Category Archives: Learn Japanese

Lesson 7: Days of the Week, Month, and Time

Now that you’ve learned how to count in Japanese, it’s a good time to learn how to say the days of the week, the months, and time. The kanji for the days of the week can get rather complicated, so for now they will be displayed only in hiragana. The months of the year and time of day use the same number kanji symbols from the previous lesson; they should be easy to pick up on!

The days of the week are formed in Japanese like days of the week are in English. For example, the “day” part remains the same while the first part of the word changes. The same is true for Japanese. The Japanese ending that means “day” is writtenようび in hiragana and pronounced as “youbi.” The only changes between the days of the week are the syllables in front of the word for day. See the list below for all seven days:

にちようび    nichiyoubi        Sunday

げつようび    getsuyoubi       Monday

かようび        kayoubi            Tuesday

すいようび    suiyoubi           Wednesday

もくようび    mokuyoubi      Thursday

きんようび    kinyoubi           Friday

どようび        doyoubi           Saturday

The months of the year are written with the kanji numbers plus the symbol for month. The word for month is written がつin hiragana and 月in kanji. This kanji is pronounced as “gatsu.”

一月                January

二月                February

三月                March

四月                April

五月                May

六月                June

七月                July

八月                August

九月                September

十月                October

十一月            November

十二月            December

When telling time in Japanese, the number kanji are still used. They are combined with the word for time (pronounced “ji”). The kanji for time is 時and the hiragana is じ.

一時                ichi ji               1:00

二時                ni ji                  2:00

三時                san ji                3:00

四時                yoji                  4:00

五時                goji                  5:00

六時                roku ji             6:00

七時                shichi ji           7:00

八時                hachi ji            8:00

九時                kuji                  9:00

十時                jyuu ji              10:00

十一時            jyuuichi ji        11:00

十二時            jyuuni ji           12:00

*note that the pronunciation for 4:00 and 9:00 differ slightly from the original numbers.

If you want to say 12:30 instead of 12:00, you simply add one more kanji after the time. The kanji used to mark the half hour is written as 半and pronounced “han.” 12:30 would be written 十二時半and pronounced “jyuuni ji han.”

You can further modify time by specifying AM or PM. AM isごぜんand PM isごご. For example, 1:00PM would be written ごご一時.

Look at the following practice conversation for some basic review. Be sure to look for how to ask a question and how to tell time!

A: たちばなさんこんにちは!おげんきですか。






A: Tachibana-san, konnichiwa! Ogenki desu ka?
(Good afternoon Tachibana-san! How are you?)

B: Nanahara-san, konnichiwa! Genki desu. Genki desu ka?
(Good afternoon Nanahara-san. I’m fine. How are you?)

A: Hai, genki desu. Sumimasen, ima nanji desu ka?
(Yes, I’m well. Excuse me, what time is it now?)

B: Gogo san ji han desu.
(It is 3:30 PM.)

A: Sou desu ka? Arigatou gozaimasu. Jyaa, mata!
(Is that so? Thank you. I’ll see you later!)

B: Jyaa ne!
(See you!)

Lesson 6: Basic Kanji Through Numbers

By now you should be able to read hiragana fairly well. Learning kanji can sometimes scare off new students to the Japanese language, but don’t get discouraged! You can learn very basic kanji by learning how to count in Japanese.

The Japanese language has evolved with modern times; many Japanese natives still use kanji for numbers, but an increasing amount of people are using Arabic numerals as well. The numbers are pronounced the same in Japanese no matter what type of character is used. Learning how to count in Japanese brings some basic kanji into the picture which will help you become familiar with writing these symbols.

First, you should learn to count from one to ten. The following list details the kanji for the number along with the hiragana and Romanization. Try to read the hiragana and associate it with the kanji instead of relying on romaji!

  1. 一        いち                Ichi
  2. 二        に                    Ni
  3. 三        さん                San
  4. 四        し/よん           Shi (sometimes written/pronounced as “yon.”)
  5. 五        ご                    Go
  6. 六        ろく                Roku
  7. 七        なな/しち       Nana (sometimes written/pronounced as “shichi.”)
  8. 八        はち                Hachi
  9. 九        きゅう            Kyuu

10.  十        じゅう            Jyuu

By examining this list, you will notice that there are two ways to write and pronounce both four and seven. Most of the time, you can use them interchangeably. Sometimes it is more common to hear one than the other; for example, when saying seven o’clock, many Japanese will say “shichi ji” instead of “nana ji.” You can use either one. The syllable shi しon its own can actually mean “death” in Japanese. The kanji is different for this word than the kanji for the number four, but it is pronounced the same way. For this reason, four and seven are often unlucky numbers in Japan (notice seven also begins with “shi”).

In order to make the next set of numbers, you simply take the kanji for ten and combine it with the kanji for the other number. For example, eleven is made up of the kanji for one and ten. The kanji for ten comes first, so eleven is written 十一 (じゅういち)and pronounced “jyuu ichi.” See the list below for eleven through thirty. Notice that the 十 symbol changes to二 when we get to twenty, but the process stays the same. The pattern keeps repeating all the way through number ninety-nine.

11.  十一                じゅういち                Jyuu ichi

12.  十二                じゅうに                    Jyuu ni

13.  十三                じゅうさん                Jyuu san

14.  十四                じゅうよん                Jyuu yon

15.  十五                じゅうご                    Jyuu go

16.  十六                じゅうろく                Jyuu roku

17.  十七                じゅうなな                Jyuu nana

18.  十八                じゅうはち                Jyuu hachi

19.  十九                じゅうきゅう            Jyuu kyuu

20.  二十                にじゅう                    Ni jyuu

21.  二十一            にじゅういち            Ni jyuu ichi

22.  二十二            にじゅうに                Ni jyuu ni

23.  二十三            にじゅうさん            Ni jyuu san

24.  二十四            にじゅうよん            Ni jyuu yon

25.  二十五            にじゅうご                Ni jyuu go

26.  二十六            にじゅうろく            Ni jyuu roku

27.  二十七            にじゅうなな            Ni jyuu nana

28.  二十八            にじゅうはち            Ni jyuu hachi

29.  二十九            にじゅうきゅう        Ni jyuu kyuu

30.  三十                さんじゅう                San jyuu

Once you become familiar with the pattern of Japanese numbers, you’ll be able to say any number very quickly. One hundred is the first number that is different. One hundred is pronounced “hyaku” and written ひゃくas in hiragana and 百in kanji.

Lesson 5: Possessive Structure

The next basic structure you should understand is the の phrase structure. This type of phrase will allow you to make nouns possessive in Japanese. This structure involves three main components: the main topic, the modifier, and the particle の. The particle の often acts as an apostrophe, but it is also used to connect two nouns.

The basic structure is: nounのnoun. In terms of modifier and main topic, the phrase looks like this: modifierのmain topic. Look at the examples below.

だいがくのせんせい            daigaku no sensei                               a college professor

わたしのいぬ                        watashi no inu                                     my dog

これはわたしのほんです。Kore wa watashi no hon desu.            This is my book.

In the first example, の is used to connect two nouns in order to modify the main topic. For example, you could say せんせいです(I am a teacher). If you wanted to elaborate on that and say you were a college professor, you can use のto add the extra information. Since teacher/professor is the main topic, it comes after の. “I am a college professor,” would be だいがくのせんせいです(daigaku no sensei desu) in Japanese.

In the second example, の is used liked an apostrophe in order to show ownership. Again, since the main idea is  the dog, the word for dog appears after の. You can place any name before の in order to show ownership. For example: しゅうやさんのねこ (Shuuya-san no neko) which means “Shuuya’s cat.”

In the third example, の acts as an apostrophe again. のtells you who the book belongs to. Notice that the のphrase can appear at different places in a sentence. In the example above, the の phrase comes after “This” and before “is.” In this same sentence, これは could be omitted. Then the の phrase would appear first in the sentence. Either sentence is grammatically correct.

You can also have more than one のphrase in a sentence. They can even be right beside each other! See the examples below:

これはわたしのにほんごのほんです。(Kore wa watashi no nihongo no hon desu.)

This is my Japanese book.

わたしのねこのなまえはきりです。(Watashi no neko no namae wa kiri desu.)

My cat’s name is Kiri.

In the first sentence, the の phrase appears twice. The first time it appears it is establishing ownership of the book. The second time it appears it is modifying the book by describing what type of book it is.

In the second sentence, のfirst shows whose cat is being talked about. Then, のprovides further details by telling the name of the cat. ___のなまえmeans “the name of.” It is important to notice that in the second sentence, XはYです form is used. The subject is longer this time (わたしのねこのなまえ), but the structure is still the same. “My cat’s name” is the subject, so it all has to appear before は in this case.

のis a very useful particle and occurs frequently in the Japanese language. When you need to modify a noun with any other noun, you will most likely use の.

Lesson 4: Asking a Question in Japanese

Asking a question in Japanese is very simple if you understand the X は Y です sentence structure. You can take almost any sentence like this and turn it into a question simply by adding the question particle か to the end of the sentence.

For example:

これはねこです。(Kore wa neko desu.)                  This is a cat.

これはねこですか。(Kore wa neko desu ka.)         Is this a cat?

The first sentence is a statement in the basic sentence structure form. By adding か to the end of the statement, a question is formed.

か acts as a question mark, so when writing in Japanese you should not place an actual question mark at the end. A period typically follows か even though the sentence is a question. Whenever か is used at the end of a sentence, a Japanese speaker will understand it as a question instead of a statement.

If you want to ask someone a question that doesn’t involve the basic sentence structure, you still use か. For example, if you wanted to ask someone “What time is it?” you would say: なんじですか。Notice です still appears at the end of the sentence with か. This is very common when asking basic questions.

Simple questions often use the word なん orなに, both of which mean “what.” The rule of thumb is that  なん is used when “what” appears before です.  なん is also used before a noun when counting (such as the earlier example of “What time is it?” じmeans “time”, so なんじ means “what time.”) なに is typically used when “what” appears before a particle.

Here are some examples that use なん.

せんもんはなんですか。(Senmon wa nan desu ka?)                     What is your major?

せんもんはれきしがくです。(Senmon wa rekishigaku desu.)      My major is history.

おなまえはなんですか。(Onamae wa nan desu ka?)                    What is your name?

ななはらちなつです。(Nanahara Chinatsu desu.)                         Nanahara Chinatsu.

Notice that in the last statement, only the name of the person was given. The subject (わたしは) was omitted. The subject can often be omitted in many Japanese sentences. This also applies for questions. “I,” “I am,” “You,” and “You are,” are the most frequently omitted subjects from Japanese sentences. Examine the following mini conversations. Notice when the subjects are omitted (shown in parentheses) and when the question particle is used.

A: (あなたは)にほんじんですか。(Anata wa) nihonjin desu ka?

B: はい、(わたしは)にほんじんです。Hai, (watashi wa) nihonjin desu.

A: Are you Japanese?

B: Yes, I am Japanese.


A: (いま)なんじですか。(Ima) nanji desu ka?

B:  (いま)いちじです。 (Ima) ichiji desu.

A: What time is it now?

B: It is 1:00.


A: (あなたは)なんねんせいですか。(Anata wa) nan nensei desu ka?

B: (わたしは)さんねんせいです。(Watashi wa) san nensei desu.

A: What year are you? (in college)

B: I am a junior (third year).


A: ふじまるさんはなんさいですか。(Fujimaru-san) nansai desu ka?

B: わたしはじゅうきゅうさいです。(Watashi wa) jyuu kyuu sai desu.

A: Fujimaru-san, how old are you?

B: I am 19 years old.


Keep in mind that you will see か often. When asking a question in Japanese, it can appear after almost any verb.

Lesson 3: Basic Sentence Structure

The following conversation is a basic exchange between two people meeting for the first time. The romaji follows the hiragana and the translation is given below.

A: おはようございます。Ohayou gozaimasu.

B: おはようございます。Ohayou gozaimasu.

A: はじめまして。わたしはAです。Hajimemashite. Watashi wa A desu.

B: はじめまして。わたしはBです。Hajimemashite. Watashi wa B desu.

A: B-さんおげんきですか。B-san, ogenki desu ka?

B: はい、げんきです。ありがとうございます。おげんきですか。

Hai, genki desu. Arigatou gozaimasu. Ogenki desu ka?

A: わたしはげんきです。ありがとうございます。

Watashi wa genki desu. Arigatou gozaimasu.

B: じゃまた。Jya mata.

A: じゃね。 Jya ne.



A: Good morning.

B: Good morning.

A: Nice to meet you. I am A.

B: Nice to meet you. I am B.

A: Mr./Mrs. B, how are you?

B: I am well, thank you. How are you?

A: I am well, thank you.

B: Well, see you later.

A: See you!

This conversation, although very simple in nature, demonstrates the first basic sentence structure you should learn in Japanese.

That sentence structure is:

Xは Yです。(X wa Y desu.)

This roughly translates to “X is Y.” The particle  は is used to mark the subject of the sentence. In this atypical case, はis Romanized as “wa” instead of “ha.” The reason for this is because the subject particle はis pronounced as “wa,” not “ha.” Usually, はis Romanized and pronounced as “ha.”

The verb at the end of the sentence is です. Even though this verb is Romanized as “desu,” it is actually pronounced as “dess.” This is another atypical case where the Romanization does not match the pronunciation. ですis the Japanese verb that means “is.”

If you wanted to introduce yourself, you would use this sentence structure. Replace X with the subject and Y with the object. In this case, the subject would be “I” and the object would be your name. The Japanese word for “I” is わたし(watashi). Here is an example:

I am Michiko. わたしはみちこです。(Watashi wa Michiko desu.)

This sentence structure can also be used for saying what something else is. For example, the Japanese word for that is それ(sore) and the word for cat is ねこ(neko). You can say “That is a cat,” by using X は Y です.

That is a cat. それはねこです。(Sore wa neko desu.)

X は Y です is a versatile sentence structure and can be used for many sentences. Below are some other example sentences using the X は Y です sentence structure.

This is a book. これはほんです。(Kore wa hon desu.)

This is a dog. これはいぬです。(Kore wa inu desu.)

That person over there is Japanese.あのひとはにほんじんです。(Ano hito wa nihonjin desu.)

There are many other important Japanese sentence structures, but this is the most basic. It is also the structure you will encounter most as you begin to learn Japanese.

Lesson 2: Reading Hiragana and Katakana

Japanese consists of three writing systems. The first two are the kana alphabets known as hiragana and katakana. The third is the more complicated system of kanji. It is important to learn hiragana and katakana first before trying to learn kanji.

Hiragana and katakana are made up of forty-six basic symbols that stand for syllables instead of letters. The exceptions to this rule are the consonant “n” and all vowels. These letters all have their own symbol even though they are Romanized as only one letter. Vowels and “n” can count as their own syllable, although this is not always the case. Vowels can be paired with consonants to form different syllables.

All Japanese words can be broken up into syllables. For example, the word for I is “watashi.” If we were to break this word up into the correct syllables, we would have wa/ta/shi. Even though there are vowels in this word, they are paired with consonants because only the consonant “n” can stand alone. All other consonants must be paired with a vowel. In some cases, syllables can be three or four characters if more consonants exist. For example, “shi” in “watashi” is its own syllable, even though there are two consonants and a vowel. Neither “s” nor “h” can stand alone, so they must be paired with a vowel. Dividing Japanese words into syllables becomes much easier after hiragana and katakana are mastered. Take a look at these examples.

Arigatou = a/ri/ga/to/u

Ohayou gozaimasu = o/ha/yo/u go/za/i/ma/su

Konnichiwa = ko/n/ni/chi/wa

Notice how some vowels are syllables on their own and how “n” sometimes stands alone.

The basic symbols of hiragana and katakana can be altered slightly with diacritical marks. The diacritical marks are added in the top right-hand corner of a symbol and can look like two small dash marks (“) or a small circle (。).

The first chart shows the basic hiragana characters while the second details the extra symbols created with diacritical marks. Notice the small circle mark is only used on the “h” symbols in order to indicate a “p” sound.

n wa Ra Ya Ma Ha Na Ta Sa Ka a
Ri Mi Hi Ni Chi Shi Ki i
Ru Yu Mu Hu Nu Tsu Su Ku u
Re Me He Ne Te Se Ke e
Wo** ro yo mo ho no to so ko o

*Note: All tables read vertically from right to left with Romanizations under the correct symbols.
**This symbol is Romanized as “wo” but pronounced as “o.”

Pa Ba Da Za Ga
Pi Bi Ji Ji Gi
Pu Bu Zu Zu Gu
Pe Be De Ze Ge
Po Bo Do Zo Go

*じ and ち” are pronounced the same. ずand つ” are also pronounced the same.

Hiragana also has contractions. These symbols are formed by adding a small や,ゆ, orよsymbol to the regular hiragana symbol. These contractions count as one syllable. The following charts detail all of the contractions in hiragana.

りゃ ぴゃ ひゃ にゃ ちゃ しゃ きゃ
Rya Pya Hya Nya Cha Sha Kya
りゅ ぴゅ ひゅ にゅ ちゅ しゅ きゅ
Ryu Pyu Hyu Nyu Chu Shu Kyu
りょ ぴょ ひょ にょ ちょ しょ きょ
Ryo Pyo Hyo Nyo Cho Sho Kyo
みゃ びゃ じゃ ぎゃ
Mya Bya Jya Gya
みゅ びゅ じゅ ぎゅ
Myu Byu Jyu Gyu
みょ びょ じょ ぎょ
Myo Byo Jyo Gyo

It should also be noted that double consonants can occur in hiragana. This is indicated by a small つsymbol. When pronounced, the small つsymbol indicates a slight pause in the word. These words are Romanized with repetitive consonants.

For example, katta is the word for writer. Katta is written かった in hiragana, where the smallつsymbol acts as a second “t.”

Katakana works the same way hiragana works. The only difference is that the symbols change. The sounds that exist in hiragana also exist in katakana. Hiragana is only used for native Japanese words and katakana is only used for loan (foreign) words.

Katakana treats double consonants the same way hiragana does. A small ツ character is used instead. Diacritical symbols remain the same. Long vowels are represented in katakana by a long dash after the vowel. Hiragana does not use a dash for long vowels; if a long vowel is present, another vowel character is added after the first vowel.

The following charts detail the basic katakana, the katakana as altered by the diacritical marks, and the katakana contractions.

N Wa Ra Ya Ma Ha Na Ta Sa Ka A
Ri Mi Hi Ni Chi Shi Ki I
Ru Yu Mu Hu Nu Tsu Su Ku U
Re Me He Ne Te Se Ke E
Wo* ro yo mo ho no to so ko o

*This symbol is Romanized as “wo” but pronounced as “o.”

Pa Ba Da Za Ga
Pi Bi Ji Ji Gi
Pu Bu Zu Zu Gu
Pe Be De Ze Ge
Po Bo Do Zo Go

*ジ and チ” are pronounced the same. ズand ツ” are also pronounced the same.

リャ ピャ ヒャ ニャ チャ シャ キャ
Rya Pya Hya Nya Cha Sha Kya
リュ ピュ ヒュ ニュ チュ シュ キュ
Ryu Pyu Hyu Nyu Chu Shu Kyu
リョ ピョ ヒョ ニョ チュ ショ キョ
Ryo Pyo Hyo Nyo Cho Sho Kyo
ミャ ビャ ジャ ギャ
Mya Bya Jya Gya
ミュ ビュ ジュ ギュ
Myu Byu Jyu Gyu
ミョ ビョ ジョ ギョ
Myo Byo Jyo Gyo

Lesson 1: Introduction & Basic Phrases

Japanese can appear to be a very complex and confusing language, especially to native European speakers. The writing systems consist of sometimes complicated symbols that can easily scare off any beginner. Don’t be afraid; it can be done! You can learn basic Japanese really quickly. All it takes is some concentration and memorization. After you get the basics down, you can focus your time on perfecting your speaking habits, learning new verb conjugations, and expanding your vocabulary. Japanese is a really fun and interesting language to learn!

People learn Japanese for many different reasons. It is a useful language to learn if you are interested in visiting Japan, teaching English in Japan, or doing business with Japanese companies. You can also enjoy new music, movies, and television with your new found language skills.

The hardest aspects of Japanese for beginning students are usually the three writing systems. The sentence structures and verb conjugations can also throw you off, especially if you are a native English speaker. Japanese sentences occur in subject – object – verb form whereas English sentences are in subject – verb – object form. Japanese can also be confusing because the language relies on particles but does not have articles like English does. Also, Japanese sentences tend to omit the subject and are usually vague. English, on the other hand, typically includes a subject in its sentence structures and is a more specific language.

Japanese has three writing systems—hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Each of these writing systems can be transliterated into Roman alphabet characters. This technique helps new learners understand how a Japanese symbol should be read. Speakers of European languages tend to match a symbol with the Roman characters it sounds like, and this helps them to remember how to pronounce the symbol. This type of writing is called romaji or the Romanization of a text.

As a beginner, you should concentrate on learning hiragana first, then katakana, and finally kanji. Many Japanese lessons designed for beginners will show Japanese words in hiragana and katakana along with their transcribed romaji as a learning aid.

The list below contains useful words and phrases to get you started with Japanese. They are written first in English, then in hiragana, and finally in romaji.

Hello/Good afternoon.                        こんにちは                            konnichiwa

Hello (when answering a phone).       もしもし                                moshi moshi

Good morning.                                    おはようございます            ohayou gozaimasu

Good night.                                         おやすみなさい                    oyasumi nasai

See you later.                                      じゃまた                                jya mata

See you.                                               じゃね                                    jya ne

Goodbye.                                             さようなら                            sayounara

Please.                                                 おねがい                                onegai

Thank you.                                           ありがとうございます        arigatou gozaimasu

Excuse me.                                          すみません                            sumimasen

Nice to meet you.                               はじめまして                        hajimemashite

I am ____.                                           わたしは___です。        Watashi wa ___ desu.

How are you?                                      おげんきですか。                Ogenki desu ka?

I am fine/well.                                    わたしはげんきです。        Watashi wa genki desu.

What time is it?                                  なんじですか。                    Nanji desu ka?

What                                                   なん/なに                               Nan/nani

Why                                                     なんで/どうして                   nande/doushite

Where                                                 どこ                                        doko

When                                                   いつ                                        itsu

Who                                                     だれ                                        dare