Category: Learn Japanese

Anime to Supplement Your Japanese Studies – Nov 2018

Last month we published a list of eight different anime that you can use to help supplement your Japanese studies. And apparently, you loved it so we’re going to do it again! Here is a list of MORE anime you can use to supplement your Japanese language skills.


Soreike! Anpanman (それいけ!アンパンマン)

First appearing as a series of children’s books in 1973 (which ran all the way until the author’s death in 2013), Anpanman made his debut as an anime aimed at young children in 1988. Since that time, it has gone on to produce over a dozen movies with the most recent one, Soreike! Anpanman Kagayake! Kurun to Inochi no Hoshi, premiering in Japanese theaters on June 30, 2018. As with most of the other series that have appeared in this article series, you won’t be getting a masterpiece of the medium when you watch this but rather basic listening comprehension skills.


Chirubii (チルビー)

This is another children’s show, however, don’t expect a ton from this series. It has very simple animation (it’s more of a picture book that comes with audio) but will still aid you in your studies with very simple Japanese that even beginners can follow.


Sazae-san (サザエさん)

You want to talk about One Piece having lasting power? It’s got nothing compared to this series! First premiering in 1969, Sazae-san has been running steadily ever since with over 3,000 EPISODES to date! Based off a manga which ran from 1946 to 1974, this series follows a family’s daily lives in the suburbs of Japan.

Crayon Shin-chan

Crayon Shin-chan (クレヨンしんちゃん)

Another series based off a manga that has a long history, Shin-chan is about a troublesome youth who just wants to have fun but in the process creates nothing but trouble for his parents and teachers. Since it’s debut in 1992, the series has aired over 800 episodes and has launched 26 movies (the most recent of which premiered in Japanese theaters in April 2018). One word of warning: Shin-chan is a very rude little boy so you would be wise to NOT copy his speech exactly unless you want to come across like a major jerk.


K-ON! (けいおん!)

Finally, we come to a series that ISN’T aimed at children! Admittedly a lot of the vocab you’ll be picking up from this series is music based (it’s about a high school light music club after all) but you never know when those words are going to come in handy in daily conversation!

That’s it for this month! Do you have a favorite anime that helped you learn Japanese? Share them in the comments and let’s discuss!

The Benefits of Taking a Language Trip to Japan

In spite of its reputation for being difficult, Japanese continues to be one of the most popular languages to learn. In fact, thousands of people each year start studying Japanese not because they plan to live in Japan, but purely for recreational purposes. According to a study by the Japan Foundation, in the US alone, 50 percent of Japanese-language students said that they’re learning simply because they want to be able to enjoy manga and anime in their original language.

As with most languages, the trend today is for people to learn Japanese online through self-study courses, but if you want to become fluent, it’s crucial to practice communicating with others as often as you can. That’s why, as any language learner will tell you, one of the best ways to learn Japanese is to take a language trip to Japan.

There are different ways to take a Japanese language trip. For example, you can take an organized study trip lasting a few weeks, or even sign on at a language school for several years. Those with an adventurous streak might even want to set out on their own for a few weeks or months, immersing themselves in the language and culture of the beautiful Land of the Rising Sun.

There’s really no wrong way to go because no matter how you’ll do it, you’re sure to have a wonderful time. However, if you’re serious about becoming a Japanese speaker (and if you’d really like to learn how to read kanji), here are four benefits of taking a language trip to Japan.

1. You’ll Be Training Your Eye As Well As Your Ear

Once you get to Japan, you’ll be surrounded by a barrage of Japanese words, both audible and written. While English is a second language for many Japanese people, you can speed up your learning by making yourself speak Japanese as much as possible. Living in Japan, even for a few weeks, will accustom your eyes and ears to the continual sights and sounds of the Japanese language, so you’ll be able to hear the different inflections and nuances that you’d never be able to hear back at home. Likewise, you’ll be surrounded by written Japanese as well — whether it’s in street signs and shop windows or newspapers and menus — and in a short time, your eye should be able to recognize quite a few characters.

2. You Can Immerse Yourself in the Culture of Japan

One of the best ways to accustom your ear to the Japanese language is to go to the cinema and the theater. In traditional Japanese theater, remember that some styles, such as noh and kabuki, emphasize singing, dance, and mime rather than the spoken word. Kyogen, on the other hand, features slapstick comedy with exaggerated dialogue that’s typically easier to understand.

3. You Can Speak Japanese 24/7 If You Want

One of the best things about a language trip to Japan is you can immerse yourself in Japanese, without resorting to English unless you absolutely have to. The Japanese are famed for their politeness, and you’ll find that people will be extremely patient and even helpful as you fumble for the correct Japanese words to say.

4. Two Words: Japanese Television

Some linguists say that there’s no better way to learn than to watch TV shows in your chosen language, and Japanese television is a highly entertaining way to not only learn and memorize words but also pick up current slang and pop culture phrases.

If you’d like to know how to learn Japanese online, the Japanese website Nihongo Master is here to help. For anyone who wants to learn, Nihongo Master online offers a wide range of Japanese language lessons for every level, whether you’re a beginner or already have several years of study under your belt.

A language trip to Japan will provide an unforgettable experience, and will likely lead to many more visits to this enchanting country. Whether you make one or a hundred visits, your time in Japan will set you on the right path for a lifetime of learning and enjoying Japanese.

Ways to Say ‘You’ in Japanese (And How to Avoid the Wrong One)

How many different ways can you think to say “you” in your native language? In Japanese there are many different ways to refer to someone and choosing the wrong one in social situations can be hazardous to your social standing. In fact, just recently a school superintendent of Shibata City schools in Niigata Prefecture was forced to resign because he used the informal ‘omae (お前)’ during a parent-teacher conference. Yeah, this can be a “big deal” topic.

As anyone who has studied Japanese for any length of time can tell you, Japanese is fraught with pitfalls of politeness and while gaijin might get the occasional free pass for mistakes along the way, you shouldn’t automatically expect it. One wrong word can leave you out in the cold due to your unintentional rudeness. One of the words that can cause the most trouble seems innocuous enough but, once again, one slip of the tongue and you could find yourself in a world of trouble or at least quiet discomfort as the people around you process what you just said. That word is “you”.

So how does one avoid falling into one of these politeness holes when conversing in Japanese? The simplest way is to avoid using the word ‘You’ when it isn’t needed due to Japanese often omitting pronouns and using context clues to tell you who the subject of a sentence is. Another way is to instead use a person’s surname (remember: using someone’s first name means that you consider yourself familiar with them and they might not feel the same way towards you which can lead to awkward situations) along with the appropriate honorific (which we will discuss later on down the road).

If you absolutely must use the word ‘you’ while speaking Japanese, there are various forms of the word that you can use depending on the social situation and who it is that you’re referring to; here are just a few of them:

Anata (あなた) – While this is technically the default, polite way to say ‘you’ in Japanese, it’s still better to get into the habit of referring to people by their surname and honorific just in case. It’s worth noting that this form of the word is often used by women towards their spouses.

Kimi (君) – This form of the word is generally used by men in informal situations towards people who are of lower status. It’s also used by boyfriends when referring to their girlfriends so be absolutely sure of what your relationship status is before you use this when referring to someone else.

Omae (お前) – Another informal version of the word, this version can be seen as rude when used in the wrong context (see the poor school superintendent in the introduction above).

Anta (あんた) – Just because this is the shortened version of Anata doesn’t mean that you should use it casually. This form of the word can be seen as someone being admonished in a very rude way.

Sochira (そちら) – This is another informal, casual way to say the word ‘you’ but if you’re in a formal situation and/or speaking with an elder, you’ll probably want to add the -sama (さま)honorific just to be safe.

Onushi (お主) and Otaku (お宅) – These are relatively polite ways to refer to someone but are so outdated that you might never actually use them. Note: Otaku (お宅) is not the same thing as an otaku (オタク) (i.e. a superfan of a certain section of popular culture) though the latter was derived from the former.

Kisama – きさま(貴様), temee – てめえ(手前), and onore (己) – These are flat out derogatory ways to refer to someone else so if you use these in conversation, know that you’re looking for trouble.

Now you know just some of the many ways to refer to someone in Japanese. Should you find yourself in a new social situation, I hope that you’ll remember some of the lessons that you learned from this article to navigate those tricky waters!

Anime You Can Use to Supplement Your Japanese Studies

I love anime and I’m willing to bet that if you’re reading this article, you at least have a passing interest in it as well. Learning to speak Japanese via any form of popular media can be quite daunting and challenging. However, it can also be very rewarding as you can learn some great new vocabulary from it as well as formal and informal uses of those same words.

That being said, it stands to reason that you shouldn’t use anime, manga, or any other form of pop culture as a strong basis for learning by itself but rather as a supplement to your regular learning habits. It should also be noted that viewers are encouraged to watch their pop culture actively complete with taking notes on new vocab words rather than passively since it won’t do you any good to only catch the gist of what the characters are actually saying.

Most of the anime on this list were chosen because they have simple sentences and words that are suitable for learners who aren’t as advanced in their studies yet. For that reason, I’m not guaranteeing that you’re going to find the titles on this list to be masterpieces of the medium.

While many experts feel that learning from pop culture should be reserved for intermediate learners, I know that there are plenty of you out there who are itching to jump right in and start learning from the media that you’re actively consuming anyway. With all, that out of the way here are some titles that you can watch right now to help you master Japanese!


Bottom Biting Bug (Oshiri Kajiri Mushi – おしりかじり虫)

Aimed at a MUCH younger audience, this series of shorts (each episode only lasts about 5 minutes) originally started airing in 2012 and features a young bottom biting bug who helps people feel better both physically and emotionally by — you guessed it — biting them on the bottom. This is going to give you very basic vocab and grammar lessons but don’t expect any significantly deep plots.

© Madhouse · Broccoli / Panyo Panyo Di Gi Charat Production Committee

Panyo Panyo Di Gi Charat (ぱにょぱにょ デ・ジ・キャラット)


Another series of shorts aimed at a younger audience (though not quite as young as the first entry on this list), this adorable series first started airing in 2002 and ran for 48 episodes. Featuring very easy to understand plots, this is a good series to watch so long as you remember that Dejiko and her friends don’t always speak normal, everyday Japanese.


© Pierrot – Aloha Higa

Polar Bear Cafe (Shirokuma Cafe – しろくまカフェ)

The first entry on this list that isn’t a short but rather made up of full-length episodes, this 50 episode series first aired in 2012. What makes this series so good to watch isn’t just that the characters are adorable and stories are simple but the puns! Every so often, Polar Bear will break out a string of Japanese puns which are not only hilarious but also great for picking up new vocab that comes complete with visual cues.

© Madhouse – Kanata Konami

Chi’s Sweet Home (チーズスイートホーム)

A cute seinen (a genre aimed at adult men) series about a kitty cat? Sign me up! First appearing in anime form back in 2008, this title features many short sentences that are easy to pick up on so even beginner Japanese learners should be able to pick up valuable new words from this series.

© Doga Koba – Takayuki Mizushina

Lovely Muuuuuuuco! (ラブリームービー いとしのムーコ)

Not a cat person? Got you covered! This series is all about an adorable pet dog named Muco. Originally airing in 2013, this anime is similar to Chi’s Sweet Home in that it has a lot of simple, short dialogue.

© Nippon Animation – Momoko Sakura

Chibi Maruko-chan (ちびまる子ちゃん)

This slice of life comedy series has been running almost solidly since 1990! A family series, it follows the daily life of elementary school student Maruko-chan. Conversational Japanese is what you’re going to get from this series the most so be sure to jot down those notes with this one.


Non Non Biyori (のんのんびより)

Another relaxing slice of life series from recent history (it first started airing in 2013), this is a series that has become pretty popular among fans of the genre. Featuring a group of young girls of various ages who live far out in the country, this is another series to pick up light-hearted conversational Japanese.

©Toei Animation – Izumi Todo

Pretty Cure (Futari wa PreCure – ふたりはプリキュア)

No list is ever complete without at least one mahou shoujo (magical girl) series and this is one of the most popular in Japan! First airing in 2004, this series has spawned literally over a dozen sequels and movies. Aimed at young girls (though it’s famous for appealing to older fans as well), this might not provide you with tons of useful new vocabulary words (unless you plan on moving to Japan to become a crime-fighting magical girl. No judgment.) this is still a good series to pick up some basic conversation skills.

There you go, learners! Eight titles that you can go forth right now and check out for yourselves! Have a fantastic rest of your month everyone and join me again next month when I reveal even more anime titles that you can use to supplement your studies.

Mastering The Japanese Katakana Writing System

Learning a foreign language can be difficult. A language like Japanese with three writing systems can be an even greater challenge! The different writing systems, or “kana”, are hiragana, katakana and kanji. Hiragana is usually the first Japanese syllabary children learn in Japan. You use hiragana when writing native Japanese words. But why would you use katakana?
In Japanese, you would use a different writing systems for borrowed words. Borrowed words come from different languages. In Japanese, these words use katakana when written. How can you tell the difference?


Japanese Onomatopoeia Guide

If you aren’t familiar with Japanese onomatopoeia (or any onomatopoeia for that matter) here is a quick introduction. Onomatopoeia is the word for when we take a sound and make a word out of it. In English, this is words like BOOM! SLAP! or HAHAHA! The spelling of these words is based on the sound that the action makes. Every language has onomatopoeia, but in every language they are slightly different. For instance, in many languages, the onomatopoeia for laughing isn’t “hahaha” but is often “kkkk” in Asian languages or in Spanish, “jjjj.” This may seem strange to English speakers, but of course it makes perfect sense to the native speaker!

The Japanese seem to like onomatopoeia even more than other languages (they have over 1,000!) so we are devoting a whole post to teaching you the most common Japanese onomatopoeia you might find. Japanese onomatopoeia aren’t just written, but they are also crucial to speaking and sounding fluent. There are 3 types of onomatopoeia you will learn in Japanese. 擬声語
(giseigo, animal and human sounds) like MOO! or YAAAWWWWN and 擬音語 (giongo, inanimate objects and nature sounds) both exist in English. The harder part about Japanese is that they have onomatopoeia that describe mental states, movements, and even feelings. Since we don’t have words for these in English they can be a bit harder to learn.

擬声語 (giseigo) Animal and human sounds
These are mostly what you will think of in English like MOOO! or ACHOO! or Sluurrrrrp.
擬音語 (giongo) Sounds made by inanimate objects and nature
What sound does the wind make? WOOOOSH! A beating heart? Thump, thump, thump.
擬態語 (gitaigo) Describe conditions and states (things that do not make sounds)
Gitaigo are onomatopoeia that we do not have in English. They describe feelings or states of being that make no sound at all!
To break down the names of the various onomatopoeia we can see the kanji 擬 means mimic + (insert type of sound) + 語 (kanji for word or speech).

You will see all the onomatopoeia written below in both hiragana and katakana. While there isn’t a hard and fast rule, usually actual sounds (like animal noises or doors slamming) are written in katakana and soft sounds (like ones that describe emotional states) are written in hiragana. Of course this isn’t a real rule, and you can see any of these sounds written either way depending on the context!

Japanese Onomatopoeia Forms:

Double Form: にこにこ (niko niko) -> For the double form, it is usually used as an adjective. For instance, “彼はいつもにこにこしている” meaning “He is always smiling” BUT it can also be used as an adverb to verbs that follow them.

TO Form: にこっと (nikotto) -> For TO form, it is mostly used an an adverb to verbs that come after. For example, “彼はにこっと笑った” (For this one there isn’t a literal translation because にこにこ is a representation of sounds/state of being) but this can be translated as “He pleasantly smiled” as “にこにこ” always has positive meanings.

RI Form: にこり (nikori) or にっこり -> Nikori can also be used as an adverb just like nikotto. So what is the difference between nikotto and nikori? Not much really, they are interchangeable and mean pretty much the same thing! “彼はにっこり笑った” meaning “He pleasantly smiled”

OK! Now we’re ready to learn some onomatopoeia and watch some fun anime gifs while we’re at it!

擬音語 – Sounds made by inanimate objects and nature

どきどき/ドキドキ – dokidoki sound of throbbing

ごぼごぼ/ゴボゴボ Gobogobo
Gurgling sound

japanese onomatopoeia

ぺらぺら/ペラペラ – perapera – sound of flapping in the wind
pekopeko onomatopoeia

ざあざあ/ザアザア – zaazaa – sound of rain falling
ザアザア rain falling

パリパリ — Paripari – crunchy; crisp

パリパリ paripari onomatopoeia

ずどん/ズドン – zudon – THUD! BANG!
ズドン zudon

へろへろ/ヘロヘロ – herohero – flimsy plastic flapping around – im tired, im beat

くしゃくしゃ – Kushakusha – Crumpling sound of paper

ギシギシ/ぎしぎし – Gishi gishi – Squeaking noise of beds or old floors

ぱちぱち/パチパチ – pachipachi – snapping closed, sharp pop or ping like pachinko!


擬態語 – Describe conditions and states

ラブラブ— Raburabu – Lovey dovey; head-over-heels in love

Often used to poke fun at classmates!

にこにこ/ニコニコ – nikoniko – the sound a smile makes!

nikoniko smile onomatopoeia

きらきら/キラキラ – kirakira – twinkle twinkle (water, gemstones, or stars)

キラキラ twinkle twinkle japanese

オタオタ/おたおた — Otaota – shocked speechless

オタオタ shocked speechless

じー/ジー jii – staring and motionless

ジ staring manga jii

そわそわ — Sowasowa – fidgety; restless; have butterflies from excitement or nerves

うとうと – Utouto – To doze off

うとうと – Uto uto – To doze off

ちくちく – Chikuchiku — prickly pain; needle-like pain

ちくちく chikuchiku

ぎゅうぎゅう – Gyu gyu – Jam-packed like a train during rush hour

Image Credit Yeow Kwang Yeo

おろおろ – Orōro — too flustered to think or move

Orōro flustered

ワクワク/わくわく – wakuwaku — Excited; thrilled; to get nervous/anxious from excitement

ワクワク wakuwaku thrilled

うずうず — Uzūzu – to itch with desire; squirm, struggling to resist an urge

japanese onomatopoeia

イライラ/いらいら — irairai – edgy; testy; ticked off (especially when being made to wait)

ごろごろ — gorogoro – stay idle; laying around; loaf around

gorogoro lazy

つんつん — Tsuntsun – to be cross; cranky; aloof

つんつん — Tsuntsun to be cross; cranky; aloof

クラクラ/くらくら — kurakura – feel dizzy; light-headed

クラクラ kurakura

ねばねば — Nebaneba – sticky; gooey

ねばねば nebaneba sticky

ぞくぞく – Zokuzoku Excited; to have an adrenaline rush

ぞくぞく zokuzoku onomatopoeia

うとうと — Utōto – drowsy; nodding off

うとうとUtōto nodding off

のろのろ — noronoro – Sluggishly, lazily, draggingly

lazily dragging sluggish

きびきび – Kibikibi – Energetically

きびきび – Kibikibi – Energetically

ぬるぬる – Nurunuru – Slimy like a fish out of the water

ぬるぬる Nuru nuru

びっくり — Bikkuri thrilled; surprised; frightened; shocked

びっくり bikkuri thrilled surprised

ズキズキ/ずきずき – zukizuki — throbbing pain

ズキズキ/ずきずき zukizuki throbbing pain

ぐっすり — Gussuri – soundly sleeping

ぐっすり— soundly sleeping

すやすや — suyasuya – sleeping peacefully

Suyasuya すやすや

くたくた — kutakuta – weak with exhaustion; worn out; beat tired

くたくた exhausted

ぐしゃぐしゃ – Gushagusha – Messy hair or clothes

ぐしゃぐしゃ gusha gusha onomatopoeia japan manga

擬声語 Human & Animal Sounds

ガブガブ — Gabugabu – gulp vigorously; swig

ガブガブ swig

ごくごく — Gokugoku – gulp down a drink; drink in long gulps

ズルズル — Zuruzuru – slurp
ズルズル — Zuruzuru slurp

がつがつ/ガツガツ — gatsugatsu – eating ravenously; devour

がつがつ/ガツガツ — gatsugatsu eating ravenously; devour

ぺこぺこ — Pekopeko – Be hungry; starving; famished

ぱくぱく/パクパク— Pakupaku – heartily eating; quivering lips. This is also the origin of where Pac-Man came from!

ぱくぱく quivering lip

むしゃむしゃ — mushamusha – to munch or to chomp on something

ちびちび — Chibichibi – to nibble on food; to sip a drinkちびちび to nibble

がみがみ/ガミガミ — gamigami – nagging (loudly); scolding

ぺらぺら/ペラペラ — perapera – Speaking fluently

ぶつぶつ — Butsubutsu – grumble; muttered complaint

もぐもぐ meaning mumbling

はきはき/ハキハキ — Hakihaki – unhesitating; talk clearly and briskly

もぐもぐ/モグモグ – mogumogu – chewing food, also mumbling
もぐもぐ/モグモグ mogumogu

Animal Sounds

ワンワン — wan-wan

Woof (dog)
japanese onomatopoeia

ウォーッ – U~ō~tsu

Howl (dog)
japanese onomatopoeia

ニャーニャー – Nyānyā

meow (cat)
japanese onomatopoeia

ゴロゴロ – Gorogoro

Purr (cat), but in hiragana ごろごろ “to be lazy”
japanese onomatopoeia

モーモー – momo

Moo (cow)
japanese onomatopoeia

ヒヒーン – Hihīn

Neigh (horse)
japanese onomatopoeia

ケロケロ — Kerokero

Ribbit (frog)

ホーホー – Hōhō

hoot (owl)

チチチ – Chichichi

tweet (birds)
japanese animal sounds

チュンチュン – Chunchun

Chirp (bird)
japanese animal sounds

リンリン – Rinrin

Chirping (cricket)
animal sounds in japanese

チュウチュウ – Chūchū

squeak (mouse)
animal sounds in japanese

ブーン/ぶーん – Būn

Buzz (bee), also used for cars
animal sounds in japanese

ブーブー – Būbū

Oink (pig)
japanese animal sounds

Here are a few more as well…can you find some anime or manga that shows these 擬態語? Share it in the comments!

しーん/シーン – shiin – the sound of silence
In manga this is most often used when someone tries to say something funny and it isn’t funny, to describe the sound of no one laughing!

こそこそ – Kosokoso – Sneakingly; secretly

ねばねば – Nebaneba – Sticky like okra or raw egg

ぱさぱさ – Pasapasa Dry; lacks moisture

ぐずぐず – Guzuguzu – To procrastinate; act slowly

しくしく — Shikushiku – dull pain; gripping pain
This is also used when someone is crying

ぐちゃぐちゃ — Guchagucha – pulpy; soppy; soggy

ぼそぼそ — Bosoboso tasteless, bland, and dry; muttering under your breath

21 Hilarious Japanese Proverbs

These Japanese proverbs may sound funny, but in every language there are certain sayings that just don’t translate quite right! Here we have collected 22 of the funniest Japanese proverbs, but they each have very real lessons to teach! At the bottom of this post we have collected some familiar English sayings…can you match up the English to the Japanese? Remember, not every Japanese saying has an English equivalent!


japanese proverbs farts

1. 屁を放って尻つぼめ


What Is Kanji?

If you’re just starting to learn Japanese, congratulations! You may have already learned hiragana and katakana, and if you’re reading this it means you’ve probably come across your first kanji. But what IS kanji exactly? Is it Chinese? Is it Japanese? How do I pronounce kanji? How do I remember kanji? How many kanji ARE there? How many kanji do I have to learn? Why are there so many strokes???