She explains and beautifully performs some examples of the Rakugo tradition. See if you can understand the Japanese in her performance.

落語 – rakugo – Literally means “falling words” and refers to the traditional art of story telling in Japan. This art form, that started in the Edo period (1603-1868), involves a single story teller who sits on a cushion on stage and recounts tales loaded with puns and punchlines. The 落語家 rakugoka – rakugo story teller uses eye movements and facial expressions to portray funny conversations between two and sometimes even three people. They also use a small hand towel and fan to represent anything from books and chopsticks to pens or even swords.

Rakugo vocabulary

扇子 – sensu

A fan which is used as a prop to represent various objects such as chopsticks or a sword.

手拭- tenugui

A hand towel which is used in a similar way to the fan.

座布団 – zabuton

The cushion the rakugo performer sits on. If the audience appreciates them they can receive another cushion.

高座 – kouza

The stage the rakugo performer sits on

正座 – seiza

The traditional way of sitting employed by the rakugo performer

見習い – minarai

An apprentice who is a beginner at rakugo

前座 – zenza

A novice at rakugo

二つ目 – futatsume

One rank below a master Rakugo story teller

真打 – shinuchi

A master rakugo story teller

駄洒落 – dajare

A pun. Rakugo stories are usually littered with puns and witty plays on words.

おち – ochi

Each rakugo story usually ends in a punchline or ochi.


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How to Find Big Shoes in Osaka

If you are looking for large shoes in Osaka, you might want to check out Otto, a shoe shop located in Tenma, Osaka that caters for the more gaijin sized foot. I was originally introduced to this shop by good friend Beb. This shoe shop is famous amongst locals as there is a sign that reads「もうあかん、やめます!」- mou akan, yamemasu – which roughly translates from Osaka dialect to “It’s no good, we’re finished / closing down”.

As people from Osaka are always on the lookout for a bargain, this closing down sale sign has brought in a lot of customers. And it’s been doing it for the last 20 years. I guess after the first few months, people’s suspicions may have arisen. But now, this hilarious sign has become famous for being completely ridiculous.

At least it made me laugh and I even bought a pair of shoes. Now that is effective marketing!

So, if you are a gaijin with big feet and need some shoes then I would recommend Otto. I was able to find some smart shoes and sneakers and they weren’t too expensive. Here’s a map to the shop.


Samurai Swords

On a trip to Kyoto, Waka sensei, my friend Naho and I stumbled on a shop that stocks swords and samurai armor called Tozando. It was a treasure trove that the makers of Kill Bill would be proud of. In fact, the craftsmen who made the armor stocked in the shop also made the armor used in “The Last Samurai”. According to the assistant we spoke to, the armor and swords were all made recently but the armor was modeled in the style of the Sengoku period or “Warring states period” roughly 1478 to 1605. The craftsman ship was just incredible and this is a store I highly recommend you visit if you are in Kyoto.

The owners of Tozando kindly let us film in their shop and patiently answered all my questions.


Japanese Proverbs 01


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Here is the famous saying “猿も木から落ちる” – Saru mo ki kara ochiru

This literally means, even monkeys fall from trees. In other words, nobody’s perfect.


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Learn Japanese Pod Show 109

Welcome to Learn Japanese Pod Show #109. In this show, Asuka and Alex show you how to use the word なるべく – Narubeku.

This roughly translates as ” as much as you can” or “if possible”. Check out the podcast to hear how it is used in natural everyday Japanese conversation.


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