かわいい x こわい Cute and Scary in Japanese

かわいい x こわい Cute and Scary in Japanese

Cute and Scary in Japanese Kawaii

OR, how to say “cute” in Japanese without being scary…

かわいい cute; adorable; charming; pretty 【kanji: 可愛い | ASCII fun: カワ(・∀・)イイ!! 】

こわい scary; frightening; dreadful 【kanji: 怖い】

Listen carefully to the difference:


I (Clay) first arrived in Japan in the late 1990s. A friend of mine, another American, told me about a scary experience he had when confronted with a Japanese coworker’s newborn baby. My friend wanted to use the little Japanese he had learned and felt confident he could at least manage a “how cute” compliment. After his attempt, however, his coworker angrily said, “It’s KAWAII not KOWAI!”

Here’s the Ninja Penguin making the same mistake:

To the Japanese ear, these two words are very different, but to the English ear, there is often room for confusion. Try your best to hear the difference.

NOTE: Cute is かわいい. Pay attention to the “ka” sound and the longer “i” sound.

Another tricky one–at least for me–was 座る suwaru (to sit) and 触る sawaru (to touch). I can imagine quite a few instances where this would also result in a slap!


One more potentially confusing word pairing:

おしり oshiri–buttocks
押し入れ oshi ire–closet

Listen to these closely:


WARNING: Be careful with the following

anata no oshiire wa totemo ookii desu ne.
Your closet is very big!

Sounds nice enough when complimenting the lady of the house on her fine closet, but if said without care, it could easily come out as “Your butt is big. Very big.”

Free Japanese Fonts for Personal AND Commercial Use

Free Japanese Fonts for Personal AND Commercial Use

Totally free Japanese fonts for commercial use
If you are in need of free Japanese fonts, here are a few totally free fonts for personal AND commercial use. As I find more, I’ll post them here.
Note: if you have a PC, you may need a third-party software to open the gz compressed formats. 7-Zip is a common unzip program. 
A quick word on Japanese fonts. There are two main types of Japanese fonts. 
  • 明朝体 minchoutai — Ming style typeface
  • ゴシック体  goshikkutai — Gothic style typeface
The 明朝体 or “Ming Dynasty font” is so named because it mimics the regular script style developed during the Ming Dynasty. This is the most commonly used style of font in Japan.
The ゴシック体 or Gothic style is kind of like the English Courier font or a plain sans serif style in that the strokes have an even thickness and a lack serifs or decorative strokes at the end of a line.
Makoto e-Zine #1 Audio Files

Makoto e-Zine #1 Audio Files

Makoto Japanese instructional e-zine

Issue #1
April 2018

PLEASE NOTE: We are pleased to announce we have launched our Patreon subscription for Makoto! Grab #1 here for free and if you like what you see, click here to view our Patreon deals. Not only can you get Makoto at a discount, but you will also get exclusive and near daily content, coupons, and eBooks with MP3s. Click here now.


Please note: This issue is completely free and may be downloaded as a PDF (recommended for the pretty graphics), MOBI (for Kindles and Kindle readers), or ePub (eBook format for everyone else). Click here to download the e-zine.


Listen to the story about three mighty warrior leaders who consolidated Japan and ended the Warring States period. The story is recorded both regular speed and slowed down.


Reader Sound Files SLOW SPEED: Click to Download

Reader Sound Files NORMAL SPEED: Click to Download


20+ ways to say I, ME, & THEE
NEW READER:The Warrior Leaders of the Sengoku Period

ž Laughs, Jokes, Riddles, and Puns
ž Prefecture Spotlight: FUKUI
ž Etymology: 折り紙付き
ž Phrase of the Day: Murphy’s Law
ž Ukiyo-e: Sharaku
ž Kanji Spotlight: 集
ž Grammar Time! ~ほうがいい

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Sick and Tired of Getting Tacos on my Ears Japanese Idiom Lesson

Sick and Tired of Getting Tacos on my Ears Japanese Idiom Lesson


Okay, this has nothing to do with the yummy Mexican food, but see below for what “tako” means in Japanese and your ears.

mimi ni tako ga dekiru
to be sick and tired of hearing something
to hear something over and over again


If someone “talks your ears off,” instead of using this idiom, you can ignore them while claiming your “ears are far” (mimi ga tooi) which means you can’t hear too well.

Literally, “get calluses on one’s ears.” The “tako” here means “callus” such as what guitar players get on their fingers or the “corn” found on feet.

Other common words with the same “tako” pronunciation are:

  • tako octopus
  • tako kite (the toy you fly in the sky)
  • The Mexican food, taco, is pronounced タコス takosu.


shukudai o shinasai to, mimi ni tako ga dekiru hodo haha ni iwareta.
“Do your homework!” my mother said so many times my ears developed calluses.”

宿題 shukudai—homework
しなさい  shinasai—do (something) [command] と to—quotation marker
ほど hodo—to such an extent
言われた iwareta—said

I Want to… I Really Do, But How Do I Say I Want to in Japanese?

I Want to… I Really Do, But How Do I Say I Want to in Japanese?

Basic Japanese grammar lesson: Using ~たい ~tai–to want to…

  • Adding ~tai adds the “want to” meaning.
  • This is formed by finding the ~masu form and adding ~tai.
  • For example:
    To eat → to want to eat:
    食べる → 食べます → 食べ+たい → 食べたい
    taberu → tabemasu → tabe+tai  →  tabetaiTo Drink → to want to drink:
    飲む → 飲みます → 飲み+たい → 飲みたい
    nomu → nomimasu → nomi+tai  → nomitai


nanika nomitai desu.
I want to drink something.

なにか nanika–something
飲みたい nomitai–want to drink [This is formed with the ~masu form of 飲む nomu–to drink + たい tai–(want to…)] です desu–copula (usually like to be)

Next, let’s turn this into a question.

Notice in the above example, we didn’t use a pronoun. The “I” was understood. In this next example, we still won’t use a pronoun, but by adding the question marker か ka, the “you” is implied.


nanika tabetai desu ka.
Do you want to eat something?

なにか nanika–something
食べたい tabetai–want to eat [This is formed with the ~masu form of 食べる taberu–to eat + たい tai–(want to…)] です desu–copula (usually like to be)

Pimsleur Language Programs


Meeting and Greeting: Basic Japanese Conversation Dialogue for Beginners

Meeting and Greeting: Basic Japanese Conversation Dialogue for Beginners

Japanese Dialogues Meeting and Greeting Free Video and audio lesson

Learn Japanese through Dialogues: Meetings and Greetings

DIALOGUE ONE: Meeting for the First Time

In this article, we will examine a dialogue between two people who are meeting for the first time. Listen to the dialogue while going through the text, spend some time going through the grammar notes, and then listen to it once more–this time, hopefully, with greater comprehension.

If you like this lesson, check out our Learn Japanese through Dialogues series of eBooks (or paperback) + MP3s. This particular dialogue is from the book “Meetings and Greetings” as seen to the left. See the bottom for a special discount to get four of these eBooks, each with eight or more dialogues, for the price of one eBook.


Let’s begin today’s lesson…


Dialogue One: in Japanese Meeting for the First Time


hajimemashite. Maiku to moushimasu.
How do you do? I am Mike.

Grammatical Notes

Hajimemashite is the most common greeting when meeting people for the first time.; “to moushimasu” is a polite (humble) way to introduce one’s name.

hajimemashite. Yumi desu.
Nice to meet you. I’m Yumi.

Grammatical Notes

Another way to say your name is simply “(name) desu.” You may notice your name doesn’t fit well into Japanese. For example, “Smith” becomes “sumisu” because the sounds in Japanese don’t allow for the “sm” combination and the “th” sound isn’t found in Japanese. Ask a Japanese friend or a Japanese forum online how your name would be written in the Japanese sound system.

douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
Pleased to meet you.

Grammatical Notes

“Douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu” is commonly used after “hajimemashite.” It means something like, “please treat me well.”

doko kara kimashita ka?
Where are you from?

Grammatical Notes

doko = where; kara = from; doko kara = from where — kimashita is one of the few irregular verbs in Japanese. kuru (plain form) = kimasu (masu form) both mean “to come,” but the masu form is more polite.

amerika desu.
America. (U.S.)

Grammatical Notes

In Japanese, you can often drop information that was previously introduced or is expected. So instead of saying, “I am from America” or “it is America,” you can simply say, “is America.”

amerika no doko desu ka?
Where in America?

Grammatical Notes

In a simple way, you can think of “no” as an apostrophe S: amerika no doko = America’s where = Where in America?

furorida shuu desu.

Grammatical Notes

shuu means “state” and is used with the fifty US states. Japan has prefectures known as ken.

furorida wa atsui deshou?
Florida is hot, isn’t it?

Grammatical Notes

deshou implies the speaker is expecting an affirmative answer. It is a very useful sentence tag for when you aren’t sure of your statement or don’t want to hurt the sensibilities of the listener.

hai, atsui desu. yumi-san no shusshin wa doko desu ka?
Yes, it is hot. Where are you from?

Grammatical Notes

shusshin = place of one’s origin (usually hometown as in this example). The ” ha” here is the topic particle and is pronounced “wa.” This is one of the very, very few irregularities in  Japanese pronunciation.

toukyou desu.

Grammatical Notes

Literally, “Tokyo is” (It is Tokyo). As mentioned earlier, if information is obvious or has been previously introduced, it is very often dropped.

boku wa toukyou ga suki desu.
I like Tokyo.

Grammatical Notes

~ga suki = (I) like ~

sou desu ka, a, watashi wa sorosoro shigoto ni ikanakucha. sore ja mata.
Really? Oh! I have to go to work soon. See you later.

Grammatical Notes

sou desu ka” here means “Is that so?” but it is a very versatile phrase with many meanings depending on context and how it is said.

hai, sayounara.
Yes, goodbye.

Grammatical Notes

sayounara isn’t used as much as you may think. It is often used when saying goodbye to someone for a long period of time.


Learn the vocabulary:

Listen to the dialogue again. This time with repetition.


Did you enjoy this lesson? This is the first dialogue from the Greetings and Meetings eBook. Get that eBook plus Beginning Conversations, at the Restaurant, and Asking Directions for only $5.

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