Onomatopoeic Expressions

Japanese is filled with onomatopoeic phrases, the word that describe sound or action directly. There are two categories: giongo and gitaigo. Giongo are the words which express voice or sounds. Gitatigo are the words which express actions, states or human emotions.

Relationships with Animals: Cats

Neko (cats) are regarded as both auspicious and fearful in Japan. Learn some of many expressions including cats.

All About Radicals

A radical (bushu) is a common sub-element found in different kanji characters. Every kanji has a radical or a radical itself can be a kanji. Radicals express the general nature of the kanji characters. A radical is the part of the kanji character that gives you a clue to its origin, group, meaning or pronunciation. Many kanji dictionaries organize characters by their radicals.

There are … [ Read more ]

Visiting Someone’s Place

Japanese seem to have many formal phrases for certain actions. Learn some common expressions you are likely to use when visiting Japanese homes.

Sentence Ending Particles

In Japanese, there are many particles that are added to the end of a sentence. They express the speaker’s emotions, doubt, emphasis, caution, hesitation, wonder, admiration, and so on.

Hinamatsuri (Doll’s Festival)

Hinamatsuri (Doll’s Festival) is held on March 3rd. This is a day to pray for young girl’s growth and happiness. Find out more.

The Year of the Rooster

2005 is the year of the Rooster. The Japanese use animal zodiac symbols like the Chinese. Learn more about the zodiac symbols (like what they say about your personality) and some Japanese expressions including bird names.

New Year’s Holidays

Shogatsu (New Year’s holidays) is a time when everybody takes a few days off to celebrate the arrival of the new year. Find out more.

Writing New Year’s Cards

The Japanese send New Year’s cards rather than Christmas cards. Try sending them to surprise your Japanese friends!

The Number Seven

It seems that every culture has lucky numbers and unlucky numbers. Seven appears to be a universally lucky or holy number. Find out how the number seven is used in the Japanese language, including Shichi-fuku-jin (the Seven Gods of Luck in Japanese folklore).

Expressions Used in Letters

The difference between written language and conversational language in Japanese is much greater than in English. Japanese letters often use classical grammar patterns which are seldom used in conversation. Although there are no particular rules when writing to close friends, there are many set expressions and honorific expressions (keigo) used in formal letters. A conversational style is not usually used when writing formal letters.


Yoji-jukugo are idiomatic expressions made up of four kanji characters. Japanese is normally written with three types of scripts: kanji, hiragana and katakana, but these idiomatic words are written in kanji only and with no kana between them.

Yoji-jukugo contain classical wisdom or morals in short phrases. In English there are words that people use which make them sound intelligent or denote higher education. … [ Read more ]

Japanese Ghosts

Namiko Abe describes the different kinds of ghosts in Japanese culture and even includes an interesting famous short story (in romaji and English translation) called “Bancho sara-yashiki (The Story of Okiku)”

Talking on the Phone

Let’s learn common expressions used on the phone. Don’t be intimidated by phone calls. Practice makes perfect!

Particles (About.com)

Particles are probably one of the most difficult and confusing aspects of Japanese sentences. A particle (joshi) is a word that shows the relationship of a word, a phrase, or a clause to the rest of the sentence. Some particles have English equivalents. Others have functions similar to English prepositions, but since they always follow the word or words they mark, they are post-positions. There … [ Read more ]

Relationships with Nature: The Firefly

The Japanese word for a firefly is “hotaru.” In some cultures hotaru might not have a positive reputation, but they are well liked in Japanese society. Find out more.

About.com Japanese Grammar/Expressions Lessons

Another fine feature of the excellent About.com Japanese Language site. There aren’t a ton of entries yet (more added regularly) but the ones that I have read through are explained very well and target useful and/or tricky areas of comprehension.

Conversation Openers and Fillers

In conversations, openers and fillers are used quite often. They don’t always have specific meanings. Openers are used as signals that you are about to say something, or to smooth communication. Fillers are usually used for pauses or hesitation. English also has similar expressions such as “so,” “like,” “you know,” and so on. When you have opportunity to hear native speakers’ conversation, listen carefully and … [ Read more ]

About.com Japanese Language Newsletter

I haven’t always been impressed with About.com, but the guide for the Japanese Language pages is really good and the newsletter is the best way to keep up on new content posted (and it is usually good content)

About.com Kanji Land

Japanese school children first learn hiragana and katakana, then 1006 kanji characters (Education Kanji) through grade one to six. With “Kanji Land” lessons, you will learn all of the 1006 kanji characters.

A new kanji character is introduced every day. First you will learn 80 kanji characters which are taught in grade one at Japanese school, then 160 for grade two, and it goes … [ Read more ]