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101 Useful Japanese Words and Phrases

Updated on February 13, 2012

Japanese words that might actually come in handy!

OK so here goes! The Following isn't just some humdrum useless list of never to be used vocabulary, this is 'The Motts'. These words should come in handy at some point in your acquisition of the Japanese language

While living in Japan, I kept a Journal of my doings. Along side of my nightly journal entries, I would re-copy all the words that I heard throughout the day, taken from a small note pad from which I used to memorize vocabulary and then right before I went to sleep, I would transfer them to my nikki (diary) filtering out the words that weren't real words and putting them in a nice and neat orderly fashion. Somedays I had quite a few words that I thought were words but when I searched for them in the dictionary there was no such thing. In reality, what really happened was that my ears at that time were just starting to get adjusted to the sounds of the Japanese language

One of the main reasons why I couldn't find a word was because nobody had told me that I needed to make the distinction between a long vowel sound and a short one. Since I was just a novice Japanese Dictionary user, if I heard a word that was of the long vowel type, I thought that I just wasn't hearing things correctly... yet. As soon as I figured out how to differentiate the sounds of a single a sound, from a doubled aa sound, and simlilarly a single i, from a double ii, the once undecipherable, non-existent words magically appeared in my dictionary. It was SL2 epiphany. So needless to say, it is important to pay careful attention to the lenth of vowels in Japanese words. Vowel length makes a big difference in the world of Japanese words.

There were days when I wanted to give up my attemtps to learn how to speak Japanese. But through a little persistence it would eventually come to me. It was a lot of hard work, but I did the work in little baby steps. I remember listening to the radio to see if I could understand anything, but the Japanese would be speaking so fast and I could only catch maybe one word out of 5 minutes worth of conversation.

I would try to start a conversation with the Japanese but the words were whirling around me at light speed, it seemed I could never catch on to what they were saying. But I persisted, and it paid off. Brick by brick, piece by piece, here a little, there a little, I had to have some milk before I could ge to the meat. By that time, the ever courteous and polite Japanese would begin to speak to me in English - broken- but nevertheless understandable. But, still that didn't curb my appetite for complete mastery of the Japanese language. It was my goal to be able to speak in Japanese with a Japanese like a Japanese, and I would give any and all things to obtain it.  

This list is filtered to make sure that they will be useful to you. I hope you enjoy my random useful list of Japanese words and phrases hand selected for you to use as you see fit.

ensou - a musical performance

joukyou - circumstances

kokuren - The United Nations

takeuma - lit. bamboo horse = stilts

aite - the other party, one's opponent, rival or match

idou - move, travel

densen suru - to be contagious

suzume - sparrow

nikko - sunlight

gekko - moonlight

ensoku suru - to go on a picnic

gakudan - an orchestra, a band

fuke - dandruff

ensoukai - recital, piano etc

ryuugaku suru - to study abroad

ryuugakusei - foreign exchange student

fumikiri - lit. to step and cut or railroad crossing

oyayubi - lit. parent finger or thumb

tsurai - difficult, hardship, hard, painful, trying

nameru - to lick

kagaku - science

moufu - blanket

denshigaku - electronics

kitsune - fox

honki de...? - seriously...?

maji de...? - seriously..?

kenpou -  a constitution

kokka - a national anthem

terekusai - embarassing

niau - to go well with, clothes, hats etc, to look good in

seiza suru - to sit upright (square) traditional Japanese kneeling or sitting posture

ninki - popularity

chuuto hanpa - half-assed, mickey moused, careless, halfway unsatisfactory

inshou - impression

honmono da - it's the real thing

sugoi - bitchin, awesome, great!, righteous, amazing, super

kando suru - to be impressed

chousen suru - to challenge, attempt

kyoudou suru - to cooperate

kigen ga kireru - to expire (time), time limit

jibika -ears, nose, and  throat doctor

zatsuon - t.v., radio interference

douryoku - to try, to strive

boeki - trade

teian suru - to suggest

kankakuteki na - sensual

giri no otousan - father-in-law

kemushi - caterpillar

nokogiru - to saw

kyousei suru -to compel,

dorodarake - muddy

kuuki o nuku - deflate (air in tire etc)

ton demo nai - ain't no thing

atarimae ja nai? - naturally!

irezumi - tattoo

momo - peach, thighs

kakoyoku - to look good in your clothes, studly, or chic

kakowarui - to look like crap ( in your clothes)

niau -it fits you, it suits you, it looks good on you

monomane - mime, imitate

chigau yo! - nuh uh! no way its different!

jishin - self, earthquake

zettai - for sure

nenrei ni kankei nai(aru) - has nothing to do with age

sugoku kiken - extremely dangerous

anata ni chousen - do you dare?

kiite inai - I haven't heard

hazukashigari - bashful

ketten - weaknesses

tsumari - in summation, in other words

haguki - gums (mouth)

tsuneru - to pinch

shikeru - to go stale, to get old or moldy

mukatsuku or mugatsuku - thoroughly pissed off

hineru - twist, twirl wrench

sanagi - cocoon

furitsuke - choreography

awabi - shell fish

kaki - persimmon

butai - the stage

chigau t'omou (I) don't think so

sou shite - do it that way then

iran - (I) don't need it or any of it

iranai - same as iran

toriaezu - for the time being

gaikoku no yarikata - the way foreigners do it

komakai - change (money), details

kirawareru - to be hated

tsurete iku - to take someone

tsurete kuru - to bring someone

suiei suru - to go swimming

oyogu - to swim

douyou shiyasui - unstable

kitai hazure - a letdown

sougouteki na - synthetic

stay tuned for more useful vocabulary you can plug and play into all the Ghetto Grammar constructions.

As Always

Ganbatte Ne! Do Your Best!

Makurasuki Sensei.


Get a Japanese Dictionary at Amazon - Dictionaries are very useful language learning tools


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